Are Guns From The Past Better Than Today’s?

I read the comments of my articles when I either want to know what my readers want to see in future pieces or just to get the occasional laugh. We have some very knowledgable readers here whose comments I really enjoy. One of those is ‘Dyspeptic Gunsmith’ and his accurate pronouncements on various gun-related topics are always worth a read.

In my recent review of the Ruger 22/45 Lite, I made the comment that “Today we shooters enjoy more options than ever before” in the introductory paragraph. This was meant as a lead-in to describe how Ruger frequently has its finger on the pulse of the American gun buyer and manages to ride the wave on multiple popular segments of the market at once.

I was browsing the comments and found this from DG (slightly edited for readability):

“Um, no, we don’t. … My point is that we have fewer and fewer companies making unique firearms than in the past. We have few, if any, options for a high-quality firearm made in the US than ever before.

If I had to point to a “golden age” with the greatest number of options, it would be the post-WWII era of ’47 to ’59 or so. There were options for inexpensive firearms, and there were high quality (and very high quality) firearms made for American consumers.

You can’t get a new Python today, for example. There are no .22 rifles like the Winchester 52, Remington 37, Kimber Model 82, made today etc. You can’t get a Colt Woodsman new, nor the Match. You have to wait for quality revolvers or a Model 41 or 52 from S&W.

There is no Winchester Model 21, nor 24. Most all the quality O/U shotguns come from Italy, for which shooters pay big bucks – which could be made at those prices here in the US. But American gun companies are content to keep making shoddier and shoddier crap to chase lower and lower prices.

The only people who think that “we [American] shooters enjoy more options than ever before” must be people so young, they have no recollection of what the US gun makers used to offer the American gun consumer. And like so many young people today, they think that history started when they were born.

Hint: No, it didn’t. If you knew anything about the history of the US gun market, you’d know what we’ve lost.”

This got me thinking about what’s happening in the industry now and where we’re going. It also got me thinking about some things I believe DG got both right and wrong, and what I did, too.

Generational Differences

This is, firstly, not a debate about age. There would not be any new writers in this industry if knowledge wasn’t passed on or new views and opinions expressed and no new voices allowed to be heard. Some people have this idea that a gun writer must be 60+ years old, fought in two wars, been involved in a dozen shoot-outs, and personally knew Jeff Cooper. That’s not the way of the future, nor was it the nature of the past. Everyone was new at one point and that shapes our views.

I’m a 28-year-old city-dwelling journalist, small-scale chicken and duck farmer, and classic rifle competitor with no famous connections. But I’ve published over 100 articles on guns and ammo. Like it or not, it’s the voices of those like me that you’ll be reading going forward.

My (and my generation’s) idea of guns is different from those of prior generations and that’s something that’s hard for some to understand. My generation has no patience for a Colt Python when inexpensive, super-reliable, hyper accurate pistols exist. To us, guns like the Python are novelties at best. This, again, comes from a guy who collects vintage guns as a hobby and loves old revolvers.

Technology vs. Time

Folks in the 1950s had a very different opinion of arms as compared to people of the 1850s. Take into perspective that a person born in the 1860s could have lived to see nuclear proliferation in their lifetime. We live in an era now that’s radically different from it was 60 years ago and to say that people are just too young to know what we’re missing in the guns of days past is simplistic and doesn’t give current gun owners enough credit.

There were likely men who hated the idea of cartridge revolvers after having lived with cap and ball their entire lives. There were probably a thousand arguments about why self-contained ammo was a bad idea, but it prevailed. There were probably cave men who had the same thoughts about the angle and quality of obsidian used in their spears. It never ends and to say that we’re at a loss because we’ve moved on technologically is a fallacy.

Now for the topic at hand. I disagree with Dyspeptic that the golden age was 1947-59. I believe that the true and only golden age of arms was during the Industrial Revolution and we’ve seen few true advancements since. We are, however, in something of a golden age now because we do, in fact, have more options than ever before on both an individual and mass scale. The everyman can afford to arm himself with myriad excellent options that are all based on successful, time-tested designs.

As far as the idea that we don’t have Colt Pythons, the Woodsman, Winchester 21s and 24s, etc. and are lesser for it misses the bigger picture. If not for Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead, most normal people wouldn’t even know that the Colt Python even existed. Gun designs come and go. Some we miss, some we don’t. Some are classics, but they aren’t all 100% better than what we have now by any means.

When it comes to quality going downhill, I have to debate that, too. We don’t have garbage materials and crap guns today. Or not many of them. Plastic isn’t trash, and I say that despite the fact I prefer blued steel and wood stocks.

What we don’t have is the types of factories and mass craftsmanship any more. It’s still available, of course, but you’re going to (handsomely) pay for it.

If people in the old days had GLOCK 19s, they would have used them. I would lay odds that every gunslinger, lawman, and soldier 50 to 100 years ago would have wanted one if the technology was available. They had the latest and greatest and used the most advanced technology available to them then, just as we do now. Hell, even those caveman would’ve upgraded from Cro-Magnon to Pro-Magnum if you handed it to him and told him to go after those mammoths.

Like every generation, we get to look back and be nostalgic about the past and think that those years were better than they are now. The guns of today are highly marketed consumer products. Many of us own more than one. Guns are also less expensive now thanks to mass production and modularity. Our guns today are rarely treated as investments due to the fact that we’ve reached (or are reaching) near peak saturation.

Inflation and purchasing power are often forgotten when people say ‘I used to buy .22 for a penny a round’ and ‘a rifle for $50’. Today we have more and better guns that we can afford to own recreationally at a lower cost relative to our income. The one cent .22 round (in 1950, let’s say) is relatively expensive, being equivalent to about ten cents today.

I can go get .22LR for cheaper in proportion to my income today than someone in 1950 could. Today I can buy Federal 36gr for five cents a round, which is cheaper than almost any time in history when adjusted for inflation. The goes for guns, too. A $50 rifle in 1950 consumed a much bigger chunk of income — about twice as much — as a typical .22LR plinker does today.

Are We Losing? If So, What?

So have we lost something since those good old days? I don’t think so. I think that companies like Colt fail for a number of reasons and regular guns like the Python become classics as a result. Same thing with James Dean, who is still fairly famous today because he died young. He never tarnished with age and as a result became a piece of Americana.

Today is another golden age. How many obscure makers can you name from the 1700s? 1800s? 1900s? Literally hundreds have come and gone, despite some very good designs.

What then is the true measure of success? A thousand different designs that never sell? I guarantee that if every single gun ever designed was put into production again today and everyone selected their favorite, most people would still land on today’s most popular guns. It’s good that we have a lot of designs to choose from, but it’s also good that some die and never raise again.

I don’t think we’ve lost much that didn’t need to be lost. I don’t think that Dyspeptic was wrong in asserting that we have lost something, but many of those things are better now that they’ve been replaced by newer designs and processes. We often look back at the past fondly, but the past is different for every generation.

It may seem ridiculous now, but one day we’ll sit back and say, “We lost a lot when the G19, AR-15, and 1911 went away. Those were the days. Directed energy weapons today are just so cheaply made and mass-produced.”

Don’t laugh. It can happen. And probably will.

comments

  1. avatar Eric says:

    I think today we have higher quality overall but much less style. As an art piece a WW2 colt 1911 is far superior to a Glock but if my life is on the line I am going to be grabbing the Glock.

    1. avatar Forward Assist says:

      Great come to Jesus moment. DG has a perspective according to his gun values. The same could be about houses, cars, tools, and even women.

      However…
      “But I’ve published over 100 articles on guns and ammo.”

      The above statement churned my tummy. It means nothing beyond the fact that you created your own reality and are now inhabiting it. Trust me. I know what I’m talking about. I have over 500 published articles.

    2. avatar Erik Weisz says:

      What if you have to hit something further away than bad-breath distance? The 1911 should be in your top three pistol choices on a list the glock isn’t even on. Same if your target IS bad-breath distance and you have to club him with your pistol – he might not even notice he just got pistol whipped if you try it with a glock. The only category glock wins is in weight – and a Browning HiPower is a few scant ounces more and an order of magnitude better in every single way. A CZ RAMI is half the size of the glock and even with a much shorter barrel is still more accurate, plus it’s all steel and has a hammer and a safety.
      The only reason anyone thinks glock (or any other plastic POS) is the epitome of modernity and the tip of the spear in arms development is marketing hype. It’s not better than anything – it’s just cheaper. Your best chance at hitting your target with a glock is to tape it to a rock and toss it with a catapult.

