Recently the former president of Iraqi's personal Model 77 International came up for auction. Its story is rather interesting.
Back in 1988, Strum Ruger Model 77RSI, serial number 77022927 was born. It was a beautiful deep-blued bolt-action rifle in .243 Winchester caliber. The RSI series, introduced in the 80s and discontinued in 1993 was the so-called "International Rifle." This is because it had a carbine-length 18-inch barrel set into a full-length Mannlicher-style walnut stock that came to the end of the muzzle. These guns were patterned after the old European mountain rifles of the early 1900s and chambered in .243, .270, .308, and 30-06 as well as the more hard-to-find 7x57mm, 7mm-08, and .250-3000 Savage. The short action and abbreviated barrel gave the rifle a weight of 6.95-pounds and an overall length of but 38.5-inches-- about the same as a WWII US M1 Carbine.
They were handy little rifles and, while not well liked in the States, had a good following with collectors. One collector overseas even found himself the proud owner of this very gun.
While it is not known exactly when the Ruger was brought into Iraq, it was seen on New Year's Eve 2000. There, at the largest military parade since the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, wearing a very dapper suit and hat rather than his trademark olive drag uniform and black beret, fired this rifle several times into the air to celebrate. The video and B-reel shots circled around the globe.
Well, by 2005, the US had kicked in the door on the 'stache, and the US Army, with the CIA either leading or following close behind depending on who you talk to, was chilling in his palaces. They had first dibs on the Iraqi dictator's stash of goodies.
The spy behind the gun
The way the rifle came into the country was via the CIA, who held on to it as a souvenir. After all, if you go to Baghdad, why not bring back one of Saddam's rifles right? Who needs another t-shirt?
Well the rifle was on ice at Langley for a few years and then was presented, along with one of Saddam's liquidated brother-in-law's Browning Hi-Powers to the man who was CIA Station Chief in Baghdad when they were captured. It seems in 2011 this hardnosed, true-life James Bond was retiring, and the 'company' wanted to give him a nice honorarium. One thing led to another and the now-retired agent decided to get Rock Island Auctions involved in selling it off.
While the documentation on the Rock Island paperwork shows a redacted name, it does list the CV/Resume of the man who was presented the rifle as an honorarium.
He was a 27-year "career CIA National Clandestine Service Operations Officer and as a Senior Executive with assignments involving counterintelligence, counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, and cyber threat challenges. His field command assignments included Damascus, Syria; Warsaw, Poland; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Tirana, Albania; Baghdad, Iraq (three tours)..." et al.
If you flip through Fjestad's Blue Book of Gun Values most current edition (go get yours, we'll wait), turn to page 1873 and you will see the values for your Ruger Model 77RSI. In 100% NIB condition, Mr. Fjestad values one of these full-stocked Mannlicher style rifles at $575. Saddam's gun was at least gently used, which would drop it down to 98% condition and a value of $450.
(The gun has Saddam's name engraved in the top of its barrel. Other than that, it is bone stock.)
Rock Island listed the gun with an approximate value of $7500-15,000. It seems the lure of the man with the mustache was larger than either RIA or Fjestad could comprehend because it sold for $48,875.
Now that's an investment in a Ruger with a weird background.