One of the fallacies that a person can get into when it comes to this gun stuff is that somehow guns were better in the past than they are today. That’s hogwash. They actually weren’t. In fact, today’s gun owner is spoiled rotten when it comes to not only quality but choice and price.
There are a couple of exceptions, of course, which we’ll get into.
You can get a darn decent gun for not a whole heck of a lot; there are a number of pistols you can pick up for less than $300 that are accurate, reliable and aren’t a Hi Point.
There are some very decent shotguns that can be had for about that same amount. For around $400, you can even get a bolt action rifle AND scope in most gun stores. Almost every single one of them is more accurate and more reliable than their counterparts from the 1950s were.
Today, you’d expect a bolt-action rifle to group 1 MOA or better at any price point. That wasn’t so much the case in previous decades. Even the much-ballyhooed Model 70 wasn’t perfect. To get the utmost in accuracy, you often had to spend for a custom gun or some extensive smithing. Lever-action rifles definitely worked, but weren’t terribly accurate at long range unless in expert hands.
Handguns were even worse. Smith & Wessons and Colts were pretty good, but you had to take it easy on magnum loads. The cylinders were known to wear out on S&W’s and a fair number of Colts had timing problems.
There were only a few semi-autos on the market up until the 1980s. Most common were Colt 1911 pistols, which were either military surplus (worked well, but had more slop than most lift kits) or factory guns that usually needed a lot of smithing to get truly accurate and reliable. Browning Hi Powers and S&W Model 39 and 59 autos were out there too, but those – along with 1911 pistols – all had the foible of only feeding ball ammo well.
Why do you think there are so many 1911 custom shops? Bill Wilson, Les Baer, Ed Brown and so on have jobs because they knew how to take a Colt factory gun and make it really good. They built on earlier smiths such as Frank Pachmayr, Armand Swenson and others.
You could buy cheaper guns for pocket carry, but the thing about those old Saturday Night Specials is that they were cheap for a reason.
But a lot of those old classics guns had one thing in common. They were beautiful. It’s hard to look at blue steel and walnut and not appreciate it.
The same thing could be said of other things. Lots of muscle cars, for instance, looked amazing, but fuel economy and reliability weren’t their strong suit. A stock Honda Prelude could out-corner most Mustangs and the Corvettes that used the same rear suspension as a truck.
There were, of course, exceptions. The Ruger Blackhawk has always been a tank. Maybe not the most accurate, maybe not even the prettiest, but you can always count on it to go “bang.” Then you had the Remington Nylon 66, long held to be one of the toughest guns ever invented.
Today? You can walk into any Cabelas and pick up a Savage Axis combo that will shoot rings around plenty of Pre-64 Model 70s. You can get a GLOCK 19 that puts many an older handgun to shame. In fact, you can still get a Ruger Blackhawk that’s still built like a tank! Now to just talk Remington into making the ’66 again…
What about you though? Do you think older guns were better than they are today? Or do you think they just look better?