The Weapon Collector by Dave Hann

I am a collector of antique weapons.  Human history being what it is, the field is very interesting, and full.  From our earliest history till the very present we have been developing new and improved means of killing.  Killing animals, and most often killing each other. 
This destructive impulse has led to the creation of some wonderful devices.  I believe that no other field of technology had ever has ever led to such an outpouring of ingenuity and craftsmanship as the domain of weapons.  I had so many examples of this ingenuity in my collection; a priceless jade Patu from the Maori of New Zealand, a Persian Tabar Zin war axe, a rare Norwegian Kammerlader M.1860 rifle, and so much more
My wife failed to share my hobby.  She was a very practical woman and objected on the grounds that there was no point spending so much money on useless things.  On the other hand my business had prospered recently so I could well afford to indulge my tastes.  My wife also complained that my collection was evil.  She swore it was unnatural to be so obsessed with devices that were designed to, and in all probability had, killed.  I felt that that was an illogical objection.  After all, how many people had pet dogs?  Yet dogs were really vicious carnivores who lived to kill.  My collection was simply of things, whereas it was people who killed.
I spent a great deal of my spare time looking for further additions to my collection.  That in itself may have been another reason my wife objected.  It was not unusual for me to travel out of town to look for a new acquisition.   So it was that one weekend I drove up to a small town in the mountains.  I had been told that there was a delightful little second hand shop there, which often stocked some unusual objects.  I really didn’t expect to find any weapons; the laws in this country strongly control the sale of weapons, particularly firearms.  Still, there was always the chance that something unusual could be found, some souvenir of the Vietnam War perhaps, or an heirloom brought back from Korea.
The sky was growing dark as I drove up from the foothills.  A storm appeared to be brewing as I swung around the corner and came across a town that I assumed to be my destination.  It was typical of a rural service town in the mountains; a petrol station, a small grocery store, a bar, and a few houses spread along the main road, with two or three side roads leading off into the bush.  At one of the intersections was a sign pointing up the road to, ‘Howard Phillip’s Curios’.  I swung off the main road and drove up to a small and rather run-down looking shop decorated with the typical fixtures of a rural antique shop; an old plow, a two-man wood saw, and some old kerosene lamps. 
Inside the shop was somewhat dingy, which was not helped by the gathering storm clouds outside.  The sun seemed to have vanished completely.  In this half-light I began to look through the mess of material spread across the shop floor.  As I had suspected, there seemed to be nothing of interest for me.  If I had an interest in farming history I’m sure I would have been delighted, but to a weapons man the shop was a desert. 
I was about to leave when the proprietor appeared from the back room of the store.  He was a rather pallid looking man in, I supposed, his mid-thirties.  He was dressed in a black suit with a thin black tie and had a head topped with matching black hair. 
He approached me and offered the traditional greeting of the shopkeeper, ‘Can I help you?’
Not expecting any success I nevertheless explained what I was looking for.  He looked me over in silence for a minute and then mentioned that he had something that might interest me, but that it was not on display due to “legal complications”.  He further told me that I looked like a man of integrity who could be trusted to maintain his discretion.  This got my attention as I had heard this sort of approach before.  It normally meant that the storekeeper had an item of doubtful legality, which suggested an unusual firearm.  Most often such items were foreign guns bought back by soldiers who had fought in one of the various wars of the Twentieth Century.  At some point their children would become worried by the presence of an unlicensed gun in the house and would dispose of it.  I had purchased a beautiful 1940 Markov 9mm pistol in just such a deal. 
I was not surprised then when the owner took me into his back office and told me he had a rather unusual gun to sell.  When he lifted it out of a trunk on the floor I was at first not sure what it was.  It looked modern, in a way, with a pistol grip and shoulder stock, but also dated as its wooden surfaces were covered with carvings of some sort.  As it was handed over to me I finally recognized it.  It was very rare, an FG42 assault rifle developed by the Germans during the Second World War.  To the best of my knowledge there were none in private collections.  My heart leaped at the thought of owning it, and I knew I must have it.
