Why I Collect



Why I collect…


I joined Hawaii Historic Arms Association five years ago and, since that time, I have many of you to thank for a room full of military and shooting equipment, a rack of helmets and collectables in my office, and a wife who still thinks that, at 50-plus years old, I act like a little kid around anything olive drab or with a trigger.

I always had an interest in militaria primarily due to my dad’s 42 years in the Hawaii Army National Guard. As a supply sergeant, dad got me all my surplus gear I used in high school. This was a big plus as I was a very active hiker, camper, and backpacker.

Over the years, I also maintained an interest in local military history, enjoyed talking to veterans any opportunity I got, and loved nothing more than spending time with my dad at Pearl Harbor, Hickam AFB, Fort Shafter, or any military base for that matter. Crawling through old gun emplacements and bunkers like Battery Harlow, Birkhimer Tunnel, Battery Arizona, and others is still WAY high on my list of things that never get boring.

I think I attended my first gun show back in the late 80s or early 90s when my good friend, Vince Evans, was selling knives. Although the array of guns intrigued me, funds for that caliber were non-existent, and whatever spare monies I had went to knives and other sharp-edged objects.

From 1993-1997, I was lucky to spend four great years working and living in Guam and Saipan. Talk about a militaria collector and bunker scrounger dreamland! Although I didn’t bring a lot back, some of the places I visited were outstanding like the atom bomb pits and B29 runways on Tinian, Suicide Cliff on Saipan, and the many Japanese bunkers on Guam. Some places were downright hair-raising like the cave on Saipan my friend Mike took me to. After sliding into it on our stomachs through a very small opening, I was treated to the view of at least a dozen rotting wooden crates and cardboard canisters with US issue grenades spilling out.

Not long after joining HHAA, I acquired my first service rifle, a sporterized 1903A3 Springfield that was still in very good shape. From the serial number, I was able to discern some of the history, but what really helped me out was folks like SHELDON TYAU who took the time to look the rifle over and give me the kind of information and history you will never find online. The first time I took that rifle to Koko Head and fired it with some vintage match ammo, I was hooked. For me, it was the culmination of everything I enjoyed and loved up to that point. It was a physical manifestation of our military history that still functioned just as well as it did when it came out of the armory. If only this rifle could talk….

Since joining HHAA, I have had the opportunity to participate in our Club shoots and events that truly bring history to life and bolster my love of collecting. While shooting period rifles at the matches is a lot of fun, what is even more important is the camaraderie, the esprit de corps, of our Club members. I think we all revert to little kids at the historical matches, and I love that these are fun shoots. Leave the competitions for CMP and let us take home a pumpkin pie and bragging rights for a year!

My only regret is that I didn’t start shooting and collecting back in the day when service rifles were less expensive and more readily available. I am honored that several members have been nice enough to help me build my collection with rifles they, too, have loved and cherished.

One thing I have learned as a collector is that, when the dust settles, we really are only custodians of history whether it be an original M1D sniper rifle or the WWII dog tag. As collectors, we are also the guardians of these items, preserving not only their physical aspects but also the oral history and stories so that the next custodian can carry that piece proudly into the future for generations to come!

Flintlock Rifles, “What to Look For”



FLINTLOCK RIFLES, “What to Look For”

by Darryl CHOY

Originally published 9/1999

It is not uncommon for a HHAA member to consider acquiring an original if not a reproduction Muzzleloader.  Occasionally the temptation may include the “grand-daddy” of all modern firearns, the Flintlock rifles/pistols. The following are the basic things to consider when examining a flintlock:

  1. Just a reminder, Flints are very sharp and be sure the weapon does not have a load down the barrel! Be careful!!!
  2. Pull the hammer back to full cock – should be smooth and stiff.
  3. Lower the hammer slowly – spring tension should be all the way to the bottom.
  4. With hammer at 1/2 cock – close the frizzen & hold up to the light. The frizzen and pan cover should cover the pan without any gaps.
  5. Push the frizzen forward It should be relatively hard to push at first then it should jump away and fully expose the pan.
  6. Closed frizzen – it should snap close.
  7. The hammer jaw -large enough to hold a flint with top and bottom leather or lead padding.
  8. Jaw screw – large enough to accommodate different flint sizes.
  9. Cock the hammer, lower frizzen and trip the lock. It should throw white-hot sparks in to the pan. The flint should not hang up on the frizzen jaw and the frizzen should fully open to expose the pan. This should all happen very quickly!
  10. Touch hole should be at least 1/16″ better 3/32″ diameter and just ahead of the breech plug. The touch hole should not below at the bottom of the pan, but rather centered and level with the pan height. Hold lock to eye level with the pan open. The touch hole should be at or near to the top of the pan.
  11. Little or no gap should exist between the barrel and the pan.

