HOUSTON — In a heavily guarded store just southwest of Houston, twin .50-caliber "Ma Deuce" machine guns rise up side by side from a mount that could be bolted to the deck of a warship or truck bed.
The guns can fire about 1,200 rounds a minute and take down a plane.
The price tag reads $75,000.
They are among an arsenal of "restricted" or Class 3 weapons, all legal and for sale at Houston Armory, a company that caters to the elite of the gun world and specializes in machine guns, silencers and other weapons required to be registered with the U.S. government.
A few feet away is a fully operational M-60 machine gun, similar to the one carried by "Rambo" through the jungle. There also is a pristine-condition Tommy gun modeled like those used in the Al Capone days.
About 28,690 machine guns are legally owned and registered in Texas, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That includes thousands of such guns believed to be in Harris County and the surrounding area and owned by private citizens, as well as corporations and police departments.
The weapons are cherished by enthusiasts, collectors and investors who can own them and use them if they are willing to wait and pay. A fully automatic 12-gauge shotgun goes for $150,000 — the price of a house or high-end sports car.
What would a wealthy, law-abiding person do with a pair of machine guns worthy of a frigate?
"It is a trophy, a piece of artwork. Why do you want a Mona Lisa?" said Cris Parsons, general manager of Houston Armory. "People get off on having things others don't have.
"Odds are that the CEO of a major corporation will buy this," said Parsons, who has fired the guns and can imagine them perched as a centerpiece at a hunting lodge.