For Sale: One M-16 Rifle, 'Not Many Scratches'

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Drizzt, Mar 29, 2007.

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  1. Drizzt

    Drizzt Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Moscow on the Colorado, TX
    For Sale: One M-16 Rifle, 'Not Many Scratches'

    The New York Times

    LAPEER, Mich. - If you've ever wanted to own an M-16 rifle, and who hasn't, now is your chance. The Sheriff's Department here in Lapeer County has put theirs up for bid, and as far as fully automatic machine guns go, she's a beauty.

    "This is the real deal from the Colt factory and marked as M-16 with safe, semi and auto selector switch," reads the department's solicitation for bids. "This weapon is complete and well maintained."

    And a surefire conversation starter.

    But the auction is less about a proud addition to someone's private artillery than it is about Michigan's faltering economy. These are strange, tight times here, so strange and tight that it sort of makes sense for a law enforcement agency to sell off a machine gun so that it can afford to buy other guns.

    "We've all been cut beyond the meat, beyond the bone," says Robert Rapson, the undersheriff.

    Which is why that near-mint M-16, a member of the department longer than some sheriff's deputies have been alive, was suddenly busted from the rank of firearm to collectible.

    Rapson, 55 and burly, has a voice as deep as his affection for his county, Lapeer, a farming and bedroom community of 93,000 people, with tidy towns, dozens of lakes and an economy whose link to the automotive industry is reflected in obituaries: 30 years at Buick City; 15 years with the AC Spark Plug Division. Detroit is about 60 miles to the south, Flint about 20 miles to the west.

    Rapson joined the Sheriff's Department in 1974, when it had just 16 members, a fifth of today's complement. Over the years he did everything from road patrol to detective work to running the county jail - so much late-night cop work that he developed an allergy to coffee. Ask him about a ribbon of distinction on his brown uniform, and he declines to elaborate.

    Back in 1975, he was dispatched to a local gun company to pick up an M-16 A-1, purchased for $500 and capable of shooting hundreds of rounds a minute. His superiors were concerned, he says, about the potential for "civil unrest."

    Some deputies were fresh from Vietnam and knew how to shoot an M-16. Others, like Rapson, had to be trained. "I'll always remember how noisy it was," he says. "How hot it was, and how inaccurate it was."

    Fortunately, civil rest reigned in Lapeer County through the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s, and into the new millennium. Except for being cleaned every six months, and occasionally fired to make sure it still worked, the M-16 stood upright and unused in the department's small gun room.

    The unrest, in fact, was in the economy: up, down, up, and now down, in part because of the automotive industry's ever-shrinking presence in Michigan. A short ride to Flint provides a hint of what was, and what is, through the vast emptiness of Buick City, where acres of parking slots are filled not with cars but with man-size weeds.

    Outside the office of United Auto Workers Local 599, the American flag always flies at half-staff because so many soldiers from Michigan die overseas, a union official explains. "It's just staying that way because every time we raise it, we have to lower it again."

    But a flag at half-staff in Flint would seem appropriate these days no matter what.

    Here in Lapeer County, property tax delinquencies are up, restaurant tips are down and people are anxious about jobs and pensions. Turn left out of the Sheriff Department's parking lot, and you'll see an empty factory; turn right, you'll find another.

    John Biscoe, the county administrator, says Lapeer has spent the last few years steeling itself against the economic downturn with common business sense. For example, instead of a jail kitchen and a senior center kitchen, there is now one for both. "But separate menus," he adds.

    Recently the Sheriff's Department decided to rearm its deputies, who had been using the same heavy Smith & Wesson handguns since 1992. A newer and much lighter model costs about $490 each, Rapson says. "But we knew we were not going to get the resources from the county commissioners."

    Then someone remembered that M-16 in the gun room. By now it was a treasure: an early model in excellent condition, fully automatic and "fully transferable," too, which meant that because it was so old, its sale would not be hindered by a 1986 federal law that, with a few exceptions, prohibits the transfer or possession of new fully automatic machine guns.

    Soon an auction announcement was appearing on the department's Web site, along with a photograph of the M-16 above the words, "Not many scratches."

    Rapson says the machine gun is worth more than $15,000, which is but one reason why gang members, say, are unlikely to submit a bid. "Why should they?" he says. "They can just go to some back-alley machine shop."

    Most likely, he says, the winning bidder will hold the gun for a while - thinking who knows what - then vacuum-seal it and place it in a vault, the way a coin collector might protect an investment in a rare silver dollar.

