Stolen rifle comes home.

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Apr 11, 2006
Pictured below is a Heckler & Koch Model 91 rifle that I bought new in 1980. A friend of mine had put a deposit on the rifle at a local shop then ran into financial difficulty and wasn’t able to pay off the balance due. He was in danger of losing the $200 deposit he had put on the rifle and he asked me if I would be interested in buying it so he wouldn’t lose his deposit.


I wasn’t really looking for such a rifle but I felt badly for my friend so I went down to the store and ponied up the $380 plus sales tax for the 91. I thought the rifle was a bit clumsy and heavy (and I still think so) but at the same time there was something intriguing about the thing.

The gun store owner asked if I wanted any accessories for the gun, like the quick detachable scope mount, extra magazines, the bipod and bayonet. I must confess that I went a bit overboard and bought all of it. Seems to me the scope mount was around $90 which was a lot at the time but it was really cool the way it came off and snapped right back on. The bipod added more weight to an already heavy rifle but again it sure was neat looking.

Shooting this rifle was quite an experience. One of the loudest guns I have ever shot (nothing comes close to the .30 Carbine Ruger Blackhawk, though) it threw the empty cases about 50’ away. I think it had something to do with the roller block design. I don’t know for sure.

I wound up keeping the rifle.

In June of 1986 my home was burglarized. I had meant to invest in a safe, I really did, but at that time I didn’t have one so I lost all of my guns. A total of 23 firearms were stolen. Oddly, they left one behind for some reason. An M1 Garand I had gotten through the DCM (I recall it being an IH model). All the rest, including the M91, were gone.

Around October of 2003 I get a post card from the LAPD (the gun was stolen about 200 miles north of LA in Fresno) informing me that a stolen firearm registered to me had been recovered and did I want it back? Hell, yes, I wanted it back even though I didn’t know which one they had recovered. Believe it or not, I had a premonition that it was the H&K that had been located, and a phone call confirmed it.

The LAPD was adamant that I had to retrieve the gun in person. They would not ship it to me or an FFL. Had to be me, and it had to be in person. Well, we take 10 days or so around Christmas each year for a visit to Fresno so two months later while there my friend Ron drove me down to LA to pick up my rifle. I took along a hard case assuming they wouldn’t want me walking around police headquarters with a gun in my hand.

I was mistaken. That’s exactly what they wanted. I was told not to case the gun as that would constitute a concealed weapon (whaaaat?). OK. So I strolled through the LAPD main office with the 91 in my hand. I got lots of strange looks from uniformed officers and visitors as I made my way out the front door and onto the sidewalk... in downtown Los Angeles... with an H&K Model 91 in my hand.

Ron had the case and we cased it up immediately upon hitting the street.

Of the 23 guns taken, so far four have been returned. Three were recovered within the first few months and then the 91 some 17 years later. By the way, there wasn’t a mark on it after all that time. The detective I dealt with said drug dealers like to have guns like that for show but they rarely actually shoot them and it was a drug house raid that netted the H&K.

We had flown to CA on American Airlines and I checked the 91 as baggage following the airline rules and federal law for transporting firearms on airlines. When we arrived in Little Rock the gun case wasn’t with the rest of out luggage. We waited in vain for the case to come down the ramp but it never did. I couldn’t believe that after all that the gun had been stolen again!

We went to the lost luggage office and as we walked in I saw the case on the floor next to the counter. The agent explained that the handler recognized it as a gun and hand-carried it to the office rather than have it moving with the other bags where it might get snagged by a dishonest employee or a baggage thief working the terminal.

So, it’s home. Unfortunately, about a year after the theft I sold all the accessories (none were on the rifle so I still had them) but that’s OK. I still even hold out some hope for the remaining 19 guns out there.
Your are very lucky. It's rare to get any stolen property back, especially firearms. It amazes me how many people have several firearms, but don't have serial numbers or pictures of any of them. It only talks a few minutes to do.
Of the 23 guns taken, so far four have been returned.

Did you do any looking yourself?

