www.rockislandauction.com‘s IT VP Dan Thorngren sent us a heads-up: Saddam Hussein’s Ruger M77 Bolt Action Mannlicher Rifle is up for grabs. The rifle is notorious as the firearm the dictator fired into the air at various public events just to prove a point. (Something about my secret service will peel your skin like an orange.) I’m waiting for one of Hussein’s golden guns to come on the market. Anyway, the long gun’s provenance is even more intriguing, as Thorngren’s description [almost] reveals, along with some info on another Iraqi ballistic bauble . . .
When one hears of guns associated with famous dictators or regimes our mind instantly conjures images of Nazi Walthers and Lugers or perhaps early production, battle-hardened AK-47s. However, not all such firearms-equipped heads of state are so far back in history. Today we’ll take a look at two guns that earned their notoriety and provenance out of the Gulf War. Firearms that journeyed from the collections of the corrupt to the home of a CIA agent with 29 years of clandestine service.
The rifle above in and of itself doesn’t stand out especially. It’s your run of the mill Ruger M77 with standard features and markings in .243 caliber, with a Mannlicher stock. The only clue to its dark history lies in the Arabic engravings on the top of the barrel.
The engravings list the date of the rifle’s presentation and the name of one of the Middle East’s most brutal dictators, Saddam Hussein. Ruger won’t disclose who initially bought the rifle, but it ended-up in the Presidential Palace in Mosul, also known as the “Palace of Swords.” It was “confiscated” by a group of Sufi Islamic militia members.
The Presidential Palace was a 2.2 square kilometer site. During the run-up to the Gulf War, U.N. inspectors were denied access to the building. The Mosul site was a campus containing several palaces and VIP residences and guesthouses. It boasted date palms and other fruit trees, a palace for Saddam himself, three man-made lakes (including waterfalls) and, of course, hardened underground bunkers.
When Iraq fell, Sufi soldiers recovered the rifle. They transferred the rifle to a CIA officer in March of 2004. It was eventually transported to CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Our consignor received the Ruger as an honorarium for his 29 years of Clandestine Service for the CIA. The rifle comes with a league of documents and affidavits detailing its history, journey, and de-acquisition from the CIA.
The Browning High-Power above was procured in the same way that Saddam’s rifle (a CIA honorarium). In 1981, the Browning High Power was sold to a representative of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia. He immediately shipped it to Master Engraver Ken Hurst; a man with over 50 years of experience. Hurst has worked as a Master Engraver for Colt and Winchester and engraved guns for Ruger, Thompson Center, Walther, and Harrington & Richardson. Hurst engraved the piece, including the name on the backstrap, signed it, and sent the pistol on its way.
The resulting surface is 98 percent covered with a floral pattern and punch-dot background. The Saudi Royal Family presented the finished piece to Gen. Hussein Kamel al-Majid. Kamel was the Minister of Industry and Minerals and former Director of Iraq’s Military Industrialization Corporation (had full responsibility of all of Iraq’s weapons programs). He defected from Iraq in 1995. Jordan granted him asylum. Kamel shared important intelligence to UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission). Nervous at what Kamel might be telling the UNSCOM, Iraq began revising previous admissions (in one instance even turning in vast amounts of documentation that had been hidden on a chicken farm).
Saddam Hussein’s men somehow convinced Kamel, his brother, and their spouses (who had all defected) to return to Iraq. Immediately, they were divorced by their wives (or there wives were forced to divorce them). They were charged with treason. Three days after they returned, the two men refused to surrender themselves. They were shot and killed after a 13-hour gunfight at a [supposedly] safe house.
Some sources say that Saddam’s Security Forces were the ones who killed the two, while others say that it was other cousins of the family who were trying to win back their clan’s honor for Saddam. In any case, the pistol remained in Iraq where it was recovered by Iraqi insurgents after the fall of the Iraqi Government. It was eventually acquired by the CIA and sent to CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA.
Despite all the travel, warfare, overthrown governments, and treason, the gun’s condition remains all but perfect. It comes from a lesser-known name in that conflict, but is from someone who played a fascinating part in its history on top of being wonderfully embellished.
For more weapons with historical provenance take a look through RIAC’s Online Catalog. It features guns attributed to Adolf Hitler, Butch Cassidy, Emmett Dalton, Herman Göring, Nikita Khrushchev, Norman Schwarzkopf Sr., American soldiers, Western pioneers, Nazi officers, and more. There are so many historic items in this auction we created a special catalog category. Or you can search for your own favorite genre. It’s all at www.rockislandauction.com/search.