    Bids must be received by 5 p.m. May 1. All applicable laws apply, and any sale is contingent upon a background check by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

    And if the Sheriff's Department still doesn't like the looks of the winning bidder, Rapson says, "We have a caveat in our process: We can refuse all bids."

  2. Autolycus

    Autolycus Member

    Feb 13, 2006
    In the land of make believe.
    So does that mean he thinks I should be able to go buy one?
  3. Elza

    Elza Member

    Mar 15, 2007
    North Texas
    Sounds like he, at least, has a firm grasp on the criminal gun situation. Too bad more people don’t realize what he does: criminals don’t get guns the same way law abiding citizens do!
  4. UberPhLuBB

    UberPhLuBB Member

    Jun 4, 2004
    So wait, how is this particular gun even transferrable? They infer it was bought in a gun shop before the '86 ban, but why would the police have registered it AFTER the ban?

    Do they think they can just auction off government property?
  5. statelineblues

    statelineblues Member

    Jul 9, 2006
    In PA
    Here's the website for those with $$$ (not me :fire: ):


    Yes, UberPhLuBB, it is fully transferable to anyone who can legally own it. And local, county, & state departments auction off surplus equipment all the time - CT does it every month (used to have firearm auctions twice a year, too!).
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2007
  6. Trebor

    Trebor Member

    Feb 15, 2003
    There are plenty of transferable pre-'86 guns in police inventories. The police had to follow ATF regs and register the gun as well. It all depends on *how* the police registered the gun. There is a type of registration to the police that makes the gun non-transferable to anyone but other police/.gov agencies. It seems like many departments realized that would limit their options to dispose of the MG's in the future though and received the gun on a Form 4 so it could later be transfered to a private individual.
  7. armoredman

    armoredman Member

    Nov 19, 2003
    proud to be in AZ
    Now if I can just convince my Dept to sell the American 180s we have hidden away...
  8. Frog48

    Frog48 Member

    Aug 7, 2006
    Somewhere down in Texas
    What good would one, single M16 do to curtail "civil unrest"? Sounds to me like the sheriff bought it as a play toy for the department.
  9. TexasRifleman

    TexasRifleman Moderator Emeritus

    Feb 16, 2003
    Ft. Worth
    I've wondered about that. I would really like to know what name is actually on the Form 4.
  10. velojym

    velojym Member

    Apr 9, 2006
    "Civil Unrest? Why, then we just kill 'em!"

    It's simple economics. Not everyone with responsibility over an arsenal can pull a Bill Klinton and order the costly destruction of the arsenal. Funds are more limited at a local level, and its harder to steal more money at the local level than at the federal level. Many localities do try, though, but the smart ones will intelligently use the resources at hand, which include unused firearms in their inventory.

    If they think there'll be a sudden increase in crime among class III owners... they're the same folks who figured Florida would be awash in blood, too. Very negative thinking, and the repetitive way they're doing it suggests deeper mental problems.
  11. hammer4nc

    hammer4nc Member

    Jan 2, 2003
    Sold!! Is the buyer a THR member? Post pics please...

    Machine gun goes to Texas man

    staff reporter

    Like fine wine, some things are worth more with age.

    In 32 years, a Lapeer County Sheriff's Department owned machine gun's value shot up more than $17,700.

    A Texan's $18,000 high bid made him the proud owner of the M-16 auctioned off Tuesday by county law enforcement. The collector's bid was the highest of 98 who hoped to own the 1970s-era fully automatic Colt manufactured M-16. The lowest was $300 from a female gun collector in California, said Undersheriff Bob Rapson.

    "We got bids from all over, but primarily Texas, Arizona, Ohio, Oklahoma and Florida," said Rapson.

    The Sheriff's Department bought the machine gun in 1975 for $212.50. It was originally purchased as a tactical weapon, when the county had plans to begin a SWAT like team. The expense proved too great, so deputies dropped the idea and used the gun, which can fire about 700 rounds a minute, to train.

    The Sheriff's Department will fund new deputy weapons with money from the sale, said Sheriff Ron Kalanquin.

    "We're just glad we had the resources to use," said Rapson.

    The sheriff's weapon budget is usually lean.

    "When I first started here, each deputy had to purchase their own weapon," said Rapson. "The first time the county purchased deputy side arms was in 1991."

    The department will release the gun after the collector's background is scrutinized.

    "He's really a large collector," said Rapson. "He indicated he wanted a gun with history. Who knows what the story will be by the time it finds its way to Texas."

    News of the gun sale drew regional and national attention, even drawing a short story published in The New York Times.

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