donates rifles to Loudon County honor guard
By Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com
LENOIR CITY — The Loudon County Veterans Honor Guard this week
received an unexpected gift from a New Jersey gun maker.
Repeating Rifle Co. of Bayonne, N.J., donated seven lever-action
repeating rifles to be used by the Honor Guard for conducting
salutes at military funerals.
The aging World War II-era M1 Garand rifles used by the honor
guard for more than 60 years were in need of replacement, said Roy
Salton, a World War II and Korean conflict veteran, retired Air
Force major and commander of the Loudon Honor Guard, which serves
several local VFW and American Foreign Legion posts.
"A couple of times in the past I have sent emails to the Henry
Company and each time I got no response. When I tried again about a
month ago, I was extremely surprised to receive an answer," Salton
The reply from Henry came not only from the company but from
company President Anthony Imperato himself. Imperato offered to send
the honor guard seven Henry Repeating Rifles.
"I don't know how to thank him enough," Salton said.
Imperato said his company, which was badly damaged in last fall's
Hurricane Sandy, is involved in a number of charitable activities
including helping veterans groups, youth groups and other
organizations. He said he was impressed with the letter from Salton.
"We're glad to have the opportunity to help such an organization
and we appreciate the service these veterans performed for their
country," Imperato said.
The .22-caliber guns feature octagonal barrels, dark brown walnut
stocks, a highly polished brass receiver and barrel bands. They
retail for over $500 each.
"These are really beautiful rifles," said Don Burgett, a Tellico
Village resident who served in the Army during World War II and
The federal government historically supplied honor guards with
surplus rifles, but over the years funding of the 35-man Loudon
guard has relied largely on private donations. While the funding has
been cut, the need for equipment to be used at military funerals has
only increased with the passing of World War II and Korean veterans.
The Loudon honor guard performs as many as five or six military
funerals per week, said Dennis Moldenhauer, district commander of
Post 70 in Lenoir City.
Moldenhauer said the honor guard will have to go through
specialized training to integrate the lever-action guns into the
manual of arms used to handle the traditional semi-automatic
military rifles that are being retired. Lever-action rifles may have
to be handled differently to prevent the ammunition from dropping
out of the loading port when the weapon is turned sideways in the
port arms position, he said.
Compared to the 9.5 lb. M-1 Garands, the new Henry rifles at just
over 6 pounds will be a lot easier to handle, he said. One problem,
unforeseen until the recent national debate on gun control, is the
unavailability of .22-caliber blank ammunition, he said.
"I've been looking around but I can't find any right now,"