Leon Wier Jr.

RSA Leon, it’s a pleasure to meet with you today in sunny Las Vegas. To us you’re an icon and to all Remington collectors and your contributions to the preservation of Remington history is without peer. Leon, we’re pleased to learn more about your life and share it with our readers. May we start with some basics? Where were you born and when?
Leon I was born in Itta Bena, Mississippi on January 29, 1925. Itta Bena means “Home in the woods”

Leon and his RSA buddies – circa 2001
RSA Would you tell us how it was to grow up in the deep south during the depression?
Leon What depression? We didn’t have any money but nobody else had any money either so we didn’t know that was unusual. And the kids had lots of fun and the grown folks worked. We went to school.
RSA Is it true that you were in jail at a very young age?
Leon Yeah, yes that’s true. My father was a Deputy Sheriff of LaFlore County in Mississippi. He was also the jailer. Our entire family lived in the jail. My mother and father shared a cell of their own and my brother and I shared a cell. They were furnished like a bedroom.
RSA What did you do when you had a drunk or somebody your father had to put in jail? Where did he go?
Leon Well he was across the hallway behind bars in another cell.
RSA Leon, we know that you served proudly as a U.S. Marine during World War II. Would you tell us about your military experience and your war time assignments?
Leon I joined the Marine Corp in 1942, and I went to Boot Camp at San Diego. At the conclusion of Boot Camp, they gave you three choices of what branch of the Marines you wanted to go in, I put down, “Infantry, Infantry, Infantry” and they sent me to Camp Pendleton to a school for Combat Conditioning. After I finished the school I became an instructor in Combat Conditioning for the rest of my Marine Corp life, and we taught Marines throughout the Central Pacific. There were eight of us, and a Lieutenant who traveled around from base to base teaching Combat Conditioning. We also served a hitch teaching Army Rangers at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. Colonel Francois DeLesque was head of the school there and these Rangers finally went in on Macon Island.
RSA How old were you when you joined the Marine Corp?
Leon I was just seventeen. At the time I was living in Memphis. My father was in the FBI as an agent and I went back to Greenwood Mississippi on weekends, where I was raised.While back there four of the guys were standing around talking about going to the Marines and I asked, “What were the U.S. Marines?”. I really didn’t know who they were, so we all went to Jackson to try to get enlist in the Marine Corps, but only one of us got in – me! Of the other three, two of them won medals for valor all over Europe. Silver Stars, Bronze Stars, you name it they won em. They went in the U.S. Army and I went in the Marine Corp and didn’t win any medals.
RSA Leon, when did you end your service with the Marine Corp?

A young Leon with a high school buddy
Leon November of 1945. We were being scheduled to go in on the invasion of homeland Japan and Harry Truman — God Bless Him — dropped the bomb, and that ended the whole shooting match and we went home instead of to Japan. Thank God.
RSA Leon, following the War, tell us about your return to civilian life?
Leon When I got out of the service in late ‘45, I was discharged from Oceanside, California and soon after I went to Los Angeles. I was riding a streetcar and the guy sitting next to me turned out to be a discharged Marine Captain named Shadow. And he said he worked for the Ex-Marine Guard Company, and if I ever needed a job I should look him up and he gave me his business card. However, as my folks were living in Hammond, Louisiana I went back to live with them. Hammond is just down the road from Baton Rouge. LSU is at Baton Rouge so I went to LSU for two and a half years and I studied education. I was an English major and I was going to be an English teacher. Come summertime a friend of mine, Buddy Calone and I decided that we would go to California for a vacation.

While there I remembered meeting Captain Shadow, so I went to the Ex-Marine Guard Company in order to get a job. However, Captain Shadow was long gone and I never saw him again. But I spent the next forty years in the job he told me about back in late ‘45. The company hired me and sent me up to the Bay area in San Francisco, a little town outside of Concord called Port Chicago and I worked up there all summer. However, in September I went back to LSU. I decided that the guard job was a good deal, so the next summer I went back to Port Chicago and went back to work for the Ex-Marine Guard Company. When the next September came, I was ready to go back to LSU and Captain Hamilton who was in charge of the Port Chicago outfit came to talk to me and offered me a job as First Sergeant. I said “Sure, I’ll take it”. So I didn’t go back to LSU… not ever. And I worked for the company which later became known as General Plant Protection. They changed their name because they couldn’t find enough ex-Marines to fill the positions. The company was later given a contract for security at the Nevada Proving Grounds, which is just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. Actually, it is 90 miles from Las Vegas. And they asked me if I wanted to go head up the security force and I said “yeah, I’d like to do this”. So they first sent me to school at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Before I went the Proving Grounds in Las Vegas, I asked if I could take my buddy, Ande Beggerly with me. And so, he became my assistant at the Proving Grounds.

