Premiere Rock Island Auction

Yep, it’s that time again – another RIA Premiere Auction is coming up on the weekend of December 6th-8th. As usual, there are thousands of firearms up for sale, including a whole bunch of 1911s, Lugers, P38s, and other classic arms. As is also usual, I’m more interested in the unusual and, dare I say, forgotten weapons that are up for grabs. So, let’s take a look at some of the highlights (which, by the way, it was tough to cull down to just these few)…


Let’s dive right into the cool with a 1939 prototype Gustloff .32ACP semiauto pistol (Lot 1392). This was a design intended to compete with the Walther PP/PPK, being made at the Buchenwald concentration camp to reduce costs. The Walther pistol was well liked, though, and with all the other wartime priorities this Gustloff design was never put into production. Mechanically, it is a simple blowback design, with a shrouded hammer. Anticipated price point: used car.

Gustloff prototype .32ACP blowback pistol

Next up, an older prototype: a Krnka 1895 (Lot 3384). The Czech designer Karel Krnka was the brain behind several innovative early repeating and self-loading pistols (we will be covering his work in more detail in the future). This particular 1895 experimental model of pistol was the grandfather of the Roth-Steyr 1907 (which Krnka designed, Roth financed, and Steyr produced). This pistol uses a locked breech (recoil-operated rotating bolt system), and has a fixed internal magazine fed by stripper clips (one of which is included in the auction). A very early gun from an underappreciated engineer! Anticipated price point: small new car.

Krnka model 1895 self loading pistol

Prototypes are great and all, I can hear you saying, but how about something a bit more recognizable, but with a unique twist? Well, how about a 1915 DWM Luger that took a piece of shrapnel for its owner (Lot 1450)? This is certainly not something to appeal to everyone – and may be a bit macabre – but it is certainly a one-of-a-kind artifact. The outside face of its holster shows a large entry hole and the shell fragment making it proceeded to slam into the backstrap of the Luger, twisting and destroying the frame. It broke into smaller pieces as a result of the impact, which left a handful of exit holes on the inside of the holster. Whether this saved the owners life or killed him, there is no way to know… Anticipated price point: One ounce of gold.

Battle-damages 1915 DWM Luger pistol


This is not as rare an item as the pistols above, but the Japanese Type 2 Paratrooper variant of the Arisaka is a very neat rifle – and there are two available in this auction (Lot 608 and Lot 1458). In order to make the weapon more convenient for use jumping out of an aircraft, the Japanese devised a system wherein the barrel and forestock of the rifle can be detached from the receiver by simply unscrewing a captive locking wedge. The system is durable, simple, safe, and quick to use. It also retains the solid stock and full-length barrel to improve practical accuracy, which many countries sacrificed for portability on paratrooper rifles. Anticipated price point: twenty-five typical Turkish Mausers.

Japanese Type 2 Paratrooper rifle

Not rare enough for you? Well, how about a Type 1 Paratrooper (Lot 616), an experimental predecessor to the Type 2? Before they got the idea for the detachable barrel, the Japanese toyed with the idea of using a short barrel and a folding stock for a handy rifle. How do you make an easy folding stock carbine? Take a Type 38 Arisaka, saw the stock off at the wrist, and put a big ol’ hinge on it! Yes, this did result in a lot of wobbly and cracked stocks, and I’m sure the Imperial paratroopers were much happier with the Type 2. Still, this Type 1 is in outstanding condition for what it is, and an exceedingly rare find. Anticipated price point: registered MAC-10 (this seems low to me).

Japanese Type 1 Paratrooper rifle

For something more high-tech, how about a pair of Remington Etronx bolt action rifles (Lot 905)? These are model 700 rifles using an electronic firing mechanism which allows very light trigger pulls and effectively zero lock time (the time from when you pull the trigger to when the primer detonates). They were a commercial failure for Remington, because they use a battery and require special non-standard primers (although normal brass works fine). Those requirements made the target market skittish, along with the price. Still, the rifle is an interesting innovation, and as far as I can tell they work just great. This lot has one in .22-250 and one in .220 Swift, along with about 1100 rounds of loaded ammo and 7000 more of the electronic primers. Anticipated price point: half the price of a single new Etronx.

Remington Etronx rifle

M1 Garands

There are no fewer than 16 M1 Garand rifles in this upcoming auction, but two of them in particular jumped out at me. The first is a very early (serial number 20816) example of the gas trap system (Lot 1535). The Garand initially used a system where the muzzle blast was captured and redirected to push the operating piston (similar to the German G41(M) and G41(W)). This was quickly found to be unreliable, though, and the rifles were retrofitted with a gas port in the barrel bleeding gas directly to the oprod – a much better system. Very few of the early M1s escaped this overhaul, and so original gas trap examples are pretty rare today. This particular one was carried by a member of the Alaska National Guard, and also has the even more rare blast deflector used by a few units in the arctic. Sweet! Anticipated price point: small foreclosed house.

Gas trap M1 Garadn with arctic blast deflector

The other M1 that made me drool on my catalog was one of 5 selected for use in the 1949 rifle trials where the US and UK tried to come to an agreement on a new NATO rifle cartridge (Lot 3570). Five Garands were converted by the British to .280 in an attempt to convince US Ordnance officers that the .280 round would be effective in the US standard arms (M1, BAR, M1919A4). The attempt failed because US Ordnance (in typical fashion) was unwilling to use a cartridge less powerful than the .30-06. We’re only now coming back around to the practicality of an intermediate cartridge like the .280, and I think an M1 in this caliber would be an absolutely outstanding shooter. Conveniently for a potential purchased who would be willing to fire this rifle, the 1949 version of the .280 uses the same case head and rim dimensions as the .30-06, so making brass ought to be fairly simple. Anticipated price point: 55 pounds of pre-1965 quarters.

M1 Garand converted to .280 British

Cool Widget

As cool as those M1s are, the prices do put them solidly out of my reach. So here’s something else very neat that we can close on with a price that makes it available to a lot more of us: a Japanese aerial training gun camera (Lot 618). Like the Hythe camera I wrote about a while back, this camera is styled loosely after the Lewis gun (which the Japanese used in aircraft for a long time). Unlike the Hythe, this one is a movie camera. The trainee winds up a drum of film, and holding down the “trigger” causes it to record footage until the trainee releases the trigger. This allows instructors to assess whether the trainee is using proper lead and burst durations. A very cool piece of equipment, this one comes cased with a bunch of accessories including brackets for both wing mounting and flexible ring mounting. Anticipated price point: professional modern handheld video camera.

Japanese aerial gunnery training cameraIf you haven’t yet, you should definitely check out the catalog for the December Premiere auction, whether to find that next piece to add to your collection or just to gawk at all the fantastic guns. And remember, Forgotten Weapons Premium Members get 50% off the cost of the glossy print catalogs that RIA publishes for these auctions!