Gunmakers usually aren't keen on giving media interviews, but then maybe it's hard to pass up a chance to talk about the M76, the most exciting addition to the arsenal of Delray Beach-based Century International Arms.
A salesman at that office told me that they're a popular item -- "Daddy of the Dragunov" in fact, which is the sniper rifle pictured to the right. "These are sporting guns," he told me. "Very, very dangerous sporting guns."
Really? Well, for what kind of sport? The question seemed to surprise him. "For hunting and target," he stammered. And what animal would one hunt with such a huge rifle -- elephants? "That's an 8-millimeter," he said of the rifle's ammunition. "You can blow away anything you like."
Delightful. As for where Century International got these guns, the salesman guessed "Romania, since that's where we get most of our stuff."
I asked him about the modification that made it possible to sell the guns without being registered to own a machine gun. It seemed as though this fine point gave him some discomfort. He told me to call an 800-number. His first name was Joe but when I asked his last name he just hung up.
The 800-number led me to a Century Arms office in Vermont, where I got a gunsmith named Keith on the phone. He told me he wasn't authorized to answer the question, either, then put me on hold and after a moment a woman picked up said, "Sir, we can't give you that information" and hung up before I could reply.
So despite my best efforts, I'm afraid we'll have to rely upon the Shotgun News for information about the M76. This month the magazine -- which counts Century Arms among its big advertisers -- devoted 4,931 lovingly rendered words to the rifle, offering by way of endorsement that "it has killed thousands on both sides of the line in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo."
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The article, whose internet version I wasn't able to locate, also explains how the original M76 was designed with an "auto-safety sear" that when activated turned the rifle from semiautomatic to fully automatic. That is, a machine gun as defined by the National Firearms Act and legal only for folks who can qualify to be registered.
According to the magazine, Century Arms built their M76s according to the same specifications, except for the cutout that contained the auto-safety sear. Voila! A legal rifle that "every ComBloc collector will want to own."
But in case you're not content to have your refashioned sniper rifle hanging in a case, or in a mood to hunt elephants, the article also contains a handy guide for the day that Americans face Nineties-style Czech conflict. "Just align an enemy soldier with his feet on the base line," it says, speaking of the view from within the Zrak scope, whose system "is based upon a target 5 feet 7 inches in height."
One costs about 2-grand. Or, $1,000 less than Dalia Dippolito allegedly paid for the human she had in her crosshairs.