Grail Guns

Grail guns come in all shapes and sizes.

The Holy Grail was reportedly Christ’s own cup that he drank from at the last supper, had fantastical powers and was the ultimate objective of the Knights of the Round Table in many versions of the Arthurian legend. The term Grail Gun refers to any gun that we desperately want but is unusually difficult to obtain, either due to rarity, expense or whatever. It could be desired because of that rarity, uniqueness, history, sentimental reasons or any combination of these factors. Or hell, maybe it’s just neat-o.

I’ve obtained a lot of my Grail Guns over the years, and sometimes I discovered that desiring them was better than having them. I always loved the Browning SA 22 take-down rifle. So compact, so slim and elegant. I finally inherited one from my uncle Jim, and grabbed some ammo and took it to the range and… I didn’t like it at all. Too light, no proper ejector, a bit fussy. It just didn’t work for me.

The Mauser C96, arguable the world’s first commercially successful semi-automatic pistol.

I always wanted a Mauser C96, the first genuinely practical self-loading pistol. I came across one at a bargain price and was ecstatic. I even discovered that you can mount a reproduction stock on them without running afoul of the NFA. I found it to be a not-very-good handgun and a really neat carbine when the stock was used. It was cool, I liked having it but in the end I just didn’t take it out and shoot it. It’s now in other hands where it is well appreciated.

Others have proven a happier experience. Back in the 1980s I worked briefly for Detonics and owned several of their handguns. Being young and uncommonly stupid I had parted with them all, and bitterly regretted that. Linda found a nice Combat Master Mk.1 .45 at a good price and got it for me for my birthday. It was everything I remembered and more, and these days it’s one of my favorite carry guns. I even added hand-cut 20 LPI checkering to the grip-frame and some custom American Holly grips.

Detonics Mk.1Combat Master .45. Double-taps at five yards, with the obligatory flyer.

I carry some of my Grail guns, and a surprising number of people have an issue with this.

Bearing the Grail

OK, there are some guns it makes no sense to carry. My Webley RIC for example. Lovely gun, very nice to shoot, cool history but hopelessly slow to reload. If my Grail Gun was a LeFaucheaux Pinfire it would not be a good choice for an EDC no matter how much I liked it, not least because ammo is underpowered and practically unobtainium. Other guns like a mint, unfired Colt Python (which is not a Grail Gun for me and I don’t have one) is just worth too much money to risk firing or damaging it.

But frankly most of my Grail Guns are practical and fill a defined role in my life. The aforementioned Detonics, my Colt Detective Special etc. are valuable, but they aren’t worth a fortune. My love for the Detective Special is partly the history, but it’s also the practicality for me personally and the fantastic double-action trigger. I like these guns, I shoot them very well and find them eminently suited to my needs. An argument can be made that these are historic guns and use will inevitably diminish their value, but to me they are guns, meant to be useful and used. I get a lot of kickback when I post about carrying these guns, and when the objections are practical I have to concede their points. But the one objection that always seems to get raised makes very little sense to me.

That argument is that if I ever have to use it in self-defense it will get stuck in an evidence locker for a protracted period and I might never get it back. These people often point out that they have their favorite guns, but only carry a cheap gun they don’t care about in case this happens.

Mind you we’re not talking about impractical, hyper-expensive or ultra-collectible guns here. Just really nice, pretty cool ones.

My first disconnect is this; if the police take it it’s because I needed to use it. If I needed to use it it was to save a life, either mine, that of someone I care about or another innocent. In that instance to my way of thinking possibly losing the gun is a small price to pay. The grail Guns I carry are ones I shoot exceptionally well, with qualities more pedestrian guns do not possess. As such they represent, for me, my best choices if it comes to shooting.

My second disconnect is that the odds I will ever need to use a gun in self-defense are vanishingly slim. Realistically there is very little chance the police will ever feel the need to seize it, and if that does happen see my first disconnect.

Hey, It’s Your Gun.

People have a million reasons for putting a gun on their Grail List. Some of those guns are impractical, expensive or any number of other reasons not to use them. Hell, ‘I don’t wanna’ is more than reason enough. It’s your gun and you love it for your reasons. You can and should do with it as you please. If that’s wrap it in silk and put it away never to be seen again or if you want to take it out and shoot it that’s your business.

There really is no feeling quite like getting your hands on one of your Grail Guns, especially if it turns out to be everything you hoped it would be. One of mine that I have never gotten is a drilling. I would adore a 16-gauge double over/ 7mm Mauser under, and if I got one you bet your bum I would take it out and hunt with it. Special guns can lend a sense of occasion to hunting, trap-shooting or other activities, and for many guns feeling that is part of the attraction.

Whatever; it’s your gun. Enjoy it as and how you like.

Stay safe and take care.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 26 December 2021

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