Do not do a full-on check of the lock without the Owner’s permission. Don’t “expert” a 200-yr old piece to pass these tests, however, all modern shooting reproductions should. Even if you don’t want to own a flintlock weapon, you can look knowledgeable at the next gun show by following the above tests For those of you who want more specific detailed information – the HHAA Flintlock Guru is Earl Matsuoka. Ask him about the flintlock that he tuned to shoot upside down!!! And read his outstanding series on Flintlocks that appeared in prior HHAA newsletters.

Shoot that 7.5 French Rifle

Shoot that 7.5 French Rifle
By Mel Chung

Originally published 9/1999

Shotgun News and Gun List have many ads that show surplus French rifles at cheap prices, primarily due to a lack of reloadable, cheap, non-corrosive ammo available. Having learned my philosophy of economics (‘THE CHEAPER IT IS, THE MORE FUN IT IS’) I was quick to acquire a MAS 36 bolt action rifle and then lately a MAS 49/56 semi-auto rifle (both in 7.5×54 French MAS Rifle caliber). The 49/56 came with all accessories and despite initial problems (no feed, no function, I sent it back, they sat on it for two months, then finally replaced the gun) it now works fine.

I had some military ammo (in 15 rd. white boxes with Arabic writing) I previously acquired for the 36, so I loaded up the 49/56 and tried to shoot it. Mostly duds with one hang fITe. I then tried some reloaded ammo with reformed cases from 6.5×55 Swedish and had slam fires. This promptly scared the hell out of me. A quick call to a reloading buddy made me realize that the primers I was using were too sensitive. I then switched to a harder primer and encountered no problems. Apparently the heavy floating firing pin in the 49/56 promotes slam fires. The Ml Garand, on a smaller scale, has the same problem with dimpling the primers of loaded but unfired rounds and the Garand firing pin is a lot smaller and lighter then the 49/56.

Being that the company that supplied me the reformed 7.5 cases is no longer in business, I then decided to reform 6.5×55 brass. I used a set of RCBS dies in 7.5 and changed the expander to .30 cal tapered. Trim cases to specs and reload with Lee data. The gun shoots well and is comfortable to shoot with a commercial slip-on pad. The 36, being a lighter rifle, kick more and really needs the pad. I plan to take the gun hunting someday but after all that work making the cases I will have the SEMI-AUTO CURSE: chasing the empty cases and trying to find them in the grass. However, I am very happy with my MAS 49/56. When you can get an almost current (made obsolete in the 80’s) semi-auto rifle with all accessories for that low a price – you can’t help but have fun. 1 plan to keep the guns and all the accessories in good shape, mainly because I don’t want my future grandkids to say, “My gods, why did Grandpa do this to a collectors piece?!”

Now if I can only figure out a way to use that launcher adjustable ring as an abacus or whatever, I’ll be all set…!

Regards from MC

Disclaimer: if you plan to do any kind of reloading be sure to stick to published loads,do not exceed these as your safety will be at stake. If you are not familiar with reloading,see your local full service gun store with their knowledgeable and friendly personnel. Opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily coincide with those of the Hawaii Historic Arms Association and neither they or the author of this article are responsible for your spouse or love interest complaining “why you like buy one mo’ gun, you got so many already.” And don’t forget, SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL GUNSMITH•••

M1 Garand National Match Rifles

M1 Garand National Match Rifles

Originally published 7/98

M1 GARAND NATIONAL MATCH RIFLES came in these groups; Type I, Type I-Modified and Type II

Type I Service rifles with only “NM” struck on the barrel. These were built in 1953, 1954 1955, 1956 and 1957.

Type I-Mod. Transitional rifles. As above with either or both of the new “NM” modified gas cylinder and sights. There appeared, respectively, in 1958 and 1959.

Type II All of the above plus glass bedding. Type II rifles were ALL rebuilt guns.

Type I and Type I-Modified rifles were usually new-manufactured guns.

Type II – Manufacture of these began in 1960.

There were no N.M. rifles sold through the D.C.M. Program until the successes of 1956 at Camp Perry, Ohio.

Serial number 4,29X,XXX – probably the highest serial number for a 1953 (first year) N.M. rifle.


1. Very Early:

  • 1953 – 1956 SA F6535448 and various marks
  • 1953 – 1954 only small, hand-stamped NM struck on right side of barrel, close to the drawing markings.

2. After 1956

  • F7791034 Bored .2945″ + .0020″ Grooved .3075″ + .0020″
  • F7791035 Bored .3000″ + .0010″ Grooved .3075″ + .0020″

From 1953 to 1956 NQ barrels were manufactured as N.M. All have the same drawing number as a standard service barrel. By Spring of 1954, left side of the muzzle is marked “N.M.” In the earliest examples ( 3/4 1954 ) the hand­ stamped NM on the breech may still be found.

Armory criteria apparently changed in late 1955. This is recorded by a hand-stamped to the already NM marked breech end of the barrel. At some point in 1956, the star was moved to the left side of the muzzle, to the rear of the “NM” already marked in this area.

All barrel manufacture ended in October, 1956, and was not resurrected until 1963 – 1964. Now the “NM” barrels were manufactured as such.