We were the security force for the proving grounds. You know… keeping the good guys in and the bad guys out. They were testing atomic bombs there, and I eventually was able to observe fourteen atomic bomb tests. There were basically three types of tests: the underground tests; the above-ground tower test; and the air drop tests. I don’t remember how many of each. The above ground test was conducted on a 300 foot tall tower, and they would build a village down below the tower and sit the bomb up on top of it and back off, considerably, and punch the button, and it would blow. You saw the big flash, and a short time later you’d get this shock wave coming through. You know, a lot of dust, and wind, and…that was it. Usually our farthest security post was located within a mile and a half of the explosion.

RSA What was your next job assignment after that?

A young Leon with a high school buddy
Leon My next assignment was at White Sands Test Range in New Mexico, and I was in charge of the General Plant Protection Security Force at that location. They were testing all kinds of new model jet planes. They had a test where a guy sat in a car on a railroad track and they zoomed him off at a phenomenal speed. At the time I didn’t know it was a rocket sled, and I wasn’t permitted to say anything about it to others.
RSA Is that where you met your buddy Ed Curtis?
Leon Ed was one of the guards at Alamagordo, and we worked together for about a year and a half. He and I used to go to the gun shows in El Paso together. He worked with me as an employee. My principal for management always was… “You don’t work for somebody, you work with somebody”.
RSA Have you been friends with Ed ever since?
Leon Ed is as good horse trader I’ve ever known. For people who don’t know him, he’s dangerous. He comes on with this old country boy attitude, and you figure he’s trying to sell something he don’t know anything at all about, but he knows enough about it to write a book. He’s a good friend of mine, and I hope I’m a good friend of his.
RSA When you left Alamagordo, where did you go?
Leon To Edwards Air Force Base…. I was on the guard force at Edwards Air Force Base, and Ande Beggerly was the head honcho. They were testing early jet airplanes. Chuck Yeager was flying the first supersonic flight in history, and all the different aircraft companies had their latest planes there to be tested. After that I went to work for the Garrett Airesearch Corporation in Torrance, California.
RSA What kind of work did you do there?
Leon Garrett had all kinds of contracts with the Federal Government, and we were guarding classified information.
RSA Was that the Blackbird projects?
Leon I still am not able to discuss the classified nature of the exact aircraft there. However, later on they did make the F117 Stealth fighter there. While I was working there I had the opportunity to go back to Edwards Air Force Base and I saw the SR-71Blackbird. In fact, I got to sit in the Blackbird.
RSA Is it true, that you could not even tell your wife about what you were seeing and what you were guarding?
Leon I was in Classified Security. You can’t tell anyone anything. Later on I was in charge of security for the Blackworld for Garrett, and that was the contract they had for the Stealth fighter and bomber. I spent five years telling everybody that no such animals existed, even though I was guarding them at the time.
RSA Did your boss know what you were doing?
Leon My boss didn’t have the proper clearance. I had a clearance that was higher than Top Secret, and my boss could not ask me what I was doing, and why I was doing it or where I was doing it. I would go in his office and I would say “Steve, I’ve got to go to Timbuktu”. And he would say “When will you be back?” and I would say “I don’t know” and he would say “Have a nice trip”.
RSA Leon, what was your last assignment, and when did you retire?
Leon That was my last assignment… head of Black World security. I retired in 1982.
RSA We know that your dear wife MaeBelle is the love of your life. Could you please tell us the circumstances around how you met her, courted her, and married that fine lady?
Leon She was Ande Beggarly’s sister, and while I was working at the Air Force Base in California, I was with Ande and I met her. (Pause) That’s it. We dated a couple of times. She was born in Texas, but she was raised in California. We got married in 1954.
RSA Anything memorable about your honeymoon?
Leon The first night we spent at a big hotel in Los Angeles. The second night we spent in a small upstairs hotel in Bisbee, Arizona. I had been to Bisbee before and they got a big hotel called the Copper Queen Hotel and I wanted to go there for our second night of our honeymoon, but typically of me, I didn’t make any reservations. We just drove in there arriving about 8:30 PM, but they were having a convention and they were full up. And the only place open in town was a Hotel Golden on the second floor of a rundown building in Bisbee and that’s where we stayed. About two years ago we went back to Bisbee and finally stayed in the Copper Queen Hotel.
RSA Tell us about your son.
Leon Well he works for TRW… he’s married, been married for a long time. He was a sergeant in the Army, I don’t know why he didn’t join the Marines, maybe because of some of the hair raising stories I told him.
RSA Why do you call him Third?
Leon Because my father was the first, I’m the second, and he’s the third.
RSA Do any of your relatives share your interest in collecting firearms?
Leon No.
RSA Where and under what circumstances did you get your first real gun?
Leon My father gave me a .410 single barrel shotgun from the Central Arms Company when I was about 13 years old. We used to go hunting for rabbits out in the cotton fields but normally we’d just go hunting and never kill anything.
RSA When did you acquire your first Remington?
Leon When I got out of the Marine Corps. and went home. My father was a Colt collector and in order not to compete with him I decided to “go Remington” and I bought my first Remington New Model Army revolver for $22.50 and that was the beginning. It’s hanging on the gun room wall now. The .410 shotgun is in the closet.
RSA Leon would you tell us about your collection
Leon I collect primarily Remington handguns. Karr and Karr wrote a book called Remington Handguns in which on the last page they had a list of the models of the Remington handguns. I set out to get one of each of those models of the handguns. I got them all but one. The toughest one to get was a Second Model Beals Pocket Revolver. I looked for one of those for over 30 years and when Karl Moldenhauer decided to sell his collection at auction, I knew he had a Second Model Beals Pocket Revolver, and my wife and I packed up flew back to the East Coast stuck our paddle in the air and bought that damn gun. It’s hanging on the wall right now. However, I never did get the Remington Parlor Pistol. I had any number of opportunities, but with there being so many reproductions, I just didn’t feel that I should put that much money in the gun that might not be real.
RSA What is your most treasured Remington item and why?
Leon I guess it’s the Remington XP–100 pistol that I won at the Las Vegas gun show. I forget the year, seems to me like he was ’67 or ’68 for the Best Educational Exhibit at the show. Remington Arms Company gave away six of those pistols, and I got one of them.

