Orlando emptied its bureau drawers and closets on Friday of more than 250 unwanted guns -- and one surface-to-air missile launcher.

The shoulder-fired weapon showed about 6 p.m. when an Ocoee man drove to the Citrus Bowl to trade the 4-foot-long launcher for size-3 Reebok sneakers for his daughter.

©Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Police Sgt. Barbara Jones holds a surface-to-air missile launcher that had been turned in to the Orlando Police Kicks for Guns 2007 program on Friday.

"I didn't know what to do with it, so I brought it here," explained the man, who said he found the missile in a shed he tore down last week. "I took it to three dumps to try to get rid of it and they told me to get lost."

After hefting the weapon designed to blow jets out of the sky, police spokeswoman Sgt. Barbara Jones commented: "I tell you, you never know what you're going to get."

Ancient pistols, zip guns, shotguns and assault rifles began appearing shortly after 7 a.m. in what became the most successful gun exchange yet in Orlando and Orange County.

"Anytime we can sit out here and have people bring us guns it's good for the community," sheriff's Cmdr. Al Rollins said.

Traded for sneakers or $50 gift certificates, the guns that filled boxes at the Pine Castle Woman's Center on South Orange Avenue would never reach the hands of criminals.

And each gun came with a story never to be told.

"No questions asked, right?" asked one man, who questioned the promise of anonymity for everyone turning in a gun.

"Absolutely," responded deputies, who later described the fellow as looking like an old biker.

Moments later, he returned with a plastic bag and extracted what deputies described as a portable crime scene worth a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence in federal prison. The homemade, 40-shot assault pistol turned out to be a cut-down rifle with an illegal short barrel.

"That would scare the pants off you," commented Rollins, who said the old biker left with a $50 gift certificate.

Deputies in Pine Castle and Orlando police officers working at a second exchange outside the Citrus Bowl checked each gun against state and federal lists to find out if it had been reported stolen.

At least four turned in at the Citrus Bowl were hot guns because police say the serial numbers had been filed off in violation of federal law.

Many could not be traced because they were made before 1968, when serial numbers became mandatory for new firearms sold in the U.S.

An unblemished 1903 .32-caliber Colt pistol caught the eye of a knowledgeable deputy who checked the Internet and found it was worth about $1,400.

Despite being more than 100 years old, it and dozens of other old handguns in various calibers still worked and would be deadly, deputies and officers said. Few of the exchanged weapons were late-model 9-millimeter and .45-caliber pistols, the sort used in many of the more than 100 murders last year in Orlando and Orange County.

"It's a huge success," Orlando police Detective Barb Bergin said shortly after 1 p.m. when the exchange already exceeded 200 guns. "Clearly some of the guns we took off the street today were not for sport or self-protection. Those sawed-off shotguns were clearly for committing crimes."

The gun exchange in Orlando has been held periodically for eight years with assistance of Clear Channel radio stations and local media, according to Bergin, who coordinates Crimeline's cash-for-tips program.

"They're the ones who give us air time and encourage people to come out," she said.

The number of obvious "crime guns" collected Friday surprised Bergin as well as the officers and deputies logging the firearms.

The Orlando program and others like it nationwide give residents a legal, safe way to dispose of unwanted firearms. At the same time, police say the guns taken in reduce the number that can be stolen in burglaries to arm criminals.

Last year's "Kicks for Guns" sneaker exchange collected 113 firearms and about 20 BB pistols and toy guns that had been altered to look like real weapons.

Friday's exchange had discoveries similar to a PBS Antiques Roadshow episode in which a participant comes in with an unexpected treasure.

That moment for gun aficionados was the pre-noon appearance at the Citrus Bowl of an unidentified man carrying three firearms. He dropped them off and left, saying he didn't want anything.

"I wish he'd been my father," said Officer Kevin Williams, an assistant rangemaster and gun instructor at the Orlando Police Department. "I'd love to have them."

Worth more than $3,000, those three military-style target rifles will be destroyed just like the rusted guns worth less than $50 that were turned in, organizers said. Before going under cutting torches, guns that work will be test fired so the bullets and cartridges can be compared to evidence in unsolved murder cases, they said.

"Somebody took really good care of this," said Williams, holding a .308-caliber M1-A Springfield rifle worth about $1,500. "I'd bet a body part this was never used in a crime."