Very Interesting Vintage Firearm Ads & The Smoking Gun

Help Support Ruger Forum:

Paladin

Bearcat
Joined
Feb 25, 2013
Messages
25
We have a covered container at our gun range where members recycle their firearm periodicals by leaving them there to share with other members. A few nights ago, I spotted a really old “American Rifleman” magazine dated February 1963, which someone had left in the container. I have always been fascinated by old periodicals for their entertainment value of seeing how our culture was, how we use to live and how much things cost “way back when”. This magazine was chock full of interesting old advertisements and many still entertaining firearm related articles.

However, two full-page ads caught my attention and stood out as significantly more interesting than the rest. They were ads for mail order gun stores. Three things struck me about these ads. First of all, there it was, right out in the open and in black and white. You could order a firearm by mail and have it delivered to your home or even a PO Box. What?! Secondly, the variety and low prices of the firearms is unbelievable. Thirdly, is the location of these mail order firearm stores. Both ads were interesting for the above three reasons, but the second one I’m going to show you was especially interesting for yet a different reason. I’ll let you see if you can figure out what that reason is before telling you later.

Here is the first ad. After marveling at the variety of firearms available and their fantastic prices, check out the state where one of the stores was located. Can you imagine that? Imagine this. Ordering one each of all of the rifles listed in this ad would cost $262.40! Ordering one each of all of the pistols in the ad would cost $243.65. Ordering one each of all of the firearms in this ad would cost $505.95. Admittedly, that is a lot of money in 1963 dollar values, but it is fun to ponder.

Firearms Ad-005-E by wbdsr1, on Flickr

Here is the second ad. Again, we have a great variety of firearms at fantastic prices, but there is something here that is much more significant. Here are three clues to help see if you can figure out what is so significant. First, again this magazine is dated February 1963. Hmm, did some major firearm related incident happen in 1963? Secondly, admittedly not a very good clue, but the store is Klein’s Sporting Goods in Chicago, IL. Thirdly, check out the third rifle down in the left column, described as a “6.5 Italian Carbine”. While not specifically described as such, what was delivered was a Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5x55 mm carbine with a scope. Hmm again, where have we heard of this rifle before? Darn! Now I'm sure that I gave it away. The answer is below the ad. This little quiz will be easier for us older folks, but a youngster at my gun range got it right away. Kudos to that young whippersnapper.

Firearms Ad-002 by wbdsr1, on Flickr

Here is a close-up of the rifle ad for the third one down. Note that the rifle is touted as being ”Fast loading and fast firing”.

Firearms Ad-003 by wbdsr1, on Flickr

Answer - (Drum roll please.) The above ad in the February issue of American Rifleman magazine is the very same one from which Lee Harvey Oswald ordered the rifle that he used to assassinate President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Let's see a show of hands for those who got it right. Great! The rifle pictured is actually a Carcano model 91 TS carbine, but Klein’s could no longer get that rifle from their supplier and substituted the the similar Carcano M91/38, which was manufactured in 6.5 mm for only one year, 1940. The Warren Commission, who investigated the assassination, referred to the rifle as a Mannlicher-Carcano. Mannlicher for the style of the magazine and ammunition clip, plus Carcano for the cartridge.

The price of the rifle with the scope was $19.95, plus $1.50 for shipping. Here are copies of the order form Oswald clipped from the ad, the envelope he mailed it in and the money order for $21.45, which was included in the envelope that he sent to Klein’s Sporting Goods in March for the purchase. He used the alias, A. Hidell, and had the rifle sent to his PO Box, which was registered to his real name. He picked up the rifle at the post office on March 25, 1963.

Lee_Harvey_Oswald's_order_form -E2 by wbdsr1, on Flickr

Here is a copy of the money order.

Money Order - E3 by wbdsr1, on Flickr

Here is a picture of the rifle being displayed by the Dallas Police. Ya just gotta love the bow tie. Not to mention the hats the men and the one woman are wearing. Interestingly, Jacqueline Kennedy was also wearing a hat on that fateful day.

Lieutenant-JC-Day-Holds-Up-Carcano-Rifle-11-22-63 - E by wbdsr1, on Flickr

Here is a picture of one of the oddly shaped Carcano cartridges retrieved from the actual rifle. The elongated bullet reportedly made the round very stable and accurate.