  • 1953-1957
    • Standard service rifle. Only “NM” marked on the barrel.
  • 1956-1957
    • Wooden inserts placed into the magazine well of stock to permit tight bedding.
  • 1958
    • First special “NM” part added – the gas cylinder.
  • 1958-1959
    • Special “NM” front and rear sights. Optional, 1957 and 1958.
  • 1960
    • Special “NM” front and rear sights. Optional, 1957 and 1958.  Assembled on rifles commencing in 1959. Armory glass bedding.
  • 1961
    • “NM” marked operating rods, manufactured by Springfield Armory and Remington.
  • 1962
    • 1/2 minute adjustable hooded peep  and special rear sight sight base marked “NMZ”.
  • 1963
    • Rear sight base further modified and marked “NMZ/A”.

Many thanks to SM for his contribution to Hawaii Historic Arms Association’s store of knowledge of martIal arms. Mahalo to RS  and Al Mongeon for reproducing and transcribing this compendium from Steve’s original handwritten notes of March, 1997

Smith and Wesson .45 Colt Revolvers


BY Gary Chang

Originally published, 03/1998

For the collector, two Smith & Wesson (S&W) .45 Colt N-frames hold special value; 1) the 1977 “125th Aniversary Commemorative” 25-2 and 2) the 25-5 with pinned barrel and recessed chambers. However, for the shooter, they should be avoided: both have oversized chambers. Also, the 25-2 uses a short .45 ACP length cylinder which restricts usable ammunition to jacketed factory rounds.

Beginning in 1983, S&W discontinued the pinned barrel feature as well as the recessed cylinder. Along with these changes, they also reduced the .45 chamber dimension from .488-.489 to the minimum industry dimension of.483. This was much better for case life and gave a more efficient combustion. An average .45 Colt case dimension is .476, so some “field slop” still remains.

Although this new tight-chambered pistol deserved a new model designation, it retained the old “25-5” model number. No problem though, just look for the non-pinned barrel change. All later blued S&W carbon steel .45 Colt revolvers (25-7), 25-9) and any S&W stainless steel .45 Colt revolvers also may be acquired without hesitation. As an additional plus, several of these newer revolvers were factory drilled and tapped for scope bases.


How to be a Gun Collector

With the Gun Show coming up, we are posting some articles culled from the net about gun collecting and purchasing used guns.

Below is a great article from the NRA Museum.  If you are new to gun collecting or just interested in becoming an arms collector, this article contains a lot of useful information. It discusses the different types of collections, condition, gun show etiquette and more.


Flintlocks: Why Choose A Flintlock ?

Why Choose A Flintlock ?

by Earl Matsuoka

There are so many advantages to a caplock or cartridge gun, why would anyone choose to shoot or hunt with a flintlock?  Let me extend that argument by asking, with all the advantages in an AR-15 or a FAL, why would most of you choose vintage guns like Garands, Springfield 03s or Krags as your favorites?  I guess the easiest answer is tradition, but I think it goes a little deeper for all of us.  Replica or original, a flintlock rifle or a musket gives you no advantage over the same gun used 150 – 200 years ago.  The round ball is the same and the powder is similar or the same and if you are a hunter who has been fortunate enough to harvest game with a flintlock, then by gum you’re as good as Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone.  A reference and appreciation for history is strong in a club like ours and I hope we are open enough to understand that our narrow fields of interest are not the only areas worthy of celebrating.  I type this to remind myself of the importance of this statement as I am as guilty of sometimes looking too narrowly as anyone else.

The knowledge that somehow early Americans had made a flintlock fire reliably when their very existence depended on it kept me trying to find answers to the many problems I’ve encountered for years.  The solutions which I will present here are presented with the full knowledge that they are not the only answers or the best answers, just the way I solved my difficulties.  I hoped to learn more from those I can encourage to try and enjoy shooting this unique style of firearm.

From the 25,000 French muskets presented to this new country and the many contract copies and the famous “Brown Bess” musket of our tormentors to the rifled Jagers brought by earlier settlers from the Old World, to the resulting development of the unique American “Kentucky” long rifle which evolved from the Jager into the finest military rifle of the time which then became the heavy bored “plains rifle” that led our western expansion of America, the flintlock had a long and distinguished history in our maturing country.

All this from a gun that depended on a flint stone striking steel to create a spark which ignites a charge of crude blackpowder.  A gun that won our nation, fed a country and protected its explorers and settlers from harm’s way.  A gun that had to be not only reliable but which could be easily mended and supplied, far from sophisticated machine centers or specialty shops.  A gun that the framers of our Constitution had in mind when they penned the line, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed…”.

A flintlock rifle was sometimes ornamented into a high art form, although it was more often a very utilitarian example of stark practicality.  Each was a prized possession of its owner and was handed down to the next custodian as the years pass.

Why choose a flintlock?  Because it represents the best reasons this club appeals to me.  In the next several months, I will present my thoughts on learning how to shoot this type of gun.  Because good replicas are now common and available, I hope you will not attempt to shoot an original piece of history, but will pass it on to the next lucky custodian.

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