A happy family
MaeBelle, “Third”, and Leon.
RSA What group or category of Remington product do you enjoy the most and why?
Leon Remington handguns. Because I’ve been studying them for 50 years.
RSA We know that you have other guns in your room besides Remington handguns. What are they?
Leon I have several long guns that I picked up along the way. I have several non-Remington handguns that I picked up along the way. But that’s an accumulation not a collection.
RSA OK Leon here’s a corker. What’s the story behind the worst collectible buy you ever made?
Leon I have never bought a Remington handgun that I regretted buying… Not ever.
RSA What family gun or guns have been passed on to you?
Leon I have two Smith and Wesson’s that were carried by my father when he was a peace officer and I have one Colt single action army that was formerly in his collection.
RSA Would you describe the best and worst person that you have dealt with in the gun business? No names pleased, unless you care to mention them.

MaeBelle wears Leon’s 10-gallon hat during the RSA Seminar in Cody, Wyoming.
Leon Well the “best” list would fill a phonebook. I’ve been working with the members of the Remington society of America for a long, long time, and I’ve met some outstanding individuals in this organization. As far as lemons, I don’t think I’ve picked a lemon… OK, maybe one… during that whole time. We’ll leave that one to history.
RSA Without mentioning any names in you share with us the details of the lemon deal?
Leon No!
RSA Good enough.
RSA What advice would you give the following people… First of all what advice for the novice, beginning collector?
Leon When I started collecting I bought that Remington New Model Army for $22.50 and an old collector told me, he said… “Son, buy six books for every gun you buy and buy the books first”. I could give that advice to anybody starting off on a new gun collection.
RSA Leon, if a younger fellow or gal came up to you and said, what type of Remington should I start to collect, what would you suggest?
Leon Collect what you like. Don’t collect something because everybody else is collecting it or it’s very popular or any other reason. If you don’t like it, don’t collect it. You don’t really choose your collection, it’s forced on you. You buy one and then you buy two and then you by three, and that’s an accumulation. Suddenly you find yourself with 6, 8, or 10, and then you’re collecting. Meanwhile you’ve bought all of these gun books and you are studying like hell, trying to figure out exactly what you want next to collect.
RSA What advice do you have for the experienced collector?
Leon Caveat Emptor.
RSA What advice do you have for the seller of a Remington firearm?

