older rifle quality vs new mfg.


June 5, 2008, 01:17 AM
Thinking of a new deer rifle. .30-06. Maybe a Weatherby. Why? I don't know ..they look cool? Have a pretty good reputation? I'm no expert but a good friend's dad was a gun collector and had many W's. I trust his judgement.

I've noticed something about older guns. They seem to have been made better in earlier days. I know that's what you always hear, "don't make 'em like they used to.."

For pistols I've noticed for example that you can get a very nice Smith & Wesson from the 1950's for around $400 bucks with an action and finish that beats a new mfg gun that costs twice the price.

I wonder if the same holds true for rifles?

Is there a significant difference in mfg. quality or engineering in the older rifles or has cnc, modern tooling, computer design and all the rest resulted in a better product in recent years.

If not, what would be a classic gun <$1,000 (<$750?) that would be a good investment. I'm not talking resale or collectible but a rifle that would be the equivalent of a Smith 29 or a Winchester 94? I'm thinking blued, bolt action, walnut. Something that maybe would be a bit nicer that an average rifle.

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June 5, 2008, 04:41 AM
Here come about 50 posts that'll have the words "pre-'64" in them... :banghead:

June 5, 2008, 09:56 AM
Or "non-Vanguard".

June 5, 2008, 09:58 AM
In MOST cases newer is better. After all, we have learned a lot about materials, technology, and gain improvement through experience.

June 5, 2008, 10:02 AM
Hokkmike has it. Those who say the older stuff is better and cost less aren't taking inflation into account nor the newer, higher pressure cartridges. I don't think .357 Sig or .338 Lapua Magnum would have been possible 50 or 60 years ago.

June 5, 2008, 10:49 AM
Most any gun collector got into collecting because they noticed the same thing as you did. Up until about 1960 American gun mfg's only new how to build guns the old school way. They were basically hand built, hand checkered, lapped barrels, better fit and finish overall. Those were times when people didn't have as much "stuff" so when you bought something it meant a little more. Now we've become a throw away society and in some ways the guns have become throw away too IMO.

You mentioned Smith & Wesson so I'll use them as an example. My gunsmith told me he has a hard time doing a trigger job on the new ones because some of the critical parts are MIM castings. He also said some of the pieces they cast are too big for casting so they warp when they cool and it makes a gun that doesn't fit together as precisely as the old ones. He showed me a cylinder latch he was working on that was warped in a c shape and didn't sit flush with the frame.

Browning is now making rifles with gold plated plastic triggers. Many brands of rifles in the last year have gone from bluing to a bead blasted finish which means....................less hand work on the buffing wheel. If you look at every major change in the last 20 years in rifles it was done to reduce the time humans had to handle them thus reducing the cost. Don't get me started on blow-molded plastic stocks.

While there has been some new brands with excellent accuracy, I have to say I have shot WWII milsurp rifles with open sights and 60 yr old corrosive ammo that shot better groups than some of my modern hunting rifles with handloads. I shot a pre 64 model 70 with a 50 yr old 4x Weaver under an inch with factory ammo.

In my mind there is no question the general quality of guns has been in a gradual decline for decades and it has sped up the last couple of years. This way of thinking is why people pay big money for the old stuff at gunshows.

I'm not saying everything built these days is junk. I'm generalizing here. There are still some good rifles out there I think. IMO some of the good production rifles like you mentioned would be; Weatherby Mk V, Kimber 84 & 8400, Sako, Cooper, and others. I own most of these and IMO they have as good of quality as some of the older guns like pre 64 model 70's and others so sought after by collectors. But I still don't have any guns I consider better built than my 1950 Supergrade in the box.

June 5, 2008, 11:02 AM
it is a conundrum; older stuff is usually quite unique, beautiful, origional, etc. Just look at the huge plethora of 22 rifles made in the past 100 years, how absolutely different and beatiful some of these were, just amazing. Now, a lever is a lever, and these are the specs, a bolt is a bolt, and these are those specs, etc. i have a pre 1950 remmy 241 gs gallery gun, take down version, and the simplicity, and artistic curvature of the lines of this little rifle are beautiful.
This rifle simply could not be built today, by anyone at all, unless they were an independent gunmaker, and made this on an order. This so far, does not even include fit and finish, which was all done by hand as well. As recently as 5 yrs ago, CZ , when they were making all their products 100 percent overseas, before they even came here, used Turkish walnut. I have 2 cz 527's, that are hand fitted, hand rubbed, hand oiled, hand finished Turkish walnut. Also both of these rifles have front and rear sites. Now since they are partially made and finished in Kansas city, these things are not done, not even the sites.
Now then, cz's are still damn fine rifles, and one of the few made where you actually feel you got your money's worth, but they are not as good as the older ones, period. Even on my older ones, their is not stenciling or electric penciling of any marks , words , or letters; every little thing is roll stamped into the metal.
What makes the new cz's very good, is the quality of the steel, the machines that make and cut them, and the tight specs, that can turn out accurate bbl after bbl, and excellent computer made parts for their fantastic trigger assy's. Twenty years ago, you could not have made any of these parts this way, including the bbls. Even if you were to try to make a cut bbl 50 years ago, and you were an expert, a cut bbl on a machine today, would be better specs, and using better steel for the bbl, than you could have ever used 20 30 or 50 years ago.

