July 18, 2014 10:41:45 AM
MACON -- An old machine gun with an unknown past sits in City Hall and no one can say for sure how it got there.
"It's been back there forever," Mayor Bob Boykin said.
It stays locked in a safe, a mysterious piece of the scenery at the city's offices on West Pulaski Street. City Clerk Beverly Shelton sees it everyday.
"We just don't know hardly anything about it," Shelton said.
What they do know is that it's a Reising Model 50, a gun manufactured by Harrington & Richardson Arms Company in Massachusetts.
According to a gun expert interviewed by The Dispatch, about 100,000 were made between 1942 and 1944. The U.S. Marine Corps received most of them. The gun was used during World War II, mainly in the Pacific theater.
But how or when this particular gun got to Macon, the county seat of Noxubee County, is a question with no apparent answer.
A former chief of police can confirm it was there when he came on the job in 1967. Beyond that there is only speculation.
A 70-year-old-plus gun with a hidden history might fascinate some. Boykin, though, said it is mostly "in the way." The city is looking to sell it.
Recently, the board of aldermen declared the Reising Model 50 as surplus equipment. Sealed bids for the weapon are being accepted through 4 p.m. on Aug. 5. At 5:30 p.m. that day, the board will open bids.
City attorney Ricky Walker said anyone submitting a bid needs to have a Class 3 firearms license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The gun will not be sold to a buyer without one.
Walker declined to comment when asked what he thought the gun was worth.
Bruce Canfield, the author of 12 books on the history of U.S. military firearms, said the gun is probably worth between $4,000 and $6,000.
He also offered a few specifics on the Reising Model 50: It shoots .45-caliber bullets at the rate of 500 a minute; it is accurate at up to 300 yards; and weighs about six-and-a-half pounds.
It was manufactured to replace the Thompson machine gun, which weighed more than nine pounds. But the Reising Model 50 turned out to be "temperamental," Canfield said. The gun had a tendency to malfunction if it got dirty and the military soon went another direction. The War Department later gave many of the guns to law enforcement groups around the country.
If Canfield had to guess, he would say that's how a Reising Model 50 machine gun got to Macon. A generation passed, then another, and the story of the gun's origins vanished.
They are fairly common, he added.
Canfield was once the president of a small bank in east Texas. In the late 1980s, while a bank built in the 1950s was being renovated, he found a Reising Model 50 sitting in the vault. No one knew how it got there.
Canfield donated that gun to the local police department and, as far as he knows, it is still in use.
Boykin said Macon has no intention of giving its old machine gun away.
"It's not taking up that much space," he said with a chuckle.
If a bid is accepted, the money will go into the small town's general fund.
William Browning was managing editor for The Dispatch until June 2016.
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