Why Do Old Guns Feel So Solid?


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DeadCalm
August 16, 2005, 05:03 AM
Greetings. An all-engrossing job has kept me away from this site for a long time and it's good to be back. The context of this question is this: I own two of my grandfather's guns, one of my father's. They are all Winchesters: a Model 1890 in .22 WRF, a Model 1897 in 12 gauge, and a Model 69 in .22 LR (+S and L). In all, but especially in the 1890, there is a kind of vault-like feel in the working of the actions and to the general heft and balance of the guns. They lock up solidly; the pumps have a very precise "click-clack" sound when racked, and the metal, whether still blue or not, just looks more like, well, steel. There are a number of other guns in my safe that are mostly contemporary. They just don't have this feel to them, however well-made or expensive they are. Am I imagining this? Please help, or tell me how to get a life. Both are welcome. Thanks.
Ross

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CleverName
August 16, 2005, 05:33 AM
Because the cheap-feeling ones typically don't stand the test of time?

Firethorn
August 16, 2005, 05:51 AM
CleverName has it.

It's just like houses and the comment 'They don't make them like they used to", and meaning that they don't build them as well.

My comeback: "You're only seeing the best houses from that period, those of the rich and/or obsessed with a good home."

There were plenty of junk guns produced. It's just that, being junk, nobody kept them around, bothered to take care of them, threw them away when they broke, etc.

Take the best, say, 1% of guns produced today, and compare them with the guns of yesteryear.

Chawbaccer
August 16, 2005, 06:15 AM
Labor was cheap and it takes lots of time to make a machined receiver and the parts that go in it, plus the hand fitting that close tolerance parts need.
Now days parts are stamped and cast and made of plastic to eliminate as much labor as possible.

gvass
August 16, 2005, 06:24 AM
"Why Do Old Guns Feel So Solid? "

Because they are.

80-100 years ago there were no MIM, polymers, stamped parts etc.

(But there are really junk old guns, too)

Commissar Gribb
August 16, 2005, 06:33 AM
most of the junk old guns dont pass safety tests anymore.

such as the "pull from holster without going off" test

The_Antibubba
August 16, 2005, 06:47 AM
Because they are.

At one time, gunmakers were craftsmen, and learned as much by apprenticing as they did through trade school. It was more than just metal and wood that went into them. It was passion and honor too.

Case in point: the '96 Swedish Mauser.

jsalcedo
August 16, 2005, 09:58 AM
All of my old guns (Pre 1950) are extremely solid (with the exception of a few
old junk guns from the late 19th century.

I have some nice modern guns but they seem to "shlack" instead of "snick"

MICHAEL T
August 16, 2005, 10:58 AM
Commissar Gribb writes :most of the junk old guns dont pass safety tests anymore.

such as the "pull from holster without going off" test


Yes we have improved Now we only need Glock to pass the putting back in holster test with out going off :D

Old S&W show craftmanship ,new ones show profit

jondar
August 16, 2005, 12:42 PM
I have a Model 1911 Colt, made in 1918. All parts on it are original, even the barrell. I had always used milsurp .45 ACP ammo in it. Someone gave me a box of .45 wadcutters and I tried these. They wouldn't function thru the action. I took it to the closest gunsmith. He took the gun, looked it over and said, "I can work it over to shoot the wadcutters, but I hope you will leave this just like it is because you can't go buy anything out there today approaching the quality in this gun." So I left it like it is and it's now shooting reloads I make with the 230 grain round nose bullet. I can't hazard a guess how many rounds have been thru this pistol. Not to take anything away from the other good pistols, just repeating what the gunsmith told me.

Sam
August 16, 2005, 03:30 PM
Old time guns are like the old time people that made them. They have character. They are made of steel and wood like men were made of. They were made by men doing honest labor, in an honest way, taking pride in even menial labor.


Modern guns are like the modern men that make them, they have no character although they are characters. They are made of old beer cans and plastic like the modern men are made f ...............................................


Sam

Standing Wolf
August 16, 2005, 03:47 PM
There are a few recent production guns that are as solid-feeling as the older guns, but by no means the majority.

TMM
August 16, 2005, 03:48 PM
i just got 2 longguns from my grampa, he probably bought them for $20... both bolt actions, they have a very nice "clack-clack--clack-clack" sound and feel solid... keep in mind these have been sitting around probably for 30 years and haven't been oiled, cleaned, etc. one of them is a little sticky near the end of the ejection, but some CLP should do away with that... and the other has the WORST trigger. it has about 3/32" of take-up, breaks like a mushy, heated(soft) glass rod, and has another ~1/8" of overtravel...not that that has to do anything. it's just funny.

~TMM

scubie02
August 16, 2005, 06:21 PM
well, personally i think alot of the old guns just WERE made better. Even expensive guns today often seem sort fo cheap by comparison. And its not just old vs new models or anything. Handle an old winchester 94 compared to a modern one. Almost all of the newest models are cheapened from the old ones, even if the same model is made. The old ones were too expensive to produce, so they went to cheap ones. The winchester 1300's were a cheap replacement for the model 12. The 870 is a cheap replacement for the 31. Is the 870 still good and reliable? Well, yeah, generally--but you can't avoid the fact that its all stamped parts and plastic. The new 700's, the new model 70's, etc--they are all cheapened up with plastic or aluminum or pot metal, often finishing isn't as good. Its sad really. But we get what we settle for. Its to the point where I am hard pressed to find a modern rifle I would want to buy--these days I am more likely to look for a good used one.

cracked butt
August 16, 2005, 06:29 PM
Made from forged steel, the metal is denser and stronger.
I got a real suprise the first time I took a Mauser 98 apart and tapped it with a screw driver, it rang like a bell. You don't get that with today's pot metal, plastic or aluminum triggerguards or most other gun parts for that matter.

