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"Obsolete" guns

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Nightcrawler, Sep 14, 2003.

  1. Nightcrawler

    Nightcrawler Well-Known Member

    Something I've been wondering about. When is a gun "obsolete"? I mean, a World War I Enfield will kill you just as dead today as it did in 1914. Some say that it's obsolete as a battle rifle because it's a bolt gun. But bolt action rifles are still used world wide by military forces, just for different purposes.

    So what makes a gun obsolete? The easy answer is when something better comes along. But what makes one "better"? With things like jet fighters, it's kind of easy to tell. But small arms haven't changed a whole lot in the last half-century.

    New advances include things like polymer frames. Is polymer really "better" than steel or aluminum? Or does it have disadvantages?

    The US service rifle, the M16 family, is somewhere along the lines of 40 years old. Since then, a plethora of 5.56mm rifles have come along.

    Is the M16 then "obsolete"?

    Is the 1911 "obsolete" because there are newer pistols that will do exactly what it does that cost less to make, have fewer parts, and are lighter?

    You know what I think it really is? In the last fifty years, it's gotten a LOT harder to shoot down a fighter aircraft. They've gone from 500 miles per hour to in excess of Mach 2; they've gone from service ceilings of 30,000 feet to over 100,000 feet (in the case of the F-15).

    Yet, one well-placed bullet still kills a man, just as it did in 1953, in 1853, in 1753. Guns haven't evolved a great deal, especially in the last century, because we've already gotten them to the point where they're just about optimum for what we ask of them. A lot of what we have now might even be more than is necessary for many situations. (I mean, you're probably not going to need a thirty round magazine for home defense. It's nice to have, but a 4+1 shotgun will almost always work just as well.)

    Just looking for your thoughts. I love "obsolete" guns. Garands, bolt guns, revolvers, leverguns, oh my!
  2. BryanP

    BryanP Well-Known Member

    I remind people that when it comes to computers Obsolete != Useless.

    I would say the same about firearms.
  3. OEF_VET

    OEF_VET Well-Known Member

    Well, when the ammo for the gun stops being available for one. I have a German Commission Model 1888 that is 113 years old. The original round it was chambered for is no longer produced, so I'd say the rifle is obsolete.

    There is a big difference between obsolete and outdated. The primary arms of say, WW2 would be considered outdated, but not obsolete. There have been numerous advances made in firearms technology since then, but the weapons are still functional and will serve their intended purposes as long as there is ammo to feed them.

    There aren't too many people who would be willing to say that a Colt 1851 Army, chambered in .44 blackpowder would make a suitable frontline weapon. However, the design still works rather well to this day, and it'll still kill a man dead. Therefore, it's outdated, but not necessarily obsolete.


    Edited to remove effects of a late night, when I should have been asleep.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2003
  4. BigG

    BigG Well-Known Member

    There are a lot of answers but one I will advance is when the cost of making the weapon is higher than it can be sold for, or something equivalent but cheaper to produce will replace it.

    Look at the old surplus Mausers. All forged and machined and costing a hundred or so for a brand new rifle like the Yugo 48. Contrast that with a newly manufactured bolt action. There is no way a forged machined rifle could be made today and sold at the same price as a typical late model bolt gun. Or else they are ripping us off! :eek:
  5. Nightcrawler

    Nightcrawler Well-Known Member

    I've heard that they couldn't make guns today with the same quality and forgings that they did in the 20s and 30s, for instance, and sell them at a profit.


    Manufacturing techniques have only improved since 1920, yes? So how can they have mass-produced something then (and interwar Colt government models enjoyed healthy sales, for instance) and NOT be able to do it today?
  6. BigG

    BigG Well-Known Member

    Not necessarily CAN'T produce today, but WON'T. Bean counters and Wall Street have taken over the business world rather than sole proprietors with a good name to protect. Like I said, it's a complex question with many sides.
  7. Dave R

    Dave R Well-Known Member

    'Crawler, the answer to your question is--its because labor costs have risen so much. You could spend a lot of time with manual fittings, etc., when labor was cheap. No can do, now.

