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· Sincere as a $5 funeral
1,636 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Okay, so here's my first take at discussing what makes a "fine gun". At this point, it's entirely my own prejudiced opinions. What I'd actually like to achieve is a consensus about the most desirable characteristics of a gun that is a "keeper". Please note that the categories below OTHER than "Fine" are solely for comparison... The goal is to define "fine guns". That way maybe I can avoid getting banned from the forum!

So far, this is just an outline, and has no supporting facts. But I promise to embellish this thread with practical, metallurgical, and usability observations as time permits. I will make an effort to reference standard books on gun design, shooting, and maintenance, as possible.

And I guess I'll be including pictures ;)

I'll restrict myself to handguns, because honestly, I don't know much about rifles.

In my opinion, guns can be divided into five categories based on their merits:

0. Junk
Guns with an effective range of less than 15 feet,
or likely to fail to fire or feed,
or likely to disintegrate.
Think Raven Arms, Davis, Jennings, Charter Arms,
most modern Derringers,
almost everything in 25 acp.
1. Utilitarian
Guns reliably useful for "self defense",
or for killing game to perhaps 25 yards.
Includes the better modern Derringers and
the reliable pocket guns from major
Youth rifles, cheap shotguns.
Pistols chambered in .410!
Nothing that you would waste time trying to improve.
2. Good
Otherwise Utilitarian guns that are capable
of accurate, precise shooting out to 50 yards.
Think 95% of the guns made today.
And, unfortunately, some custom guns targeting
the "tactical" market.
No conceivable upgrade would add any value to guns in this class.
3. Fine
A usable gun that can be made to perform brilliantly
in the hands of a practiced shooter.
Fit and finish show pride in workmanship.
EXPERTLY DONE custom work and refinishing tend to add value.

All but the most hopeless 1911's, because they can
be improved with little more than a file if necessary.
This may be an overly generous appraisal based on
my extreme prejudice in favor of the 1911.

Colt, S&W, DWM guns made before WWII

Some Models of Harrington and Richardson that benefitted
from the godlike touch of Walter Roper during his stint
as a designer for H&R.

Recent Ruger single-action guns with blued finish.

Some, but by no means all "factory custom" guns.
4. Historical or otherwise novel
Guns which are of interest even if non-firing,
chambered in defunct rounds, or even hazardous
to shoot. Possibly because of extreme rarity
(The Hammond), or wackiness (The Gyrojet).
Far too many 1911's have come to reside in this category.
Guns considered devalued by any modifications or refinishing.
Also includes those execrable Colt SAA commemoratives.

The Fine Guns, Explained
1911's in general

Any moderately careful manufacturer can make a 1911 at least as good as those produced for the military during WWII. An RIA can be worked
on during your spare time for a few weeks and made to shoot almost as well as a factory SA. A decent 'smith could make one shoot better than any factory SA - Of course, it would wind up costing more than a factory SA brought to the same level.

A good 1911, for example the SA Mil-Spec, can be tuned to shoot as good or better than the best Sig for less than the price of the Sig.
A new Sig, no matter what is done to it, will never be worth as much as it was new. The Sig 1911's are 1911's. And yes, I exclude the P210 from this example. The P210 is a fine gun in it's own right.

Colt, S&W, DWM guns made before WWII

Between WWI and WWII Colt and S&W made a huge number of Incredible Revolvers, and Colt made some extraordinary 22 autos. Even the most mundane and workmanlike guns of the period were better than anything you can buy today. They shot with perfect accuracy, had hand honed actions in all cases, and were finished to quality standards never seen since. Many a Colt Police Positive or S&W Model 1905 can shoot a ragged hole at 50 yards. And the commercial 1911's made by Colt between the wars are without question the finest finished and fitted ever. At the same time, DWM's commercial Lugers were high velocity, flat shooting, damn fine guns. None of these guns could be improved in any way.

I own a perfectly pedestrian 1927 made S&W M&P revolver that has as fine a trigger as I have ever felt. My shooting buddy has a Colt Police Positive Target made in 1926 that is it's equal. Both are impossibly accurate. We both own depression era Colts that are marvels of fit and finish. We purchased all these guns in unfired condition and shoot them regularly. Thank you to the collectors that socked them away for us so that we could put them to good and effective use. Lock up your daughters!
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