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Boy and grandfather go magnet fishing in Miami, reel in two .50 caliber sniper rifles


David Goodhue

Miami Herald

A man took his 11-year-old grandson fishing at a South Miami-Dade canal over the weekend. But he didn’t use the typical squirmy bait on a hook. Nor were they looking for dinner.

Duane Smith saw a YouTube video on magnet fishing and thought it would a nice family activity for the two to try. So Grandpa and Grandson prepped a line with a 5-pound magnet and dropped it into the C-102 canal in Princeton.

They hoped to see what they could pull up from the bottom. Metal scraps, perhaps. Or maybe something valuable. The magnet could pull up as much as 2,600 pounds of material.

Their catch of the day?

Two .50-caliber Barrett sniper rifles.

“We ended up with two pounds of scrap metal and 40 pounds of gun,” Smith said.

If you’ve never heard of magnet fishing, it’s pretty self-explanatory. You connect a heavy magnet to a rope, hurl it into the water and see what you find on the bottom. Amazon sells a magnet fishing kit, complete with rope and gloves, for about 30 bucks.

On Sunday, Smith and his grandson, Allen Cadwalader, tried their luck at the C-102 — one of the many freshwater canals that line the roadways and tree farms in South Miami-Dade. From a bridge, Smith tossed in the magnet line, and Allen helped pull it up.

After five minutes, they got their big one. One of the rifles.

“I figured, since it was our first time, this was beginner’s luck,” Smith said.

But when he threw the magnet back in, they pulled up another catch. An identical sniper rifle.

The guns were not loaded and they didn’t find any ammunition.

“The Barretts had so much mass,” Smith said. “The magnet went straight to them.”

Smith and his grandson found the lower receivers of the weapons — that is, most of the gun except the barrel. The Barrett .50-caliber rifle is a semiautomatic weapon chambered to fire a large bullet designed for the M2 Browning heavy machine gun.

The South Miami-Dade man said he was concerned that the serial numbers on the lower receivers of the weapons and the bolt of one of the rifles were filed off.

“Whoever did this is not your run-of-the-mill criminal,” said Smith, a 61-year-old former Army infantry officer.

Smith called the Miami-Dade County Police Department, which sent out two officers to pick up the guns.

Police Detective Christopher Thomas viewed the photo Smith took of his grandson with the guns. He said Monday it will likely take the department a while to determine if the weapons were used in a crime.

“Judging by the photo, those have been there for a while. That said, it will take some time for the weapons to end up at our forensics lab. Once there, they will be processed,” he said.

Smith is not convinced the guns were in the water for long. They were wrapped in plastic and he was able to scrape away most of the corrosion after about 30 minutes.

“It looked like it was something that someone would want to come back for.”

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