Art Eatman
June 5, 2008, 01:36 PM
Generalizing, modern stuff is quite good if not better when it comes to machining--and thus, accuracy for tight groups. "Affordable" rifles don't have the finish of yesteryear's. Some are not as good in the fit of stock and barrelled action.

Manufacturers, in an effort to keep prices down so that they can sell into the mass market, have gone to "lesser" materials in non-critical locations. Sometimes this works; other times, no.

If you want the fit and finish of yesterday's rifles, you have to pay for that extra hand work that's required. That's most of the difference between a $700 rifle and a $2,000 rifle.

The "Rifleman's Rifle", the pre-64 Model 70, did pretty good to shoot five-shot groups inside of 1.5 to 1.0 MOA, fresh out of the box. Sub-MOA from a NIB rifle, today, is not surprising.


June 5, 2008, 02:31 PM
My .30-06 Vanguard Sporter is a modern-made classic rifle.

Weatherby sells classic rifles, still, for way under a grand, new. It's accurate, it fits me like a glove, and it's solid. Fit and finish are good (if you want the true classic highly-polished barrel you have to move up to the Deluxe Sporter.) It's heavy, but I can find no flaws in its construction. Can't find any plastic, either, unless you count the bedding compound.

Supposedly, the Model 70 Featherweight is coming back, but I haven't seen one yet. I'd like one. I'd really like one. The old M70 Carbine was nice, too; I'd buy one of those if they made it. Remington can keep the M7 CDL, though; much as I like how it handles, it's way overpriced for what it is, IMHO.

June 5, 2008, 02:47 PM
That is exactly why I have Mossberg 800's and 810's. The price of modern low-cost rifles, but made with deeply polished and blued metals, walnut (yeah, real walnut) stocks, iron sights, and adjustable triggers (on 810).

All of that and they are good shooters. The best of all worlds!

Of course, they were made in the 1960's and 70's...


June 5, 2008, 02:49 PM
My only pre 64 rifles are Russian and Chinese and I can tell you that the fit and finish is not up to par to today's standards.

June 5, 2008, 03:17 PM
Marlin still makes them the same as they always have. Better, even, with cut checkering and a tougher finish on the newer stocks.

Pray Remington doesn't wreck 'em.

June 5, 2008, 03:55 PM
4 mentions of "pre 64" so far!!!

June 5, 2008, 04:35 PM
4 mentions of "pre 64" so far!!!

Can you expand on that statement? I'm assuming the pre 64 love makes you :barf: I get that way about Savage and Tikka love.

June 6, 2008, 03:09 AM
My purchased in 1962, Winchester M 70 Featherweight, in 30-06, has
put ten rounds into a little over an 1.3" @ 100yds. It has always worn a 3X
Weaver Post X hair. Orginal except for an added recoil pad that no wood
was removed.:D Gosh it was new when I bought it over 40 years ago, and
is still pristine. Many deer went lights out with the only load it truely loved.
A case full, 58 grains of 4831, and Sierra 180 grain bullets, using GI FA 41

June 6, 2008, 10:36 AM
well, personally, my opinion is this. you have to go old, or new, but nothing in the middle. a lot of everything in the last 1/2 of the sixties, and the seventies was junk. a "new breed" of management came to power that said cheaper is better, take every short cut you can, to produce a product, sell it at the regular price, and make huge profits for the company. live on our previous reputation of quality, and worry about that when sales plummit. it was a sad time in the consumers market. it was not limited to guns, everything from sewing machines to airplanes, to automobiles were involved. it started after President Kenedy was assasinated, and continued on until sales fell off due to lousey workmanship. after the management figured out they had to fix their quality problems, things got better. the reason? an awful lot of our money was going overseas, because we could buy a better product for less or equal money that we had to pay for american products. now, the american made stuff is made with the quality it always should have been made with. and in some cases, the quality is way better. who ever heard of a car going 200,000 miles in the early sixties? now, it is common place. so, avoid the inbetween stuff and you will do fine.

