Old Stuff

Is fun stuff. Know when to retire it from active duty

The original Marine issue sniper rifle made in 1944 with Unertl scope still
shoots 1" groups from a rest. The G.A. Precision and Robar bolt rifles of today are better.

Old stuff is cool, old rifles, old handguns, old cartridges, old magazines, old holsters—all that used dusty, rusty, bent, scratch-and-dent-sale worn history is often pretty nifty gear. And a lot of it can get you killed!—If you let it.

No one likes old stuff any better than me. If it’s the right item, I’ll choose old stuff over the new almost every time. Bluntly, although it drives some people nuts, I like old Smith & Wesson handguns, the 1960s and ’70s are favorites and it drives my poor friend Antonio Miele from S&W nuts, and drives him to say, “Whatcha’ want dat old crap for?”

But, as Tony is Smith & Wesson’s premier actual gun guy working at the Springfield plant, he is interested in selling the product of today—as it should be. The new Smith & Wesson’s are as good as they have ever been, but I like the old Smith’s just as I like old cars (even though those old cars often are a pain in the overheating-leaking-oil-gas-guzzling backside).

Used holsters, I mean really used! They should be replaced once they reach
this level of wear. The base holsters are Renegade made in Arizona.


No one, and I mean no one, is harder on gear than Heidi, the bride of my life. Not from abuse but because she actually uses her stuff. When it comes to holsters she usually wears them out two at a time and she wears guns like most folks wear shoes. The holsters worn daily, as she says, are comfortable, but after everyday wear day after day, month after month, they wear out.

I always have two new holsters at the ready but the transition period for her is the worst. I’ll suggest she change over to the new holster, but, of course, who would want to change after months of break-in to the perfect fit? So the final sales pitch goes something like, “Hey, are your retention straps going to fail and drop the guns at an inappropriate moment?” So, with pause, she switches. The change over takes about a week to wear in. Once Heidi breaks the new holsters in, she is happy, and I am happy as my partner always has and carries two guns (isn’t it great?).

I recently saw a photo of an old holster worn to the point of frazzle. During the holstered-while-sitting-in-the-car mode, an edge of the holster engaged the trigger and the gun fired while the guy was trying to get in or out of the car. Bad holster? Bad gun? I think not. I think a proper and good condition holster will protect the trigger of any type of pistol. Blame the holster or blame the gun, but replace the holster.

The old gold-tone 20-round AR magazine is really old. Still new in the wrapper
are four 20-round magazines made in April of 1970. The MagPul, Lancer and
Fusil (left) are all better magazines


This up front is an over-the-top pet peeve of mine, I warn you. Why some idiot—who is most often a nice person—would travel thousands of miles and spend thousands of dollars to attend a class and then bring some piece of crap (and that wasn’t the word I was thinking of as I wrote this) magazine to shoot in a pistol with the knowledge it doesn’t work correctly when they brought it to school, amazes me beyond belief and words. And as a Clint response to their insanity, I have literally cured the “bad” magazine gig a hundred times over by taking the magazine and throwing it as hard as I can over the range berm!

Test your pistol and rifle magazines, number them, use them and throw them away when they do not work correctly! The same goes for speedloaders for the wheelies. That will get you killed. If you don’t care about yourself think of the people who might depend on you. Geez, don’t be goofy, carry good magazines. Enough other stuff will go wrong and you do not need to help the stupid fairy—she’ll show up on her own.

The Winchester 1897 riot and trench guns were solid performers in their
time but the Remington 870s on the right side would be the guns seen most often today.

Trapdoors, Krags and the Springfield ’03s are still solid rifles but the M4
rifle of today would serve for defensive purposes and be readily available.


I like old guns; I have shot Bison with an original Sharps rifle circa 1877, but I would not go Brown bear hunting with that rifle. I have on occasion, in some depth, carried a Single Action Army for personal defense as a research gig. I am glad I was never tested entering a bank under robbery while carrying that SAA revolver. I might have done OK as while carrying the SAA, I was under behavior modification as to levels of response to potential threats.

Short range was never a concern as I’ve carried black powder loads—a stunning statement of power at arm’s length. Speed of response was never a concern. Mostly it was about reloading, continuity of fire and other things often addressed more positively by the self-loading pistol of 1911, or a Glock or something. Maybe carry a second Single Action Army. Two is always better than one.

The original .45-60 WCF 1876 Winchester and early .45 Colt SAA are both good guns.
Just make sure they work.


I would hope not to go here but… the two loudest sounds in the world are a gun that goes click when it is supposed to boom and a gun that goes boom when it is supposed to go click. Many of you reading this know exactly what I mean. Get the clicks and booms sorted out.

Be guarded about old ammo. As a cop in the ’70s I had an elderly lady give me a Wehrmacht-marked P-38 pistol and a coffee can full of olive-drab-green 9mm cartridges. There was a reddish lacquer-like finish around the projectile and case edge as well as around the primer. The can contained by count 496 rounds and the case head stamp was 1942 (this was 1979). I fired every round through that P-38 and all but four rounds failed to fire. Pretty good results, then again I see no reason to test the theory. Carry the best ammo you can.

I’ve had lots of factory cartridge failures, but over the last 45 years of shooting the percentage of failure is amazingly small. I would be inclined not to play Russian roulette with 37-year-old German ammo or any other. That said, I would still carry the best fresh ammunition I could get.

Old is good, new is good. Carry and use what you like, just make sure it works.

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