So Many Machine Guns!

Not too long ago, a pretty serious machine gun collector named Richard Wray passed away, and his estate is auctioning off his collection, which includes 80-odd transferable machine guns – nearly all of them very interesting historical pieces.

I won’t get into my personal thoughts on the merits of leaving one’s collection to the auction block rather than designating at least some particular pieces to go to friends and fellow collectors who will truly treasure them. For all I know, Mr. Wray did in fact do that. But since the bulk of his collection is coming us for grabs to the highest bidder, it is at least an opportunity for some cool guns to see the light of day for a time before disappearing into another safe.

Most folks are going to drool over the pictures of the guns and have their eyes glaze over browsing through dozens and dozens of them…but you should take a closer look, because there are some opportunities here for both folks new to the NFA world, and people who have some money to spend and want a very unique piece. We’ve seen teasers of the sale before, but the whole thing is available to see online now. So let me suggest a couple specific items:

First off, when I was trying to figure out what to get for my first machine gun, I decided on the Vickers as the ideal gun, at least for me. It is easily and non-destrictively converted to 7.62x54R for cheap shooting, it is an absolute monster of reliability, it is historically significant, looks great, and perhaps best of all, is relatively common on the NFA Registry and thus relatively undervalued. There are no less than seven Vickers guns in this auction, which makes it a great chance to pick one up. For the seriously awesome collector, there is actually a Class C/T gun among them; a model made in very small numbers with a pistol grip for use in armored vehicles:

Vickers Class C/T
Vickers Class C/T

If you want something a bit more esoteric, how about a twin mount of French Darne guns in an AA mount? They are a pair designed for this mount, so they are mirror images of each other to facilitate loading, charging, and ejection. I don’t know what the final price will be, but the Darne has none of the popularity of the Bren or MG-42, so this could be a good opportunity for someone who wants to play outside the box.

Twin Darne MG mount
Twin Darne MG mount

For the really budget-minded shooter who doesn’t mind being sneered at by folks who don’t know any better, there is a Japanese Type 11 and a Chauchat. I really wish I had the money to take a shot at either one of those – the Type 11 is a virtually unique design with its hopper feed, and I have a weird compulsion to get myself a Chauchat and practice with it until I can outshoot guys with BARs in “practical” shooting courses.

Okay, but let’s go back up-market for a minute. I would like to think that we have some pretty accomplished machine gunners reading the blog, and there is a piece for them here as well. There are very few collections out there that would not be really anchored by a gorgeous Swiss Maxim complete with optics and accessories:

Swiss model 1911 Maxim gun
Swiss model 1911 Maxim gun

Yeah, it will probably bring more money than my house. But when you get to a certain point it’s just money, right? I just hope that whoever does end up with it keeps it somewhere that young developing gun nuts can see such an exquisite example of craftsmanship.

Okay, back to earth before I sign off for the day. What might be the most interesting balance of shootability, obscurity, and affordability (well, assuming we can put any faith in the estimated prices) is the Dreyse 1912. It wasn’t as reliable as the Maxim (its mechanism is totally different), but it weighted just 37lb empty, making it the lighter than any of the water cooled Maxims). It uses standard Maxim belts and is chambered for 8mm  Mauser, making it a relatively practical gun to shoot, as heavy machine guns go. It is one of the rarer German machine guns as well, and a design that did not survive past WWI, and that makes it pretty interesting (to me, anyway). And finally, it’s estimated price is lower than most new cars. You might not be able to ever find spare parts, but you’d definitely be the only one on the line with a Dreyse.

Dreyse Model 1912
Dreyse Model 1912 – looks pretty sharp, doesn’t it?

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what is available in this auction, so you should definitely go check it out and see the other guns. Even if you don’t have the money to buy a Carcano right now, it’s worth the time just to see the excellent photography of these really rare machine guns. All I ask is that you let me have a shot at getting the Schwarzlose 1908. 🙂


  1. not that i want to be the bringer of bad news but lets say you were run over by a gravel truck 5 min from now what is going to your collection

    do you have a list of the stuff you have and what you paid for it

    or a list of trustworthy friends/collectors who can help you relatives to figure out what to do with all that stuff

  2. I wrote up a teaser of this auction a week or so ago; great to see that there are more photos and information now (there were a few only unidentified photos, including tasty rarities like an M1913 Parabellum, the aerial MG that was in the defensive positions in Zeppelins).

    I have no way of knowing whether Mr Wray (requiescat in pacem) had done so, but many collectors place their weapons i a trust which has several benefits, including avoiding the vicissitudes of probate, and the rapine of the restored Death Tax that takes literally (real literally, not Biden literally) most of your estate. One more thing for which we may thank our lords and masters in Washington, but I digress.