      1. avatar Clark Kent says:

        Wow. Your post is proof positive you just can’t fix stupid.

    3. avatar Zebra Dun says:

      I learned to shoot pistols in the USMC and with the 1911A1, I own one a Colt Gov. Mk IV Series 70 I have owned it for 42 years I bought it brand new in 1976. It has seen a lot of carry and use.
      I have handled and shot a Glock G19 X and I can tell you right now I’d grab that Glock over that 1911A1 if I had to have a gunfight.

  2. avatar anarchyst says:

    Before 1968, you could order a rifle or pistol by mail-order across state lines and have it shipped directly to you without any federal “paperwork. The prohibition on THAT was “losing a lot”…

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Wasn’t that easy, anyhow. No internet, no credit cards, maybe a catalogue followed by a phone call, resulting in writing a check and mailing it to the manufacturer, then waiting a few weeks for delivery. Much preferred method was go to the store and come home with it. Pick up some ammo while you’re there.

      1. avatar Draven says:

        Anyone else remember “Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.”?

  3. avatar Draven says:

    I saw that comment the other day and left it alone, because tbh for every one of his examples I can find a modern equivalent, that didn’t exist in the supposed ‘golden age’ of ’47 to ’59, and usually, they are going to be roughly the same price or cheaper once you account for inflation.

  4. avatar C.S. says:

    When you have energy weapons that will replace gunpowder, the batteries that power them will be considered explosives.

  5. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    I agree on all counts.

    I suspect that today we have but a tiny fraction of the extremely skilled craftsman that we had 70 years ago.

    I also think materials controls and processes are better today than 70 years ago. And thanks to CNC machining processes, we have a LOT of very good models available today.

    What I think we have lost today: the superb craftsmanship of yesteryear. And that is probably for an important reason: because there is no longer anywhere near the demand for superb craftsmanship that rises to the level of a multi-generational family heirloom. As much as I LOVE some of the indescribably beautiful bluing finishes from decades ago, I am really not interested in paying an extra $700 for such a finish.

    In summary: I am quite content with the incredible utility of the inexpensive firearms that are available today. I do not believe such value has ever been so widely available in the past.

    1. avatar Ing says:

      I was thinking the same thing. Dyspeptic Gunsmith laments the lack of craftsmanship in today’s guns, and he’s absolutely right. Fine craftsmanship is almost completely abesnt from today’s firearms market, and that’s a big loss.

      What we have instead is the best manufacturing technology the world has ever seen. Better metallurgy and repeatable precision machining mean that firearms with accuracy and durability that would have been legendary in the “golden age” are within reach of just about everyone.

      If utility is the gauge, we’re in the golden age right now. If craftsmanship is the gauge, not so much.

      1. avatar c4v3man says:

        Part of the problem is when you have something like a Smith and Wesson 929 this is not only a “Jerry Miculek signature model”, but also a “performance center” model, that has untouched rough finishes on trigger surfaces, incomplete or non-existent chamfer on the cylinder, etc that is easy to assume would be bog standard on a “competition ready” “performance center massaged” product. I fail to see how paying someone a couple hundred dollars to slick up an already $1,000+ revolver is reasonable, especially if having someone do the job right en-masse at the factory would be dramatically more streamlined and cost-effective.

        There’s an argument to be made that when it’s easy to get a functional/reliable weapon produced so cheaply, that marketing a cost++ premium product as being worked on by master craftsmen should, you know, actually be worked on by master craftsmen. I suppose that’s more criticism for the marketing department than anything else, but it’s a legitimate complaint in my opinion.

        But sure, the cost for a modern “performance model” + required aftermarket gunsmithing to actually make it a quality product is arguably cheaper today than a factory produced quality product 50 years ago. It’s simply a shame that it makes everything LESS consistent. A randomly selected Python has a good chance of being a nicely finished, quality pistol, whereas a 929 MIGHT be a nicely finished, quality pistol IF you’d had work done to it. You can’t pick up a 929 and assume it’s a great firearm that needs no work done on it.

        1. avatar john says:

          I refuse to buy new S&Ws. Only ones I own/consider for purchase must directly strike the cartridge, no transfer bar crap. When S&W ownership was transferred in the late 80s and build processes were changed to make the new buyer more money, the quality never recovered. Also I am only 39 so not a fudd, but facts dont care about your feelings.

    2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      The ‘superb craftsmanship of yesteryear’ is hardly lost. – http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2018/08/jon-wayne-taylor/my-last-rifle-delivered/

    3. avatar New Continental Army says:

      I like what DG has to say about the matter. I don’t agree with him on everything, but I think his overall point was in that era, the majority of the guns were high quality AND affordable. Now there’s tons of high quality guns still, but they are outrageous. That’s why everyone buys glocks/ARs cheap and stacks them deep. Personally I think both him and this article are wrong about the “golden age” of firearms. I personally think the golden age was from the 80s to just before 2012. Why? Massive, Soviet, surplus weaponry. And ammo. Cheap. And I mean goddamn cheap. You could buy a crate of rifles and a pallet of ammo for them, for the price of one Wilson combat. You could outfit your whole militia in one pay check. Those were the times man. Those were the times…

      1. avatar BradleyD says:

        The Soviet and Chinese/Norinco glut is akin to strip mining; it is cashing out a limited resources as fast as possible. Once the Wall fell and the Soviet economy went belly up they needed an influx of cash. It was fire sale. Even factoring in things like exchange rates they were probably selling at a ‘loss’ when they were dumping their surplus. They had guns, needed the money, so sell the guns to get the money.

        The WWI and WWII surpluses won’t be coming again for, hopefully, ever. In America alone you had 16 million in uniform; by 1947 it was 1.5 million. The equipment would literally rot if you didn’t sell it off for next to nothing. The military is about 1.2 million today with 800,000 Reserves and tends to stay about that number. Unless there is another boom and bust, military surplus will never been as good.

      2. avatar Stereodude says:

        But were they really equivalently affordable? They seem affordable when their non-inflation adjusted prices are viewed through our 2018 lenses. I’m pretty sure if you adjust for inflation and then factor in income growth they’re not going to be all that affordable. Inflation from the late 50’s to now is 8-10x depending on the year. Real Median Family income is about 2x. So a $100 gun in the late 50’s would be $800-1000 now and people make roughly twice as much. So, it’s really like a $1600-2000 gun now. Is that affordable?

    4. avatar Sam in Ohio says:

      I concur. The quality of steel and machining available via CNC controlled lathes/mills is better than what came off the machines of yesteryear. However, compare the fit/finish of Winchester Model 12 or a Remington Model 10 to a Mossberg 500/non-Wingmaster 870 and you can tell a difference. The older base models were hand finished/polished to a greater degree than the utilitarian fit/finish of base models today.

      Comparing the trigger pull of two L Frame S & W, one from the mid-80s and the other from around 25 years newer and there’s no question which was better. It had nothing to do with number of rounds fired through the older model though a “shoot-it action job” probably helped it some. The older model was produced when Glock 17s were only used by the Austrian Army and when 2d generation Smith Autos were still being produced. S&W just put more effort/time into them back then because J/K/L/N frame revolvers were a much bigger portion of the product line.

  6. avatar DapperGunsmith says:

    Well written! Totally agree!

  7. avatar RCC says:

    I have two options on this- yes I can buy cheap rifle or shotgun that can out preform most rifles in history for a few hundred dollars. I bought a Thompson Dimension last year plus spare barrel in different calibre for under $1000. Something unthinkable from a cost point of view a few years ago.

    Then I can pick up my great grandfathers everday English shotgun from 1880 and it handles better and is lighter than anything aside from some very expensive Italian guns. It is the only firearm listed in my will with a waiting list of younger relatives who want to use it when it goes to the range.

  8. avatar TheOtherDavid says:

    Ruger comes to mind as an example of both the best and the worst of the modern era for firearms manufacturing. They produce a dizzying array of guns that do appeal to a wide range of folks in the market. But the risk of that diversity of product, and the requisite requirement for expansion of production across a wide variety of platforms, is quality goes down. I love my Ruger GP100, and my “original” LCPs always go bang. But when I purchased an AR556 it went back to the factory for a loose barrel nut and other manufacturing issues, and came back with a different part broken. After a second trip for repair it seems to work. My LCP II went back to the factory twice for multiple failures to the point that they said they didn’t even want to try to repair it – would I just like a different pistol.