    I agree with BrianP. Obsolete means useless. Pretty much anything that fires a cartridge you can reload for is NOT obsolete. Outdated, maybe. But some of those outdated weapons have some great virtues of their own. Swiss K-31, for example. And reloaders can form that brass from some not-quite-uncommon commercial brass.

    OEF_VET, does that old German cartridge use primers that you can get commercially? If so, then I'm sure you could form brass from some other cartridge, if you wanted to bad enough and were willing to pay enough.
  8. OEF_VET

    OEF_VET Well-Known Member

    Dave R,

    The cartridge is essentially the same as the 8mm Mauser, but the bullet itself is different, rounded as opposed to pointed. Even if I could make some rounds myself, I don't think I'd be gutsy enough to try shooting it. The barrel is full of rust and probably quite pitted. It's just kinda cool to be able to say I've got a rifle that's that old.

  9. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

    Other than ugly, I'm sure it's less expensive to manufacture.
  10. TexasVet

    TexasVet Well-Known Member

    Check out the polymer interior of a thirty year old car, and notice what happens when the volatile fractions start to finally evaporate. Cracks and brittleness. The polymers in guns are better, but they are still chemically plastics and I don't think anybody will be shooting 100 year old Glocks a century from now.
  11. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member


    Because the guy who hand-fitted the extractor or hand-polished the bluing on your 1922 Colt's Government Model was happy if his salary covered an apartment in Hartford, streetcar fare to and from the big dome, ice for the icebox, and food for his kids.

    The guy who drives the machine that manufactures a current Kimber MIM extractor wants his salary to cover a house payment, payments on a Ford Explorer, a Honda Valkyrie, a four-wheeler or jet ski or bass boat, a timeshare in Panama City or someplace else on the redneck riviera, health insurance, disability insurance, unemployment insurance...

    The world of Then and the world of Now are very different places...
  12. Pendragon

    Pendragon Well-Known Member

    Ok, this is controversial - I came up with it on my own, but I have heard at least 1 economist say it on TV.

    Women entering the workforce have increased the cost of living in this country. No, I dont think they should have stayed home - but since many homes are dual income, in many places, a $250k-$400k home is considered normal and not overly luxurious. Since household incomes increased, prices of many items has risen.

    Of course, many women may be happier or more fulfilled - its not my business. However, technology (and overseas manufacture) has done a good job of lowering the cost to produce many common goods to help keep pace with this.

    Anyway, if you want to make money on a gun, you need to have it made with as little human contact as possible. The problem then is - if you use CNC and computer run tools, its still difficult to make products to exacting standards because of tool wear. Modern designed try to take this reality into account, but in my opinion, it shows up most when they try to use a robot to make a gun that was designed to be made by people.

    Why is nobody able to make a 1911 on a CNC as precisely as Jardine or Wilson or Baer? Why is the fit on a Colt or Kimber or Springfield an atrocity when compared to the semi custom and custom makers?

    Shouldnt they be able to make every part EXACTLY the same? Clearly they cant - not cost effectively. That is why the hand tuned guns will shoot rings around the factory guns. Sure, both will make a lemon here and there and they factory will make some that are just dead on - but statistically, a factory 1911 just cant hold up to a hand tuned/made 1911.
  13. Dionysusigma

    Dionysusigma Well-Known Member

    Smooth-bore long arms (such as flintlocks)

    15th century firearms

    Catapults (not really firearms, but y'know)

    Other than that... not much
  14. New_comer

    New_comer Well-Known Member

    The American Heritage Dictionary defines:

    ob·so·lete adj. 1. Abbr. obs. No longer in use: an obsolete word. See note at old . 2. Outmoded in design, style, or construction: an obsolete locomotive. 3. Biology: Vestigial or imperfectly developed, especially in comparison with other individuals or related species; not clearly marked or seen; indistinct. Used of an organ or other part of an animal or a plant. v. tr. ob·so·let·ed ob·so·let·ing ob·so·letes 1. To cause to become obsolete. [Latin obsol¶tus,past participle of obsol¶scereto fall into disuse; See obsolescent ] ob â€so·lete“ly adv. ob â€so·lete“ness n. ob “so·letâ€ism n.

