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A Glimpse Into My NFA Beginnings - Just Guns, Austin, TX


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#1 dalbert

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Posted 10 February 2019 - 08:29 PM

I was going through boxes of pictures and keepsakes today, and I found this article from the January 2 - 8, 1989 edition of the Austin Business Journal, which showcased the late Rob Key's "Just Guns" business that used to be located at 1234 South Lamar in Austin, TX.  It later moved next to the Continental Club on South Congress Avenue, in the old Cruise Gun Shop location, with a lovely view of the Texas State Capitol outside of his front door.  Rob retired and closed the shop around the turn of the century, when he sold the location for a small fortune.  It's a super trendy area now.  My brother Andy worked at Just Guns in high school, and I spent countless hours in both locations.  Rob opened the shop in August, 1987, and I bought my S&W Model 29 from him for $250 that same month.  I loved the place.  It was an escape for many.

 

So that this is Thompson related, that's my West Hurley M1 hanging on the wall.  It's also my DLO Sten, my M11 .380 with suppressor, and my MG-40 (ANM2) and tripod on the counter in the front.  Rob joked to me that I "kept him in business" in 1988.  

 

I was there the day that the guy from the Journal came to talk to Rob about doing the article.  It's interesting reading.  It mentions that he recently sold a cannon to "a Texas man who shoots the gun for fun on his ranch"...That was somewhat of a fib, as I was the buyer, and I did shoot it on a ranch, but it was a ranch that Rob and I paid $50/month to have access to as a place to shoot.  The thing was, I was 22 years old at the time, and it sounded better to make it seem like he sold it to a ranch owner, than a college student.  So that's what he went with in the story...

 

Attached File  IMG_5832.jpg   204.4K   80 downloads

 

Here is a photo of Rob firing a SBS at the ranch we used to rent for shooting.  When we rented it from the rancher, we paid him for a year ahead of time.  We were able to use it for a year, and then we couldn't rent it anymore, because the rancher got so many calls about the machine gun fire.  He didn't mind it at all, but his neighbors were freaking out.  The rancher honored the rental for a year, and we were happy to have it for that time.  We later found a closer place to shoot in South Austin that is now a subdivision.

 

Attached File  RobbKey_JustGuns 2.jpg   162.14K   75 downloads

 

I miss Rob.  He was a unique personality, and became a good friend.  If you had any interactions with him back in the day, they were likely very positive.  He passed away in 2013.  Here is a photo from the remembrance table at his memorial service.

 

Attached File  Rob Key Memorial Sept 2013.jpg   138.54K   45 downloads

 

Feel free to post any comments you may have here...

 

David Albert

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#2 Merry Ploughboy

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Posted 10 February 2019 - 08:41 PM

With respect to neighbors lodging noise complaints, I bought a suppressor for my M16 because neighbors at a couple of places where I shoot made known to the owners of the properties that their horses and dogs became agitated by the loud noise.  Pistol caliber subguns seemed to be quiet enough to get by.  Nowadays I usually shoot 9mm and .22LR with the M16 anyway.


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#3 cbmott

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Posted 10 February 2019 - 09:18 PM

David,
It’s always a pleasure to hear stories about how things used to be (I was less than a year old when this article was published) and the characters everyone has met along the way. It’s also wonderful to able to benefit from the immense knowledge that you and the other board members have about Thompson’s and life in general and I have learned so much from the conversations that are had on here. Also anyone who has a mustache like that is deserving of all of our respect.
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#4 dalbert

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Posted 10 February 2019 - 10:15 PM

David,
It’s always a pleasure to hear stories about how things used to be (I was less than a year old when this article was published) and the characters everyone has met along the way. It’s also wonderful to able to benefit from the immense knowledge that you and the other board members have about Thompson’s and life in general and I have learned so much from the conversations that are had on here. Also anyone who has a mustache like that is deserving of all of our respect.

 

cbmott,

 

Thank you for your kind words about the website.

 

Yeah, Rob had quite a mustache!  

 

I found a couple more photos that I took of him back in the day...

 

Attached File  Rob_Key 2.jpg   74K   25 downloads

 

Attached File  Rob Key2 2.jpg   62.59K   25 downloads

 

David Albert

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#5 jbntex

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Posted 11 February 2019 - 12:35 AM

Wow that is a blast from the past.