    These are firearms that are well liked and are totally reliable for many users. But variety and mass production are not without costs, to the point that the “new generation” of Rugers, for me at least, are fine for the range but the trust is lost for an EDC platform.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      Any company that doubles it’s workforce and production in a short time will have QC issues, and S,R&Co was no exception.

  9. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

    Disagree. I don’t think anyone 40 years from now is going to be wistful for a Glock. Like most modern firearms they serve a purpose and are certainly reliable, but God why are they so damn ugly? Would it kill a manufacturer to at least offer options that came with regularity in the past? How about a Colt detective special. The bluing on a very basic Colt of the past more than matches just about anything made today. I could give you a hundred small examples that most gun enthusiasts today never once learned nor will they ever be made aware of because all that seems to be pushed at TTAG and the magazines is AR that and Glock this. (and their plastic fantastic competitors)
    Sorry and no offense but I will take the gunsmith from Wyoming’s opinion on firearms with a lot more seriousness than any kid writer with self proclaimed expertise.
    TTAG came along when Obama was elected, and so many here seem to believe that firearms were invented about the same time they bought their first gun in 2010

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      In 2311, when Starfleet is fully armed with phaser rifles in the 40 watt range, there will still be 1911s in the arms locker in case the Borg show up.

      1. avatar Southern Cross says:

        Or replicator files to produce them when needed.

      2. “Nadion emitting phaser weapons usually have internal or external sarcium krillide battery or powerpacks…Equal to megaWatts of power….” ST: Deep Space 9 technology manual… *(DON’T ask me how I know this….see my bro’s collection items…)*

      3. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

        Nice. Just ignore my points, change the conversation to a pop culture reference and then pat self on head. Just like a hipster.

        1. avatar RidgeRunner says:

          Seriously, you got hopelessly hijacked by Sci-Fi nerds.

        2. avatar Clark Kent says:

          That is because your points were not worth considering or discussing. Grow up.

    2. avatar Timothy says:

      I could liken firearms to collectibles. High cost lives at the conjunction of quality and rarity. I agree that Glocks and ARs won’t be the sought after firearms of yesteryear until such time as they are discontinued and become rare. Much like a Mosin Nagant’s price didn’t spike until the supply dried up. I find it unlikely that Glock or ARs will be discontinued in the next several decades.

    3. avatar LarryinTX says:

      WTF happened to the Colt Detective Special? I got one in 1972 or 3, for my wife to shoot while I was shooting my Python, and both of us ended up loving it, but when I looked to get another a few years later, it was no longer available. With a 3″ barrel it would be just about perfect for CC.

  10. avatar Bernard says:

    DG sure loves his Pythons and he knows a lot. But I agree with Josh. Today’s guns are better than the past.

    https://i.redd.it/8l5glgg0mic01.jpg

    Was there anything like this during the 50’s? I don’t think so.

  11. avatar Survivordude1090 says:

    Older guns just seem more robust. I like old Mausers, Mosins, Garands, Springfields, K31s, M1As, etc. Do you think (assuming guns laws don’t get in the way) you’re going to see an AR-15 on a used rack like current surplus guns that are any good down the road? I just don’t see it happening. Give me something “War Proof”. YMMV

  12. avatar anonymoose says:

    Everyone today is just ripping off each other. The market is all about fluted non-Glock Glocks, boutique ARs and a few actually-innovative semi-auto intermediate tacticool rifles that the AR purists look down their noses at, and increasingly expensive and exotic 1911. And then you’ve got your imported shotguns and bolt-actions that frequently get recalled, and S&W still won’t get rid of their ILS crap. It’s pathetic.

    1. avatar Draven says:

      ILS?

      1. avatar Anymouse says:

        Internal Lock System – aka the Hillary Hole – that sometimes engage under heavy recoil.

        1. avatar Draven says:

          You mean the internal locks that aren’t on all of their guns? Yeah, that happened, awhile ago. My M&P Shield, purchased when i lived in CA *spit* , doesn’t have one.

    2. avatar DJ says:

      I don’t see the 1911 going away anytime soon. You want a quality handgun you are talking Ed Brown, Wilson, Nighthawk, Volkman, etc. I now only buy the Colts and S&As from th 70s and 80s. There is no quality at Kimber, Colt or S&W. I hate polymer handguns. Kruger makes a quality firearms.

      Wish I new were this was headed in the 70s and 80s. Who would have thought today’s Colts and S&As would be junk like the American Autos are.

      1. avatar Draven says:

        My polymer S&W is, according to everything i have seen, just as reliable if not more so than the metal S&W autoloaders that preceded them. And smaller, and lighter, and cheaper.

  13. avatar m. says:

    women, and maybe airplanes and boats should be attractive & curvy. if a weapon functions properly, who gives a s**t what it looks like?

    1. avatar Mike says:

      Yes guns are tools. Glocks don’t have to look pretty, they just have to work. However from a marketing standpoint it is easier to sell something that looks good. Beretta guns often look good with sleek lines, think their .22s and 9mm carbine. And the wife’s need to say “that looks nice”
      Older guns are good and strong. A 100 year old Enfield bolt is still slick and smooth.
      Can we have a modern break action Revolver like the 45 Webley, mine is still going strong and is 102 years old. Will my Glocks still work in the year 2120?

      1. avatar Clark Kent says:

        Yup, your Glock will be running fine and you will still be able to find replacement parts if you need them (unlike the Webley).

    2. avatar Erik Weisz says:

      I have a lot of tools – particularly my wood planes I made myself – that are perfectly functional as well as beautiful. I take very good care of them, even keeping them oiled and polished, and many of them are very old and – just like guns – work better and look better and last longer and hold more value than most anything made today. I very much care what they look like.

  14. avatar Lance says:

    When it comes to function and utility, oh yeah. Firearms today are (generally) indeed more reliable, functional, and consistent than the firearms of yesteryear. No one really debates that. Its just that its really hard to dismiss the craftsmanship, ingenuity, history, and soul of older/obsolete firearms.

    I love me some blued steel and wood. However, I can admit I would grab a glock over C96 or a cap&ball revolver when my life counted on it. At least I won’t miss it if it gets confiscated…

  15. avatar Ed Rogers says:

    I’m not into safe queens. I shoot all of my weapons. Quality of today vs. yesteryear? I suspect it’s a mixed bag. I know enough that all mechanical objects can fail. My Glock 42 kept jamming, my current P224 doesn’t always go into battery and my brand new 686-6 locked up with 158 grain ammo.

    Will I forsake them for older guns? No. I sold the Glock 42 though.

  16. avatar tdiinva says:

    Nostalgia for a past that never was is constant theme. The least expensive 1911 is probably better made than original. Any mechanical object made today is better than it was 50 years ago. Which would you rather drive on a daily basis, a 1966 Mustang or a 2018 Mustang?

    1. avatar Geoff "Mess with the Bull, get the Horns" PR says:

      *Zero* argument there on cars.

      Back then 50,000 – 75,000 miles was considered the lifespan of an engine. When I retired my Honda si 15 years ago, it had over 300,000 miles on it, and still a bit of life left in that motor. I was putting a quart of oil a month in it at that point…

      1. avatar jwm says:

        My first new car had a 12 month 12,000 mile warranty on it. Which was pretty much the industry standard for the time. It was common for folks to trade in every 3 years. About 100,000 miles was the top life expectancy on a car then.

        My daily driver now is a 22 yo 4runner with more than 250,000 miles on it and I still road trip in it.

        1. avatar Thank You says:

          I have had both a 1973 Ford pickup and many newer models right up into the 2000s. There is no comparison between the older and the newer ones. And by that I mean the newer ones are MUCH better. My ’05 Ford had a payload of about 2100 pounds, and even then it wasn’t touching the wheels. We used to fill up a 150 gallon water tank in the bed of my ’73 to take around to trees on the prairie and it would be nearly bottoming out. The engines were big, but produced far less torque and didn’t tow nearly as well. The body panels dented just as easily and sometime moreso. The rings on those older trucks would be worn to the point of burning oil out the tail at around 75K miles. These new engines – holy cow. My wife has a Toyota with a 10000 mile oil change interval. I can go out, get that oil out at 9900 miles and only slightly less GOLDEN than when I put it in. We used to put oil in our old cars and by three thousand it would be black, sometimes by 1500. Our family works in Toyota manufacturing and it is crazy what these companies will do now. They got a Tacoma with 1 million miles on it from a guy and brought it into a warehouse and completely disassembled it over a half mile to measure tolerances and look at what was done right. In the 1980s, GM released the Pontiac Fiero knowing full well that the oil sump ran permanently a quart low. The reason was they had put an engine from another car in but the oil sump hang too low. Solution was to just put a smaller sump on and run the car FROM THE FACTORY on too little oil. Much of the “old days” was garbage and hucksterism.