Carcano Cartridge by wbdsr1, on Flickr

I can’t believe that I ran across this significant little treasure in our magazine sharing container. Not only that, but can't believe that I realized what the significance of this ad was. I am hanging onto this magazine. Imagine Oswald pouring over the mail order ads in this magazine trying to decide which rifle to purchase. It most likely came down to price, unless he knew something special about this rifle's capabilities.

As an aside, the main reason for gun laws having been so strict in Illinois, especially Cook County and even more especially in Chicago is the direct result of then Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, a major leader of the national Democratic party and staunch supporter of JFK, being embarrassed nationally that the rifle that killed President Kennedy was purchased from a mail order firearms store in his city. As Mayor Daley might have said, "Off with their heads"!

Another interesting aside is that the other Mayor Daley, Richard M., Richard J.'s son, was also publicly an avid anti-gun proponent, However, he reportedly had an extensive firearm collection at his Michigan City, IN, home and always carried a .38 special snub nose revolver for his personal protection. I guess that what's good for the goose is not always good for the gander.
 

contender

Ruger Guru
Joined
Sep 18, 2002
Messages
21,466
Location
Lake Lure NC USA
When you gave the first clue about the second ad,, I immediately knew it was a gun like the one use to kill Kennedy.
Sadly,, these things are the exact reminders of how knee-jerk reactions by politicians affect our lives. One incident, and it cost many of us our rights.

And,, as for the prices,,, wish we could see something close to that with the money I make now,,,!
 
Joined
Nov 17, 2009
Messages
10,339
Location
Webster, MD.
In '63 I bought one of the Argentine Mausers and 'sporterized' it. Wish I had it back now. The prices were GREAT considering what I was making then. Wish I could find a 'broom handle' Mauser for less than $35.00 today.
 

DGW1949

Hunter
Joined
Apr 10, 2005
Messages
3,638
Location
Texas
blume357 said:
Damn, $30 for an 03-Springfield.... wish I could go back in time...


To put that into perspective...

First off, both ads indicate that you'd have to pay extra for a "high numbered" or "nickel steel" version...which is to say that even back then, almost everyone knew that the earlier versions had receiver/reliability problems. So as a practical matter, if a guy was wanting a "shooter", the price would have been closer to $40 by the time shipping was factored in.

Plus, that "closer to $40" price was back when we still had real (silver) money, which when "comparing apples to apples" would amount to $520+ in today's paper...but wait, there's more;
These day's, there's more to the price of a gun than just the price of the gun...meaning that today, you also have to either pay a mark-up to a stocking FFL dealer, or also figure-in whatever fee he requires to do a transfer. Plus, there's the gas you gotta burn to go pick it up because guess what?...ain't no wholesaler going to simply mail you a gun. Either way though, that very-same $520 gun has now easily become a $550-$650 gun...or perhaps more, depending.

Noteworthy also, is that my initial "apples to apples" comparison between "1963 money" and "today's paper" was based on figures obtained from 'coinflation.com' whom themselves use the "paper price" of silver, not the price of "physical silver"...the point there being that 40 silver dollars are actually worth closer to $700-$850 in the real world than their "paper price" of $520+...so then there's that...

All in all, a wash...eh?...

I do get your point though. And yes, I myself often long for the old days...you know, back when a buck was still silver, I was much freer, and my country was stronger.

DGW
 

Mus408

Hunter
Joined
Apr 30, 2011
Messages
2,273
Location
Va.
Compared to today living back then was like another planet! Miss those days.
 

Toyman

Single-Sixer
Joined
Mar 8, 2007
Messages
120
Location
Henderson, Nevada
This is the add disposing of the Registered Magnums of Kansas City PD. The add is from American Rifleman in 1956.(?)

picture.php
 

ditto1958

Blackhawk
Joined
Jun 23, 2012
Messages
567
Location
Wisconsin
OP, thank you for posting these! Fascinating history.

As for prices, though, with some exceptions (such as military surplus stuff) guns actually cost the same or even more back then as they do now.

Money was worth a LOT more back in 1963, and most people didn't make very much money either.
 

