Handgun Esthetics

Experts | Shooting Iron |

Why are so many of today’s handguns ugly? Do handgun manufacturers test design applicants for a sense of esthetics and then not hire any who have it? Used to be at movies I would annoy Yvonne endlessly by identifying whatever model of handgun someone on screen was using. Such as, “That guy’s got an S&W Model 19 with 2½” barrel, or that Japanese officer has a German P38 instead of the Nambu he should be packing.” Now if someone asked me what handgun anyone on screen was holding I’d have to say, “Don’t know but it was big, square-shaped and black.

I blame a lot of this on Europeans. They hardly ever had a lick of sense about what a handgun should look like, especially the British. Europeans had one bright spot among handguns. It was what we know as the Luger, although there never was a Luger factory as such. Someone might ask, “But what about the Browning Hi-Power made in Belgium? They’re decent looking handguns.” My point exactly; they were designed by American John M. Browning.

When I was going to movies as a kid, if the bad guy was a European he usually pulled out a Luger before falling to an American good guy shooting a S&W Military & Police .38 or Colt Model 1903 or 1908 Pocket Pistol. Going back even farther to black and white movies on late shows, European or Asian bad guys sometimes would pull out Broomhandle Mausers. They were ugly too, but at least you wouldn’t mistake one for any other handgun.

Some Flash?

In fact, fancy after-market grips were probably the most common way professional gun-toters of a past era personalized their handguns. Used to be I always took note of what cops were carrying in their holsters, whether they were giving me a traffic ticket or just sitting at a donut shop. Those wearing stock, as-issued handguns, I would have bet couldn’t hit a bull in the butt at a dozen paces. When I saw a cop’s handgun with fancy grips, my estimation of their ability grew a notch or two. If the handgun was engraved or had some sort of fancier finish then I figured he must be a “pistolero.” I might have been wrong but those were my initial impressions. I’d like to know what our Editorship, Roy, packed in his 20-year career. Might be interesting, eh? (Check out the Insider in this issue! -Roy)

Nowadays, all cops have big, square, black pistols. No fancy finishes, no custom grips, no pride of possession. Nothing to indicate which of them might even be a good shot. Well, some carry 1911s nowdays and I’ll bet some of those are gussied-up a bit. Usually a cop with a 1911 in his holster is a gunnie. As far as handgun esthetics goes, I’m glad I grew up in a bygone era.
By Mike “Duke” Venturino

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