On inquiring about its history I was told that a local man had brought it back from Germany following the occupation.  He had apparently “liberated” it from the former SS officer training school at Bad Tolz.  The carvings, I was told, were original.  A quick inspection showed them to be the sort of thing that the more occult minded SS types would have found appropriate.  The Sieg rune was obvious, as were various other runic symbols.  No amount of occult mythology had saved the Third Reich though.
I expressed guarded interest in the gun and was delighted when the owner not only agreed to the comparatively low price I mentioned, but also produced an optical sight for the gun and two precious ten round 7.92mm magazines.  I left feeling that I had had a truly successful trip. 
When I got home I inspected the weapon closer.  It was in perfect condition, almost as if it had just left the factory.  The mechanism worked smoothly, and I was able to strip it and reassemble it with ease.  It was in fully functional order; unlike many of the weapons I had acquired which were inoperable in order to meet our draconian firearms laws.  The runic carvings, I felt, only added to the weapons originality.  I put it in pride of place over the fireplace in my study.
During the next few days my thoughts often drifted back to the weapon.  I felt it might be worthwhile to try to trace its history.  The runic carvings should make that easy.  But it was to the gun itself that I was drawn to.  It was just right.  It weighed enough to feel lethal, but was light enough to swing with ease.  Even with the optical sight attached it seemed almost as if it had been made for me.  Everything was within easy reach, the selector switch, the cocking handle, the magazine release.  The trigger required just the right amount of pressure.  If I raised the gun to my shoulder and took a shooters stance it seemed to become an extension of me, sweeping from imaginary target to imaginary target and then freezing rock steady.  The runic carvings themselves seemed to add to it.  With my thumb I stroked the runes on the pistol grip even as I raised the gun to a firing position. 
As a rule I simply collect my weapons.  I don’t normally try them out.  With the blades this would have been difficult anyway.  I have a few hunting rifles, and I suppose they are slightly more unusual than most, but they are for shooting while my collection was not.  The FG42 just felt so right I had to try it out. 
The very next weekend I went up to a friend’s place out in the country.  He has a shooting range on his farm and had often allowed me to use it to hone my skill.  I arranged to use the range that afternoon and took my new weapon up to the field we used.  The targets were the usual collection of beer bottles and tin cans.  That didn’t matter, it was the chance to fire the gun that I wanted.  The target, I felt, was irrelevant. 
I lay on the ground with the gun, pulled the magazine from my bag (I had only brought the one as I wanted to keep the other intact for my collection), and clicked it home.  The selector moved from safe to semi-auto with an almost inaudible click.  The cocking lever came back with just enough pressure to let you know that it was doing something.  Then the gun was ready, waiting to fire, waiting to spit death.  It was almost like holding a live animal in my hands, a carnivore, waiting, no wanting, to kill.
I raised the sight to my eye and swung the weapon across the field.  A bottle came into my sight.  Crack, it disintegrated.  I felt so powerful.  The gun felt like it wanted more.  I swung onto a tin can and it too disappeared.  I seemed to be in ecstasy as I swung from target to target, never missing, never freezing, always hitting with my first shot.   When the magazine was exhausted I felt both elated and drained.  How I wished I had a more challenging target with which to test the weapon.  I felt sure that the meanest pig, or the shyest doe, would be no match for this incomparably perfect gun. 
I spent the rest of the afternoon getting in some more practice with my hunting rifles, not wishing to waste the opportunity.  I felt faintly disappointed with them though.  Oh, I shot well enough.  I am quite a good shot, and I rarely missed a target, but it did not feel the same.  The sense of perfection, of power, was not there.  Even with my best rifle, a bolt action Czech CZ 750, I felt as though I was just going through the motions – perfunctorily operating a machine.  The sense of having achieved anything was gone.
I cleaned and packed up my weapons feeling that I must have another chance to fire that wonderful German weapon.  Yet I had only one magazine left.  I scoured the internet looking for any possible source of German 7.92mm rounds, but no one had any available.  It looked as though I would never be in a position to fire the gun again.  Yet everyday when I walked into my study and saw it sitting above the fireplace I felt such a strong desire to use it again.  To feel that power in my hands. 
