I was reading an e-mail from someone on a mail list about old guns. He was saying how well he liked his S&W revolver—called it an old gun. From his description, I would guess the pistol was made sometime in the late 1970s.
I’ve seen 60 come and go. I have three guns older than I am. Now, that’s old!
The least old of these three is my M1 Garand that I bought through the ODCMP program several years ago. It was made in the Springfield Armory in February 1942 according to the serial number. It was later rebuilt at the Rock Island Armory but it still has all Springfield parts. It passes the go-no go test and is a real shooter. I’ve zero’d it for 100yds. With a bench rest and iron sights, I can punch out a 6″ grouping. That is amazing considering one facet of the rifle. It’s been used and abused. The few inches of rifling at the muzzle are worn to a smooth bore. But it has a good crown and still groups well.
I had thought about replacing the barrel but decided not to do that. I want to keep it just like I got it with all the dings and gouges on the wood, the wear on the exposed metal parts, all as near I can to it’s earned condition. The only thing I’ve done is to swab most—but not all, of the copper fouling out of the barrel. It still has that copper tint when examined with a bore-light, but I’m going to leave that part of its heritage where it is.
My next oldest is my Marlin Model 39 .22lr (the picture is of a Model 39A.) As best I can determine, my Model 39 was built in the 1930s. It has some older-sytle sights that I will replace with some Williams peep-sights. I’ve never been able to hit anything with Buckhorn sights. I can’t decide to place the front sight at the top between the “horns” or at the bottom of the V.
I just like the way this rifle handles. For me, it has a natural point. I can bring it to my shoulder and it points nicely where I want to aim. There is not any shifting at the shoulder, ducking to the stock to see the sights—it just fits. I usually shoot CCI high-speed Velociraptor ammo. I bought a brick of this when it first came out. In my M39, it chronos at around 1600fps. The next fastest high-speed .22lr ammo clocks in at 1400fps. That is not bad for a .22lr. A 40gr slug at 1400fps or 1600fps makes a nice small game meat rifle.
When I was growing up on the farm, I would often take my .22 rifle out after school and bring home some squirrels or a rabbit or two for the pantry. I still love squirrel and rabbit—it they are prepared properly. As with all wild game, you must insure you cook them correctly to prevent disease. My mother always scalded game before freezing it or cooking it further.
My last old gun is my Remington Model 11. My father owned a Remington 12ga. Model 11. It originally had a cracked stock. The bluing had most been worn off and the metal had that old worn steel look. It made the shotgun appear well used. As a Christmas present one year, my mother took it to our local gunsmith and had new wood installed and the rest re-blued. When it was finished, it looked new.
When I was in High School in the early 1960s, I had the serial number checked. I discovered this shotgun had been made in 1921—originally as part of a War Department order. The US Army canceled the order at the end of WW1 and the production was modified for the civilian market.
Dad’s Model 11 was stolen a few years later along with all the rest of our rifles and shotguns. A few years ago, I was at a Gunshow in Springfield, MO and came across a man who was selling three Remington Model 11s. I bought the best of the three for $150. I never made a better deal. My “new” Model 11 appears to be a PD cast-off. It has O.M.P. stamped on the receiver. I was told that meant “Ontario Mounted Police.” Somehow that doesn’t ring true but it’s a good story. Accordingt to its serial number, it was built in the late 1920s. My Model 11 is a 12ga, full choke shotgun. I’ve thought about buying some additional barrels, a home defense barrel and one with a modified choke for birds. Unfortunately, I’ve not found a source. It appears it’s easier just to buy a complete new shotgun that find replacement barrels.
All three of these guns are full working shooters. I like them. I’m comfortable with them. There has been new designs that are supposed to be better, but from what I’ve seen, the new designs work no better than these half-century or older weapons. New is not always best.