Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Boomsticks: An odd kind of snobbery...

Let me make a shocking confession: After thirteen years in the gun business, most guns bore me. I can walk through a gun show in thirty minutes without my pulse rising above the resting rate. Oh, look. A table of Glocks. There's a bunch of SIGs and some Kimbers. Hooray, it's some Taurus revolvers.

It gets hard not to feel rude when one can't work up a proper level of enthusiasm over a friend's new acquisition. I mean, I'm happy for your new Ruger SP-101 or Ed Brown Kobra, but I'm having to fake the oohs and ahs because I've seen a dozen of them and I can pick up the phone and order a dozen more. This is what has caused my interest in the types of guns that still hold fascination for me: Old S&W revolvers, rare old military rifles, and true custom 1911's. These are different in that you can't just pick up the phone and get one whenever you want. You're dependant on the vagaries of chance and your patience and your skill in tracking. It's the difference between ordering a hamburger at Mickey D's (or even a great steak at an expensive restaurant) and hunting for your own food.

The acquisition of a current production gun has no drama to it any more, at least for me. I know they're out there, and all it takes is money and a phone call and it's mine. It's different with the old and the rare. That Ross rifle that wandered into the shop the other day, the first I'd ever seen in real life, was the heart-pounding equivalent of the biggest Boone & Crockett buck you've ever seen suddenly strolling into your sights one day in the woods. It was the same sensation with the Affordable .44 Special Hand Ejector. You know Mbogo is in the brush someplace; you've heard tales of him but never seen him, and then suddenly he's right there in front of you. Is your bank account a big enough caliber to bring him down? Or are you going to have to let him get away and hope that someday you'll run across him again when you're packing a checkbook with a few more foot-pounds? By contrast, the nicest current production Les Baer or HK is tied to a stake, just waiting for you to take your shot. It doesn't seem... sporting.

I was joking with the guy who bought the Ross that the reductio ad absurdum of all this becomes "catch-and-release" gun collecting. Since so much of the thrill is in the chase, why not just take a picture of the gun next to a stack of hundreds big enough to show that you could have bought it if you'd wanted to? I don't think I'll ever get quite that zen-like in my gun collecting, but it's an amusing thought nonetheless.


Anonymous said...

I agree. I've only been "into" guns for 8 years or so, but few get me excited. My tastes run to older blued revolvers and older hunting rifles, especially those with Mannlicher style stocks. The latest Tika, any modern semiauto pistol, stainless revolvers? Booorring. Show me a vintage Mannlicher-Schoenauer with the full stock and I'll leave a puddle of drool. I still kick myself for not buying the apparently pristine 8mmx54 model with Kahles scope and some vintage mount for $1k a couple years ago. Ask Mal about that one, he was there. Silly me, I thought it was more important to work on my debt.


the pistolero said...

You're dependant on the vagaries of chance and your patience and your skill in tracking.

And, of course, literally how far you're willing to go. I could get the next gun on my list off the shelf today if I had the means, but I'd have to drive almost halfway across Texas to do it.
As far as something like the Ed Brown Kobra, I might not oooh and aaah over it, but I'd certainly wish I had one. heh...

bluemeanie fromGT said...

My tastes may be a little pedestrian, but I do like "working guns" that show signs of use and make me wonder about their history.
My police trade-in G19 and my pre-64 model 70 in plain-vanilla 30-06 are my two faves of many guns. I think it may be Guns&Ammo 'covergirls' that make most of us yawn.

Les Jones said...

I like the hunting analogy. Old, uncommon guns I'm mmake me break out my wallet even when I wasn't planning on spending money. With new guns, I figure they're still making them and I can get them whenever I feel like it.

Too, the older guns seem to be appreciating faster than inflation is driving up the price of new guns. Get 'em while the getting's good.

Zendo Deb said...

I just want to go shooting.

I would like a reasonably custom .338 Remington Ultra Mag... long barrel, that has been cryonically stress-relieved (I don't even know if this really works...)

Custom stock done up in any color but black or natural wood. Even a nice desert camo would be fine.

(I can still get one of these for less than Lazzeroni, and afford the ammo)

But then I would have to take this gun on safari. So it isn't a few thousand bucks for a decent gun, it is 10s of thousands for decent safari....