        2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          TY, traded my old 2000 Chevy PU last year for a 2017 F-150. The old 5.3L V8 pumped out 285hp and 325ft/lbs of torque. The new 2.7L V6 pumps out 325hp and 375ft/lbs of torque and gets 25% better mpgs (runs about the same rpms btw). The truck I had before was a ’92 Chevy with a 6.5L turbo diesel and it had (I think) 190hp and 385ft/lbs of torque. The Super Duty turbo diesels are cranking out nearly 1000ft/lbs of torque. There’s definitely something to be said about the new technology when it comes to getting the most out of a drop of fuel.

        3. avatar LarryinTX says:

          I intended to keep my first car for 3 years and trade it, but what I bought was a ’71 Dodge Charger R/T, and there was nothing around which could touch its performance 3 years later, so I kept it. For 29 years. After buying a 2000 Camaro SS, I finally let it go, and my wife still hasn’t forgiven me, she loved it! But as a *really* fast car it ran 0-60 in 6.4 seconds, and turned the 1/4 in 14.6 at 99 mph. It also got 12 1/2 mpg. Today I drive a 2012 BMW 135 convertible which is light-years faster than that Charger or that Camaro, needs an oil change every 15,000 miles and never uses a drop, and gets 25 mpg. We have progressed, whether we like it or not.

    2. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

      Belief in a future promising a new Eden is just as old. The future is always better right? When did we last land on the moon? 1973? We have been promised since we were kids that the cure for cancer is just around the corner, and yet hundreds of thousands die from it every year. The list goes on and on. As for mechanical items I would generally agree with you on cars, and many items, but guns are simple. A good design is a good design. What is the heavy machine gun used around the world designed about 100 years ago? I like most of the newer firearms, just wish they would spend a little bit of time in quality control.

  17. avatar Geoff "Mess with the Bull, get the Horns" PR says:

    I imagine what a WW II soldier who had just landed at Normandy would have thought of a Glock 21 replacing his 1911.

    “WTF is this flimsy POS?”

    Then I imagine a year later, when he was living a muddy foxhole near Bastogne or in a steaming jungle on a south Pacific island and he suddenly realized he never saw a spot of rust on it and nearly twice the magazine capacity of that 1911. And that fired… Every. Damn. Time. he pulled the trigger without fail.

    I think that soldier would be mighty impressed with that ‘plastic fantastic’.

    We’ve lost craftsmanship. We’ve gained what technology has brought to the table…

    1. avatar RH says:

      Reminds me of what my uncle said about the M16. He went through boot with an M14, and was issued an M16 in Vietnam. He was sold during his deployment. It “looked like cheap Jap shit”, but it was lighter, more accurate, and he could carry about twice as much ammo.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        The jungle limited the number of times you wanted to make a 500 yard shot, and in exchange you got twice the ammo. The M16 rocked. Running out of ammo in combat would suck.

  18. avatar Joshinva says:

    I have very mixed feelings on this topic. I carry modern handguns and I am confident that they will work, that being said my favorite guns are from the early smokeless powder rifles up to the 1940’s. I love the craftsmanship from days of old but I also love the reliability of today.

  19. avatar New Continental Army says:

    “Take into perspective that a person born in the 1860s could have lived to see nuclear proliferation in their lifetime.”

    There were a handful of verified civil war veterans in the 1940s left, who lived to see WW2 and the atomic bomb. Talk about change.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      My grandfather was 12 when the Wright brothers first flew, and lived to see a man land on the moon. And he did not live an extremely long life, just 88. Astonishing.

  20. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    Sure you can’t get Pythons, but they couldn’t get Rugers and loading up some ‘Ruger only’ loads and sticking them in a Python is libel to blow up the Python. Are Rugers better than Pythons? Yes, they’re just not as pretty.

    Neither could you get ARs, Glocks, or any of the most popular weapons on today’s market. And if you wanted a 1911 you had your choice between Colt and another Colt. You couldn’t buy a .44 magnum until 1956 (let alone a .500S&W), and don’t even get me started on the lack of Creedmoors. And adjusted for inflation the weapons today are more affordable and I’d wager that the cheap stuff is far better than the cheap stuff then. All in all I’d say we’ve got it way better.

    1. avatar Erik Weisz says:

      I’d agree with the caveat that you can get better than average today by paying more. The consistency from part to part is way better today, but the tolerances are also way looser (on average) depending on brand/type/etc. Today’s customs and well-smithed service models (not talking plastic shit here though) are the finest functioning, most accurate, most dependable and most easily repaired firearms that have ever been made – and they will last longer with fit/function/finishes intact. Even the old-world craftsmanship of engraving and finishes and materials (choice wood, etc) is superior (for the most part) and available, provided you’ve got deep enough pockets.

  21. avatar Ralph says:

    “We don’t have garbage materials and crap guns today.”

    Josh, you’ve just proven that you should never blog while drunk.

  22. avatar WyomingIsFullofHipstersNow says:

    The Ruger Mini-14 from the late ’70s was a throw-away, largely inaccurate, pencil-barreled hokey thing. The modern Mini is a pretty decent weapon and MUCH more accurate, for what that rifle will do. The triggers on many modern rifles are infinitely better than “ye olde timey” rifles. I have Remington 700s from the 1960s. The only thing superior about them is the “bowling pin” finish, which really could take some abuse. The “ye olde fine bluing”?? It was mostly gone by the ’70s, hahahahaha. Winchester ’94s??? You used to have to pray that you got a properly seated action. We are truly living in a golden time right now. I can go to the store and buy a brand new Weatherby Vanguard in .257 for $499 and it shoots better than my old Japanese Mark V. There are an infinite number of highly accurate and embarrassingly inexpensive rifles available right now. You used to have to have your rifle customized and toyed with infinitely to get the kind of accuracy a common $400 rifle is getting now. Adjusted for inflation, these rifles are the cheapest in history. We all own FAR more guns than we did in the old days. I am from one of the most gun-riddled places in America and back in the 1980s boys used to have four or five good guns. The real “gun nuts” so-called would have 10-15. Now almost everyone I know has at least a dozen or more. We used to go deer hunting with single shot shotguns using slugs. I can remember when my brother got a new Marlin 336 (and yes, those were better at that time) and it was considered an “expensive” gun for deer hunting. We were so proud of it. Now every other deer hunter has a totally tricked out fine quality rifle with $300-500 optic on it. Just today was at the gun store, an old man was selling his rifle. The store didn’t want his old 1980s Tasco Pronghorn scope. I bought it from him for a few bucks. But in the conversation, he was saying how when he put that scope on the rifle all those years ago, there was almost nothing available in the local stores. He is exactly right. You used to pick between Leupold if you wanted to spend money and all the cheap scopes in stock otherwise. We are living in a golden age not only in quality of manufacture, but also in availability. Almost every town has a huge national sporting goods store now. I sometimes wonder if these “ye good ol’ times” types were really there. There has always been an abundance of cheap crap produced in the firearms world. I have a copy of the 1890 Montgomery Ward catalog right here in my living room. It was filled with inexpensive no-name brand shotguns and pistols. Almost all are now gone. They were crumby, had limited availability of parts, and malfunctioned frequently. It was no different in the 1960s-70s. There are a few guns people point to and say, “Oh that was a masterpiece,” but even in its time it was expensive or not so common. Some guys had a Model 70, others had a Winchester Ranger, hahahaha. “Ye olden times” were full of Llama 1911s and were not quite as being portrayed here.

  23. avatar Big Bubba says:

    Winchester dropped the M12 because they could no longer afford to maintain assembly crews to hand hone and smooth surfaces until the action was slick as glass! LOL!
    Same for a huge number of the hand fitted memories of America’s gun greatness you mentioned!