June 6, 2008, 12:00 PM
I would agree with Moooose... the 60s/70s were (with only a couple exceptions) the nadir of gun quality in this country.

Also agree with Armed Bear - the Model 7 would surely be a sweet one if it were priced as a rifle instead of as a gold-plated Sedan DeVille.


June 6, 2008, 12:45 PM
The Mossberg's are definitely the exception for the time. While Remington, Savage, and Winchester were putting birch on their rifles, the Mossies were still walnut.


Art Eatman
June 6, 2008, 01:15 PM
Shawnee, the '60s/'70s saw some inflation in consumer prices which was similar to what's happening now. Wages didn't keep up. Gunmakers had little choice, really.

So, fit and finish degraded, but more-advanced machinery meant that shootability was maintained or even improved.

While ArmedBear shows the Vanguard, note that I paid $315 for a German-made special-barrel Mark V in 1970. What's today's price on a Mark V? Also, the Vanguard is Weatherby's second line, not the flagship.

June 6, 2008, 05:26 PM
I have newer guns and older guns, and when I decide I want a new or new to me gun unless it is something you can't find used and older, and has to be bought new, I will nearly always shop the used racks.
I don't care for plastic on my guns, and a bead blast finish was what you did to one that was rusty and pitted before you reblued it, not what was used as a new finish.
IMHO plastic and matte finishes look and are cheap from the get go, aside from a very few special applications.

I don't need or want roll marked safety warnings or safety's on top of safety's or plastic, or matte finishes etc. Although I do owns some, as it is about impossible to escape in today's world, but I do avoid it if I can.

June 6, 2008, 07:32 PM
I have both new and old rifles. I think the older rifles tend to have a nicer finish, but the newer ones tend to be more accurate. This is just a general rule though, my Dad has an old 30-40 Krag (about 110 years old now) that shoots half-inch groups at 100 yards...

I have 2 rifles that I bought brand new within the last few years, been happy with both. One was a NEF/H&R single shot "handy rifle" in .22WMR, the other a Ruger M77 MKII in .280 Remington. Both shoot sub-MOA at 100 yards if I do my part. And the finish is decent on both.

I'd probably buy a newer one if I were you, simply because it's more likely to shoot straight. I like the Ruger M77, but I haven't checked out the new "hawkeye" yet. I've only seen/shot the Mark I and Mark II rifles...

Whatever you get, don't forget about the optics. Even the nicest rifle won't live up to it's full potential with a crappy scope...

June 6, 2008, 09:53 PM
There are only a handful of new factory rifles I would spend my money only; some of the CZ offerings, Wetherby Vanguard/Howa etc.

The design, fabrication, fit and finish are significantly more appealing on most guns made before the mid 1960s.

June 6, 2008, 10:26 PM
As a side issue is the rate of inflation since the 50s. I often find people quoting "cheap" prices from then compaired to now. Actually, the reverse is true if we compare real value then and now and by that I mean how many hours someone had to work to purchase a "cheap" item in the 50s.

Consider these facts; in '55 a postage stamp cost 3 cents, a Field and Stream, etc, magazine sold for 35 cents, a new base model Ford/Chevy/Plymoth sold for something like $1300. Minimum wage pay, a new thing, was something like 25 cents per hour so a magazine cost a bit over an hours pay for a minimum wage earner, that's not so today. Typical take home pay even for a skilled worker back then was around $75 so a $200 S & W cost nearly three weeks pay, not nearly so with todays $400 S & W!

Quality guns were available in the 50s because enough people were willing to trade enough sweat to acquire them but most didn't, most bought far less expensive guns! IF today's market supported the higher product quality that we supported in the 50s the makers would meet them, but a compairable quality Smith would cost around $2,000 and that only because newer automated machinery has held the cost of better quality down.

Most of you have no idea how hard life was for the "common man" 60 years ago. Today's "poor" live much better than kings did in most countries back then in so far as better homes, higher quality cheap food, central HVAC, great transportation, entertainment, quality clothing, more and better tools for every task imaginable, vastly better medical care, etc. And most all of it is now available for "free" to welfare type non-workers.

In fact, the only thing in America's daily life that has degraded since the 50s has been education and that only because we allowed it to be made a ward of the central government and the education "professionals."

THESE are the "good old days" for guns and most everything else.

June 6, 2008, 10:50 PM
I love them all, but for the average shooter I really believe that newer guns are generally better than older ones. I'm talking about reasonable priced guns such as the Vanguard, Savages, et al. Almost any Savage made today will shoot better than almost any Winchester ever made pre-64 (stock, not worked over). I was a hunter pre-64, and out of the box they were honestly nothing to write home about. They were better made than the post-64 guns which gave them their mystique. They had controlled round feed, real wood stocks, solid steel bits and pieces. But the triggers generally were not that great and they really weren't more accurate than any current production rifle mentioned above.

