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Thoughts on "Classic Handguns."

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by BobWright, Sep 29, 2016.

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  1. BobWright

    BobWright Member

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    Folks elsewhere have been discussing "Classic Handguns" and there seems to be no definition of what makes a handgun a Classic. May I offer the following?

    To be a classic, in my opinion at least, a handgun must be all steel, blued, and maybe with non structural parts maybe of brass. Grips should be either walnut or some exotic tropical hardwood, or ivory, bone or stag. Parts to be forged or machined, not castings nor sintered metals.

    And the gun should be sire to later improved models. And it should have enjoyed a fairly long production run and reached a good amount of popularity. It should have the reputation for being accurate and reliable.


    So far as I see it, the Colt cap-and-ball revolvers such as the 1851 Navy and 1860 Army fall into this category, as does the Single Action Army Model 1873. And the top break S&W revolvers, as well as both the early double action hand ejector revolvers from both Colt and Smith & Wesson. Expense need not be a criteria, and the Harrington & Richardson and Iver Johnson top breaks should be considered in this class.

    As to auto pistols, the Browning designed Colts must fall into this category, and the High Standard auto pistols. Too, the famed Luger P-08 and the Walther P-38, and the PP series pistols.

    That's the way I see it. Much like the classic car era, "Classic" sort of ended around the close of WW II.

    Bob Wright
     
  2. Archie

    Archie Member

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    Mr. Wright, I personally agree with what you write here. However - there's always a 'however' - there are folks who are interested in arms since the Second World War. '

    I know one gentleman who collects Glocks (of all things!) He collects the First and Second Generation samples, primarily. This does echo what you said (progenitors), but come from a slightly later era.

    I have a warm, fuzzy regard for Smith & Wesson revolvers up to the point they started neglecting to pin the barrels. I like the pre-model number ones better, of course.

    Older examples - not made any more - of the Dan Wesson and Charter Arms revolvers could be historically significant and possibly 'valuable' in the future.

    I really do agree with you, but I would extend the time frame a bit.
     
  3. buck460XVR

    buck460XVR Member

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    I consider a classic, something that defines or sets a standard for something. IOWs it don't need to be as old as dirt, and it need to be something of relative quality for it's parameter. An old POS is still a POS even tho it's old.
     
  4. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    The literal definition of "classic" is "pertaining to the Greeks and Romans."

    In common speech it has come to mean

    "judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind" and "remarkably and instructively typical"
     
  5. BobWright

    BobWright Member

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    I tend to follow the pattern of collectible automobiles. Modern "muscle cars" fall into the collectible category, yet fall short of "Classic." In the auto realm, classic cars fall into those with cast door handles, running boards, etc. There is a difference between "collector's items" and "classic."

    I love my Ruger Blackhawks, but there is no way I could consider any one of them as a "Classic" with aluminum grip frames and investment cast frames. Collectible? Yes. Classic? No.

    My opinion.


    Bob Wright
     
  6. ljnowell

    ljnowell Member

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    What about all the great classic firearms with Bakelite grips? I think blued guns with wood grips is a preference, it certainly doesn't define classic.
     
  7. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    Any firearm that people collect is "collectible". Whether it's Glock's or the Frommer Stop. Provided that it is for purposes of collecting and not just accumulating. Some are highly collectible, Colt Pythons for instances, some less so, Charter Arms Bulldogs for example.

    Classic has a fuzzier definition. One thing though is it's not up to our personal tastes or personal definition. They can be beautiful or not. No ivory need be involved. They set a standard in their time, they made an impact, they altered the course of shooting, they introduced new design elements that were widely adopted, they were a gun that epitomized a type of gun, etc.

    A 1934 Dusenburg is certainly a classic car. So is a 1957 Chevy Bel Aire and a 1960 VW Beetle.

    Time tells on these things, history weighs in and renders a judgement and it don't care about our personal preferences.

    tipoc
     
  8. Ed Ames

    Ed Ames Member

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    I don't know if the OP is trolling or serious but this seems very absurd to me.

    The OP is describing fine arms. Fine doesn't denote classic and classic doesn't denote fine.

