Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blue Steel & Gunleather

Besides being a classic gun book, Blue Steel & Gunleather is also an apt description of my taste in firearms. I've been around guns since before I could walk, been shooting since I was in grade school. In those formative years of my youth there were few choices regarding your gun's finish. Yes, there were oddities like chrome or stainless steel that you might occasionally see at the sporting goods or hardware store. But in those days realistically you had three options. There were military type guns that had a parkerized finish. There was nickel if you liked bright guns, and it usually cost more too. And then there was blued steel. That's what I was brought up with. That's what I liked.

Of all the finishes you can put on a gun it is the least durable, while blue barely protects it is beautiful to behold. That's why I liked it. Probably allowed to touch my Dad's old guns too much, they were almost all blue. Maybe I watched too many old movies as a kid, those cinematic tough guys that I loved watching, they all carried blued steel.

I had a few guns before but didn't really start amassing my collection until 1991. And when I did start buying what did I buy? Those guns I admired from my youth. There were exceptions of course, I did purchase some modern guns, but mostly what I spent my hard earned money on was old and blue. Old Smith & Wesson revolvers, Colt automatics and Winchesters, that's what I loved. Not only were they tools that you could use but they were art too. They are art. If you can look at the fine polished finish of an old S&W hand ejector, Colt Government Model or Winchester Model 12 and not see the beauty in them, well, I'm at a loss for words.

So that's what I bought and enjoyed for the most part, blued steel. But occasionally I did buy a gun strictly as a "tool" and nothing else. I remember my first Glock, a first generation G21. I bought it just before the "assault weapon" ban of 1994. I figured I should purchase a "high capacity" handgun if for no other reason than "they" said I didn't need one. The Glock was accurate. It was also plastic and looked cheap. It would do everything my Colt Government models would do and held more rounds too. But it was ugly. It was unbreakable, it never failed once the entire time I owned it. It had no soul. My old Colts had a soul and you could feel it when you held them. The men, the artisans, who worked their magic into them made more than just a tool, they were something special and they put a little bit of themselves into each one.

Over the years my collection grew and most of my purchases continued to be old and blue. They did everything I needed and were nice to look at as well. But blue takes special care. Blue is much less forgiving than any other finish.

Also, like many collectors, I sought out the best most pristine examples I could find. I didn't shoot many of them though because they were too "nice." After several years I had a safe full of guns, at least a third of them never got shot. Would have been a lot cheaper to collect paperweights, as that was all they were good for.

Starting in '09 I made a conscious effort to rebuild my gun collection. To reduce the number of calibers I had and to move away from collectables and more towards guns that were more practical and fit a particular need. Finally, last November I sold my last "Safe Queen" and I had by that time also thinned out the calibers I owned. I had 20 different calibers at various times but now I have only 10 to worry about. I could probably get the number down to eight if I wanted but there are a couple of antiques in my collection with sentimental value. I am keeping them so the ammo is staying too.

I still have many fine old guns in my collection. Always will. I still have that love for old blue steel but now I can also appreciate the newer stuff. Although they're not much to look at there much more practical, more useable. When I want something special out comes the blue. But with the mundane day to day work something more modern and sensible usually gets used. They're not as pretty but they do get the job done.


Owen T said...

While I share your affection for old firearms I must reluctantly surrender to the practicality of more modern ones.

DES said...

I found your site a few days ago when I was searching for info on the Smith&Wesson model 27 revolver. I got to shoot a friend’s a while back and fell in love with it right on the spot! What you are saying about the polished finish is true. It is a work of art! Where I live owning a handgun, any gun, is difficult. But I am seriously considering getting a handgun license just so I can buy a model 27!

Wilson said...

@ Owen T – You just summed up my very long post in one sentence.

@ DES – I see from you profile that you live in NYC. I don’t know the details but I would assume it’s rather difficult to own a handgun there. I hope you do get that 27, I know you’ll love it!

Guffaw in AZ said...

You're speaking my language!
The only reason I've owned nickeled or stainless was my perspiration's affinity for immediate destruction of blued steel.
Most exterior holster weapons, you bet!
Fine wood, oiled blue steel and leather. AHHH.
I've owned Glocks, three different ones to be exact.
They work, but, they have no soul.

DES said...

Yes it is “rather difficult” to own a handgun here but not impossible. They do make it hard on you though. There are forms with plenty of personal questions, an interview, character references, finger prints, photos, more interviews and of course the fees (I’m simplifying for brevity). Also if you live with anyone you have to have THEIR permission in writing for you to own a handgun. All this takes time too, a 3-6 month wait seems normal. Once approved you have 60 days to buy your handgun and have it inspected and registered. I can get a handgun but I will not be able to carry it. All I can hope to obtain is a handgun license for your residence (premises license). You can only take it from where you live to the range (locked up and unloaded) and that’s it. There are a few types of carry licenses in the city but it is virtually unheard of to get one. I know several gun owners here and none of them have one or know anyone that does, maybe if you’re politically connected. Fortunately I have friends that own guns, they helped walk me through the process. I already own a Mossberg shotgun, which was (slightly) less the ordeal than a handgun permit is. But since I’ve been through the ringer before I have a good idea how a handgun permit will go. I’ll get that model 27 yet!

Wilson said...

@ Guffaw – We seem to have numerous common interests. I wonder if we were separated at birth?

@ DES - Wow! I am sorry that any American would have to endure so much just to own a gun. You have my admiration for going through all of that just to exercise what is a basic right. I assumed that the city made it hard for you to get one and your post confirmed what I thought, and more. I’ve never experienced anything like that where I live. The worst we ever had it here in Kentucky was a federally mandated waiting period that has since expired. Now I can own a gun in the time it takes to fill out a one sided form and an instant background check. If you have a carry license they don’t even do the background check. Here, if you meet the requirements and pass a class they are obligated to issue you a concealed deadly weapons license that is good throughout the entire state. No politics involved, they cannot deny you! I’m not trying to rub your nose in it, just trying to say that there are plenty of places here in the US where legal gun ownership is considerably easier than where you live. Bet the crime rates are lower too! Good luck to you DES. Please keep me informed, I really want to hear that you got that 27!

DES said...

Thanks Wilson, I know you were not trying to “rub my nose in it” and can appreciate that most people don’t have to jump through so many hoops just to be able to own a gun. I’m a “Small L” libertarian and a gun owner, in New York City that makes me part of a very small minority. I love this city, well I love many things about this city. The violation of honest gun owner’s rights is not one of them. I want everyone reading this to realize that there are people here just like you, people that cherish their freedoms and don’t believe that more government is the answer to every question. We are just like you guys out there in “fly over country”. I have high hopes that in the coming years 2A cases like Heller will force NYC (and other restrictive cities) to redo their gun laws and force them to be return those rights they have stolen from us. I was checking out your links to others blogs. There was one (can’t recall the name) where a woman was openly carrying a pistol while shopping with her child. How wonderful that would be! Maybe one day I will be able to legally walk the streets of my city with a pistol. Or step into a gun shop in one of the boroughs, fill out a form and walk out right then with the handgun of my choice. That’s a dream I have anyway, to live in the city I love and be completely free too.

Wilson said...

Those of us on this side of the political spectrum tend to think of places like New York as “the enemy” and to a degree we’re right. But we forget that there are many people like you stuck behind enemy lines. People just like us that we would be happy to call friends. DES that is a wonderful dream you have and hopefully someday in the near future it will happen. No American can truly be free until everyone of us is.