The Evolution of the Gun

30 Years of Gun Culture

I thought today that I would share some of my recent musings on guns, where they were, where they are, and where they are going.  I've been a part of the "gun culture" since about 1980 when I got my first .22 at the age of 12.  It's a bolt action single shot, Springfield, Wards-Western Field.  My grandparents bought a pair of them to go on their honeymoon when they got married in the early 30's.  My dad had this one when he was a kid, and they passed it on to me.  One of my cousin's has its partner.

In the late 70's, I found out that there were such a thing as wrestling magazines, and spent every spare dollar on them.  Shortly before getting the rifle, my eye wandered at the magazine rack of the drug store near my house, and I found out about gun magazines.  I was hooked.  Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, American Handgunner, Soldier of Fortune, Survival Guide, and assorted digests.  I was probably getting 5 to 10 magzines a month and reading them cover to cover.  I studied the magazines.  I ordered manufacturers' catalogs.  I even studied up on ATF regs in preparation of getting a FFL when I got old enough.  I could recite the "class III" regulations forward and backward.  This continued all through high school, where I friend once referred to me as "a walking Gun Digest."  I continued like this up until the turn of the century, then kind of drifted away from the magazines.

That is where we get to today.  The technology and types of guns available is so much different than it was back in the early 80's.  Back then, an annual digest was heavy with high quality revolvers and European military style rifles.  Colt had the Python, Lawman, Trooper, Detective Special, Agent, Diamondback... now the only revolver they make is the Single Action Army.  Smith & Wesson had the  J, K, and N frames...  the only lightweight one was an aluminum frame airweight... the Centennial had a grip safety, and a Barami Hip Grip with a Tyler T Grip was the mark of a "professional."  For your battle rifle, if you wanted an AR-15, you got a Colt.  Anything else, you looked at H&K, Galil, Berretta, or Sig.  Maybe a National Match Garand if you were hard corps or an Iver Johnson M1 carbine if you were like me.  In autopistols, you got a Colt Gov't. Model, or perhaps a Commander, Combat Commander or Officer's Model.  Browning hi-Powers also ruled the day.  S&W made tolerable pistols, Ruger was yet to come out with the miserable P85, and there was no such thing as a Glock.

Want a full auto?  They were plentiful and fairly inexpensive.  A Thompson was less than a grand.  If you wanted a gold engraved M16, Thompson, M14, etc... from the American Historical Society, you could also get them in full auto for a few dollars more.

About the worst thing was that you had to sign the dealer's bound book to buy ammo.

And then, 1986 happend.

The McClure-Volkmer Firearm Owners Protection Act passed to remove the stupid ammo signing and a few other items that were good for us.  However, the Hughes Amendment, passed under dubious circumstances, essentially froze the number of transferable full automatics and drove the prices sky high.  That $1,000 Tommy gun from 1986?  About $20,000 today. 

In 1988, George H.W. Bush finished off the importation of many of the fine European military style rifles and carbines.

In 1993, the Clinton gun ban came and fought crime by outlawing bayonet lugs and flash hiders and introduced the "thumbhole" stock to our vernacular. It also drove the prices of standard capacity magzines sky high.  The only good thing was that it drove inventors back to the drawing board and the 1911 was reborn, along with a huge variety of small and light weight pocket pistols and revolvers made of amazing space age materials.

In the mid-90's, the small target rifle company of Kimber figured out how to make a "custom" grade 1911 using CNC machining at a price low enough for the common man (I had one with a 4-digit serial number than I carried on duty for several years).  Also around this time, Col. Jeff Cooper (never mind the Bren 10 failure of the late 80s) pushed for the Scout concept rifle. A lightweight bolt gun with a long eye relief scope... perfect for big, dangerous game of the two or four legged variety.

In 2003, the Clinton ban faded away, and the designers again took off with rifles, shotguns and pistols that look like spaceman ray guns with innovative designs and features.

A look at today's annuals show an amazing variety of weapons of every style, shape and caliber, and to fit every budget.  The really amazing thing is that nearly every manufacturer, large or small, old or new, has a firearm that is based on one either 100 or 50 years old.  Everybody has a version of the 1911 and the AR15 today.

I'm no longer a "walking Gun Digest," but I'm still a member of the gun culture, and today is wonderful time to be one.  If you haven't looked at what's out there lately, do so.  It's a whole new world.  Now if we could get that stupid Hughes amendment out of action...

Survivors Ordering Day

Don't forget, today is the day that Jim Rawles' new book, Survivors: A Novel of the Coming Collapse, hits the market.  I just ordered mine, along with a couple other books that I'll review for you in coming weeks.   As of right now, the book is at #2 overall on Amazon.  Let's see if we can help get him to #1.


  1. As I read your post I was remembering where I was & what I was getting around those same years. Some guns I miss, others not so much.

    And I ordered my Pawless book early this morning before I went to bed last night. I should get it later this week. It'll probably be read by the end of the weekend.


  2. Steelheart - one gun I really miss from that era is the Harrington & Richardson 9-shot .22 revolver. It was the first .22 I ever bought (my dad did the 4473 form for it, but the cash was mine), and only cost $99. Had an awful trigger pull, but was tons of fun. I sold it or traded it at some point. One I don't miss is the Raven P25. I bought one brand new for $39.95 in high school and sold it to a co-worker at my first security job for $50. Probably the only time I made a profit selling a used gun! Boy, that thing was a hunk of junk.


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