    Assembly no longer requires honeing and polishing.
    Assemblers have no idea what role “part number 134739” in the operation of a “Bang Stick” Thunder Boomer.
    Today’s production line firearms rattle like hay bakers, assembled of parts that require “slack”, not “tolerance”.

    Have you assembled an AR from scratch?
    Installing a barrel no longer requires head gauges and extensive knowledge of “head space”, “go” and “no-got.
    Today’s technology is good enough, no finish honeing and polishing are required.

    …BUT…

    I have a goodly number of firearms that DID require handfitting! They are like no other!
    The knowledge that each was lovingly hand assembled by dedicated tradesmen gives each a warmness that todays stamped stuff can’t equal!

    1. avatar Stereodude says:

      Assembling an AR-15 and not checking the headspacing is just being lazy. But hey it’s only your safety.

  24. avatar Jean-Claude says:

    Technology has allowed manufacturers to produce inexpensive handguns which are both reliable and accurate. I have a bunch of handguns. Some are expensive, some are pretty cheap.

    I carry a Kahr CM9 which I bought for less than $300. It has been absolutely reliable after I did a fluff and buff the day I bought it. It didn’t even malfunction during the 200 round break in period.

    You can buy a Hi-Point for $150, sometimes less than $100—and it will function and hit what you aim at.

    Before CAD/CAM became ubiquitous, there were some horrendous handguns on the market. RG, Arminius, Rojak—and sometimes they just didn’t work. Now you can buy dirt cheap reliable handguns.

    The new Dan Wesson revolvers are very well received, and very well made. They are the modern Python, and can be built to such a high level of quality because of CAD/CAM.

    TTAG just reviewed the Dan Wesson Vigil. Les Baer quality for Kimber prices. How ’bout that.

  25. avatar Specialist38 says:

    We now build most sporting and defensive guns with the same processes. That means the parts have to go together with little or no fitting. This keeps prices low for the average consumer and allows more profit for the manufacturer. We all know they need double-digit growth.

    This is great for someome who wants a rifle that will shoot 1 inch groups for the least amount of money (Ruger American comes to mind). My Ruger 77 is no more accurate than an American. It does have controlled feed (which I like) and some nice wood.

    Ruger Blackhawks are built better and are more accurate than their 70s ancestors. I think cylinder boring and riflling technology is the reason. The bluing is not as nice but is more uniform. I prefer stainless so we have more options there.

    We all know what happened to Marlin and I dont know that Marlington will ever rise to the level of former years.

    Smith and Wesson has invested heavily in scandium frames to reduce weight for high pressure cartidges. I have seen enough broken frames to know it is strong but brittle if anything goes wrong. They also refuse to remove the locks from all guns except from the pro shop. I will try one if they decide to remove from all.

    Charter (current form) makes the same stuff they made when they started. Not terrible but not very good. They are the modern H&R.

    Colt went out of business (yes they did) because they were greedy, arrogant bastards who quit caring about consumer customers and didnt address new markets. They should have moved somewhere that the UAW was not strong and figured out that average citizens like guns. Their presense is a mere nuisance to other manufacturers. They should have been near the top.

    There are still nicely finished guns if youmare willing to pay the price. I will keep my plebian Blackhawks and Bisleys and forego the 3000k custom jobs. Not my cup o tea.

    There is huge difference in the ideal of accuracy these days. Especially with handguns. The old maxim was 2.5 inches at 25 yards from a rest. 25 feet seems to be where most people shoot now and folks crow about 3-4 inch groups. Lack of open spaces to shoot has brought the distance-to-target in somewhat.

    So some things are better, some are not. Quality is more a function of durability than fit and finish. It is what it is. Ruger has at least tried to keep up the variety in revolvers but refuse to make anything as svelt as a model 10 or 13 (GP100 is an anchor IMO).

    My Ruger Bearcat in 1973 cost $58.10 translating to $336.98 in 2018 dollars. Overall, my best investments have been guns. All my pedestrian S&W model 10s and 15s command top dollar these days. Just not much to replace them with if i sold them.

  26. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    If one is talking about fit and finish. Older guns, in particular revolvers. Where better made years ago.
    Quality as in some parts of guns today with MIM parts for example. Stink for the most part. Most semi autos mass produced today may be of better operating quality.
    But overall.
    Give me a 30 year old name brand and its generally in my opinion. A better made over all piece of machinery.

    1. avatar Clark Kent says:

      Plenty of MIM parts in jet and auto engines. Better get used to walking.

  27. avatar Michael in AK says:

    I love the “plastic fantastic” but when I look at some of my older S&Ws compared to what is made today, I am glad I bought those older guns.

    1. avatar Clark Kent says:

      Really? My Model 59 S&W was a piece of junk with terrible sights and a worse trigger pull(s).

  28. avatar Kenneth says:

    Seems like the author is going off the rails here. And I say that as one who has always supported him, since his first article, even when I disagreed with his points.
    “There were likely men who hated the idea of cartridge revolvers after having lived with cap and ball their entire lives. There were probably a thousand arguments about why self-contained ammo was a bad idea”
    Well, there is the weasel word; “likely”, in there, meaning he is unable to point to anything specific, but who might have NOT wanted self contained ammo in 1860? The entire arms industry searched for a better priming system than flintlock for at least a hundred years, spent an incredible amount of effort on it, and when they finally found it, the entire world converted at great expense, ASAP. In a matter of just a few years, and that includes vast numbers of old percussion arms converted to cartridges by country gunsmiths because of S&W’s patent on through drilling the cylinder, which tied up cartridge use to Smith for many years.
    Does any of that sound like a bunch of old guys just hating on anything new? It sounds to me like a world just waiting for a big improvement and jumping on the bandwagon as soon as possible.
    That’s not the situation today, and it’s not DGs point. The plastic gun revolution is not based upon a performance increase. It is based only upon cheaper, meaning “more money” for the factories. Since people all like money, and corporations care for nothing else, that explains the giant PR effort to sell plastic that has been there ever since the 1980s.
    Glocks do not even outperform wheelguns, in any area but ammo capacity. But the PR machine doesn’t care. Only profit is relevant. And that is the main point: with the industry focused on profit, all else will suffer. Choice, quality, function, EVERYTHING, will take a back seat, and corporate profits will ride shotgun.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      With hot .357 HP loads, firing from a bench single action, with my 4″ Python I could hit a 12-oz soda can 2 times out of 3 at 100 yards. My bud matched me hit for hit with his 4″ S&W .41 Mag, several times we got together over 35 years. I guess that would be around a 3″ group. I do not believe anyone can match that with a plastic fantastic.

      1. avatar Draven says:

        Uhm… sure, you just keep believing that. Seen it done with ‘plastic fantastic’ pistols like a Sig 320 RX… not even counting things like a Performance Center M&P…

        1. avatar Erik Weisz says:

          A soda can at 100yds with a plastic-framed gun? The fuck you have. Maybe a lucky shot out of 2-3 mags, but consistently? Not even Miculek.

        2. avatar Draven says:

          I wasn’t even talking about Jerry, but I’m sure he could grab some horrible plastic contraption out of his gun safe and do it just to spite you.

    2. avatar Erik Weisz says:

      Kenneth – Couldn’t agree more.

    3. avatar Ed says:

      “Only profit is relevant. And that is the main point: with the industry focused on profit, all else will suffer. Choice, quality, function, EVERYTHING, will take a back seat, and corporate profits will ride shotgun.”

      No.

      Customers seek value for money spent on their goods. Does the product meet requirements at an acceptable price compared to other products offered?

      If a business’ products do not offer value compared to competitors’ products then both sales and profitability decline.

      Producers who do not consistently and reliably operate at an acceptable level of profitability go out of business as independent operations or are purchased by other profitable organizations.

    4. avatar Clark Kent says:

      So if Glocks don’t have anything over revolvers other than ammo capacity why are police officers overwhelmingly issued Glocks? Could it be Glocks are easier to shoot, have better sights, have a longer service life than revolvers, not to mention interchangeable parts? Hint: insert the answer ‘yes’ here. THINK before you post.

  29. avatar B.D. says:

    no.

    /comment section

  30. avatar Bob Watson says:

    Are Guns From The Past Better Than Today’s?
    Yes, yes they are. It is not fitting for young people to attempt to compare the quality and esthetics of firearms from the past with the garbage they are familiar with. They do not know any better. Someday, they will be older and more mature, they will have more life experience and will be better equipped to make such value judgements.

