Growin’ Old With Guns


Seems like the older we get our tastes in guns appears to go backwards, too. Perhaps looking back to the good old days makes seeing our time here less foreboding, perhaps even making it more enjoyable as we long for days gone by? Why is it there is something comforting about holding an old gun? When we start out as bald-faced, chiseled-cheeked young pups, we tend to like things like us. We want the newest, brightest, most perfect gun we can find.

We do everything in our control to keep them that way, but inevitably, our guns will earn some scars, scraps and scuffs with use. But a funny thing transpires as time ticks by. What once used to bother the heck out of us, now actually makes us enjoy and acknowledge our memory-jarring dinged-up gun.

Perhaps it’s proof we actually used them the way they were intended? Maybe they remind us when we didn’t mind hiking and humping over hill and dale all day in pursuit of game while in our prime?

As your fingers stroke the deep gouge on your stock it rekindles memories from when you tripped, dragging the biggest buck you ever shot down the mountain. You remember never being so tired and thirsty from your efforts, or pissed off, when you fell on your rifle, the sharp edged rocks cutting gashes in both your rifle stock — and your knee.

How your grandson loves hearing the story and seeing the actual gouge, giving credence and validation to your story. You hold the rifle at arms length for both of you to examine and you both glance up on the 10 point bruiser hanging on your wall — then at each other.

Time Machine?

Guns act as a time machine with me. They can take me back in time, in no time at all. Just picking up a vintage gun gets me going well on my way to a different era, to what others have experienced. Old guns stimulate thoughts, questions, and pique interest to a certain time, age, or event. Something only fellow gun aficionados with kindred spirits would understand, leaving non-believer’s mute and clueless.

Old Colts, classic Smith & Wessons, carried by both lawmen and outlaws, Sharps rifles shot by the buffalo hunters and used by “sharp shooters” in the Civil War, Old Rugers built by one of the finest gun designers of our time — they all tell us a story, if we take the time to listen.

Hell, some of us are even crazy enough to shoot these relics, to re-live what others have in the past, making it a true real life experience for us. How about setting aside your stainless steel scoped, bolt-action rifle and grabbing your great-grand pap’s iron-sighted Marlin 1893 .38-55? Let it introduce you to the challenges he faced while hunting with it on the back 40 of the farm.

Sometimes the trip is shorter. Picking up the first gun that was actually ours reminds us of the special meaning the gun represented. It was a statement from our parents 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.
Guns have many meanings to us that non-shooters could never fathom. It’s hard to describe to them how a finely crafted piece of pig iron and walnut can stir such emotion in us. But stir and shake us they do! History is revisited, and learned. This new knowledge is often shared to those who appreciate it, and the cycle completes itself, until the next recipient starts their new quest when they take possession of the old memory maker.

Whether it be Dick Tracy’s registered magnum, Roy Rogers’ engraved Colt Single Action Army, or Dirty Harry’s S&W model 29 .44 magnum — when we handle such iconic pieces of history, we can’t help but be transposed to a different place and time.

A circa-1919 S&W Hand Ejector in .32 S&W Long — a time machine in steel and wood for sure.

Curiously Calming

So for you greenhorns out there, do yourself a favor and grab hold of an old gun. Even if it is only 30-40 years old, the gravitational pull of history will knock you off your feet and nurture your curiosity of past shooters. A little research will have you stumbling backwards, 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 and hand-fitted firearms from yesteryear. You’ll not only notice the difference, but feel it, too when handled. They just feel “right!”

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