A return to Cody… Leon and Jack Heath congratulate Slim Kohler on his exhibition of Remington handguns at the Cody Firearms Museum.
Leon Sell the guns to a member of the Remington Society. The best way to do that is to place an ad in the Remington Journal and offer it for sale. You will reach 600+ Remington collectors, and you not only sell your gun, but you improve somebody’s collection.
RSA What advice do you have for someone who wants to buy a Remington.
Leon Put an ad in the Journal.
RSA Rumor has it that Ol’ RemShots often turns to you for answers. How long have you been associated with that old buzzard?
Leon That’s not true. RemShots knows it all. He doesn’t need to ask anybody any questions. I go to RemShots for answers, and I’ve been associated with RemShots for… it will be 19 years in September.
RSA How did Remshots began answering questions for the Remington Society?
Leon Fritz Baehr, the President of the , asked that I began writing n answer column. I don’t know if he named it or if I named it. In September 1987, the first RemShots column appeared in the RSA Newsletter.
RSA Leon, when you depart for that great Remington armory in the sky, what will become of the RemShots column in the Remington Journal?
Leon Every time I talked to people about taking over the column, they would say that someone will step forward and do it. So I hand-picked my successor… Mike Strietbeck. Being RemShots is a full-time job… you can’t do that, raise a family, and be full-time employed. It would be very difficult.
RSA How many hours a day on an average do you spend answering Remshots questions?
Leon I’d say six to seven hours a day, seven days a week.
RSA How many inquiries do you answer every month?
Leon More than 300.
RSA How do these inquiries come in and how do they go out?
Leon They come in over the telephone, they come in by regular mail, they come in by e-mail.
RSA If it hadn’t been for collecting Remington’s, what would it have been?
Leon I don’t know. I have no idea. I just love Remingtons.. always have… always will.
RSA Other than your dear wife Maebelle, the you have a second passion in life?
Leon You must be kidding.
RSA We don’t mean girlfriends, Leon! [Nervous laughter, extended pause…] Given the opportunity, what would you have done different in the realm of Remington?
Leon Well, you know, it would’ve been nice if I had started earlier. I don’t know of anything else that I could have done differently.
RSA Would you tell us about the best deal you ever made in buying a Remington? Was it a purchase or a sale?
Leon I think the best deal I ever made was a couple of years after I bought my Beals 2nd Model Pocket Revolver from the Karl Moldenhauer auction. I got a call from Maebelle’s cousin in Florida. He told me that they were having an auction down there and there was a Beals 2nd Model Pocket Revolver and would I like him to bid on it for me? And I said “yes”, and he said he would. He also asked how high to go and I said “$2000”. A couple of days later, I got word back from him that I got the gun and I was tickled pink… And then he told me that he got the gun for only $500. So I’ve got a Beals 2nd Model Pocket Revolver hanging on the wall that I paid only $500 for. That’s the best deal I’ve ever made in my life.
RSA We understand that a few years ago, you purchased 31 Remington pistols and revolvers from the San Diego Police Department. Will you tell us about that deal?
Leon Remington Arms Company informed me that the San Diego Police Department had acquired a large gun collection of 24 Remington longarms and 31 pistols. Remington doesn’t buy guns, so they put the S.D. Police in touch with me. I wanted the pistols, but I didn’t want the long guns, so I got a hold of Roy Marcot and asked him if he wanted the long guns. He said, “sure” so we went down to San Diego and checked them out. The long guns were pretty nice, but the handguns were just awful. But anyway, we bought the collection. Roy got the long guns, and I got the short guns. A day after the guns were delivered to my house in Las Vegas Ol’ Wally Beinfeld has holding his Fall Gun Show at the Riviera, so I brought all 31 Remington pistols there to sell. I didn’t even have a chance to clean them when I sold the entire lot to a French gun shop owner!
RSA Leon, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
Leon That’s easy… I’m most proud of my son, Leon III… “the Third”.
RSA Next after “Third”, what are you most proud of?
Leon My long marriage to my wife Maebelle…