A guy here had more guns than that stolen, plus everything else of value, plus the burglars set fire to the house to conceal evidence. He had good records and was able to make police reports with make, model, and serial number of all guns and camera, stereo, etc. This in the 1970s when hardly anybody had a gun safe.
He realized that the cops would make no real effort to recover stolen goods so he set out on his own. With a copy of the official police report detailing his property, he set out to cover the region. He went to every pawn shop, gun store, and gun show within 200 miles for several years. When he found something, he would call the local cops, show them the report, and have them take back his gun. He eventually tracked down about 1/3 of his guns. I don't think he got back much if any of his other belongings taken at the same time.
Sad gun theft story-
Back in '89, my older brother saw I was developing an interest in guns, so he gave me our late Dad's rifles. A Japanese long rifle, an M1, and a 30-06 carbine. I was proud of my new collection, and the boys at work were dying to see them.
I had just got my '87 Fiero GT out of the collision shop, all showroom pretty and shiny. Dumbass me loads the guns in the car the night before, to take them to work the next day for show-and-tell.
You guessed it. The car was stolen from the driveway that night. The detective flipped when I told him the vehicle had three rifles in it when stolen!
I've had the guns for less than a week, never recorded any serial numbers. Not even a photo of them. Bye-bye. Sorry Dad.
Car was recovered two months later, totally stripped.
Live and learn people.:banghead:
I have to admit, I'm a little confused (that's SOP) - Of course you had to verify your ID, but did they make any sort of issue with your state of residence?

Here's my point; as y'all know that particular rifle is considered super duper naughty her in Cali; if you had still been a resident in 89 (and had it in your possession) you could have registered it with the state ( don't get me started on that BS) and you could have kept it, but it would be completely and totally non-transferable to another resident of the state. In the interim of course between 86 and now you have all sorts of other restrictions passed (and sunset thank goodness) but I have to admit I'm a little surprised they released it to you.

Another view: in 99 I was managing an indoor range in Silicon Valley; we had a rental Colt Sporter 9mm. Due to an unforeseen series of unfortunate event, that Colt and my Glock 30 were taken into evidence by local PD (don't get excited, it all worked out - had a lone suicidal maniac try to steal the Colt off the range, bottom line is one bad guy in prison for a very long time) any way; I eventually got the Glock back (coincidentally in 2003 also) after all the court stuff ran out but the Colt couldn't be released. 'Cause in 2000 a different law went into effect that banned ownership of that particular rifle UNLESS! you had it registered and in possession of the rifle prior to the law taking effect in 2000.
See the rub? The rifle couldn't have been registered because it was in evidence, and after the trial and assorted non-sense, it couldn't be released, because at that point in time, it was considered a 'unregistered assault weapon'. (more nonsense).
So you can see the predicament.
Never did find out what happened to that rifle.
The rifle was stolen in 1986. In 1989, when the assault weapon ban was enacted which required current owners to register their guns, I registered that 91 even though it had been stolen 3 years earlier. I figured that would simply enhance my chances of getting it back. I put my mother's address on the registration knowing it was more likely she would still be at the same address than me. She forwarded the card to me in AR (I left CA in 1992).

As it turned out, it was that registration that allowed the LAPD to ID the owner (me) and send the notification. I don't think that not being a CA resident any longer was really an issue. It was stolen property that belonged to me and they were returning it. No transfer of ownership involved as it always legally belonged to me. So no issue with my living in another state.

BTW- I did give the police the descriptions and serials of all the guns (3 were so old they had no numbers). That's how I got the first 3 back.

Here's what is still missing if anyone comes across one.

Ithaca M51 12G 510056499
S&W M29-2 6.5" N306868
DWM Luger Dated 1918 4859
S&W M27-2 3.5" N392847
Manurhian P-38 223842
Colt Gold Cup 70N76880
1851 Colt replica 3012
Colt Python 6" V24573
Remington O/U Derringer 53
Colt Diamondback 4" .22LR D80674
Winchester M70 25-06 G1234135
Colt Frontier Scout .22LR 132214P
Remington M30S 30-06 19485
Savage M72 A952825
Mossberg M500 12G H071780
BRNO Model 22F Mauser 34630 7x57
Saxon.. I last saw a HK 91 claw scope mount for $500

what crazy story, glad you got some of your stuff back. sorry you have to go to Fresno every year
There's no excuse for owning 23 guns and not having a safe. No one who owns 23 guns is lacking money for a safe, and if they did, they ought to sell a few to buy a safe. Not even a few, most of the time the sale of 1 or 2 would be enough. That's negligence.