    Example:

    You could take a Kel-Tec PF9, replace the nylon grip frame with a hand carved staghorn shell, replace the serialized frame (which is a small cartridge held inside the frame) with a hand machined and blued steel assembly, forge the trigger, mag release, and other bits, hand finish the slide and barrel, and have what the OP would call a Classic...but it is not a classic in any conventional sense. It would, however, be a fine gun. Fine in the dictionary "of high quality" sense. On the flip side, a Glock 17 is NOT a fine gun, but it is a classic.
     
  9. BobWright

    BobWright Member

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    tipoc said:

    Not according to most classic car clubs.


    Bob Wright
     
  10. BobWright

    BobWright Member

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    Then you have a nice custom gun, nothing more.

    Bob Wright
     
  11. BobWright

    BobWright Member

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    Ed Ames:

    No, Sir, I sure didn't mean to be trolling. I was stating my views in the hope of stimulating conversation about my favorite subject.

    If I offended, I apologize.

    Bob Wright
     
  12. Sergei Mosin

    Sergei Mosin Member

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    I'm not sure I could define a classic, but I know it when I see it.
     
  13. Ed Ames

    Ed Ames Member

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    Well, it met your criteria for "classic" guns so I don't know why you would say that.

    "To be a classic, in my opinion at least, a handgun must be all steel, blued, ...Grips should be ... stag. Parts to be forged or machined, ...And the gun should be sire to later improved models. And it should have enjoyed a fairly long production run and reached a good amount of popularity. It should have the reputation for being accurate and reliable."

    So we have all steel, blued, stag grips, machined and forged parts, it is the progenitor of a Ruger 9mm so sire check, long production, and we can argue the reputation compared to a 1911 which many consider unreliable and inaccurate so check. By your rules it isn't just a custom gun, it is a classic.

    No offense taken, I just think you really mean "fine" not classic.
     
  14. BigBore44

    BigBore44 Member

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    Does this qualify???

    image.jpg

    I mean, the bluing was replaced by patina.... And it's 153 years old. But it is a Colt!
     
  15. shootniron

    shootniron Member

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    A classic handgun, in my opinion, is a handgun that has proven itself over years of service...regardless of construction.

    So, a classic handgun means different things to different people.

    I guess the 1964 Mustang does not qualify as a classic...you may get a little argument on that.
     
  16. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    shootniron

    My thoughts exactly!

    021_zpsuulsvvoa.jpg
     
  17. Fiv3r

    Fiv3r Member

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    My definition of classic mirrors some of yours. I think of a classic firearm is one where it was present and related to a historic event or paradigm shift in adopted technology.

    That is to say that I think the 1911 is a very classic firearm while the 1903 is more of a stepping stone to said classic. The 1911 is a classic not only because of it's updated design but also because it the first mass issued semi-automatic side arm that served through some of the most tumultuous times in modern warfare. Through it's durability, power, and reliability, it has managed to remain a viable firearm for over 100 years even during a time in human history where modern techniques have pushed the boundaries of weapon manufacturing to unheard of frontiers. An old service 1911 has war stories to tell, but even a modernly produced one oozes the same bravado of service, bravery, and rugged aesthetics.


    On the flip side, I think the Gen 1 Glock 17 is a classic firearm. It wasn't the first polymer pistol, but it was the first one to make a dent into a market dominated by heavy steel and aluminum pistols. It not only was more cost effective to produce, but it was easier to carry, AND it seemed more durable and easier to repair. It won't win any beauty contests. It wouldn't be a gun I would feel obligated to pass down to my descendants. It wasn't stuffed in a flap holster on grandpa's hip on the beaches of Normandy. If anything, most Glocks have a "story" of riding along unused in an LEO holster for 20 years without being fired more than once a year. It simply flipped the script on what a handgun NEEDED to be in order to be wildly accepted. AND is a design that CAN be run hard.
     
  18. Tallball

    Tallball Member

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    To me, a classic automobile or firearm is "old" and "beautiful ".

    These are subjective qualities, and opinions.

    IMHO my 67 Mustang and 57 Belair are classics. If someone else disagrees, shrug, they are just expressing a different opinion.