  31. avatar bontai joe says:

    “In my recent review of the Ruger 22/45 Lite, I made the comment that “Today we shooters enjoy more options than ever before” in the introductory paragraph.”

    I disagree with more options, especially if you want a target quality revolver. I think that there are fewer medium to large producers of firearms today than during DG’s “golden era”. High Standard used to make over a dozen different handguns, plus long guns. They made 9 shot .22 revolvers, and top quality target pistols. Other companies like Harrington Richardson, Charter Arms, Iver Johnson, and others made affordable revolvers in various calibers. Some of these companies exist now in name only. I can remember being able to but “store brand” guns at Sears, Western Auto, Montgomery Ward at affordable prices. Most of these were economy versions made by major manufacturers. My Ted Williams 20 gauge pump shotgun has a proud place in my rack. Colt used to offer a vast line of handguns, now what they offer is what 3 or 4 models? S&W used to offer a huge selection in revolvers, todays selection is limited to say the least. Even Taurus offers less than they used to. Ruger currently makes a lot of different handguns and bless them for doing so, but they no longer make the Red Label over & under shotgun. Marlin is a shell of its former self. The market is overflowing with plastic fantastic semi auto pistols in all sizes and we have niche manufacturers like Wilson, Les Baer, and others, but try to buy something like a Colt Woodsman Match pistol, or a new Marlin .22 LR lever action, or a new Browning Hi-Power, or a blue S&W model 17 with an 8 3/8″ barrel, or a High Standard 9 shot revolver, or 2 dozen other firearms that are gone and have no real current equal.

  32. avatar Brian says:

    My “pinned and recessed”-era S&W M10 beats the pants off any of the many modern S&W revolvers I’ve owned along side it. Keep selling them and keeping it.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      And the M10 came out in 1899, right?

    2. avatar bontai joe says:

      I haven’t had an opportunity to shoot my pre-war S&W model 10, but even if it proves to have “barn door” accuracy, it is much prettier to look at than my Glock.

  33. avatar Shawn says:

    Sure I like the old stuff but I don’t look through rose colored glasses.

    There was a video on YouTube I watched that I will now have to find where are the head of the Smith and Wesson factory explained that they don’t as much hand fitting and adjusting as the machines are much more accurate the first time around. So it’s either do it right the first time or do it wrong the first time and make a bunch of adjustments. A lot of people don’t seem to think about that. And modern firearms are built better. Better machining, it’s either do it right the first time or do it wrong the first time and make a bunch of adjustments. A lot of people don’t seem to think about that. A good example is your modern J frame can handle hot 357 magnum. Can your old one do that? Also the Internet did not exist the 1960s so you didn’t hear about all the failures.

    1. avatar Big Bubba says:

      Exactly!
      I order AR15 parts from various manufacturers.
      My Anderson AR15 in 6.8mm Rem SPC II will shoot 1/2″ MOA. Built it myself.
      Kills heck out of deer!
      My.”other” deer rifle (believe it or not!) is a Ruger No1 in .270 Win.
      Hand fitted at the Ruger factory!
      Both beautiful pieces!

  34. I kind of like the way the Taurus Tracker in .357 magnum looks…But found numerous videos on YouTube regarding previous incidents of barrels exploding or flying off the gun…Imagine a serious dangerous bug like that must have been fixed….But that’s rather alarming….

  35. avatar Isaac says:

    Interesting topic choice.

    Have we lost some serious craftsmanship? Yes we have along with the basic knowledge of how to turn raw materials into usable products with basic tooling. Fact is outside of some guys I’ve heard of but never met in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan I’m not aware of anyone who can actually turn out a working firearm with nothing more advanced than a drill. That is something to be mourned, particularly when most people are outclassed by replacing a light switch (without aid of YouTube).

    But what have we gained? Well for starters my Glock is hella more reliable than anything produced 70 years ago. I’ve never actually heard of a gun made from wood and iron that is anywhere near as customizable by me as my AR. Nothing produced in the 1945-late 1950’s can rival my savage bolt rifle for its accuracy off the shelf , at that price point adjusted for inflation.

    So basically we have cool guns and all… but we’re screwed if we need anything built.

  36. avatar Southern Cross says:

    Howa and Weatherby Vanguard rifles offer surprising packages for the price. Accurate and reliable, available in almost all standard calibers including 6.5 Creedmore, and have a large (but not Remington 700 large) after market range to tweak and customize to your choice.

    I remember in the 1980s when a “Remchesterby” in .30-06 that grouped 2-3 inches at 100 yards was considered good.

  37. avatar Just Sayin says:

    Comme ci comme ça.
    (It’s French …)
    Arguable from point of perspective.
    Old guns vs new guns?!
    Let me ask you this (rhetorhical) question: Which kid is your favorite?
    Get it?

    My ONLY perspective is, wait for it…, g u n s !!!
    My love knows no bounds.

  38. avatar 16V says:

    Amusing to read trophy generation claim they have “depth” or “knowledge” (or “wisdom’) just because the interwebz allowed them “to publish 100 articles”! (Give him a cookie and a safe space…)

    I guess there’s a barrier to entry which actually judges quality of writing. Like an editor used to. Guess I’m an old man, so I missed it.

    1. avatar RidgeRunner says:

      I, too, chuckled at the “published 100 articles,” but give the man time. This is actually a very well-written piece and he presents his position thoughtfully.
      FYI, I’ve published over 10,000 articles (zero on guns), and by published I mean actual dead trees. But I’ve got 30 years on the author here.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Conversely, I have published zero articles. But, if any of your articles were about something exciting happening, you may have been writing about me.

        1. avatar RidgeRunner says:

          Ha, quite possibly, if you’re in a certain line of work that involves guitars, tour buses and live performance! I didn’t miss many.

  39. avatar John in AK says:

    ‘Better’ or ‘worse’ is simply too vague when trying to make a comparison between products that are similar in some ways (basic function = sending a bullet out of one end of a long tube thingy until it is empty, or the user desires it to stop) and dissimilar in others (sending a bullet out of one end of a long tube thingy with CLASS, or at least being capable of doing so).
    It’s like determining if a 1930 Packard 733 Phaeton is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than a 2018 Toyota Tralfasz; They both do the same things and perform the same function, but they differ wildly in how they do them. Both are automobiles–but the Packard is ever so much MORE so.
    Want to get groceries in a soulless car that is ‘expendable’ after a few years? Don’t care if the kid vomits in it? Buy a Toyota Tralfasz. Want a piece of automotive history that will last for ages and become either an heirloom or a museum piece? Try the Packard.

    I have the luxury/curse of having lived long enough, and possessed enough firearms, to have experienced guns from the mid-1850s through the present.
    I have an 1871 S&W ‘American’ that is shockingly well-fitted, its internal parts so finely machined that they are sharp-edged after nearly 150 years.
    I know that the machining, hand-fitting, and finish on a 1930s commercial-sales S&W (you remember them–they used to be in the same building as American Outdoor Brands Corp. Inc. Ltd. Llc. is now until they sold out), for example, is exquisite compared to the stamped-and-injection-molding cookie-cutter quality of a modern AOBCILL revolver such as their new ‘[Not a] Model 19’ or their ‘666’.
    Of course, that elderly S&W is HORRIBLY UNSAFE because it doesn’t have a key switch to turn it off. . .
    I also know that the machining, fitting, and finish on a 1953 Winchester Model 70 Alaskan is something to behold (and to treasure,) whereas a 2018 Remington 783 is a laughable attempt to make a firearm, something intended to be ‘durable goods,’ into a ‘consumer product’ meant to be disposable, similar to a modern toaster oven.
    I also know that a 1952 Mannlicher-Schoenauer carbine is so finely machined and finished that if one opens the bolt and tips the gun muzzle-down, the bolt will close on en empty chamber by itself and begin the locking process. I can tell you that the rotary magazine is so complex, and so ridiculously finely made, that the Swiss could take lessons on how to build clocks from it.
    I also know that M-S died a horrible death after an extended illness caused by ‘consumerism’ and a lack of people looking for quality over economy of price.
    I can tell you that a 1920s Oberndorf Mauser Commercial rifle is so beautifully made that looking at a modern ‘factory’ gun from RemRuChestAge after first viewing the Mauser can make your eyes bleed from all of the sharp edges, machining marks, and general corner/cost-cutting present. Nearly a century later, Mauser is back, building rifles similar to the 1920s Commercials. . and they also are selling a cut-rate competitor to RemRuChestAge for those folks who go for the ‘consumer product’ firearm and not the ‘durable goods’ one.

