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The International Arms Dealer Who Collected pre-64 Model 70s
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Woodinville, WA
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February 3, 2024 - 5:10 am
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We recently acquired a large collection of pre-64 model 70s out of Louisianna (see my other post to read about the fake “rare” rifles in that collection). In the collection was a 1952 standard rifle chambered in 7mm, which Lou Luttrell was sharp enough to point out was photographed and included in Roger Rule’s book.  Now a 7mm model 70 is no slouch of a rifle, even without any special provenance.  Only 1,470 model 70s were chambered in the 7mm (7x57mm Mauser cartridge), or about one-quarter of a percent of total production, making it pretty rare and hard to find. But Lou pointed out it had posed for photos in Rule’s book, and the caption of the photo sent me down a further bunny trail.  The caption reads:

A “later” Standard Rifle, serial number 234,057, in 7 mm.  Michael Kokin collection.

I asked Lou who Michael Kokin was and man did that turn into a fun research project.  Lou sent over a few items which had been declassified by the CIA and with a bit of additional internet sleuthing I was able to unearth a story about a somewhat shady international arms dealer who also was a big model 70 collector.  The post below was put together for our web-listing for the rifle.  

Who knew that one of the world’s most prolific and controversial arms dealers was also a pre-64 model 70 collector? And we just acquired one of his guns.
 
Mike Kokin was the founder and president of Sherwood International Export Corp. – a small California arms dealer. Small until a secret deal with the CIA made Sherwood the distribution mechanism for moving every imaginable type of weapon to hotspots around the globe. Sherwood was at the epicenter of moving 150 Belgian 5.56mm Minimi machine guns into Honduras, while simultaneously moving heat-seeking missiles and armored personnel carriers into Iran – a sequence of arms moves which was a part of the events we all now refer to as the “Iran-Contra Affair”
 
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Mike Kokin poses with an AK-47.  Note the pre-64 model 70s on the wall behind him.
 
Well, it turns out Mike Kokin, while he was building his reputation as an international arms dealer, was also building a collection of pre-64 model 70s. Roger Rule knew this and in the late 1970s and early 1980s photographed some of Kokin’s rifles for his book “The Rifleman’s Rifle”. Among those rifles is a beautiful and unique 1952 standard rifle chambered in 7x57mm Mauser. You can check it out on page 237 of Rule’s book.
 
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Roger Rule’s book The Rifleman’s Rifle – Page 237, image 7-46
 
The rifle is rare and valuable in its own rights, with the 7MM being the fourth most rare model 70 chambering – just 0.23% of model 70 standard rifles were chambered for this cartridge. This rifle has a unique combination of features with what was Winchester’s new (in 1952) Monte Carlo stock, but combined with the Winchester 22G rear sight rather than the folding Marbles sight. This combination is unusual and adds an interesting twist to the impeccable provenance of this particular rifle.
 
At the time of Rule’s writing, this rifle was still a part of the Mike Kokin collection. 20 years later it was in the collection of the late Mike Holmes of Florida. Upon his death, Holmes passed his entire collection to a friend in Louisiana, which is where we acquired it. 42 years later, the rifle still appears exactly as it did when Rule photographed it for his book… except now it’s in our company safes.
 
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The rifle is entirely original with little to no evidence of use. It grades in NRA excellent condition.

The metal is in excellent condition with original bluing and no wear except for minor wear on the bolt components and receiver rails. Likewise, there are no notable scratches, dings, freckling, repairs, or other metal defects.

The original Monte Carlo stock is also in excellent condition with only a very few light handling marks but no repairs, splits, cracks or other notable damage. The stock retains its steel buttplate, which has minor finish wear. 

The bore of the 24″ barrel is in excellent condition. It may have had a few rounds put through it, but nothing more. We grade the bore a 10 out of 10 under borescope examination. Absolutely no wear, no pitting.

Both the bolt and receiver are marked with serial number 234057, indicating a 1952 manufacturing date. 

The rifle is sold, having only survived online for roughly 6 hours before a lucky collector in Idaho purchased it.  So, I am definitely not trying to market and sell the rifle here.  I just thought the rifle and its story was too cool to not pass on to others.  If you’d like to see many detailed photos of the rifle, you will find them here: Mike Kokin’s 7 M/M (7x57mm Mauser) Standard Rifle – 1952 – pre64win.com
 
If there is a lesson here, it is to check the serial numbers of your rifles – you may just have something with an interesting story in your safe!
 
Justin

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February 3, 2024 - 12:52 pm
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Amazing story in it’s own right. Another educational story for honest collectors to learn from with today’s modern tools.

 

Antonio

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Bo Rich
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February 3, 2024 - 2:20 pm
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Very interesting!  Thank you for the story.  

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February 3, 2024 - 5:25 pm
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Mr Hale

 I too have a bit of history with Mr Kokin although remotely.

 In 2012 I purchased an African from a fellow collector here on the west coast. With the “modified” rifle came a letter from Mr. Kokin explaining the provenance of said rifle.Sherwood-letter.jpgImage Enlarger 458-full.jpgImage Enlarger458-ser.jpgImage Enlarger458-22inch.jpgImage Enlarger

As you can see, the barrel has been cut to 22 inches and it does in fact now have 2 cross bolts although not the bolts used on the later Africans.

 On page 96 of Rules book there is an advertising picture of a 458 with two silver colored cross bolts.

 I have shared this rifle with two very knowledgeable collectors both of which were very skeptical of the provenance and whether  the work was done by Winchester.

 This is a classic case of Buy the gun not the story, But who really knows. Confused

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February 3, 2024 - 6:46 pm
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DEEREHART said

 I have shared this rifle with two very knowledgeable collectors both of which were very skeptical of the provenance and whether  the work was done by Winchester.

 This is a classic case of Buy the gun not the story, But who really knows. Confused

Stories of wealthy Mexican businessmen are always the most tantalizing when selling rifles! Laugh

I have heard from at least one person with knowledge of Mike Kokin that “some of his rifles were shady”.  But as you say – who really knows?  The story is at least plausible, as Winchester did take back the early Africans and fit them with new/sturdier stocks when the early ones started cracking.  The only real question mark is why would Winchester have put in these particular cross bolts rather than swapping the stock out for less figured wood, as they did on every other African they recalled.  But I do believe it is plausible.  I can see a scenario where Mr Shirley (like many other 458 owners) did not send their rifle back to Winchester because they did not want to swap into the less figured wood.  And if the Mr Shirley made this argument to Mr Olin, I certainly can see a scenario where Mr Olin might offer to make the stock right without swapping it into stronger but less fancy wood.  It is certainly how I might offer to solve an issue for a client of one of our custom rifles.

So the letter is great and to be honest, I’m probably one who would give the rifle the benefit of the doubt, since it has the letter with it.

Thanks for sharing that.  It’s pretty cool.

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