Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Durable artifacts.

Marko finding that 90+ year-old shotgun made me think of this post by friend JPG, the difference between obsolete and obsolescent, and just how long a good gun can last.

When I went out to New Hampshire, I left the Springer Pro and the brand-new CCA Custom at home and took my Colt, figuring it'd be the one I'd shed the fewest tears over should it get pinched. It's a little rattly and nowhere near the tackdriver the other two are, but it runs just fine. And it's two years older than I am; how many folks have a CCW or home defense gun with a birthday that antedates their own?

Guns are pretty durable artifacts; they don't just wither away. A quality firearm, given even moderate protection from the elements, will last for many lifetimes. I have rifles that are nearing their 140th birthday for which you can still purchase commercially-loaded ammunition...


Anonymous said...

.35 Whelen is a fine choice, especially for deer living in the all-you-can-eat deer buffet that is Nebraska.

The problem with older guns is that more and more people are realizing their value. Given that all guns should be $200 this leaves younger geezers quite upset.

Shootin' Buddy

Ritchie said...

I've recently mentioned my 1911 which was made the year after my Father was born, a fact which I am not able to mention to him. Even the replacement slide is a WWII Remington Rand part. Meanwhile, it's would-be replacement is back at the factory getting it's growing pains sorted out.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the longevity of quality firearms, I have read in other places that in certain parts of Europe--areas that were visited by particularly unmannerly German tourists--many firearms stamped "Mauser" and "Schmeisser" and "Walther" are well and cunningly concealed.

As the story goes, a French boy was asked by a friend, "Why does your father pour oil on his flower garden?" To which the boy replied, "Oh, that's to keep his guns from rusting."

cap'n chumbucket

Anonymous said...

"...how many folks have a CCW or home defense gun with a birthday that antedates their own?"

Considering the nature of the viewing audience here, I'd guess quite a few, me among 'em.

My old '54 Colt Cobra was taken in trade from a cop in the mid-90's for a mini-Glock; I didn't know until later that it was produced the year I was hatched, and I was already considering keeping it for a carryon, but that clinched it.

Not only does a good gun last nearly forever, but I'm not sure anything out there today is superior to this little 15 ouncer as a daily carry. Light weight, perfect hand-size, smooth as silk, and, to me anyway, just beautiful.

It is left in the safe a lot these days, not because the lcp is in any way superior or even equal (okay, the cylinder bruise on my hip has faded) to the Cobra, but because I want to rest it and extend its useful and aesthetic life even further.

Unlike almost everything else in the world of consumer goods, imo the very best of the best in guns of all types has a decade or five or ten uh, under the belt as it were, with functionality and effectiveness equal to any newbie.

That, I can say with daily first-hand knowledge, is sadly not the case with homo sapiens.


wv: migat...I shit you not.

Cybrludite said...

Well, I've got my late Dad's Colt Police Positive, with ante-dated him by at least five years. (Plastic grips and no grooves in the sighting channel)

Anonymous said...

I learned to shoot on a High Standard target pistol that my dad bought from the Air Force Property Office. I found the reciept a few years ago, and turns out that he bought it the week before I was born.

Okay, it's 55+ years old, and still runs and shoots like a champ. That gun will never leave my family, that I know.


Anonymous said...

I have a S&W M&P that was made somewhere between 1910 and 1915. The cylinder is not heat treated so mild loads are the rule, but I would not hesitate to use it for defense.

Stranger said...

It is really amazing just how many guns from the 1870 to 1910 period are still serviceable. In a few cases, survival in serviceable order percentages are above 80% of total production. And that enormously increases the total number of guns in private hands.

That is one reason why the anti's are so enamored of the "same service life as a car" fable. It reduces the number of guns in circulation to only 140 million or so.


Lissa said...

I'd be lying if I said I expected my new Bodyguard to last more than a decade. But I can conceal carry it under Florida-weight clothing!

PQ said...

There is something special about a firearm that has survived several wars, been smuggled home in a military kitbag, been lovingly looked after by three (or more) generations of the same family and is still as functional and useful as the day it was made.

An added bonus is that the gun grabbers weep tears of blood that they can never seize it, ban it or destroy it, because they don't know it exists.

Jay G said...

For a period of time I carried a 1911 that was older than my grandmother...