    Yes, you do get what you can afford, but you also get what you pay for. With guns, buying a bargain-basement one will get you something that sends a bullet out of one end of the long tube thingy, but it won’t buy ‘class.’

    On the other hand, I would NOT choose a Mauser C96 in 9mm over a Glock 17 for everyday carry, even though one was manufactured by magical elves and the other by trolls; Fit and finish isn’t EVERYTHING, after all, when all that counts is just how efficiently a firearm does that basic function of sending a bullet out of one end of a long tube thingy, with absolute reliability, over and over, until the user wishes it to stop.

    No, it’s impossible to say whether old or new is better or worse; The parameters are far too broad for that.

    Of course, you must always remember to stay off of my lawn, for your own safety.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Oh, boosht. You’re in AK, you ain’t got no lawn.

      Are you saying the new S&W Classic Model 19 is a loser for some reason? I have a couple on order, I’d like to hear complaints.

      1. avatar John in AK says:

        Perhaps ‘loser’ is a bit harsh; It will still fire bullets out of one end of the tube thingy, so it’s still a firearm. . .

        It has a two-piece barrel, comprised of a rifled piece of pipe surrounded by a stamped ‘shroud.’ It has MIM internal parts. It has a Hillary Hole. It is a ‘blue’ version of the ‘Model 666,’ which is also not a ‘Model 66’ except that AOBCILL named it that. It is a modern industrialist’s dream, cheapened by using ‘modern’ techniques to avoid expensive machining and fitting that once was the hallmark of S&W.

        In other words, it is NOT a ‘Model 19’, which revolver is made of forged and machined solid steel parts inside and out, is NOT a ‘blue’ version of a stainless-steel gun with an outer coating, and does NOT have a ‘Hillary Hole’ or a cute little key switch with which to turn it on and off.

        You do you, of course. I have REAL Model 19s with which I am quite pleased.

        I do have a lawn, by the way; I regularly stand upon it, shouting imprecations at the neighborhood urchins.

    2. avatar Sevierville says:

      While I don’t wish to quibble with all your statements about these fine rifles (I have some of them), you are making some silly comparisons. A Remington 783 costs $309 right now at Buds. That would be $33.67 in 1953. Find a rifle from 1953 that cost that much and I promise you it was cheap wood and a sloppy action and bluing and a tenth the accuracy of the (admittedly horrendous) 783. I know because I have had those, too. Most boys back then didn’t have a Model 70 Alaskan. They had a Sears model. The Model 70 Alaskan cost $150 in 1953, or $1,364 in 2018. There are some fantastic $1300 rifles out there in our time. I love the Model 70, too, but it wasn’t what some have made it to be with time.

      1. avatar John in AK says:

        I don’t think, Sir, that I made any comparisons between a boy’s .22 single shot rifle and a man’s bolt-action sporting rifle. . .
        if I had, though, the comparison MIGHT be between that boy’s ‘starter’ .22 single shot and a modern 783; Each is, or was, built to a price, intended to be ‘disposable,’ something to move up from to something better as rapidly as possible when money was available.

        At the same time, in 1953 there were alternatives to expensive factory center-fire rifles, guns that could be bought for next to nothing and were commensurate in quality with commercial rifles: military surplus. A near-new Mauser Kar98K could be purchased for $27.95, by mail–which is right there with your ‘$33.67’ price range.

        Even today, one does NOT have to buy cheap[‘inexpensive’], ‘consumer-grade’ firearms; Those ‘durable’ guns are still being made, but they do cost more. If one has no problem with air-gun triggers, fake ‘Parkerized’ finishes, and thin, hollow plastic stocks, then more power to you–buy a 783, with my blessing.

        It’s just that you CAN do better.

        Regarding the Model 70 (pre-’64, of course), that is the closest equivalent to an Oberndorf Mauser Commercial that most men could afford. Its safety and trigger design were, and still are, widely copied, and considered State of the Art after 81 years–so good that Mauser has copied THEM.

        That’s a hard act to follow.

        1. avatar Draven says:

          And you can buy bolt-action rifles with a very low price tag that will shoot better than anything you could buy off the shelf during this theoretical golden era. And if you don’t like the plastic stock. wood ones are a whole $200. And you can buy inexpensive optics that are clearer than anything on the market during that era.

  40. avatar Adam says:

    What we have today is just a result of the market. By and large, we know what works and what works sells. Yes, some guns back in the day might have been more artistic and there might have been a greater variety of guns as well but also by and large, no one wants those types of guns anymore.

    When you see guys who own 6 different AR-15s but not a single lever gun you know what is going on. When you see guys who own 6 different striker fired pistols and not a single revolver you know what is going on. People are voting with their dollars and because of that, we have a market that is made up of the most efficient firearms that the world has even seen on a civilian market.

    This isn’t a bad thing. The firearms we have today are vastly superior to what was available 100 or even 50 years ago. People recognize this and are buying what works for them. Companies are seeing these trends and supplying the customers with what they wants. All things are in balance.

  41. avatar Don from CT says:

    DG has some great points. To admire the fit and finish of even a S&W 3rd gen 5906 from 15 years ago is to see somewhat of a lost art.

    But the reality is that while this gun is not available anymore, this KIND of gun is very available. Just not from S&W. CZ for example is making all kinds of all steel wonderfully fitted and finished traditional double action pistols.

    As far as .22 rifles go, you just need to look for different brands. The Kidd 10/22 pattern rifle is the equal of any semi-auto of the past. Actually, no, its not. Its superior. With fantastic quality and attention to detail.

    If you want a .22 bolt gun that ooozes quality at a reasonable price, again you need to go to CZ, where the 455 and 452 are so nice, they are almost throwbacks to another age.

    But then again, how many new shooters really are even aware of this stuff? I don’t know.

    Even comparing Ruger to Ruger. The all steel Mk4 feels much much nicer in the hand than the plastic gripped 22/45.

    I think the point I’m trying to make is that “golden age” guns can still be had. You just need to know what you want.

    Don

    p.s. And while I’m definitely a glock fan, its not the kind of gun that I pull out of the safe just to admire. Its a tool. Like a shovel. It holds a fair amount of ammunition, goes bang every time, and is pretty light. Oh and it doesn’t cost a small fortune.

    For me it goes back to the tool vs art thing. I’ve owned and carried high end 1911s. I remember wincing every time it got bumped while carrying. With the Glock, I don’t care. If it gets too beat up, I sell it for $400 and buy a new one for $550.

  42. avatar James R says:

    Lets not forget there may be a survivor bias at work here. A lot of the idea of old stuff being higher quality is due to the fact that only the best of the old stuff is still around. All the junk they made didn’t survive to be considered.

  43. avatar Aven says:

    Most posters seem to agree that modern firearms and very reliable and frequently more reliable than in the “good old days”. Many also complain that they are less attractive since they are not hand built with labor intensive fit and finish and detailing. For me, I buy firearms to work reliably and to not need tweaking to get them to operate properly. Generally, I am the only person that sees my firearms and I don’t care if they are less fancy than in the “good old days”.

  44. avatar Jacob in IN says:

    While it is true that, due to improved manufacturing processes, guns produced today are generally more accurate and less expensive, we have lost a lot. We lost the craftsmanship and care. Guns today are made with cheap, mass produced, throw away parts. They aren’t built to last, they are built to be easily replaced. I don’t want something that I can easily replace cheaply made parts, I want something that was actually built to last where I don’t have to replace parts (often).

    1. avatar Don from CT says:

      Go on the CZ USA website. Either their CZ75s or their Dan Wesson lines and tell me that they don’t combine the best of the old and the new.

  45. avatar little horn says:

    are TV’s from the past better than todays? are refrigerators from the past better than todays? are cars from the past better than todays (how many times did you dad/grandpa have to rebuild his tranny)? no.
    why would this be any different.
    also, it not being “better” doesn’t mean its not still useful.
    and DG’s comment about “no good quality manufacturers today” is just utter horse shit and shows he has his head up his ass or is just a complete moron.

