My father has a tradition. One that I have only ever missed when I was unable to come home for the holidays. Every single year he plays the movie “A Christmas Story” in the background for basically the entire day. The only guaranteed pause is when gifts are being opened.
The movie is hardly known for its firearms per se, with the notable exceptions being a fantasy robber carrying an old Luger and Ralphie’s infamous Daisy “Red Ryder” BB gun. But the scene where Ralphie’s dad pulls the last gift from behind a curtain – the only gift Ralph really wanted, a BB gun – is beyond iconic for me and my father.
How It All Began
I do not come from a family of firearms owners or collectors. It’s never been their thing. When I got my first bow and arrow set for a birthday, my father promptly took it away knowing I would likely use it in the backyard. It was a good call given that I also promptly crafter my own bow and arrows from some tree branches and began target practice in the backyard anyway.
No, guns were just not a thing. Certain military relics were passed down in the family. That’s how I inherited my grandfather’s cavalry spurs. Amongst many other things, he served in one of the last U.S. horse cavalry units during World War II. Over the years, however, gun collecting has become a bit of a hobby that I can share with my dad.
What changed? Time, really. When I turned 18 years old, I spent the summer cutting lawns to make enough money to buy my first firearm, which was a nice Zastava M48 Mauser. Like the bow and arrows, dad knew the cat was already out of the bag. So he embraced my new hobby the next year.
On Christmas Day, my father first gave me a spike socket bayonet for a British Enfield No. 4 Mk 1 bolt-action rifle. The gift was appreciated, but I assumed that was the end of it. When the tree was finally barren of any more gifts, my dad made his move to the window curtains behind it. Out came an Enfield manufactured in 1943 to match the bayonet. It’s still my most cherished firearm.
The guns continued to come year after year. Next came a nice Mosin-Nagant manufactured in 1942. Then came a straight-pull Swiss Schmidt-Rubin. My little sister even got in on the fun and gave me a Mosin-Nagant carbine one year.
As a history nerd who grew up reading books about World War II, all the guns stuck to historical WWII bolt actions. That is until my dad found a great deal on an abused but historically interesting Springfield Model 1873 "trapdoor" rifle that had a damaged and unserviceable barrel. It’s a great wall piece and could shoot again with a new barrel.
Manuals, historical books, bayonets, and various accessories are still common gifts from my dad to go along with the guns he’s already found for me. Various available guns are always a topic for discussion when we get together to this day. I’m no longer cutting lawns to buy my firearms, but I have learned that the best ones come from dad regardless. I hope I get the chance to pass that tradition on.