Now, I don't think I have anything older than mid-1980s...

Anonymous said...

I traded a couple hand-made holsters for a SIG P6 back when they were coming in pretty cheap as bulk surplus from Germany. I just love the look of a SIG pistol, no other pistol looks as sexy. But my small hands makes it impossible to reach the trigger on a P226 or any other double-stack.

So I got the P6 and I see the date stamp on the slide was my birthday. I did everything I could to love that pistol. I bought snap caps and dry fired the heck out of the pistol, I put in a P225 hammer spring to decrease the trigger weight, I bought slim grips to try to reach the trigger better, and a slim trigger for the same reason and to keep from pinching my finger against the bottom of the trigger guard.

Nothing helped. I still couldn't reach the darn trigger. And the slide release where a safety should have been? Decocker where the slide release should be? I thought I could get over that with enough training. But the recoil! That heavy 9mm single-stack flipped harder than a Glock 27. The slide was so tall, even mild loads kicked and flipped more than they had any right to.

So reluctantly, I sold the gun. A gun I can't shoot is worthless, even if it was born the same time I was. I'm still sad, but more sad that I couldn't shoot it than that I got rid of it.

staghounds said...

We're just passing through, aren't we?

Birthday guns were traditional in our family, I still have mine, my father's, and my grandfather's.

You can't convince me that at least some of the anti gun people, and some of the pro gun ones too, are motivated (at least in part and without thinking of it) by the break in tradition and family that forcing their owners to disgorge great grandfather's gun will make.

I like using old things. My clock chimes the note it did a hundred and fifty years ago, the watch makes the same tick its owner heard when Buchanan was President, and I talk about Barack while holding a fork that was made when my property was located in British North America.

It's oddly connecting and comforting to think of ourselves as temporary custodians of things that will outlive us.

Stretch said...

Range trips routinely include firearms from 1911 (date of manufacture) onward.
And nothing gets a new shooter's attention like shooting a .22 made when Model Ts and bi-planes were were the most common vehicles and steam trains had yet to reach their pinnacle.
Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to crank up the Victrola and put on a Rudy Valli 78.

Tee shirt seen at last Chantilly gun show: "I stopped using plastic guns in 4th grade."

NotClauswitz said...

All my stuff is older than me except the '89 Sig and the bull-barrel '68 S&W Model 10-8 - and of course the two newfangled space-gizmo plastic AR's I built.
Around here when Hunting Season comes around the small supply of .30-40 Krag disappears, those guns are still out there hunting.

Dr. Feelgood said...

As one of the resident young'uns, I have a single-stack 9mm that predates my entrance (S&W 39-2). Alloy-frame, even.

It pulls duty in the GunVault for home defense. I ocassionally carry it, but only when my daily handgun is down for maintenance.

Steve Skubina said...

I'm always amused at the concepot of an "obsolete" weapon. There might be weapons with longer range, greater reliability, higher rate of fire, but a poke in the midsection with a gladius gets you just as dead as a JDAM dropped on your head.

Anonymous said...

"how many folks have a CCW or home defense gun with a birthday that antedates their own?"

Me too! A Colt .38 super auto 1911 manufactured in 1929- I wasn't manufactured until 1961...

I'm with Staghounds, I know the history of the pistol before it came into our family and I know who it is going to after I leave earth. It is a comforting feeling to know you are only part of the big picture in life.

Roberta X said...

My Sistema Colt and several of the Stars. --But you knew that.

Joe in PNG said...

It may be easier to list the gun I own that is younger than me- a S&W Mod 64-2 snubbie.
Of these oldies, my favorite is the old, break action single shot 20ga that my Grandmother once used as a club on some turkeys raiding her garden.

B.S. philosopher said...

I just got through loading 20 .50-70 blackpowder rounds for dad to use to go hunting with his 1869 Trapdoor. It has an 1863 dated lock. It shoots fine and is about a minute of whitetail at 100 yds.

He fully intends to take at least a couple of does from his treestand this year.

I'm hunting with a "new gun" my 1898 Krag using a 220 gr. Hornady over an appropriate (and close to original) amount of I 4350. With the right ammo, it keeps a nice 3 inch group at 100 yards.

Matt G said...

I carried Dad's old 1948 vintage 1911 on duty for awhile.

