The Pickens Auction Service of Stillwater recently held an estate sale for the family of Johnny Cooley, a long-time acquaintance of mine. Johnny was an electrician by trade and lived on a nice place in the country west of Stillwater.

He had the requisite tractors, trailers and tools needed to raise a few cattle and crops from time to time. He also owned several firearms acquired from a lifetime of buying and collecting.

The guns – and tools – attracted a large crowd of potential buyers, with cars lining his long driveway from the country road to his yard. Gregg Pickens had done his homework, with each firearm inspected and assessed for its potential value.

The same rules and paperwork apply to firearms sold at auctions as those sold by dealers. Each firearm also had a sturdy snap tie inserted to prevent dry firing, and to prevent loading one. Estimated prices were also tagged on each.

There were several WWII M1 Garands, the faithful 30-06s that foot soldiers everywhere knew well. I don’t recall exactly, but their value was generally estimated at about $800.

The first one, a bit rougher than the others, fetched somewhere about $450. The other two brought roughly $900. A sleek old 12-gauge shotgun brought more than the estimated value as well.

Guns and tools generally do well at auction.

I came to the auction with two firearms in mind. There was a Smith & Wesson .357 revolver I liked. I winced at the $1,325 estimate, but decided to wait and see if perhaps it would bring less.

The other was one I wouldn’t buy, except in the event it went for much less than the estimate of $850. It was a WWII era .30-caliber M1 carbine. The stock was somewhat rough, but the action seemed to be in good shape.

I know a good bit of the M1, as I just got a new one a couple of months ago. Some six and a half million of these popular rifles were made during the war years and they fetch decent prices if one can be found today.

Much like the ventilators turned out by various members of our industry today to combat COVID-19 illness, several companies jumped in and produced the M1 carbine at the request of the Pentagon during wartime.

Companies such as Rock-Ola, Singer Sewing Machines and others rapidly supplied the military with M1s. This one had the Inland Company stamp on the barrel, as well as Ford Motor Company. That made this one a collector’s gem.

Of course I would like to have owned it, but it soared to $1,400 in nothing flat. A bargain at that.

And the .357 S&W I hoped to buy? Well, I had my gun dealer friend in my ear on the phone when the price glided past $900! Even if I had wanted to bid more, it was gone before I could recoil.

Things happen fast at auctions.

Fred Causley is a former OSU Agriculture Communications employee and a longtime Stillwater resident and NRA member. Send him questions or feedback to

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