    IMO, one way to test for obsolescence is a 'mano y mano' scenario. For example:

    A hundred troopers armed with single shot revolvers on one side, is suddenly confronted with another hundred armed with 1911's, handgun fighting distance apart. All hell broke loose... :what: :evil:

    Which side do you think would have more soldiers still standing after the smoke clears? Let me re-phrase that: which side would you want to belong to? Also consider that, as in the real world, there's no such thing as a OSS.

    Then you'll know which is obsolete. Of course, there are other test scenarios we could imagine to expose a weapon's obsolescence. You could even play it up such that your favorite gunmake always wins! :D:D:D
  15. jar

    jar Well-Known Member

    Well New_comer, I've thought a lot about just that scenario. If them old foggies with their obsolete SAs knew what they were doing, I don't think I'd want to be opposing them no matter what gun I had.

    Since most of my handguns and rifles are probably older than most of the folk posting here, I'm not sure that any can really be considered obsolete. I regulary shoot handguns and rifles that are as old as I am, quite a few are older, and they still do everything anyone could want.

    Todays firearms are pretty close to perfect. If you look at them, things seemed to peak for the handgun around 1935. Since then, except for a few changes in metalurgy, a few production changes like the advent of modern polymer materials, little has changed. Rifle technology seemed to peak around the Vietnam war period. Again, since then not much has changed.

    Eventually any give technology reaches a place where there is little that can be improved. Once there, all you see are small refinements until there is some major breakthrough, some fundamental change. IMHO, firearms are there.

    One day something will come along that is not based on chemically driving a small piece of lead from a rifled barrel. When that happens, I think we will be able to say that todays firearms are obsolete. But until then...
  16. BigG

    BigG Well-Known Member

    Plasma rifle, 40 watt range. /arnold :D
  17. seeker_two

    seeker_two Well-Known Member

    New_comer: I like your analogy except for one thing....

    If we're talking about 100 soldiers from the Old West w/ SA Colts--during a time where marksmanship was taught at an early age--versus 100 modern-day soldiers w/ 1911's--taught at the temple of "spray & pray", then I'm putting my money on the Buffalo Soldiers...:D

    ...and just what is a "single shot revolver"? :scrutiny:

    I think "obsolescence" is more a factor of popular acceptance than any great technological advancement. For example, how many "obsolete" 1911's and M-14's are being requisitioned for use in Iraq & Afghanistan? And how much of an "advantage" is a 12-shot .40 over a 6-shot .357?

    If you want to talk about "obsolescence", think about the history of the knife...:cool:
  18. TechBrute

    TechBrute Well-Known Member


    Dern... you beat me to it... actually your whole post pretty much took the words right out of my mouth.
  19. New_comer

    New_comer Well-Known Member


    You got me there!:D

    My mind was outgunning my typing...

    Too much imaginating :D:D:D
  20. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member


    Using the Colt 1911/Government Model as an example:

    Numerous manufacturers make this pistol, or clones of it today. Since it remains in production I wouldn’t call it obsolete. Are they any better then the ones Colt made during the 1920's? Well yes and no.

    Generally speaking the steels and heat-treating used now are much better, and in some cases some parts may be machined to closer tolerances. But when it comes to polish and hand fitting - the many things that make something "quality" the older guns comes out ahead. Could we make guns with today's materials and yesteryears handwork? Certainly we could, but most people can't afford a handgun with a price tag hovering around $2,000.00 - and that's what it would be for a basic model.

    Is this 1911 style pistol obsolete? I'd say no, not as long as people use it for its intended purpose. When it's no longer made and relegated to museums and collections then it will be obsolete - not before.

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