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Old 10-04-2019, 10:22 AM
PH68 PH68 is offline
Join Date: Mar 2016
Location: Anniston Alabama
Posts: 414
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Originally Posted by Savage22410 View Post
Visiting family in north Georgia, an hour from Anniston, puts me well within reasonability range for a visit to the South Store. Nephew's birthday party didn't start until 1:00PM, so plenty of time for the early morning run. I was not engaged with the CMP back in the good old days of 1903's, galore. So, when I got back on the forum to get up to speed on current Garand selection, I was overwhelmed with excitement to see that a handful of 1903's were making it out for purchase. The deal was sealed. A run to the South Store was going to happen.

But FIRST... I needed to reach out to the gentleman I had met during my first trip to the store a few years, ago. Mr. Tom, or ph68 as he is known on this forum, guided this Garand novice to his first purchase of a beautiful Special. Aside from family heirlooms, this Garand is now my favorite rifle in the safe. The puzzled/overwhelmed look on my face when I walked into the store must have said it all. I had no idea where to even start and he helped tremendously.

I've only had the pleasure to converse with him via forum messages and in person, twice. But to say a few words about Mr. Tom, I am confident many on this forum can confirm. Aside from the absolute expert he is on the CMP weapons, it's obvious Mr. Tom places importance on sharing the knowledge and excitement with the "new" folks. It had been two years since speaking with him, but he responded to my new message the day before traveling and confirmed that I had a good chance of picking up a 1903 that Saturday. More on Mr. Tom in a minute.

I intended to keep my odds as high as possible, so left early and with the time zone difference ended up being the first in line at the store. Although, when I pulled up the parking lot was just about full. My heart sank until I realized there was just a youth tournament going on!

If you've never made it to the store before opening, it's a pretty cool wait. It's a mix of anxiety waiting for the doors to open (must be entertaining for the armorers) and anticipation to see what is going to be out for sale. But the best part is talking with the other patrons that trickle up to the line as the clock counts down to 8am. Both times I've been, I've met some really nice folks. Of course, the conversation generally starts with "Looking for anything in particular?" Probably a little bit of feeling out/hoping the other person isn't after what you hope to find... but then it just turns into good old common gun interest speak. And for me, any talk on Garands/1903's is a learning event and much appreciated.

So, like clockwork, you hear that door unlock and you feel like you're back in the high school 100-yard dash. You don't want to act rude and run in, so you try and fast walk straight through the two glass doors and hope your eyes adjust quickly enough to start sorting through the racks for that golden egg. This time, one of the armorers (Colby) asked out loud what I was looking for. All I could get out was "1903's!" and he pointed me to exactly where the first group of three were. Both times I've been everyone has been extremely cool, patient and civilized. Speaking for myself, it's hard not to want to grab a few to place "dibs" then sort them out, but that would be rude. The accepted house rules seem to be to examine one at a time and place back in the rack for others to examine if you're moving on.

If the rifle speaks the right language to you, you calmly walk over to the armorers counter, where Colby and Jeff were eagerly waiting to answer questions and/or place your name on it for holding. My advice would be to ask them "What can you tell me about this rifle?" and hand it to them. There is a fair chance that one of them had something to do with the assembly and a very good chance they will begin pointing out details and characteristics. This is an incredible learning opportunity, so don't pass it up. Jeff and Colby are the epitome of customer service, with their number one quality being that they are excited about what they do.

So, back to Mr. Tom. After my beeline to the 1903's, I felt like I was about to choke because I didn't know which of the three to pick up and claim. I had 1903A3 in my mind, but these were all 1903's. I look over towards the door and who walks in, but Mr. Tom. I like to believe he just recognized me from my previous trip, but in all honesty, he could have approached me just due to the dazed look on my face. We shook hands and he asked if I had found what I was looking for. I mumbled something about 1903's and he immediately said, "You need to look at this one." while picking up a beautiful C stock rifle. Mr. Tom started pointing out all the unique features of the rifle, and I tried to keep up with taking mental notes to remember. All I knew was it was a beautiful rifle and Mr. Tom said it was a good one. So off to the counter I went to place my name on it.

Now, here's the point where you just must leave all financial reason behind. I had honestly planned to only purchase the one per year allowed 1903 if I had the chance. Well, just go ahead and leave all fiscal restraint at the door. After I checked the 1903 in, Mr. Tom quickly said, "Looking for anything else?" and quickly showed me three beautiful Garands sitting in a group on the rack. He had looked them over that Friday and began pointing out all the unique features of the first one, citing a throat erosion rating of an unbelievable “0”. Its serial number is a 1.178M and the barrel is a ’43, so if not an original it’s period correct. Mr. Tom really had a lot of good things to say about it, so… off to the counter Rifle #2 went.

If I’ve learned anything, pay attention to what Mr. Tom says. And if he says you should buy it, just do it. Let’s face it, these rifles are a non-renewable item and you are not going to lose any of your investment. Unlike the I-phone my wife just purchased, but that is a losing argument for me…

So, then Mr. Tom bid farewell to everyone and left until his faithful return trip for the closing count and forum post. (Thanks, Mr. Tom, for the gift of your time, guidance and history lessons again on Saturday. No doubt you spend more time helping others than searching for yourself. And that says a lot about your story.)

With another 30 minutes to now relax and check out all the remaining rifles, I decided to converse a little more with Jeff and Colby. I was explaining to Colby how I had missed a beautiful tiger striped birch stock on my last trip. Set it down, and it was scooped up by another lucky patron. Colby said to hold on and disappeared for 15 minutes. When he came back and my eyes saw what was in his hands, I just lowered my head, and said “I’ll get that one, too.” Beautiful “tiger maple” and another ’43 receiver and barrel vintage. I couldn’t believe he took the time to search for that rifle and sincerely appreciate him making that effort to show it to me. Again, the amorers at the South Store are there for the right reasons. They love the history and helping others.

So, with every rifle you buy, the CMP gives you a killer deal on 30-06 ammo. At $0.60/round, I bought a couple cases and a cool American Fork & Hoe bayonet. Wallet hurting and out of time, I stuffed my goods into the SUV and headed back to party with the 3-year olds! And just a side note, those CMP rifle cases are fantastic. But they are very tough to hide in a Grand Cherokee.

Attached are a few pics. I am still recalling and learning the characteristics of these rifles. Some mentioned above like same vintage of WWII receivers/barrels. Other stuff like the lead dipped receiver, uncut op rod and locking bar were pointed out to me, as well. Take care!

Thank you for your very nice comments and endorsement for what I try to do in the store. I alway enjoy helping those that ask for help and for those that look like they may need some help. I do miss a few rifles that I would like to have and on many occasions customers have offered rifles to me that they think I would like and in many cases I take it home, so I get my fair share of rifles. Alway enjoy the search... Tom
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