GONZALES — A new display is locked and loaded and ready for its grand debut at the Robert L. Brothers Memorial Library. The artifacts are appropriately housed in the building's old bank vault, and no, you cannot check them out.
The display is a finely curated collection of pistols, rifles, holsters, military memorabilia, helmets and such on loan to the library from Charles DuBose. The Gonzales grad has spent the last 50 years collecting his arsenal, which he began while stationed in Heidelberg, Germany with the Army Security Agency. His first guns were purchased there and it has led to a lifetime passion.
“I've always been interested in guns,” said DuBose, who has over 700 weapons in his collection and has exhibited at numerous gun shows across the state. He specializes in military pistols of the cartridge period beginning after the 1880s.
“I haven't shot a lot of them,” he said. “Some I wouldn't shoot if I could. But I've shot quite a few of them.”
DuBose says that many of his guns come from overseas and are quite old, thus finding ammunition can be difficult and cost prohibitive to spend too much time chambering rounds for fun. Some bullets go for as much as $50 per round, he said.
Complementing the guns are a number of rare holsters, some of which don't have a companion. He purchased one 40 years ago and just recently found out it fits an English Webley revolver.
“I've got holsters I've never seen a gun for,” he said.
Over 41 countries are represented in the models on display. Some were picked up after the Communist nations of Eastern Europe fell, while some he has had to hunt for online. One rarity he owns is a Belgian Paraguyan with a serial number of 31. The piece dates to 1907 with only 328 ever made for use in the Belgian army. There are four in the U.S., and he has two.
Another rare find is a South African Mamba with serial number 1, of which only 80 were imported into the country. Other guns have serial numbers so low that it is hard to put a value on them, DuBose said.
There was a time when he would go to gun exhibits to ask questions on his finds. Now, the collectors come to him with questions, he said.
“Every one has a story,” he said, with most of those stories still in his head.
DuBose will be present during the dedication at the library on Monday, May 28 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The guns are on loan for the next 20 years to the library and all have a nameplate attached and are housed in custom made display cases donated by Blue J Woodworking.