Oh well, where did I put that .22?

Joe said...

I'm the same way with WW2 and earlier bolt guns and semi-autos. Walking by a table with Class 3 stuff perks me up somewhat but then I remember that affording one of those shows me what I did wrong as a kid in school!

Gun shows in the People's Republic of Taxachusetts really aren't alot to get excited about. I can't buy the nice looking Delta Elite for $550 ( with 6 mags ) because the dealer is from Conneticut - a no-no per Mass. laws. It sucks to be here... :(

Mushy said...

Of all the modern weapons I have, the M1-Garand I got through the CMP means more to me than all the rest. I think I paid $165 for it, after qualifying at the Oak Ridge Sportsman's Range back in the early 90's.

Billy Beck said...

I'm having a similar problem trolling guitar markets for my "Axebites" column.

Of course, the stuff that lights me up is way out of my price range: the Mickey Baker Les Paul Custom at $165k was pretty exciting, just to see something like that coming to market.

The thing is, it's getting more and more difficult to come up with stuff like that at the pace that's kept that column going for nearly three years now. In the past several months, I've begun to consider just icing it.

Anonymous said...

You're not officially a snob until you start to insult the gun and the owner for getting it.

"Ruger? Couldn't you afford better?"

You've got a long way to go before snobdom.

Mushy said...

There's nothing wrong with a good Ruger wheel gun, rifle, or shotgun...but if we're talking autos, then okay.

Xavier said...

Excellent post Tam!

That is exactly why I prefer Colt 1911s that have been massaged, and the old wheelies.

Tom Lawrence said...

If gun shows bore you go to one of the better gun auctions. This April
I went to the Julia auction in Fairfield Maine. I saw and held guns that I had only heard of and they were selling for more than I make in a year (or two). The guy behind me won the bid on a Walker for a cool $375K. Just being there was something. Even got to see a Springfield 03 with Pederson device mags and ammo.

pax said...

I'm not into guns as collector's items. I only love them for what they can do.

Toward that end, the most common modern production handgun is far better than any collector's wet dream. After all, you can really use the common stuff without feeling guilty about scratching it up.

It's the difference between a trophy hunter, and someone who hunts to put meat on the table. A food hunter doesn't look at the rack, but at the ribs.

Labman said...

I feel the same way with the tables of WWII military bolt action stuff/junk @ the local shows...boring!! Everyone has something that "trips their trigger", mine happens to be English double shotguns, and nickel S&W's.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, you're a lady after my own heart. I've been in the gun/archery/hunting gear business in various capacities for most of the last 35 years. In th emid-80s I even had a Class 3 dealer licence for a few years. I have a true passion for guns and shooting, and almost always have at least one on layaway, but I haven't bought a new production gun in, ummm... hold on, I'm thinking... Okay, since 1981. Really.

Like you, Tam, it takes a vintage S&W or, to a lesser extent, military rifle, to make my blood stir. I'm also a fanatic for bowhunting for heavy antlered whitetail bucks, and I found your analogy to be dead on. The biggest thrills I've had in the last year were the day in November when I almost got a shot at a massive 22-24" 8 point buck, and the two days in January when I stumbled across incredible deals on, first, a 95% 2nd Model Hand Ejector .455/.45 Colt conversion, and a near-90% 3rd Model Ladysmith (the original, M-frame .22, not one of the new ones.)

There's something more than the thrill of the hunt for those fine old guns, though, at least for me. New guns don't seem to have any character, they don't have the soul I can sense in my old Smiths, or M1 Garand, or '03 Springfield. Know what I mean?

Oh, BTW, you get a respectful "Very Nice" for the bikini photo, Tam. If you'd had that .44 HE in your hand, the picture would be a shoo in for cover of Dillon's Blue Press!


Tam said...


"It's the difference between a trophy hunter, and someone who hunts to put meat on the table. A food hunter doesn't look at the rack, but at the ribs."

I buy bread and milk at the grocery store all the time, but rarely blog about it. I did however, get pretty exercised in print over that filet I ate at the swank restaurant for my birthday. I guess if you look through a certain lens, that filet was no different from the can of Hormel Chili I had for lunch today... (I mean, they were both meat food products, and both kept me alive)