Things long ago were made to last. My grandmother has a coffee maker and toaster that have combined ages of 100 years or more and still work. I've gone through 3 toasters and 2 coffee makers in the last 10 years.

Cacique500
August 16, 2005, 06:47 PM
Since I got my C&R I've been getting a lot of the 'older guns' and they are much more solid than a lot of todays modern offerings.

Get your hands on a Garand or an M39 Mosin Nagant sometime...amazing shooters that HAVE withstood the test of time...plus a little history thrown in to boot.

I also like the older .45's (like the Sistema) that were made out of STEEL...not plastic, polymer, aluminum, etc.

Ky Larry
August 16, 2005, 07:12 PM
They don't build them like they used to. If they did, we couldn't afford them.A century ago, people were cheap and machines were expensive. Now, machines are cheap and people are expensive. The cost of hand fitting and tuning a firearm would be prohibitive in todays market.

scubie02
August 16, 2005, 07:17 PM
yeah, i have a sporterized mauser that I paid $225 for that makes alot of newer rifles I have had lately look sad...

Ben Shepherd
August 16, 2005, 08:27 PM
Gave my younger brother grandpas old marlin 22 that he had engraved his name in, as he is the namesake. Bought me a 10-22 to replace it.

The 10-22 is acurate and dead-nuts reliable. BUT-compared to the marlin, the 10-22 handles like a bb gun. The marlin always handled like a carbine.

Zach S
August 17, 2005, 07:30 AM
I'll admit that a lot of mine are recent production, but I handled a Kahr Thompson recently and it felt and looked cheap compared to the two AOs I own (of unkown dates). Brand new and it has more rattle in the upper/lower fitment than the first one I got that now has a few thousand rounds through it. It also had tooling marks in the mag well and inconsistant blueing. It had pretty wood though.

RavenVT100
August 17, 2005, 08:14 AM
Because POLYMER II hadn't been invented yet.

Commissar Gribb
August 17, 2005, 08:19 AM
Yes we have improved Now we only need Glock to pass the putting back in holster test with out going off

LMAO

true enough!

oweno
August 17, 2005, 01:48 PM
Long, long time ago, I worked at Savage Arms in Chicopee Falls - most of the time inspecting parts for the Model 99. The old gunsmith in charge told me "Don't let anything go past you if it ain't good." If, for example, there was a barrel that had poor rifling, I'd take the barrel and whack it on an anvil putting a real nice bend in it. Instant scrap. The customer never saw it.

Nathanael_Greene
August 17, 2005, 04:43 PM
Behold the power of steel.

Jim March
August 18, 2005, 12:01 AM
The most solid-feeling guns I've ever held are brand new Freedom Arms, mid-frame or large.

DeadCalm
August 19, 2005, 01:26 PM
Thank you all for your responses. Jim March's most recent response then begs the question, "Well, who DOES still make firearms that feel like that?" Yeah, I've got one of Freedom Arms' little .22 Mag revolvers and that too takes me back to the thrilling days of yester year quality. So excluding full-out custom guns, but including maybe Cooper Arms, Dakota, Freedom Arms, etc., which makers charge less than a second mortgage to purchase? Under $2K$3K?
Thanks.
Ross

DeadCalm
August 19, 2005, 01:42 PM
Thank you all for your responses. Jim March's most recent response then begs the question, "Well, who DOES still make firearms that feel like that?" Yeah, I've got one of Freedom Arms' little .22 Mag revolvers and that too takes me back to the thrilling days of yester year quality. So excluding full-out custom guns, but including maybe Cooper Arms, Dakota, Freedom Arms, etc., which makers charge less than a second mortgage to purchase? Under $2K$3K?
Thanks.
Ross

Jayb
August 19, 2005, 04:05 PM
Lifting either one of these 45 year old .22 target rifles that weigh 14.5 lbs apiece, will lead you most of the way to why some of the older guns feel so solid. Solid wood, and solid steel. Their looks ain't too shabby either. ;)

http://personal.swayzee.com/jayb/mk3s1.jpg

CGofMP
August 19, 2005, 11:05 PM
Thank you all for your responses. Jim March's most recent response then begs the question, "Well, who DOES still make firearms that feel like that?"

I am officially biased as I do John Jardine's (http://www.jardinescustom.com) websites, but I think I am being honest when I say that every time I have picked up one of his Valtro (1911 style pistols) (http://www.valtrousa.com) that I am always impressed with the heft and feel of his products.

http://www.jardinescustom.com/april2003photos/resizedthumbnails/BlueMagWellprops.jpg

My other passion of course is the M1 Garand Rifle (http://www.memorableplaces.com/m1garand/) I have yet to hold a USGI Garand that did not inspire a feeling of 'certainty'. It may also build your biceps as compared to the M16, but the elegance of a solid design made with forged steel just has that confident feel to it.

http://www.memorableplaces.com/m1garand/detboltassy.jpg

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