Old = New, But New Sells More Rifles

Longtime shooter and hunter Ross Seyfried is a gunnie after my own heart, especially when he writes stuff like this:

There is a lot of overlap, duplication and redundancy in rifle cartridge performance. As an aging curmudgeon, I constantly question the need for new cartridges. But I do it in good humor, because I’m not yet irascible enough to bite the hands that feed me, and it’s in my best interests to write about new numbers. The last few years, I’ve written about a bunch of them: ARCs, Buckhammers, Bushmasters, Creedmoors, Legends, Westerns, Noslers and PRCs.

They’re all good stuff, but actual performance in terms of velocity and energy can’t be new because these levels were established long ago by the expansion rate of nitrocellulose.

There are modern nuances like the ability to cram more performance into specific action types and lengths, or better downrange performance thanks to modern aerodynamic bullets and faster rifling twists. Or you can purposely step down in performance to meet straight-wall cartridge criteria required by some whitetail states—and thereby avoid having to use shotgun slugs.

All do what they’re supposed to do, but I also have a penchant for older cartridges. Dig deep into cartridge history, and you’ll find there isn’t much new under the sun. The 6.5 Creedmoor is today’s most popular 6.5mm, and it is ballistically identical to 1894’s 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser. The Creedmoor’s main advantage is that it fits into a short action, while the 6.5 Swede does not.

I love the 1892 7×57 Mauser so much that I have three. The 7mm-08 Rem. introduced in 1980 is a ballistic twin, with much the same comparison as the Creedmoor and the Swede: 7mm-08 fits into a short action; the 7×57 does not. The 7×57 has greater case capacity, but 7mm-08 is loaded to higher pressure. So in factory loads, the 7mm-08 has a velocity edge, but no deer will know the difference.

For nostalgia and tradition—and perhaps just to be different—I stick with the 7×57. There’s nothing wrong with being contrarian, but you still must feed the rifle. Thankfully, 6.5×55 and 7×57 ammo aren’t rare, but they’re not nearly as available as Creedmoor and 7mm-08—which is why my wife and daughters shoot a 7mm-08 and not a 7×57.

By now, my love for the 6.5x55mm Swede is a matter of folklore;  slightly less known is my fondness for the 7x57mm Mauser.  Here they both are, by comparison to more popular cartrdges:

One thing the Swede and Mauser have in common is a lo-o-o-ong bullet, which has excellent sectional density and therefore provides astounding penetration.

The other nice thing about these two old guys is that gun manufacturers often make rifles that are somewhat more traditional in appearance, in keeping with the cartridges’ heritage.  Here’s one I used to own back in the day, a CZ 550 FS in 6.5x55mm Swede:

…and another one I owned back in Seffrica, an Oviedo (Spanish) Mauser 1893 in 7x57mm:

With the latter, I once took down an eland with a single shot — the bullet went in at the front leg (it was a quartering shot) and ended up lodged in the skin behind the hind leg, having caused all sorts of havoc en route.  (I should point out that my guide did not want me to take the shot because the cartridge was not really sufficient for the job, but at 70-odd yards I wasn’t going to pass it up.  Yeah, my Jung & Foolisch engine was working overtime.)

Anyway, enough memory lane stuff.

I just love those old cartridges.  Here’s my dream 7×57 rifle:

Damn lottery odds are the only thing standing in my way.

Lasting Heritage

The other day I read SOTI that a poll showed that owners of Colt’s 1911 are the “most irritating of all” gun owners.

I can sympathize with this view point, even though I am a lifelong devotee of John Moses Browning’s wonderful design, and will admit to having posted haaaateful things like this before:

…and so on.  (more below the fold)

Despite this, I have gone on record, many times, in saying that my dislike of Glocks is primarily because I think they’re fugly and plastic — something, by the way, they share with all the plastic fantastics — and not because they’re crap guns.  Something else I’ve admitted is that (annoyingly) I shoot Glocks as accurately or more so than just about every other handgun I’ve ever shot.

So it’s nothing personal:  I just prefer steel and wood for my guns, and the miracle that is JMB’s design is, to my mind, the best manifestation of that combination of materials plus performance.

I can understand why 1911 owners can be a PITA to owners of lesser other guns, because at the end of the day, nobody likes to have their choice of firepower ridiculed.  But I do it in a spirit of playfulness, because of course I know that a gun that works perfectly for one shooter may not do so for another.

However, I was watching Othias talking about the introduction of Colt’s 1911 as the sidearm of the U.S. military (go on;  it’s only two hours long), and something he said struck a chord.  Paraphrased, it’s this:

Over a century later, the 1911 is still being made, purchased and used, more or less unchanged from its original design.

Which other semi-automatic handgun can say anything like the same thing?  And why do so many manufacturers of other brands (SIG, S&W, Ruger, Springfield etc.) make and sell the 1911 under their nomenclature?  Because the 1911 is overwhelmingly popular with shooters, not because of some JMB cult but because the frigging 1911 works really well, despite its many shortcomings

More to the point, here’s something to all the SIG, Glock, H&K and Beretta owners:  can you say that the gun you own right now will still be made, unchanged, in a hundred years’ time?  Although I’ll never live to see if I’ve won the bet, I would bet that the 1911 will still be being manufactured in yet another hundred years from now.  Glock?  Ruger’s P-series?  SIG’s 22x?  All of them great guns, but in longevity terms, they all have a long way to go to beat that of the 1911.

It’s not that the 1911’s design is perfect;  no gun design is.  But for what a gun owner needs from a handgun, it’s pretty damn close.

