I walked in to Macâ€™s Gun Shop one day just to look around.
While I walked through the cluttered store, Richard McBride was standing behind the counter with a mischievous grin. With Mac that always meant something was up.
I noticed he had a pistol tucked inside his pants. That wasnâ€™t a big surprise considering where I was.
Mac asked if I wanted to see the pistol. Like a fool I bit and said sure. He starts to pull the gun out of his pants and keeps pulling and pulling and pulling. Eventually he gets to the end of the barrel, which must have started somewhere between his knee and ankle.
The gun, he explained, was an old stagecoach gun that was something of a hybrid between a pistol and rifle. That isnâ€™t what really mattered to Mac. It was my reaction as he slowly pulled out the long barrel.
Richard McBride, who died last week at age 91, was the last of his kind in Tyler.
McBride was a Smith County native who opened a gun shop in downtown Tyler in 1947 after returning from World War II. Actually, McBride and his wife, Louise, started in the radio repair business at their little shop on Spring Street, but changed to guns. It was the perfect career for a man who got his first gun when he was 9 and received gun repair training from the Army.
At that time, an era long before big box stores, Tyler had two gun shops, Macâ€™s and Reynoldsâ€™, which started in 1948. Both were the kind of stores where hunters would come in after the hunt to tell stores and gun aficionados went to talk shop.
Gun repairman Dexter Jordan worked part-time at Macâ€™s for years. He admits that when it came to repairs, the Reynolds were the true gunsmiths, while at Macâ€™s they were better equipped at replacing parts.
Jordan said over the years he and McBride would often travel together to gun shows, which often brought out Macâ€™s famously frugal ways.
â€śWe went to the gun shows in his Volkswagen. He drove it and I wore it,â€ť Jordan said.
But it was the pranks, and everyone has their story, Jordan remembered most. That and the gun parts scattered around the storeâ€™s floor where McBride had a habit of taking a gun apart.
â€śRoy Robinson was always coming in and trying to beat Richard on a gun trade. I had an L.C. Smith Ideal grade (shotgun) at the house, and he talked me into getting my wife to bring it down in front of Roy and selling it to (Mac) for $50,â€ť Jordan recalled one incident.
Jordan said everything was going as planned. McBride offered the $50 for the gun, and Jordanâ€™s wife, Sue, pretended it wasnâ€™t enough. Jordan said he could see the mark walking out the door to buy the gun on the street, only to have McBride close the pretend deal at the last second.
â€śHe told Richard the next time he was going to outbid him in his own shop. Richard said you do and Iâ€™ll shoot you. But a couple of years later Richard had a heart attack, and it must have been bad enough he thought he might die because when Roy went to visit him he told him the truth,â€ť Jordan said.
As a businessman, where McBride really excelled was knowing guns and gun values, Jordan said.
â€śWhen it came to knowing the value of a gun, he was probably the best,â€ť Jordan said. He said that led through the years to McBride owning some great classic and antique guns and pistols.
Jordan wasnâ€™t the only one who felt that way.
â€śI doubt there is anyone around that is or was more knowledgable,â€ť said Judge Joe Clayton, a gun expert in his own right. â€śYou werenâ€™t going to take advantage of him, but he was fair. I bought my first Ruger No. 1 from him.â€ť
Clayton said McBride had an interest in almost anything when it came to guns.
â€śI bought some Savage pistols from him. Most people donâ€™t even know Savage made pistols. They were in competition with Colt and Smith & Wesson for the government contract for World War I. They made them from 1907 to 1921. They lost the competition to Colt, which was the 1911 model,â€ť Clayton said. He added McBride had several of the pistols, now worth mid-five figures, sitting in a box in the back of the store.
Alan Haynes grew up in Tyler buying guns, including his first BB gun from Macâ€™s. As president of The Sportster, Tylerâ€™s first big sporting goods store, the two were in competition.
â€śHe was always friendly and ran a good business. He must have done it right because they are still in the business. I respected him as an ethical businessman through the years,â€ť Haynes said.
While Macâ€™s son, Mark, and grandsons, Wes and Matt, continue to operate the store, the days when gun dealers like Richard McBride sold guns to customers and friends on credit, with a handshake closing the deal, are long gone. There is too much government red tape for that to ever happen again.
So is the era of guns being handcrafted individually by machinists and artists. Volume is where the profit is now.
And the time of the old-time gun shop that served as store and gathering place is drawing to an end. In Tyler it started with the death of Reynolds and now gets closer with the loss of Richard McBride, his cluttered little store and the never-ending practical jokes.
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