(This post is an entry in our spring content contest. The grand prize is a Beretta APX pistol. Entries have closed and we will announce the winner one we have run the best entries received.)

By Have Dash
My teenage son’s entry into shooting sports began two years ago when my grandfather approached a cousin and asked him to pass down a vintage shotgun. This was noteworthy, since my grandfather had died in 1977.

Like many ghost stories, this one involves a dark and stormy night. I was driving home in the rain, thinking about a new 20-gauge I’d eyed a few days prior; it would be a great entry-level piece for my son, who had been mentioning that his experience at Boy Scout camp got him interested in shooting. I’d grown up with guns, but life and kids and work had intervened for most of my adult life.

The cell phone rang on the seat next to me, and I saw it was my cousin. It wasn’t safe to talk at the moment, but I heard his voice mail, which asked me to give him a call when I had a chance. Weird, but not that unusual; we’ve been close to his side of the family for ages.

A few years prior, over dinner, he’d mentioned that it was actually my grandfather who got him interested in shooting, back in the early 1960s. As a young boy, he’d go into the marshes with my grandfather and learned how to duck hunt, how to safely handle a gun, and the joys of a quiet morning out in nature. His own father was a wonderful man who loved the outdoors and was an avid fisherman, but never touched a gun after the war, when he returned with a back full of Japanese steel that stayed with him until his death, fifty years later.

The night before he called me, and a few days after I went window-shopping, my cousin had a dream. He was in the marsh, and my grandfather appeared, looking like he did in 1962. He asked my cousin if he still had the old 20-gauge that he bought for him, and my cousin said he did. My grandfather then asked him to pass it down to me so that I could use it for my son.

My cousin awoke, disbelieving what had just happened. He went to his safe and opened it, making sure the pump action was still there. It was. He knew he had to call me.

My jaw dropped when we talked, and he was stunned at the timing of my shopping trip and his dream. We met up and transferred the piece a few weeks later. I took it to a gunsmith to have it inspected, since it dated back to the 1930s, hadn’t been used in some time, and my cousin warned me the safety had been missing for decades. The gunsmith gave it a tentative OK, but said that he couldn’t recommend firing it, since the chamber unlocking latch was also broken. He pointed me in a few directions to look for parts and said he’d do the same.

After a few days of calling around, I found a small gun store in the Midwest with seemingly the right part in stock, but the older gentleman who owned the store said he didn’t know how to send a digital photo to me to verify. I called the gunsmith to get his thoughts, and he warned me that what seems like the right part often isn’t on older, less-common guns, but suggested I give it a try. I walked in a week later, put the part on the counter, and he said, “You are one lucky son of a bitch. That’s it.”

We took the shotgun out in June, on Father’s Day, and I brought my grandfather’s World War II Navy cap with us. The shotgun did great, and I’ve been babying it with low-recoil, low-power loads ever since. It’s not a regular-use piece. That role has since been filled for my son by a Mossberg pump and a Browning over-under.

We’ve had countless great times at the range and on the sporting clays course. He’s a better shot than I am, and that’s perfectly OK with me. He’s since taken to pistols as well, using the Ruger I got from my father at age 16, and he’s even joined a rifle team.

It’s all brought us closer, brought us outside and helped carry down a legacy of shooting. One of these days, he’ll discover girls, or he’ll tire of his father’s company. But until that point, and hopefully after that period is over, we have a priceless gift from my grandfather to thank for giving us the priceless gift of time together.

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8 Responses to An Actual Dream Gun: My Grandfather’s Hand-Me-Down Shotgun – Content Contest

  1. Great story. Brings me back to the days when I learned to hunt and shoot skeet with my dad.

    What model is that old pump anyways?

  2. “One of these days he will discover girls…”

    I can just see ghost-grandpa floating around in your dreams saying, “Wooooo, I’m a ghooooost…get that boy a hoooooker…wooooo….”

  3. Great story! A hand me down shotgun is the best shotgun. My grandfather gave my dad a rem model 10 and my dad is deathly afraid of guns(there’s actually a story of a Christmas morning bb gun somehow put holes in my sister’s new clothes to back up his fear of having a gun). Anywho the model 10 got to me eventually and it is a grand old time with duct tape stock and all.
    Cheers!

  4. Excellent account of family history, well written… and I totally believe him.

    When my ex father-in-law (Saigon & many points north, ’67-’70, RIP J.W.) passed away fairly suddenly in ’04 from ‘Nam dioxin-exposure “complications” while I was on my first trip downrange, the only rifle he had left from a once extensive collection was an Arsenal SLR-95. We finally bonded shooting it not long after being married (he was a very particular & stern man), and when I enlisted he told my ex & her mother that I could have it when I got out.

    I was actually somewhere over the Atlantic after getting the Red Cross message when he died, and after the initial hectic days ended my ex-MiL brought up the rifle. They had just moved into a new house, and most everything had been unpacked; she couldn’t​ find it anywhere, hadn’t seen it get boxed, and wasn’t sure if it had been stolen as well. I was disappointed, told her not to worry, and promptly forgot about it.

    Two days later I had a completely realistic dream where I woke up in the morning, walked into the garage, and fished the rifle out of a large upright, narrow box that was buried behind some other boxes. In the dream I knew exactly where it was, and was fetching it because I knew it needed to be cleaned. It felt completely normal, almost as if I had been the one to initially put the rifle there.

    I suddenly woke up right after pulling the rifle from the box, with a really strange/compelling urge to check the garage. I hadn’t even been in that house’s garage yet, and it was crammed with garage stuff. But there were still some household goods boxes in one corner; I did some digging, and behind everything was a large box for hanging suits in. I worked an arm into the box and along with a bunch of suit jackets, was that Arsenal.

    As soon as my fingers touched that barrel, every single hair on my neck stood straight up, and I admit that I got super creeped out. It seriously felt like I was being watched. I speedwalked back into the kitchen, where my ex-MiL had just gotten up to make coffee. She saw the rifle and asked jokingly if I had been in there all night searching, because she hadn’t been able to find it after looking all day. I must’ve looked pretty pale/spooked, because she then very seriously asked me how I found it. When I told her exactly what happened, she started shaking badly, sat down, and filled her mug with bourbon instead of coffee.

    She told me that a day or two before he suddenly felt extremely unwell and went to the hospital, out of the blue as they were driving somewhere, J.W. told her that he’d find a way to let her know if there was anything on the Other Side. She said it was odd because he wasn’t religious or spiritual, they were both serious agnostics, and she kidded him about it even after they knew it was extremely terminal.

    That’s why I believe accounts like Have Dash’s, after ending up with my own Rifle-from-the-Beyond (aka The Vorpal AK of Jim)…. which was lost after my ex sold it while I was in Samarra, to help pay for her new life with Jody.

    I hope that Dash’s family shotgun never leaves his clan…. these kinds of things have wampum big juju attached to it. The Vikings knew damn well that family blades were more than just priceless heirlooms. It appears that something similar can happen with firearms (also because I’ve heard many insist that their great-grand-pappy’s rifle is an +3 Ancestral Winchester of Deer Slaying).

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