One of the largest personal collections of fully automatic machine guns in the world is up for grabs. The collection, that of well-known firearms buff Richard Wray, consists of some 191 lots and includes some of the rarest machineguns in the world. The good news is, if you have the scratch, everything is transferrable.
Who was Richard Wray?
Richard 'Dick' Wray was a former soldier (82nd Airborne in Korea) and successful Ohio businessperson. He was the president of Wray Electric, a company that filled several lucrative construction projects that included wiring Nike Missile sites during the Cold War. Over a fifty-year period, he scratched this itch for military firearms often and at one point, his collection had over 400 machineguns. This is more than the US Army entered WWI with!
His love of full auto guns led him to scour the world and save many old classics from the scrap heap for a pure love of the history of the guns themselves. He even bought an old bowling alley in Cincinnati and, with a Class II FFL, began making and selling sideplates for old Vickers and Maxim machineguns. Over the years, he liquidated and passed on many of his guns, keeping his prized pieces until he quietly passed away at the ripe old age of 82 in the Hospice of Cincinnati.
What does the Collection consist of?
A massive group of 191 pieces is being offered at public auction by Cowan's. Just flipping through the 142-page catalog of the event, planned for April 30th, is like being a kid in a candy store.
More than half of the guns offered are controlled by the National Firearms Act of 1934. Commonly just referred to as 'the NFA', this act requires the registering of all fully automatic guns, short barrel rifles, sawn off shotguns, suppressors, and other cool stuff. Once duly registered, these items are usually transferrable through a Class III dealer on a Form 4 and, after all the paperwork is done and the tax stamps paid, they can be passed on to any legal citizen who can pass a background check.
While the bulk of the offering is in full auto belt fed beasts, there are also other classes of NFA weapons. Submachine guns in the offering include an H&R Rising Model 50, an S&W76, an Exploraco MK11 Sten Gun with an Exploraco Model "S" Suppressor, three different Thompson submachine guns, an early Colt M16, and others. A Nice Ruger 10-22 with an integral MAC suppressor is valued at just $700-1000 for the auction.
A Lahti L-39 anti-tank gun, the legendary Finnish Boombeast, is in the sale and valued at $9K. This 20mm cannon, since it is over .50-caliber, is considered a Destructive Device by the ATF so while it's not fully automatic, it's still NFA.
Machine Guns Machine Guns Machine Guns
(Possibly the most interesting piece, a Swedish Model 36 Twin-Browning Machine Gun. For those occasions when one just won't do. )
Many of these guns are extremely rare, and in some cases are the sold example of their kind in the United States and possibly the world. Highlights of the auction include: a single-fire Mauser Schnelfeur Pistol (lot 81), a Russian BSA Lewis Machine Gun (lot 59), Argentine Maxim MG1895 Water-Cooled Machine Gun (lot 8), MG81 Z Mauser by BYF Aircraft Machine Gun (lot 14), and a Twin (yes TWIN) Swedish Model 36 Twin-Browning Machine Gun on AA Mount (lot 37). Other notable models offered include Vickers, Maxim, Browning, Lewis, Hotchkiss, and a 1909 US Army Benet-Mercie (serial number 368!). Wray was a thorough collector and gave space on his shelves for Greyhounds like a 7x57mm Colt 1895 Potato Digger while still saving room for a French Chauchat CSRG-- arguably the worst machinegun ever made.
(Rare German Parabellum Model LMG 14/17 valued at $40-$50K)
(A Near Perfect Marlin M1918 Tank Machine Gun, --yes, Marlin made machineguns)
(Colt Browning M2 .50 Cal Water-Cooled Machine Gun used in the movie "Tora Tora Tora" Complete with M3 heavy anti-aircraft mount. Armor, AA sights, link chute and bag, 200-round M2 belt chest and crank; water pump and hoses.)
(The collection offers at least four Lewis guns, including the WWI Russian BSA Lewis Machine Gun, originally chambered in 7.62x54R for the Tsar's army.)
(Wray was a well-rounded collector, and the auction includes a very nice group of revolvers, pistols, and other handguns such as this near-perfect Colt 1911)
Available without tax stamps are dozens of semi-auto, non-suppressed, non-AOW or Destructive Device firearms. Wray passed on with a near complete collection of Mauser pistol variants and almost a dozen are in the auction. Likewise there is a Savage Model 1907 (valued at $200), a few nice S&W classic revolvers, a half dozen Walthers, some collectable Astras from Spain, a bushel of Colts (both 1911s and revolvers), several Lugers, an odd Beretta or two, et al.
(Marble Game Getter. You don't see these very often and the collection has two of them)
In the realm of something totally odd are two Marbles Game Getters, one of the few short-barreled rifles that are not on the NFA list, and Herman Goering's personal hunting rifle. Other rifles include a wide range of guns from a Model 1884 Trapdoor Springfield Cadet Rifle to a French MAS 7.5mm with a kickstand bolt.
(A 9.3 X70mm caliber custom double-trigger Mauser rifle, 28.5" tapered round barrel, S/N 7076, recovered from Nazi Germany by a US Army officer while staying in Goering's Bavarian estate in 1945. Herman's loss, possibly your gain)
While it would have been preferable for the collection to go as a whole to a firearms museum such as the NRA's National Firearms Museum or the Frazier in Louisville, the fact that they are being up for auction and not melted down is a victory for the history behind these guns.
Yes, the collection is being broken up, but odds are the 190-ish possible new owners will all love their new firearm as intensely as Dick Wray did.
And I think wherever he is at; he is smiling because of that.