Lean and Editor Roy Marcot in 1997.
RSA And number three? What other accomplishments have you made that you’re proud of?
Leon Well, I like my small, small, small contribution to the Stealth Fighter and Stealth Bomber development.
RSA What about accomplishments you have made as the President of the Remington Society of America for 11 years?
Leon Everybody knows what that is… That was the Remington Firearms Exhibit in which the RSA exhibited over 800 Remington firearms and 80 original Remington sporting art paintings in the Cody Firearms Museum… every model Remington made from the 1816 to 1997!
RSA Would you tell us the story about how the exhibit was put together, and how you brought it to fruition?
Leon One-man couldn’t have done it alone. I had help from nearly a hundred members of the Remington Society, although I must admit that there were a number of people who said we couldn’t do it. And I think that, more than anything else, is what made us do it… they said it couldn’t be done.
RSA Was it successful?
Leon Yes, indeed. For the first time in Remington history every firearm type ever made was on display. The Remington Society was the first to ever do this!
RSA Leon, would you take a few minutes and tell us how the Remington Society of America got started?
Leon Well, At the Karl Moldenhauer auction he told Fritz Baehr that he should form a Remington gun collectors organization. We decided to form a collectors group, and Fritz took charge of the deal and ramrodded it all the way through. If he had not worked hard to do it, we wouldn’t be a 600+ member organization today.
RSA Leon, did you ever hunt with your friends, dad or son?
Leon I hunted only when I was very young, maybe 12 years old. I went rabbit hunting. But that didn’t last too long. I later turned toward target shooting which I enjoyed for decades.
RSA Where and when did your passion for collecting Remingtons start?
Leon Probably when I bought my first Remington handgun, and as I said before, my father was a Colt collector so I decided to collect Remingtons.
RSA When did you first join the Remington Society of America?
Leon I am a Charter Member of the Remington Society, and became a member of the Board of Directors.

RSA Leon you mentioned about coming to Las Vegas back in the 1950s to head up the security program for the above ground, and later the underground nuclear tests. What brought you back to Las Vegas, where you live today?
Leon After I retired, my son, who was living in an apartment asked me to go and find a place I would like to move. You see, he wanted to move into our Torrence, California home, as it was near his work. For two years, we looked, and finally, when we came to Las Vegas we decided this was it. He bought this house, and he’s living in my house in Torrance.
RSA Leon, were you the perfect child for your parents or did you do a few little pranks that you could tell us about?
Leon There’s no such thing as a perfect child.
RSA All right, now tell us about your pranks.
Leon Hey man, I was a little country boy living in Greenville, Mississippi and we did all kinds of strange things.
RSA Anything you want to tell us about?
Leon No!
RSA As a child who was your hero?
Leon Tom Mix. I got to see him in Greenwood. My cousin was on the local papers there and Tom mix put on an exhibition at the Paramount Theater. My cousin was going back for an interview and asked me if I wanted to go with him. And I went with him, and there was Tom Mix sitting at a table with his guns apart, cleaning them. So I not only got to hear the interview, but I get to see him cleaning his guns.
RSA How old were you at the time?
Leon Eight or nine, something like that.
RSA Leon, when you grew to manhood, who was your hero then?
Leon Alan Sharp. He was my boss with General Plant Protection Company. He was the one who sent me to the Proving Grounds and sent me to Edwards Air Force Base and all of the other stations until I went to work for Garrett. He was my greatest influence. Without him, I don’t know where I would be today.
RSA Is there anything you would want to change, if you could go through your life again?
Leon Not a thing! My life has been one downhill grade all the way.
RSA Do you have an unforgettable Remington Society moment… either good or bad?
Leon The day I became RSA President was my most memorable one. When the Remington leadership asked me if I wanted to become president and I said yes, they asked me who would do RemShots. And I told them that if I had to give up RemShots that I didn’t want to be president. So they let me be both.
RSA And you were president for 11 years… If you could have ever written a book, what would it have been about?
Leon I would have taken Karr and Karr’s book on Remington Handguns and rewritten it with all of the new, additional information we’ve accumulated over the past 20 years. Somebody should do that.
RSA Leon, some people have said that we need a RemShots book with all of the questions and answers you’ve ever published. Some think it would be a best seller. Did you keep any record of all of these answers you’ve given people over all of these years?
Leon There’s 19 years of answers in the RSA Journal and in the earlier RSA Newsletters.
RSA We heard you mention a while ago that you used to attend gun shows with Ed Curtis in El Paso Texas, was that the beginning of your attendance at gun shows? Or did you go to gun shows earlier than that?
Leon If it wasn’t the beginning it was pretty close to it. That was in 1950 or ’51, and I had only been collecting since 1946.
RSA Leon, what would you like to be remembered for?
Leon My sense of humor.
RSA Did you ever have a passion for automobiles like some of our other members?

Director Slim, Roy, Howie, and Leon.
Leon No!
RSA If you could have one wish, today, what would it be?
Leon That my wife would enjoy good health for the rest of her life.
RSA Leon, where do you think that the RSA is headed?
Leon I honestly don’t know. I hope it thrives, and that we end up with a thousand members.
RSA Thank you Leon for giving the Journal readers an opportunity to get to know more about Remington’s greatest voice. There is no doubt that you continue to bleed Remington green. There are many among us who believe the you have been the greatest single influence on the Remington Society and on the collecting of Remington firearms. We wish you well, dear friend.

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