Pawpaw’s Rifle: The Mossberg Model 51M

The Mossberg 51M is not as pretty as most rifles made today but holds special meaning for me. When I was a little kid, I spent as much time as possible with my grandfather on his farm. It was a wonderful time in my memory. He always made me feel like a friend and an equal – except when it came to his rifle. That rifle was restricted to himself and his son, Tommy, who was only a teenager at the time. As I recall the rifle was always referred to simply as “the Mossberg.”

Mossberg 51M, ca. 1939-1946

Not long ago I came across a photo of an old Mossberg .22 rifle with a Mannlicher stock. It brought back some of the memories of those times at the farm. Researching it, I found that Pawpaw’s rifle was most likely a Model 51M, made from 1939 to 1946.

I was enthralled with that gun. I had never seen anything so wonderful as it. And that hole in the stock that you just shoved the bullets into was fascinating to me. How does that work? Pawpaw could shoot and shoot, as fast as he could pull the trigger, without reloading. Of course he seldom shot it at all since bullets were expensive.

Mossberg 51M, ca. 1939-1946

On one visit, Pawpaw and I were trying to catch a big, red rooster for my grandmother to cook. That rooster was really wild and would not let us near it. We could not seem to corral it. Finally Tommy came in from the field where he had been plowing. Pawpaw said something like, “Tommy. Get the Mossberg. We’re having Old Red for supper.” Now it was really getting exciting. A short time later I watched as Tommy put Old Red down from across the yard with one shot through the head. Now I was really impressed with that rifle – and my uncle Tommy’s shooting.

I could not wait to grow up so I could buy me a Mossberg .22, too. Thinking about it, I guess that’s the gun that started me on the path to as what might be called “a gun lover.” Thanks, Pawpaw.

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