It took two weeks before the lure of the rifle became too much for me.  Every evening in my study it seemed to call to me, demanding to be used, but my self control prevented me from giving in, at least for a while.  The remaining full magazine was too valuable to be wasted on what seemed like a whim – and yet.  Some nights sitting at my desk I seemed to lose hours just staring at the gun above my fireplace, tracing the runes with my eyes, following them to the barrel of the weapon.  Eventually I had to give in.
I pulled the loaded magazine from my desk.  I flicked one round out and put it in my top drawer.  Surely the magazine would look the same with just one round in it, the other nine could be fired and then that would be that.  It was just a question of where and how.
My wife had been complaining recently.  Saying I’d been spending too much time in my study, and playing – playing! – with my new purchase.  I decided I’d be nice to her, and give the gun its chance at the same time.  I told her we would go for a picnic in the mountains.  She seemed quite happy with the idea and I returned to my study to strip and oil the FG42.  It had to be ready for a chance to hunt.
The next morning we drove up into the mountains.  I took a back road into an isolated area I knew of that had any number of wild animals in it, and no other people.  I wanted my last chance to fire the gun to be undisturbed.  There would be pigs up there.  Big, vicious wild pigs.  A perfect challenge for my weapon.
We parked well off the road in a small gully.  I told my wife that there was picnic food and a blanket in the boot of the car.  She seemed somehow dismayed and upset, but I was already reaching for my gun bag.  I pulled out the FG42 and felt the satisfying click as the magazine slotted home.  I pulled the cocking lever back and felt the first round slip into the chamber as the bolt slid into place.  The gun was waiting to fire, all it needed was a target.
At that moment two rabbits appeared out of the bush.  Without any conscious thought the gun swept onto them, my thumb slipped the selector to semi-automatic, and the iron sights were in front of my eye.  I fired without thinking. One round into each rabbit, so fast that the second animal had no time to respond to the first one’s death. 
I felt so powerful.  This gun would not let me down.  It would respond to my slightest desire.  With a brief comment to my wife about being back soon I turned and pushed my way into the bush, being careful to protect the gun from any thorns or branches that might scratch it. 
In the next hour I fired another four times.  I was disappointed that I had only managed to account for small animals, mere possums and rabbits.  I wanted something more powerful for the gun to feel, to taste.  A rustling in the bush nearby warned me that I might get my desire.  As I watched a huge wild boar, fully two meters long, emerged.  It took one look at me and started to charge.  Here at last was a suitable prey for my gun.  In a blur it was at my shoulder and spitting fire at the charging animal.  It almost seemed that the gun had read my mind and guided my hand.  I put two rounds into the pig (the second as a reflex, the first had killed him outright). 
I shouldered the pig and walked out to my car.  I must have looked a mess I admit.  The pig had bleed on me, and the bush had torn my clothes, but even so my wife’s reaction seemed a little over the top.  She started shouting at me, complaining that I had not taken her on a picnic, and that I was not getting in the car in “that state”.  Calmly I put the pig down on the ground and prepared to explain myself to her.  She wouldn’t stop though, saying something about my behavior being different since I had got the new gun.
Ahh, the FG42.  Somehow it was in my hand, pointed at her.  She went very white and stopped talking.  I still had one round in the magazine.  I’d only fired eight.  The gun felt eager.
‘Run’ I said.
She started to plead, to beg, to cry.  I didn’t understand why.  The gun wanted to be used, and she was denying it the pleasure of hitting a moving target.
‘Run’ I said again, a bit more harshly.
She stared at me blankly for a second and then ran down the road.  She moved quite fast, but disappointingly in a straight line.  It would take little skill. 
I reached down, and unzipped my gun bag.  Inside was the optical sight.  Carefully I fitted it to the mount on top of the gun.  I took my time, making sure everything was aligned.  Then I raised the weapon to my shoulder, feeling its excitement.  My thumb traced the runes at the top of the pistol grip.   I tracked my target and gently squeezed the trigger. 
My wife dropped faster than the pig had.  I knew she was dead, the gun told me.  It was too good to miss such a target.  It almost felt as if it were vibrating in my hands, exulting with the taste of human blood.
I have one more round in my desk at home.  I and the gun will go home.  I will take that last round out and give the gun one last taste of human blood.  After all, once I have fired the last round, what do I have to live for?


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