Old Guns Revisited

Filed in The Gun Room by on February 28, 2016 0 Comments

Old guns, as I commented before, are the guns I like best.  As Jay Gardner wrote, “It’s a question of soul.”  New, latest technology guns have their place, it’s true.  My Beretta A400 Explor is definitely my weapon of choice when it comes to throwing heavy charges of steel shot.  These aging bones and joints just appreciate the multiple recoil management systems. But in the uplands, where 1 1/8 oz. of smaller shot is sufficient, well then that’s when the nostalgia comes in and I look for something more gentile or more historic.  It doesn’t even have to be some vintage London Best.  Old guns come in many forms and they have many levels of appeal.  Take, for instance, my grandfather’s gun.

 Old Guns, the Winchester 1897.

My heirloom M97

My heirloom M97

Grandpa was a civil engineer in Montana where elk hunting is almost a way of life.  But he really wasn’t much of a hunter.  After he passed away, however, my grandmother (who disliked guns intensely) gave me what she described as his old hunting gun.  It seems that at least a time or two he took it out after Canada geese.  When I got it, it was loose, held together with tape and it’s bluing was patchy.  I couldn’t have that, not with Grandpa’s gun!  So it’s been refurbished.  The choke is no longer full.  Even with a 30 inch barrel it’s a pheasant gun instead of a waterfowler.  Modern steel shot loads require 3″ chambers to be at all effective so this one is headed out over the corn fields this autumn.  I know there are those who shudder at the thought of taking a vintage piece out in the field where it will get dirty but old guns are guns.  They’re tools that have a purpose and should be used as such. Besides the M97 was made in the tens of thousands over decades.  There’s no collector’s value here, just–well, Grandpa’s gun.

Gentlemen’s old guns

But sometimes you don’t want to wear a flannel shirt and overalls, sometimes you want a proper tweed suit with tie and green Wellington boots, even if you don’t live in the UK.  So when the day comes, hopefully some time this year, that I decide to visit one of Dixie’s esteemed quail plantations, I don’t intend to go ill-equipped.

New guns are best when they become old guns

New guns are best when they become old guns

This is a W. W. Jeffrey SLE.  It’s one of a pair.  Where the other is I doubt that anyone knows.  It’s a shooter, not some treasured art piece to be put up in a case made from rare hardwoods and only touched with white-gloved hands.  The barrel has been sleeved (yes, I know, that’s a perversion of British Best-ness.  Tough!) and I had Horizon Machine put a leather-covered butt pad on to take it up to my required length.  After all, the old girl was built in 1909 when your average country squire was  good bit shorter than today’s better nourished population.  I’ve a long-armed six-footer and need a 14 3/4 LOP.  Now it has it.  I swear to myself that this fall she and I are going South for gentleman bob, lace pancakes, hard-charging pointers and the whole plantation scene.  That’s the American equivalent of a driven shoot in the UK and I want to experience it.  Who knows, it may become habit forming!

Looking for Old Guns

So if you really want the soul that comes with old guns, where do you go?  That’s going to depend on what kind of old gun you want.  Used M97s and their sainted descendants, the M12’s are readily available in pawn shops and second-hand racks in independent gun stores.  If you can’t fine any there’s always Firearms News.  This is the place to go if you followed my earlier advice and got yourself a C&R FFL .  Any firearm over 50 years old can be  bought through the mail with no questions asked if you have a C&R.  You need one.

AuctionArms.com is another good source along with GunBroker.com and GunsAmerica.com.  In all these cases having a C&R serves you well except for the occasional timorous seller who is afraid to sell without a full-fledged brick-and-mortar gun shop to ship to.  You might not want to deal with such people.  But if I really want truly fine old guns then, if I lived in the UK, I’d go to Holt’s.  The only problem for a US gun buyer is that shipping from Old Blighty can be a bitch.  Years ago it was easy but the British governments of whatever stripe live in constant fear of any commoner owning a firearm and they’ve made it really, really expensive to mail one across the pond.  Better you should check out places like Connecticut Shotgun or (my favorite) Vintagedoubles.com.  Why the latter?  Because Kirby carries a lot of pre-1898 shotguns, all proofed and safe for shooting, that don’t require any FFL at all.  Really! By some quirk of the law any gun made before 1898 is officially not a gun, it’s an antique and can be purchased through the mail by anyone.  Pre-1898–talk about old?  These are old guns with soul.



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