Seasoned Guns


Pancho Villa Gold Engraved Colt Single Action Army.
Credit: Rock Island Auction Company

It seems the older we get, our preference for older guns grows. Looking back on the “good old days” makes time less foreboding and more enjoyable even, as we long for days gone by. Just holding an old gun makes us wonder, “What makes it so comforting?” When we’re young pups we tend to like things like us — wanting the newest, brightest, most perfect gun we can find. If there’s a ding on the gun … forget it! Back to the rack it goes!

Elmer Keith’s Engraved/Inlaid Smith & Wesson Model 1917 Revolver.
Credit: Rock Island Auction Company


We do everything in our control to keep our guns that way, too. Inevitably, they will earn scars, scraps and scuffs with use. But something funny transpires. As time ticks by, what once bothered the hell out of us helps us enjoy our gun more. Battle scars make the gun feel real with its memory-jarring properties, acknowledging time spent together on various adventures.

Perhaps this evidence is proof we used our guns the way they were intended. The blemishes remind us of when we looked forward to hiking and humping over hill and dale all day.

That long furrow on the stock rekindles memories from when you dropped your rifle, dragging the biggest buck you ever shot down the mountain as your fingers gingerly stroke the deep gouge. You remember never being so tired or thirsty from your efforts. You’ll never forget the dull, metallic clang your rifle made as it fell on the sharp-edged rocks.

Someday, your grandson will love hearing the story — seeing, touching and feeling the actual gouge — giving credence to your story as you hold the rifle at arm’s length for both of you to examine and glance up to the 10-point bruiser hanging on your wall.

Elmer Keith’s Engraved Colt Model 1851 Navy Percussion Revolver.
Credit: Rock Island Auction Company

Time Travel?

Guns can be a time transformer, taking us back in time … in no time at all. Picking up a vintage gun gets us going well on our way to a different era, back to what others experienced with the very gun in your hand. Old guns stimulate thought and questions, piquing interest in a specific time, age, or event. It’s something fellow gun aficionados having the same kindred spirits would understand, leaving non-believers mute, clueless even.

Tank’s vintage 1905 Winchester 1886 .45-70 from fellow law
man and Shootist John Purcell has the right feel and is comforting to shoot.

Name Game

Old Colts and classic Smith & Wessons carried by both lawmen and outlaws, Sharps rifles shot by buffalo hunters and used by “sharpshooters” in the Civil War, and Old Rugers built by one of the finest gun designers of our time — they all tell us a story. We only need to take the time to listen, research and study them. Hell, some of us are even crazy enough to shoot these relics, re-living what others have in the past, making it all true once again, savoring the real-life experience.

How about setting aside your stainless steel, scoped, bolt-action rifle and grabbing your great-grandpap’s iron-sighted Winchester 1886 in .45-70 this hunting season? Let it introduce you to the challenges he faced while hunting with it on the family farm for a retro hunt. I guarantee it will be a hunt you won’t forget!

Sometimes, the trip is shorter. Picking up our very first gun reminds us of the special meaning the gun represents. It was a statement from our parents saying (proving?) they trusted us with a real gun. For me, it was a Harrington & Richardson “Plainsmen” — a bolt-action .22 rimfire rifle. I got it on my 8th birthday.

Elmer Keith’s Ruger Old Model Blackhawk Revolver.
Credit: Rock Island Auction Company

Anti-Gun Confusion?

Guns have many meanings non-shooters could never fathom. It’s hard to describe how a finely crafted piece of pig iron and walnut stirs such emotion. But stir and shake us they do! History is revisited and learned through guns. This new knowledge is shared with those who appreciate such details. The cycle completes itself until the next recipient starts their new quest when taking possession of the old memory maker.

Whether it’s George Patton’s registered Magnum, Roy Rogers’ engraved Colt Single Action Army or Dirty Harry’s S&W Model 29 .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world at the time, “that can blow your head clean off…” When handling such iconic pieces, we can’t help but be transposed to a different place and time.

Terry Murbach’s old S&W model 15 certainly counts as an old,
comforting gun. It lets Tank relive memories of Terry every time he shoots it.

Curiously Calming

So, for the newbies out there, do yourself a favor and grab hold of an old gun. Even one that is only 30-40 years old will do. The gravitational pull of history will knock you off your feet, nurturing the curiosity of past shooters as you experience it for yourself. A little research will have you stumbling backward, to the vim, vigor and vitality of vintage guns.

Before you know it, you’ll be prowling the used gun rack at your favorite shop, rifling through the rifles and revolvers for hand-polished, hand-fitted firearms from yesteryear.

You’ll not only notice the difference but feel it, too! They feel “just right!”

For those who have already tested the waters of old, worn, blued guns, you know firsthand how these seasoned irons can calm and put us at ease. I need something with some age that’s been used the way it was intended, with character marks to prove it. That’s the kind of piece I seek, to take me back in time.

Historic Elmer Keith’s Presented Engraved S&W 44
Magnum Revolver. Credit: Rock Island Auction Company

Upcoming Auction

Speaking of old, comfortable guns, our friends at Rock Island Auction have a doozy of an auction coming up on Dec. 9, including a gold-plated Colt belonging to Pancho Villa and a gaggle of guns once belonging to Elmer Keith.

Even if these guns are out of your price range, check out the beautiful pictures. They are indeed worthy of looking and drooling at — I promise!

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