    I have seen what happens when you don’t make postmortem provisions. A Rhode Island collector died without making provision for his roughly 18 MGs, including many WWI and WWII heavy and medium rifle calibre machine guns. His heir was a lady (in one version of the story, a nun) who did not want the guns or the money, so she gave them to the State Police. The Police gave them to the National Guard because someone said the Guard SF guys would use them for training. They were placed in a brick building that was essentially open to the sea and the door was locked and everybody forgot about them. For IIRC 17 years.

    A former member of the SF unit still working for the RI ARNG found the collection. They were solid with rust. He is an experienced gun guy and is undertaking the cosmetic restoration of the weapons. The political masters of Rhode Island (it is a one party state, intermittently under Mafia control and not) do not want to sell the weapons; they don’t need the money and fear them being used in crime (yeah, right). So the guy is trying to place them in a museum, but the pols want to attach all kinds of strings.

    Some of the pols would rather just destroy the guns — which neglect has largely done already. Of course, we are at the point where a piece of steel with a serial number on it. and a registration document, would justify the remanufacture of the gun in toto, rather like aircraft enthusiasts “rebuild” a Hurricane or Mustang from a data plate. As long as you have a receiver and a registration, the rest is all parts, in MG land.

    Anyway, that is the fate of one once-loved collection. It is fighting for its very life with a single human champion, after most of its quality and value was destroyed by bureaucratic blindness.

    Personally, I have had great difficulty establishing a trust. My intended trustees have been diffident about returning paperwork. It’s very frustrating.

    Ultimately, we will have to overturn the Hughes Amendment. This is not the year, politically.

    • Kevin, thanks for sharing that with us — There simply isn’t a shortage of bloody-minded, short-sighted idiots in the human race, is there? You’ll forgive me if I sound so vehement about this, but I simply find that an abject ignorance and disrespect for fact and history, coupled with the arrogance imbued by the acquisition of a little knowledge ( “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” ), lack of open-mindedness and plainly self-serving agendas absolutely appalling. Like the so-called “expert” lawmakers who keep insisting on referring to “magazines” as “magazine clips” in the midst of the current post-Newtown controversy. And these are the people who are going to decide for the rest of us what works and what doesn’t? How could they possibly make a truly-informed decision if they are already prejudiced towards one end and can’t even get their basic terminology right?

      • “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” has now been codified in the social sciences (I know, contradiction in terms) as the “Dunning-Kruger Effect.” You can find Kruger & Dunning’s original paper by searching on the title: “Unskilled and Unaware of It.”

  3. There are also quite a few interesting non-NFA items, including Hermann Gorings personal sporting Mauser.

  4. I like the idea that the M60 in this auction may be unfired. I guarantee when it would be buried with me (gun only), that it would be in fired condition. When I was in the Army, I wasn’nt a huge fan of carrying the pig, but I sure liked firing it.

  5. Slightly OT

    have you covered the Darne MG?

    Like the Chauchat – one of the French WW1 iterations of a relatively easily constructed MG.

  6. Just got the Rock Island Auction proffer. Their next auction features two Japanese Pederson toggle action rifles with magazines which appear to be similar to the Johnson Model 1941 magazine. I knew that there were Japanese copies of the M1 Garand extant, but not Japanese Pedersons in 7.7mm…..

  7. Ian, how did you get the photos off of their website? They’ve purposely designed it so I can’t download the pictures. And I want to download all of those pictures. Whoever took them did a marvelous job, and those are all BEAUTIFUL guns.

  8. Wow! Just wow.

    Make mine the Swedish 6.5mm M1921/24 BAR!
    Um, no wait, I’ll take the Soviet DP!
    Erm… Uh, maybe the DT?
    Soviet M1910 Maxim? M1901 Mannlicher pistol carbine?!! 7x57mm Spanish-contract Hotchkiss?!!!

    Incredible stuff…
    Bring on the gravel truck says I!

  9. Glad to see the mostly-forgotten and sadly-neglected Darne 7.5mm aircraft MG ( in this case adapted to ground-based AA use ) featured in this article. I’m also happy to read that Keith has revived this subject for discussion. I had posted some basic information on the Darne on 112612 as an ancillary subject under the “Mle 34/29 Chatellerault” article, but probably did so too late as there was very little response.

  10. Ah, you mean the Schwarzlose PISTOL – I thought they had a Dutch Schwarzlose MG, and was disappointed to see “only” an Austrian 07/12.

  11. FYI auction report

    Lot #38 sold for $30K Chinese type 24 water cooled Maxim MG 8mm Mauser with tripod
    Lot #60 sold for $36K Savage Lewis MG .303
    Lot #68 sold for $19K Model 1912 Dreyse Water Cooled MG 8mm Mauser with tripod
    Lot #73 went for $17K BSA Lewis 1914 MG PA .303?

    prices sure have increased and all the above, add 15% for auction fees.
    I sure was out bid.

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