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.