    I think that three of my 100-year-old handguns are classics : my S&W pre model 10, my S&W hand ejector, and my Colt 1903. If someone else disagrees, shrug, I will still enjoy them just as much as I already do.
     
  19. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    I mentioned early Dusenbergs and both the 57 Chevy Bel Aire and the post war Volkswagen Beetle, particularly from the 1960s as classic cars...

    I have to assume you accept the Dusenberg is a classic. As far as the others you are wrong. True they will not show up in the same shows as a 1927 Dusenberg or early Bugati or Rolls, but they meet the requirements for a classic car and are recognized by the auto industry, many classic automobile clubs, authorities in the field, etc. as such.

    An issue here is that the term "classic" does have a meaning that is widely recognized at it's heart. Around the edges there is disagreement and personal taste comes into play.

    Just about all of the above has nothing to do with whether a gun is "classic" or not.

    Bob uses the phrase "in my opinion" in that paragraph and that's correct.

    But what determines a classic is not a matter of "in my opinion" but is a matter of recognized fact independent of our personal preferences or opinions. We can argue the things around the edge but the heart of it is clear.

    Some top break S&W's are classic-the Schoefeld for example and the early Lemon Squeezer, some were crap and have been lost in time. The same is true for some of the early side break revolvers from S&W and Colt.

    No one outside of H&R or IJ collectors regards their top breaks, as a class, as classics. It possible for their to be a "Classic H&R top break" among collectors of such, that is not universally recognized as a Classic gun by others, if you take my meaning. Some guns you can argue about. The H&R and IJs fit that criteria.

    While expense is not a criteria...it is an indicator. Classic guns in excellent condition command a price that reflects their status. Some more than others of course.

    The Colt Python.

    tipoc
     
  20. Tallball

    Tallball Member

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    "But what determines a classic is not a matter of "in my opinion" but is a matter of recognized fact independent of our personal preferences or opinions."


    No offense intended, but I would respectfully disagree. You can't weigh it or measure it or do some math to prove that something is "a classic". You can go with majority opinion, or opinion of some "official" group or club, but it is still opinion.

    IMHO it is no different from saying something is good, bad, beautiful, ugly. etc.
     
  21. larryh1108

    larryh1108 Member

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    Totally agree. Unless there is an accepted and published definition of the word "classic" as it applies to the gun world then, IMO, it's all about opinions. A Classic gun to a 60 year old is probably different than a classic gun to a 20 year old.

    So, to muddy the water a bit, many would consider a S&W M19 pre -5 to be a classic revolver because they were P&R and widely accepted as a quality gun where the 19-5 and later models without the P&R feature would not be considered classics even though the difference is cosmetic. So, how do we definitively define "classic" in the gun world when it's all opinion?
     
  22. huntsman

    huntsman Member

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    The market does it, say what you will about materials/manufacturing when it comes to production made handguns the market has defined "Classic" by desirability which is identified by price.
     
  23. larryh1108

    larryh1108 Member

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    I can see how the market determines if it is desirable or even collectible but I don't see how it determines it as being a classic.

    I have a S&W 1086 of which 1660 were made. 3rd Gen S&W handguns have become desirable and some models are even collectible. Would this gun be considered a classic? They've proven to be solid handguns and are not made of plastic. They are no longer in production. So, classic or not?
     
  24. BigBore44

    BigBore44 Member

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    It seems that we're skewing the lines between value, age, rarity, and collectibility. No one says we have to base what is "classic" the same as the automobile industry or car clubs? Automobiles have only been around since the late 1800's. Hanguns have been around a couple hundred years longer.

    I think the reason we're having such a hard time is because we are putting to many different requirements. Why not just base it off of one requirement....age. I realize that would remove difference of opinion, which I realize is half the fun of a forum. But it would be a lot easier to come to a consensus. And we can always still argue which ones are better.

    Just a thought.
     
  25. huntsman

    huntsman Member

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    I think desirability is a factor of being a classic, Colt SAA, 1911 and Woodsman. Winchester pre-1964 md94, md12 md70. To me these have been the hallmark of "Classic" firearms since the mid-sixties and the prices seem to prove this out.
     
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