One of the first guns that I ever carried concealed was a Colt 1908 made about 1915 or '16.

When a friend moved and found that he'd packed away ALL of his guns, I loaned him a S&W 1917 made in 1918.

My daily off-duty carry gun is a worn M36, but it's new-- about 1978 or so. I remember watching dad buy it new.

Am taking an old WWII vintage No 4 Mk 1 hog hunting in a week. Probably will take the 1972 vintage M94, as well, along with that '03 Springfield, and a late '60's vitage flattop Blackhawk. Ambo Driver's bringing a '73 Winchester that I'm scrounging up .38-40 ammo for, and that rifle is pre-1900.

One of my fave hunting shotguns is a family legacy 1148 in 16 ga., made decades before my birth.

My go-to house longgun may be an iron-sighted Remington 1100 shotgun, but the house semi-auto carbine is a 1943 GM M1 .30 Carbine.

Gewehr98 said...

Are old guns really obsolete? A rhetorical question really, as I shipped off my 1870s-vintage Remington Rolling Block receiver today to get color case-hardened, and a 32" half-octagon/half-round barrel installed. A .40-65 Winchester reamer will get run into the chamber end, and once the last coat of boiled linseed oil gets rubbed into the exhibition-grade walnut furniture, Axtell Creedmoor sights will complete the ensemble. I hope it looks horribly obsolete when done. :-)

WV = "destr" - Partial destruction, perhaps the steel buffalo silhouettes when thwacked by an incoming .40-65 round launched from a Rolling Block Creedmoor?

DanH said...

This reminds me of my most prized possession, my Winchester Model 57 12ga. i don't know for sure how old it is, but it is at least 27 years old. It belonged to my grandfather who died in 1983. If I had to guess I'd say it was probably older than me, as in pre-1975.

DanH said...

Bleh that was Model 59 not 57

Sigman said...

My favorite carry pistol is a 1911 who's frame and slide were produced in 1943. When I got it, it was minus parts and in sad shape. With the help of people who know way more than me, it'll shoot sub 2" at 25 yards and feed anything. It's at Robar now for the Roguard treatment. If I had to only have 1 gun, the .45 would be it.

James Nelson said...

It's not really suitable for carry due to it's size, but there is a 1916 vintage Colt New Service in .45 Colt with the 5&1/2 inch barrel stashed in a secret place in the living room. Everything on it is tight and it has the stag grips and it always works.

jed said...

My 1911 was mfrd in '44 or '45, so it's older than I. Probably, my Stevens .22, and the '98 Mauser action I still haven't gotten around to reassembling and putting a barrel on. I've never tried to look up the serial numbers on the Stevens, nor the Mauser, which is Haitian milsurp. I assume nobody was making Mauser actions in the 60's, but admit I don't know anything about it.

Anonymous said...


You know, every one of the guns you mentioned (except maybe AD's old 38-40) are models that I "owned" at one point or another; multiples of most of them over the thirty years that I actively traded.

But as a dealer, while I did and do appreciate the history and quality they represented, I didn't fire or really contemplate most of them as anything other than inventory.

What I admire about yours is the relationship you have with them, and with your dad, whose earlier article inspired this one at Tam's. Your appreciation of the guns themselves, while obvious, pales in comparison to just how that appreciation came to be. That and your direct knowledge of and connection to the history of your guns is something that I envy mightily.

While Tam specified active carry or home defense weapons, your little ode to your guns, where they came from and how they came to be in your hands, spurred a wistful moment for me. One of the few (as in less than double digits) pieces that I kept when I liquidated the gun side of the business I was selling, is an 1889 Remington 10 ga. double. Beautiful and original but with an obvious history of being used as it was intended, it taught me a few things as I read about it. One was that while damascus barrels on early shot shooters are well known, up until then I did not know that there was a third barrel-building method of wire-twist. While the mild steel tubes are often considered more desireable today to buyers who want to be able to shoot modern low brass loads, the hand-tooled twisted versions were the high-grade models of their day. The strips of the damascus was the top of the line, while the twisted wire construct of my gun was the mid-grade field gun.