Having said that, I show up at the deer camp with anything from a modern 1885 Browning to a custom WWII VZ24 Mauser in 7x57. This one isn't that old, a Sako AIII, but it's a pretty decent modern rifle, and will definately outshoot any of the pre-war Mannlicher stocked guns I've owned.


I do have a bunch of older rifles though, simply because I appreciate the skill that went into building them. Todays technology is really better, although generally not as well done aesthetically.

June 6, 2008, 10:57 PM

These could only be "the good old days" in price, not quality IMO.

I agree with you about the prices of goods. I have a Winchester catalog from 1955. It was a significant amount of money for a decent gun at that time. Most guns in the catalog are $100 to $200 dollars. That's probably only 1/3 the cost of the avg. gun today. Meanwhile cars and most everything else has gone up by a much larger margin.

June 7, 2008, 02:43 AM
The newest rifle I have is a Remington 700 BDL in 30-06 I got in 1971 brand new. I still have the Redfield 4X scope on it. I us this weapon every year for deer and elk. Yes the bluing is getting thin in places and the stock is nicked and scratched. But I still think the bluing and stock finish when new was better they today's 700.
I still shot CMP with my Enfield P-17 she still shoots better than I can with my 60 year old eyes. In my younger years I out shot Springfield's, at times still can.
I like others here do not like plastic on my rifles. Still like wood stocks and iron sights on my rifles. Guess just old fashion.

June 7, 2008, 10:29 PM
i agree with you guys, if gun prices were as inflated as car prices, gun companies would go out of business! a standard remington 700 would probably be in excess of $2500.00, without sights! MOST of the gun manufacturers have done a good job of keeping retail costs down to a reasonable level. but, i am NO FAN of plastic on a gun either, i would GLADLY pay an extra $20.00 or 30.00 to replace plastic with decent metal. i bought a henry .22 lever gun 2 months ago. i was not very happy when i found out it has plastic barrel bands and front sights. i REALLY WISH they would offer an accessory metal retrofit kit for these. brass would be even better (i just LOVE the looks of polished brass!)
but i am not so sure you can buy a s&w pistol of any size for $400.00!

June 7, 2008, 11:17 PM
If how a gun looks is most important to you then you'll probably tend to believe that the older rifles are much better.

If how a gun SHOOTS is most important then modern rifles are vastly superior to just about anything that could be had in yesteryear. In the 50's a bolt action rifle cost the average hourly paid worker a couple months pay and was doing great if it shot under 2 inches. Nowdays you can buy a rifle that'll almost be garenteed to shoot SUB moa for not even one paycheck.

Guns and Muscle Cars are alike in that while most think the heyday is long gone, in reality these things have NEVER been better than they are today.

June 8, 2008, 05:57 AM
Personally, Old School hunting rifles really have a soul that is just not found in modern rifles today. Take for example my 1950s Savage 99, its like shooting a piece of history, that doesnt have any plastic parts or legal warnings about reading a manual or not pointing the muzzle at your face.

June 8, 2008, 01:05 PM
Just goes to show how things change. Pre '64 if your car broke down, you could fix it yourself, the car probably had almost no plastic in it and it wore out in less than 100,000 miles. Rifles were made on old machines that were operated by people and hand fitted together, today with CNC and NC machines, several sets of human hands were taken out of the manufacturing process. If the question, is yesteryear better than today, is to be answered at all, one must consider that prior to 1964 how many rifles came from the factory with a scope mount rail, pre-drilled for scope mounts or with scope rings included? Although still available, who recently has heard of adding Williams sights, Bueler scope mounts or of even taking a rifle to a gunsmith to have the receivier milled, drilled and the bolt turned to mount a scope.
It is very difficult to compare the rifles of today with those of yesterday. For example if prior to 1964 you purchased a "Winchester Westerner" and you shot two or three boxes of bullets a year since then, you might just be on the third or fourth barrel for that rifle. (It caused me to change calibers).

m-g willy
June 8, 2008, 01:39 PM
Remington 700 BDL in 300 winchester mag bought in 76 was one of the best made rifles I ever had.
My Dad's Ruger 77 in 30/06 was a good rifle and just as accurate it didn't have the style of the Remingtom.
THEN! I picked up a 1908 mauser in 7mm mauser!!!!!
The mauser is by far the best made (smoothest best fitted )rifle I ever owned!


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