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Foundation launches gun sale to aid endangered USS Texas

TODD SPOTH, Photographer
Bruce Bramlett, executive director of the Battleship Texas Foundation, displays a pair of the commemorative pistols being offered for sale to collectors in observance of the centennial of ship's commissioning ceremony.

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USS Texas pistols up for sale
By Allan Turner
Convinced that the USS Texas’ long-term survival relies on removing it from the water, battleship advocates are poised to launch a $75 million campaign to place the historic vessel in dry dock. First, though, they hope to sell a few guns.

Specifically, says Bruce Bramlett, executive director of the Battleship Texas Foundation, the guns for sale are .45-caliber Colt semi-automatic pistols modeled after the 100 weapons the arms maker gave the crew prior to the ship’s 1912 launching.

As many as 2,000 of the pistols, bearing engravings of the ship at various points in its career along with the Texas star, will be offered for sale in observance of the 2014 centennial of the warship’s commission.

Until May 1, the pistols will sell for $1,699; after that, the price increases to $2,014. Orders will be accepted through Sept. 1. Thus far, Bramlett says, about 75 of the firearms have been sold.

“At the end of the day,” Bramlett says, “we wanted to afford people an opportunity to have a little piece of the history of the Texas. We wanted to do something that would have a huge link to the 100th anniversary of the christening.”

The pistol campaign, says foundation board chairman Tony Gregory, is separate from the capital campaign, which has not yet begun.

“The next step is looking at whether it’s doable,” Bramlett said of the larger fundraising effort. “We’re doing the analysis to see if there’s enough support in the corporate and foundational worlds. ... We expect to have that final decision by June.”

The foundation is a private organization that donates money for the ship’s upkeep and arranges tours and overnight stays for visitors. The ship, docked near the San Jacinto Monument in La Porte, is owned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Ship manager Andy Smith says a contractor will assess needed repairs to the battleship next month. Most critical, he says, is strengthening areas beneath the engines, which weigh 1,100 tons each, and the aft-most tanks. At present, the supporting structures have lost 80 percent of their viability.

Smith says repairs are expected to take 18 months to complete. They will be funded through a $25 million bond issue Texas voters approved in 2007.

Until last summer, the state had hoped to make necessary repairs and then place the old dreadnought — the only existing battleship to fight in both world wars — in dry dock. Then, beginning in early July, a series of leaks underscored the vessel’s perilous condition.

State plans to exhibit the ship in an out-of-water setting were shelved indefinitely after it was determined the effort could cost as much as $75 million. Repairing the ship’s summer leaks, Bramlett says, cost the state more than $2 million.

Bramlett says the commemorative pistols,though functional firearms, are targeted primarily at the collector’s market.

He acknowledges some people may find the sale of pistols impolitic at a time of national discussion about gun control.

“We’re not violating any law,” he says. “I don’t think any of these guns will be walked over to Mexico or find their way into the hands of criminals. There will be proper background checks. When you think of the kind of firearms that might be outlawed or limited, these aren’t even on that list.

“I can appreciate that some people might have that feeling, but there’s nothing I can see that’s going to ease their concern. We have a job to do at the foundation, and that’s to save the Battleship Texas.”

Anyone interested in purchasing a gun should contact Bruce Bramlett at 713-827-9620.


8,151 Posts
Good luck. Way too rich for my blood.

Do you think I might find one at CDNN for about $250.00? I would doubt it.

19,174 Posts
When it is that many digits I know it is out of my park.. Wish them luck..
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