And then there’s that untouchable aura surrounding the 1911, which is durable and undeniable,  and certainly so compared to all the others, especially the plastic fantastic ones.  Holding a 1911 in your hand is touching history — also true, by the way, of Colt’s Peacemaker (the 1911 of revolvers) and the Luger P08 (although nobody makes the Luger anymore).  Here’s the same thing, expressed in automotive terms:

The most irritating thing about 1911 owners is their smugness (guilty as charged).  Because no matter how much we and our beloved 1911 are mocked, it has no effect:  we’re proud to own our 1911s, for all their admitted faults.  And while we’re on the topic:

Ring any bells?

Read more

Worthy Additions

Just the other day I was sauntering in a desultory fashion along the well-trodden (by me) byways of Teh Intarwebz, and happened upon Collectors Firearms Cruffler pages.  (For my Furrin Readers and others unfamiliar with the term, it stands for guns classified as curios and relics — C&R firearms — and the licencees thereof are known as Crufflers.  They are mainly people like me, although I’ve never had a C&R license.)

Anyway, here’s the page;  and if you follow the link, you’ll see that almost all the fine old beauties listed show signs of age — e.g. “some frosting in the barrels”, “slight pitting” and “dings and scratches”, to name but some.

Most alarmingly to my eyes, however, are the prices, which seem to be mostly in the > $1,000 stratosphere (and some a great deal more than that).

And yet, amidst all that carnage are to be found some excellent bargains, namely, some of the excellent Swiss Schmidt-Rubin Model 1911 straight-pull rifles and carbines (here, here and here).  Note the prices, which are well under that magic one-grand number.  Here’s the 1911 (long) rifle (one of which I once owned, and still wish I’d never sold):

Indulge me for a moment while I ramble on about these rifles.  Here’s what I said about them in my Great War Rifles post:

First introduced in 1896 and improved in 1911, chambered for the powerful 7.5x55mm Swiss cartridge, the Model 1911 had a straight-pull bolt action, and was unquestionably made to the highest quality standards of any rifle of the time (and higher even than many production rifles of today).

The Mod. 1911 is a marvel of functionality, its workings intricate and precise, its accuracy outstanding.

(For the whole story, feel free to diverge from this post and watch Othias and Mae’s take, and if you’re too impatient, just watch Mae shooting the thing.)

To work the Mod. 1911’s action is to experience poetry in engineering, and the rifle, even with that forward-mounted rear sight, is more accurate than 90% of the people who’ll ever shoot it.  (The later K.31 shortened the action and moved the rear sight back towards the breech.)

Let me be succinct:  if one takes into account the quality of workmanship, ease of use, smoothness of the action, efficacy of the ammunition, and finally price, I cannot see a better bargain in the firearms market than these three rifles.

So:  what about the ammo?

Sadly, the original RUAG-made 7.5x55mm (or GP 11) ammo ended production in the 1990s, but apparently has since been restarted as of 2016.  I say “apparently” because I suspect it’s being made purely for domestic use in Switzerland as I can’t find it for sale anywhere in the U.S. of A.  Here’s what it looks like:

It was the only ammo I ever used when I still had my 1911 rifle, so I have no idea how other brands will perform.

“Did you say other brands, Kim?”

Indeed I did.  A quick perusal at Ammoseek brought forth these options (click to embiggen):

I know, it’s a little spendy at $1.20+ per pull, but to put it in perspective, that’s cheaper than the current price of .30-30 I’ve been seeing.  (I would go with the Czech Sellier & Bellot, just because I’ve had excellent results with their other calibers before.)

Here’s my suggestion:

For just under (or a little over, depending on your choice) $1,000 you can get your hands on one of the best bolt-action rifles ever made, one that still shoots as well as the day it left the factory, along with 200 rounds of ammo to feed it.  It will almost certainly outshoot all the other C&R rifles listed at Collectors, and most likely a whole bunch of the other rifles they sell, too, not just the mil-surp ones.

Just in case you have a spare grand burning a hole in your pocket and a desire to own something special.

I don’t have the grand, but the desire to own a Schmidt-Rubin 1911 again is burning a hole in my heart… and I am not lying.

By the way:  yes, the later model K.31 was a shorter rifle (e.g. how the Germans changed the Gew. 98 into the K98k), but:  the 11’s receiver was forged, and the 31’s cast.  I happen to prefer the ring! of the 11 to the clack! of the 31, just as I prefer the sound of the pre-64 Winchester Model 70 over their successors (for the same reason).  There’s nothing wrong with the K.31 — and it loses over 2lbs off the Mod. 1911’s 10.  Yes, the older rifle is heavy;  but you’re not going to go on any route marches or parades — and whether in offhand or bench modes, that extra weight tames the stout recoil of the GP 11 cartridge.

Fighting Off The Bully

Apparently, dogs attacking people is becoming a thing in Britishland.

Here’s one to make you wonder:

Fighting off an XL bully is nearly “impossible,” according to a martial arts expert. Self-defense tycoon Matt Fiddes, 44, has called for a ban on the beasts and said that if anyone finds themselves confronted by one then do your best to run away.

Run away from a dog?  Yeah, that’ll work.  The exercise will just make him hungrier.

Of course, Over Here we don’t have to listen to bullshit like this because we have recourse to fine tools like this one:

…loaded with your choice of .410 goodness (I’m kinda torn between #2 and #5, but I can be persuaded, in Comments):

Of course, the Brits could use pepper spray — no wait:  “Carry and use of pepper spray by common citizens is banned under Section 5(1)(b) of the Firearms Act 1968”.

What about tasers or stun guns?  “Stun guns are considered firearms, and as such are also controlled under the Firearms Act 1968”.

Looks like they’re stuck with:

…although they’re probably also banned under the “Dangerous Club Act 1968”, or something.

Sure must be nice to live in such a state of fear — hooligans, thugs, dangerous dogs etc. — all because of stupid laws.

I prefer living in the state of Texas, thank you.