I bought my firearms over a relatively short period of time. Before that, I was happy with just a 9mm and a 10/22. Since buying most everything I would want, I haven't bought anything being that I have what I need and I also have that which I find to be fun. I don't own guns to collect. I own ones that have a defensive use or a specific sport use. That's just me. As I was buying guns often, they started piling up fast. Once I got to 5, I started becoming extremely nervous. I was always deeply concerned about theft, even from my first firearm. But certain ones can be carried or hidden well or locked away or brought with you. When you have a few, that's not the case anymore. I couldn't bear the thought of some smash and grab punk breaking a lousy window and scoring all my guns and these guns ending up on the streets in the hands of killers. Being that I was new to guns, and I was buying new guns quite often ...I never really thought of a safe. I can totally understand how that can be overlooked. How you just go along never getting around to it, or never really thinking about it. It's just out of mind or not a priority. That's due to a poor mindset.

Part of the reason why is, people find it hard to see the justification for having a gun safe for only a few firearms. Pistols can be put into smaller safes. But rifles and carbines cannot. So a lot of folks have a few pistols they figure they can hide or put in a small safe, and the few rifles can go under the bed, in the closet and all the usual places that the burglars are going to look. Time passes. No one ever thinks it can happen to them (I was like that). And the guns keep piling up. More and more. Person gets in the mode where the thought is "which new gun am I going to get" rather than "which new safe should I be looking at" or "perhaps I should secure what I already have, rather than looking on to the next toy of the month" ...

For years, and possibly still now, there's been quality, heavy and secure gun safes for $500-$600. That's the price of just one decent semi-auto pistol. That's cheaper than a Sig, HK, 1911 ...

I'm not writing this as a condemnation in any way. This is not directed at the OP. In some ways I can sympathize with why and how these things happen.

This post is for all the people who have too many guns that are not locked up. You know who you are. You're being completely irresponsible if you go on to buy that 15th gun or whatever and still haven't considered getting a safe. Firearms keep their value fairly well compared to other things. They can be an investment. It is your money. It should be protected from theft. Peace of mind that your property isn't out there killing people is an even more important factor. It is also decency and consideration to the rest of society. Do not contribute to the problem. We all know that the vast majority of gun crimes are committed with stolen guns. Hardly anyone buys a gun from an FFL and then shoots up a convenience store. Those used to be someone's guns. They either were stolen, or sold through a series of private sales where each person in the chain kept selling to more and more unscrupulous individuals. Most are stolen.

No, it wouldn't be your fault that they are stolen. Nor would it be your fault if someone was killed with your gun. But there's no reason why it had to be easy for them to be stolen. I believe it is everyone's duty to do what is REASONABLE to prevent that from happening. What is reasonably in their power. Voluntarily of course. I don't believe in any kind of laws mandating such things either. So folks, please buy gun safes and lock up your arms.

They are very cheap protection. You can also pack with important documents, jewelry, bullion or whatever other valuables you have. They also protect from fire - another possible threat.

I would pay 3x the price of the safe, because the safe is not what I am buying, I am buying peace of mind. Being able to relax and not worry that my guns aren't being stolen while I am out for the night. That's worth more than the safe.

Again, lose the "it's not going to happen to me" syndrome. It is both ironic and hypocritical of so many gun owners. People buy a gun because they don't want to be one of those "it's not going to happen to me" people when it comes to self defense - but they don't consider the more likely threat of home burglary. They are in fact, the head in the sand types when it comes to that. Because if they truly, honestly thought about it and were concerned, that concern would lead to honest reflection and would lead to action in buying security. It's one of those things. People can say they're serious about it, but they really aren't until they prove it by doing it or immediately working toward it.

Finally, everyone has a different number of guns or level at which they will think about getting a safe. There's no concrete number of guns before you should buy one. The proper mindset is, EVERY GUN, even if you own only one, should be SECURED. End of story. I know it just isn't realistic, but ideally, a gun owner would buy a safe before a gun or at least along with the first gun (personal defense is most important) But, money being what it is, most people don't have enough to satisfy every need and more accurately, every want all at once, and more often than not, the toys, not the safe, gets the green light.

Satisfy the NEED for self defense first, then immediately work towards a gun safe. Because after you have that self-defense gun(s), everything else is largely a WANT.

Let the OP's post be a lesson to everyone. It can happen.
I read that twice.
Then thought about that some.
About 10 years ago I got hit, somehow they missed all the long guns but got my pistol.
That was living out in the country with no real neighbors. I immediately bought a safe and now have it bolted to the floor and wall.

Saxon.. that's pretty cool ya got it back after all that time.
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