Paladin

Bearcat
Joined
Feb 25, 2013
Messages
25
Ale-8(1) said:
Where/how did you come up with the copy of the money order?

How do you know the date he picked up the rifle?

:shock: :shock: :shock:

This information is readily available from the Warren Commission's report, wherein they scrounged for all of the minutia they could dig up regarding this event.
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
11,309
Location
Kentucky
Paladin said:
Ale-8(1) said:
Where/how did you come up with the copy of the money order?

How do you know the date he picked up the rifle?

:shock: :shock: :shock:

This information is readily available from the Warren Commission's report, wherein they scrounged for all of the minutia they could dig up regarding this event.

Thank you.
 

Critch

Single-Sixer
Joined
Aug 30, 2000
Messages
329
Location
Poplar Bluff, MO, USA
I had a 6.5 Carcano, but it didn't have a scope,,however, it sure killed deer well..we paid $15.00 for it.

My brother ordered a 7.65 Argentine Mauser that had been sporterized, I think he paid all of $25.00 for it..when it came in the mail, we were surprised. the original owner had put an ivory tip on the forearm and bottom of the pistol grip. Very nice rifle, unfortunately it got stolen in the late 60s from my brother's house in Memphis.
 

toysoldier

Hunter
Joined
Aug 23, 2006
Messages
3,332
Location
Hutchinson, KS USA
I remember those ads. I was in high school, making under $1 an hour at my part-time job at the Dog n' Suds drive-in. Almost bought an Enfield for $15 at the local hardware store, but as a lefty, I didn't like the bolt action. I'd have a better collection if I had been right-handed. :(
 

Colonialgirl

Hawkeye
Joined
Dec 7, 2008
Messages
7,760
Location
Wesley Chapel, Florida
toysoldier said:
I remember those ads. I was in high school, making under $1 an hour at my part-time job at the Dog n' Suds drive-in. Almost bought an Enfield for $15 at the local hardware store, but as a lefty, I didn't like the bolt action. I'd have a better collection if I had been right-handed. :(

Wow! $15 for an Enfield?
I bought Mine for $9.00 at a "Two Guys" department store that was just opening up in Garden Grove, CA; Just pick which one you want out of the bin, pay for it and walk out the door (I STILL have it, a nice Enfield Mk 4 ) And you could buy Surplus Brit ammunition for pennies per round, as much as you wanted.
I DID have an Enfield Jungle Carbine until my brother borrowed it to go shooting and his car broke down on one of the LA Freeways; It got towed and when he got it back, the rifle was GONE.
 

mikewriter

Blackhawk
Joined
Oct 29, 2014
Messages
808
Location
Texas Coast
My first centerfire was a 6.5 Italian carbine I bought from my high school science teacher for $25!

(Still have a 1909 Argentine Mauser that had been re-barreled to .270 and put in a "custom" stock.)

Mike
 

bogus bill

Hunter
Joined
Dec 25, 2009
Messages
3,969
Location
utah
Having been born in 1941 those ad`s were common to me. I always wondered why the .38 special Smiths and Colts always were about $10 more than the Colts and Smiths in the New Services and 1917`s in .45 Colt .45 acp`s. Still do.
As discussed elsewhere, wages ran about 1/8 th ow what they are today. I seen gas wars down to 12 cents a gallon too. You could buy livable house`s for a couple thousand too. You could buy used drive-able clunker cars for $100 to $200`s that had we stored them would bring over $20,000`s today! I was working in Texas the day John Kennedy was shot. The many comments I heard were mainly "Whats the world going to think of Texas now?" Bring back Mauser K-98`s, P-08`s Radom P-35`s, Walther's etc were common and available. I had many uncles in the war and most brought home guns. I recall dad "sporterizing" a few K-98`s. I recall my favorite uncle coming home to live with us and that night dumped out a browning .32, a Luger, a Radom and a Walther on the floor and showing us. (He was a 82nd AB 320 th Field Artillery glider type). All had the holsters, extra magazines and tools and all looked in new shape. Had a bunch of other souvenirs too, Tanker Binoculars etc. I inherited a lot of it as he never married and I was his only and favorite nephew. Somewhere I still have his bring back receipts for the guns.
 

Latest posts

Top