The Missing BAR Model 1918

Mar 03, 2020
I always loved the look of the original Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) Model 1918 from the time I saw her used in Ernest Hemingway’s  movie “For Whom The Bell Tolls”. She had the “classic, old world” look, solid machined steel and walnut, not cluttered up with a fancy multi ported muzzle brake and bipod. The wood forearm was neatly checkered and came up level with top of the barrel, yes here was a classic piece that I would just have to own one day.
Photo for representation only

Many years later I had acquired most of the parts but needed a barrel that was good to complete the project. My chance came up when I saw an advert in “The Shotgun News” for a BAR with a scrap receiver but a good barrel. Although in the US, importation was not a problem at that time. With that barrel I would be able to rebuild her into a working gun for our Museum. All was good, the purchase was made and she was shipped from the US by UPS. She cleared Canada Customs on a Friday so I would have to wait until the following week before I would see her. That Monday was a holiday, so I would have to wait until the end of the following week.

I am not noted for patience when waiting for new toys to arrive, so on Wednesday I called UPS in Winnipeg to check on the progress of my “package”. What package?" was the reply; "We have nothing for you". Please check again, still nothing. Can I talk to a supervisor? No, no one is available, you will have to call back, click! She had hung up! No one available that afternoon to even answer the phone, messages were not returned, I was not happy.

I called back Thursday and got “the run-a-round” and then I was finally told my package would be delivered the next morning. Well nothing showed up the next morning, time to turn the heat up, because now I was mad.

I called in; the girl I spoke to started to give me the same bull-sh*t I had heard the day before, so I stopped her. “Do you know what is in my package?” No sir, it is of no concern. “Well maybe you should be concerned because it contains a BAR 1918”. She fell right into my trap! “What is a BAR 1918” She asked. “It is a MACHINE GUN” I replied, now I had her attention; I turned up the heat. “I will now have to call the RCMP, WPS, CFO, Canada Customs, US Customs, BATF” I may even have thrown in CSIS and the FBI for good measure, I can’t remember. “Please wait a moment whilst I pass you over to my manager”. Yes now I was getting some service. To be honest I was also getting concerned as I had been told it was out for delivery, so where was my BAR, I forgot to tell anyone that the receiver was scrap, I considered that a minor detail! 😊 I told the manager that I would give them until Monday morning but if they hadn’t found my package by then I would have to contact the RCMP. They understood and agreed with me, that a report would have to be made on Monday if nothing was sorted out over the weekend. They had one last question for me; “What was the approx. size and weight of my package?” I smartly replied “48 x 10 x 5 inches and about 20 lbs”. Unbeknown to me, the BAR had been disassembled and the package was only 25 inches long, this would prove to be the key to the “disappearance” of my BAR.

One of the workers in the UPS warehouse, let’s call him Joe, worked in the high security area, but he had taken last week off as a holiday. When he walked in to work Monday, he was “jumped on”. “Where is this package for John?” “In the high security lock up.” "No, we have checked" he was told. Inside the warehouse was a high security caged off area, in that area was a safe. Joe walked over to the safe, “it’s in here” he said. To which the answer is unprintable. “How can a package that is 48 inches long fit into a 30 inch safe, and why is she not in the log book?” “Oops I forgot that as I was running late and going on holiday, but I do remember putting her in the safe”. “Unlock the safe, we have to see this” he was told. No body had checked the safe as everyone was looking for a four-foot-long package that clearly would not fit into a 30 inch safe. Joe unlocked the safe. There was my package safe and sound, all the paperwork was correct and in order and she was rushed out to me. I never did hear anything about what UPS thought of my length estimate!
I now had all the parts to complete my BAR 1918 and she looked splendid. She took pride of place for many years until something else came along and she had to go. Now of course I wish I still had her.

Several months later after the “Missing BAR 1918” incident, I set up at a Gun Show held at the Winnipeg Firing Line range. It was a typical Sunday morning at a small Gun Show, not a lot happening. I studied the clients as they slowly ambled along the tables. Wondering whose fingers I could slap next for ideally knocked my display around. One couple caught my eye, the lady was smartly dressed and very attractive, whilst arm in arm with her boy who was checking out guns. She was intent on studying the venders, strange I thought, my turn would be coming up shortly. I was curious what she was doing. She stood opposite me staring intently at my shirt, then I realised she was trying to read my name tag. I casually straightened the folds in my shirt. She looked up, I had been staring at her, our eyes locked, she broke into a big smile. Your John? John Hipwell? Her hand shot out. “I have to shake your hand” she said. Again, strange I thought, but I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity! We shook hands, her boyfriend was grinning. “I am so pleased to meet you, I just had to meet you, you see I work at UPS” she said.

Now I wondered what was going on. I was just about to make a sarcastic comment about lots of people work at UPS, when she carried on. “I had to meet you, as you had everyone who works at UPS running around like chickens with their heads cut off for several days. We have never had a customer achieve that before.” She was beaming at me, by now I was starting to wish that there wasn’t a table full of guns between us or I might even have received a hug. I had to own up, “But I don’t remember doing anything,” I said . She looked at me, flashed another great smile at me and said “we all know what a BAR 1918 is now! Can you show me one?”

Keep your powder dry, 
Mr. Wolverine


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