So this old Remmie was a user; I know it came from the U.P. of Michigan, but I can only imagine its original purchaser, with a need for the power to take down game and defend against all comers in what was then a dense and unforgiving wilderness...and the means to afford what was a premium and not at all cheap gun in its day. And what generational passings or financial transactions brought it to FLA with no immediate family to appreciate it, and write about it, and yes, to love it and what it represents...elements that are so obvious in what you and your dad write about your own heirlooms.

Thanks for sharing, and for spurring that recurrent thought of mine as to the history and pedigree of our favorite tools and toys. I've mentioned to Tam before that a niche firearms business specializing in vintage and classic guns might be the only thing that could lure me to endure the unpleasant and risky aspects of being an FFL again, with more of an eye this time toward getting as much backstory as possible when buying and including that information with the gun to the buyer when selling. Posts and comments like this just might be moving me closer to doing just that.


DaveFla said...

Now retired to the safe: S&W Model of 1905/4th, aka Pre-M&P, in .38sp and with a 6" barrel. Supica & Nahas put it just before WWI for production, and before heat treated cylinders. That makes it about 50 years older than me.

It came to me via my father, was once carried as a duty piece by an uncle, and hadn't been fired in fifty years at best guess. The extensive flame cutting in the top strap and the damage to the crane (couldn't even close the cylinder) were just the start of its problems.

A machinist friend helped with the crane, after which I pulled it to bits and dunked everything in the wash. Back together and with a new Hogue grip, it put 158g LRNs downrange nicely. Without exploding, thankfully: I made certain to run 750 fps loads.

Given the wear & damage to the muzzle/crown, top strap, and cone, plus the slop in the lockup, I've decided not to press my luck, and it now stays in the safe. But it served as a backup to the newer HD guns for about a year.

Anonymous said...

I have a 1944 Ithaca 1911A1 that was made into a national match by the Army.
It will feed empty shells into the chamber as fast as you can work the slide, it has never once failed with any kind of ammo.
And no, it is not for sale.

Ed Foster said...

B.S. Philosopher shades me by several years, dammit all.

The Gov't decided to try the Remington rolling block in the early 1870's, and had the Springfield arsenal make up 3,500 for Army and Navy trials, using borrowed Remington machinery.

After deciding to stay with the trapdoor, most of the U.S. eagle/Springfield Arsenal marked No. 1's (in 50-70) were sold off to France.

The Frogs dumped them in North Africa, where stey were ornaments due to lack of ammo.

Mine came back from Morrocco in the 60's, with a mint bore. Sadly, Abdullah sawed the barrel off at 23inches, so there went the collector's value.

Yeah, I know about all those 50-70RB barrels Turner had down at Dixie Gunworks, but the U.S. rifles had a distinct profile, quite different from the National Guard RB's Massa Kirkland had stashed.

Still, it's kind of cool firing my little .50 cal carbine at a bush 500 yards away across a sandpit (and hitting it too).

The little black dot lifts higher and higher, then drops into the target, and a second or two later you hear the thump of it's strike.

Reminds me of the 106mm reckless rifle at range. Like lobbing watermelons.

One admission. I did replace the broken mainspring. Otherwise my Model 1871 (1872 manufacture date) is tight, shiny, and completely original, and busts soupcans at 50 yards with 450 grain flatpoints and 5 grains of 4759 under 50 grains of FFg.

As for how many firearms there are in America, the University of Chicago School of Criminology has done the only peer reviewed and nationwide study ever, each year since 1950.

Back in '50, the average gun owner in the U.S. owned 5 guns, for a total of 200 million.

Now he/she owns 6, for a total of 510 million. 40 million owners then, 85 million owners now.

The media stopped quoting the actual number when it hit 300 million. I suppose it "legitimised" it somehow.

So they use figures that are 40 years out of date, and never get called on it. Droll, since the 1960's numbers they use came from earlier editions of the same U of C study.

deadcenter said...

I have a S&W 1917 DA .45 that sometimes resides in my nightstand. The S/N is 177xxx putting it somewhere in the late '20s to early '30s or roughly 35 years before I was a gleam in Dad's eye.

SDanger said...

I've got a shotgun, for home defense, that is between 3 and 22 years older than me. The gun was police surplus and all the info I was given was that it was from the 60's or 70's.

kaflick said...

My home defensr gun is new but my favorite rifle (springfield 1903) just had it's 100th birthday.