 

Rob helped me with my first NFA transfer back around the 98/99  timeframe as a young kid just out of college. (Like most folks it was an M11/9)

 

Rob helped me through the Form 4 process, gave me the TCSO CLEO contact information, how to request a CLEO sig from the Sheriff, fingerprint cards, etc.

 

I transferred a few additional machineguns through him before he closed out shop in the early 2000s.  However,  I will always remember that very distinctive signature of his and I have had a few guns come to me from owners who bought them from Rob.   Whenever I see the sellers Form 4, I immediately know who it came from as soon as I see that signature.

 

Unfortunately I only knew him for a couple of years before he retired and sold the shop but without his help on that first gun I definitely wouldn't have the 20 transferables in my collection today.  it seems Rob helped out many folks get their start in NFA firearms in Centex and I actually just had a conversation with a gentleman I bought a MG from back in December and both of us got our NFA start with Rob.

 

I don't have much to offer picture-wise but this is his very distinct signature off one of the last transfers he did for me.

 

26120ax.png


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#6 dalbert

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Posted 11 February 2019 - 04:54 AM

Yep, I have his distinctive signature on most of my F4's. He is missed...

David
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#7 pstidan

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Posted 11 February 2019 - 06:39 AM

I bought my first machine gun from Rob back in '87 when Just Guns was located down on South Lamar.  I had just transferred to Austin to work at the Austin Police Department and came directly from the Honolulu Police Department.  I left Honolulu on a Friday evening and the following Monday morning I was in Austin.

 

I bought a Fleming RR G3 from Rob.  I traded my HK 91, plus $700, for that weapon.  I did the purchase at lunch time and took the paperwork back to work with me.  I completed my Form 4 paperwork, got fingerprinted, and had mug shots taken at APD with the assistance of my captain.  He then made a call to Sheriff Doyne Bailey at the Travis County Sheriff's Office.  It seemed that Sheriff Bailey was a sergeant at APD prior to being elected Sheriff.  Sheriff Bailey and my captain had known each other for years.  I was told to go right over the TCSO, with my paperwork, and meet with the sheriff.

 

I met with Sheriff Bailey and we had a very nice conversation.  He signed my Form 4, in duplicate.  As I was getting ready to leave, he looked me straight in the eye and said "Go forth and do good."  With that, I thanked him and left.

 

When I got back to work, I told my captain what Sheriff Bailey had told me.  He then said that in addition to being Travis County's sheriff, Doyne Bailey was also an ordained minister.  Ain't that interesting?


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#8 jim c 351

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Posted 11 February 2019 - 08:05 AM

David,

Ah the good old days, if  only you could go back and relive for just one day.

Jim C


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#9 Frank Iannamico

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Posted 11 February 2019 - 09:16 AM

Great story David,

 

Thanks for sharing! 


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#10 dalbert

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Posted 11 February 2019 - 12:06 PM

pstidan,

I bet we crossed paths at the shop. I also moved from Honolulu to Austin, albeit with a temporary stop in Pullman, WA at WSU for my Freshman year in 1984, but my permanent address was with my Mom when she made the move from HI. I finished up college in San Marcos after that.

I also went to see Travis County Sheriff Doyne Bailey for CLEO signatures. The first time, he asked me a bunch of questions, and I was in his office for at least 20 minutes. The second time, he remembered me, asked a couple of questions, and signed. The third time, he just saw that it was me again, and signed immediately. One of the first two times, I asked if Travis County still had 2 Colt Thompsons, and whether he might consider selling them. He said they were in the vault behind his desk, and that they would be staying with the County while he was Sheriff.

My first MG CLEO sign off was in Hays County, with Sheriff Alford Hohmann. He was a crotchety old Sheriff, and wondered why a 21 year old needed an M16, but I was polite, and he found no reason not to sign my paperwork. Doyne Bailey was my favorite CLEO for sign off. After he left, the other Sheriffs didn't even meet with me. It was a matter of dropping off the paperwork, and coming back in several days to pick it up. Same with Sheriff Jones in Butler County, here in Ohio...

David Albert
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#11 El Duce

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Posted 11 February 2019 - 06:25 PM

Wonderful Stories.  I like that picture with the MP-40.  