    1. avatar Erik Weisz says:

      Refrigerators? Yes. Refrigerators of the past were WAY better than today. I have seen several from the ’40s and ’50s that still run perfectly and have had minimal repairs over the years. They don’t make ice by themselves (neither do new ones – icemakers are by far the most failed consumer product at 75%+ in the first 12 months), nor do they spew semi-filtered water out of a spigot in the door, nor do they order overpriced stuff from amazon for you the second you start to run low, but they do run for fucking ever and they already have that “retro” look and they’re made of steel. Try to find a modern compressor in anything that lasts more than 5 years and you’re looking at extremely high-end stuff ($10k+) and God help you if anything on it ever breaks, ’cause like guns today it’s mostly plastic.
      I have two electric fans made by Westinghouse in the 1940’s running in my house right now. They’re all-steel (even the blades – ouch!) with bakelite trim and woven-cotton insulated cords. Yes they’re heavy and heaven help you if one tips over on your foot (you really could lose a toe), but they use no more (maybe less) electricity than a plastic $20 chinese wal-mart fan and they blow air harder and more quietly and after no repairs at all over the last ~80 years THEY STILL RUN PERFECTLY. They also look WAY better, like something out of the Jetson’s.
      Some of the old stuff just can’t be beat. Or maybe “won’t” be beat, ‘cuz the mfg’s want you to replace it in 5 seconds.

      1. avatar John in AK says:

        What you have summarized, Sir, is the difference between quality and cost, between ‘consumer product’ and ‘durable goods.’ between value and low price.

        Guns USED to be, for the most part, ‘durable goods’–pieces of machinery intended to last indefinitely, to withstand rough service, and to stand up to abuse if need be. Yes, there were exceptions–the $1.99 World Wonder Revolver unsafe to fire with anything other than black-powder rimfire ammunition, the $3.99 ‘Damascus’ double shotgun whose barrel would unwind after a few shots–but people who bought them them are the same ones that buy them now: Impatient to have something that goes ‘bang!,’ and not understanding false economy.

        The most popular modern guns, for the large part, are ‘consumer goods;’ They’re mass-marketed to a low price, but still make a large profit for their makers because the cost of manufacture is also low. Frankly, most modern guns are incredibly simple, uncomplicated, and easy to stamp out on an assembly line; There’s no fitting, little sophisticated machining, all CNC and MIM and Plastic OhMY! They are mostly ‘disposable, and use inexpensive materials. As others have said, it’s unlikely that a Glock will ever make much of an honoured heirloom. . . “Geez, Grandpa, a Glock! Ooooh, look at that finely injection-molded plastic, that bar-of-soap-shaped slide, that air-gun trigger! I just LOVE the nitride-bath hardening, and the dull phosphate finish, too! What a work of ART?!” “Yes, Grandson, they just don’t make ’em like that any more. . . nowadays, it’s all 3D printing and clear plastic, I’m afraid.”

        Alas!

  46. avatar Montesa_VR says:

    I think a couple of things were lost in the article about Dyspeptic Gunsmith’s comment.

    First, Dyspeptic laments the loss of American manufacturing. For many, this is a concern of great passion. 28 year old Josh Wayner doesn’t share that concern, but it was a considerable oversight to ignore it, since I suspect it underlies much of Dyspeptic’s nostalgia for better days gone by.

    Second, Dyspeptic looks at firearms from the perspective of a gunsmith. When he says a gun isn’t as good as a gun from a previous era, he’s talking about disassembly, looking at the quality of machining on parts most of us never see, and the ability to effect repairs. Again, Wayner’s article ignores this.

    I don’t think there is or was a golden era. John Browning’s 1885 falling block single shot rifle is still beautiful and functional today, but I would rather buy a Japanese Miroku version than an early example. My wife’s H&R Sportsman was a pretty cheap gun in the old days (hers might be from the 30’s) but I can shoot it as accurately as any modern handgun. My early 70’s Winchester model 70 was junk. My son’s early 2000’s 10/22 fails to feed at least once on almost every magazine. My New England Firearms Pardner .410 from the same era offers utility, accuracy, and a trigger that are all way better than they have a right to be on such a cheap gun.

    So figure out what matters to you and buy accordingly. And let other people do the same.

  47. avatar Robman says:

    I am turning 57 next month and got behind a rifle for the first time when I was seven. My late dad was a champion marksman; placed 4th at Camp Perry in national competition, centerfire handgun, 1968. Placed 3rd myself at a post smallbore rifle competition at Fort Carson in 1987, during my army days. Been around guns and shooting my whole life, like many others posting here, perhaps a little more than some.

    I don’t have a big gun collection but my modest number includes family heirlooms and personal acquisitions spanning that entire time, the most recent addition made last month.

    My two cents:

    First, an earlier comment in this thread hits upon a good point, “survivor bias”. There were plenty of crappy guns made in the Good Olde Days…remember “Saturday night specials”?

    I have an inherited Charter Arms .38 probably made in the 70s or 80s at the latest. It is very uncomfortable to shoot even with standard loads and is scary inaccurate. But it is a “wood and metal” gun. As a practical matter, I would take a current generation “plastic fantastic” from a reputable maker over it any day.

    I also have a S&W .357 from the 80s and it is a thing of beauty….but I painstakingly went through all six the store had in stock before I chose that one, such was the lack of consistency in fit and finish.

    My most recent purchase is a Springfield Armory .380 pistol for EDC; it is very nicely made and I would submit that it is competitive in terms of quality with any .380 of any generation, certainly in terms of inflation adjusted dollars for dollars.

    Market preferences change, technology changes, but there has always been cheap crap and there has also always been good stuff for the discerning consumer who has the means and the desire to pay for it.

    From my perspective, I would say that in terms of the variety of offerings for the money, we are in fact in something of a “golden age” right now for civilian firearms. There were certainly masterpieces from the past but there are also masterpieces being produced today; not necessarily by the same actors but again, things change. You just have to know what to look for.

    Now go to the range and enjoy your guns, people.

  48. avatar Zebra Dun says:

    No, but some niches are filled with them even when there are those who are better.
    I love old Semi auto’s, 1911A1’s, FN Hi Powers, and old revolvers, J- frame which I carry, M-10 S&W and Combat Magnums, I own and carry a Colt Lawman Snub that I favor. Old designs, old workmanship and made of steel.
    Now I also own a Ruger LCP II have owned a Taurus TCP .
    I’d be the first to say that if I were to start from scratch and buy a list of Handguns from sub compact to full size service Pistols I would go Glock 9×19 mm, and I am NOT a Glock Fanboy. Glock just has the modern point of view that I like you can buy a set or two and have every need covered. With the same operations same ammo and handling.
    Newer more modern designs work better.
    But Dang if I don’t love an old S&W K frame revolver.

  49. avatar Michael says:

    Don’t lose sight of the fact that times change and things move on. My primary sidearms are Austrian design and shoot .45acp all the time. I can convert them to 10mm with no hand fitting. I can drop in a threaded barrel for a suppressor and a standard rifling barrel if I want to use hard cast lead bullets. All without any paperwork or time away at the gunsmith. My prime rifle and scope are also Austrian design and build. I can’t buy any other rifle anywhere with a better trigger pull. The rifle doesn’t have to be set up with two factory bolts in case I pull one through. And like the pre-WW2 RRs the hood is “sealed” at the factory so no one messes around with the factory settings. The scope is hell for stout and has edge to edge clarity and sharpness you can’t find anywhere else for twice the price. The 4A reticle is what I learned on. It supplies all the information I need without time consuming and target missing knob twirling. I’m not a squadee and never plan to be one. Only accurate rifles are interesting. AR-15 vs AK…spray and pray tinkertoy or minute of barnside aren’t really much in the way of things I care to stake my life on. IF the day ever comes that I need a MBR, it will be a bullpup Austrian as well. My deep backups are 2 new, bilateral, keyless, polymer and alloy revolvers loaded with +P, Golden Sabers and both work just fine. They are the revolvers Glock should have built. Now that I’ve managed to tick EVERYONE off, if you don’t know anything, first hand, about the above mentioned gear, don’t bother to flame me. The times now call for redoubled training, redoubled practice and laying in more good ammo.
    Cameras, automobiles, motorcycles, I only buy the ones that don’t need “reviews” and a constant stream of advertising. If the gear is so good, why do they need all of that yammer. Foxtrot-Kilo-Alpha 30

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