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#12 pstidan

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Posted 11 February 2019 - 06:42 PM

David;

 

I cannot remember anything in particular, but we probably did cross paths in the past.  I had a couple additional transfers signed by Sheriff Bailey and then a few more by Dan Richards, Terry Keel, and finally Margo Fasier.  Yep, I never had any more meetings with any sheriff after Doyne Bailey.  Like you, I just dropped off my paperwork and retrieved it a few days later.

 

Dan...


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#13 Endiana

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Posted 13 February 2019 - 12:09 AM

Hey David,

 

Wow, what a trip down memory lane this thread is- thanks for posting this! That picture of Rob with the MP-40 is especially memorable to me- that very gun was my first MG, and it was still in transfer-limbo at the time. Rob was nice enough to bring it out to one of the "Just Guns MG shoots" (remember those?) for me to play around with. George P. (RIP) had brought the German helmet, and he plunked it on Rob's head and snapped that picture. Good times for sure.

 

Now the old Austin gang is scattered around the country- heck the only time I see some of you is at SAR, but at least we still have that. Bittersweet thinking about those friends that are gone, but we can honor their memories by continuing the shooting traditions. 

 

Keep shooting guys- 

 

Mark E


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#14 dalbert

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Posted 13 February 2019 - 08:49 AM

Very good to hear from you, Mark! Yes, I was at all the Just Guns shoots in the two different "pits," and have scores of photos of those good times. We are missing a few folks from that group now who have passed on...R.I.P.

The last SAR West show I attended was in 2007. I need to get back there again. I believe we had dinner with you and your brother in law last time I was there.

David
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#15 giantpanda4

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Posted 13 February 2019 - 07:11 PM

Flying to Austin this weekend. Any fun stuff there anymore? Sounds like I am about 30 years too late!!


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#16 dalbert

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Posted 13 February 2019 - 07:22 PM

Flying to Austin this weekend. Any fun stuff there anymore? Sounds like I am about 30 years too late!!

Mike,

Go visit the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry. I highly recommend it. It's mentioned in the old Austin Business Journal article. You can see the cannon that is mentioned, made by the same guy (Tom Lupton) who made both of mine.

David
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#17 Sig

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Posted 14 February 2019 - 08:28 AM

David and fellow Austin based Just Guns customers, great stories, thanks for sharing.

 

I have nothing NFA like that to compare but I do have fond memories of frequent visits to a noted author, expert and dealer of antique Colt SAA's shop in CA, Antique & Classic Arms, Ron Graham.

 

Later, I left CA for free country and I began acquiring NFA items.  The first sheriff sign offs were easy, what I found most interesting is later that the sheriff who did those Form 4 signoffs was arrested by the FBI and later plead guilty of wire fraud, serving 18 months in prison, oh how the tides turn!


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#18 timkel

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Posted 14 February 2019 - 10:11 AM

Brings back good memories. While getting a form 4 signed back in the 70's, the police chief asked me "Can we borrow it if we ever need a MG?" I said sure.


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#19 Scott Smith

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Posted 14 February 2019 - 02:50 PM

Wow David, you've opened up some old memories!

 

I "almost" bought my first SMG from Rob back in April 1990.  It was an MP5K and I would have bought it if I had not ended up taking a job in South Carolina.  SC did not allow civilian ownership of SMG's at the time, so when I moved in May I had to postpone my purchase plans until I subsequently moved from SC to Indiana in late 1990.  I bought an MP5SD in early 1991 from a local dealer that became a good friend.

 

Back in either 1989 or early 1990 I brokered a deal with Rob for thousands of empty brass cartridges in multiple calibers.  I ended up with a Belgian Browning High Power in trade from Rob that I still own.

 

Rob was a cool guy.  I still recall the flag that flew outside his store with the outline of a cannon and the words "Come and Take it".  

 

There used to be a blacksmith and machinist named Tom that was not far from Rob.  His hobby was building canons.  

 

Wow - good memories.  


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#20 Scott Smith

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Posted 14 February 2019 - 02:55 PM

Flying to Austin this weekend. Any fun stuff there anymore? Sounds like I am about 30 years too late!!

 

If you like old western guns, drive 100 miles north to Waco and tour the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame Museum.  Their collection of cowboy guns is unreal.  Last time that I was there they had several hundred firearms on display - many of which came from collections that were assembled in the late 1800's and early 1900's and of unsurpassed quality.


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