Requiem: Browning BPS

I read with some melancholy that Browning has decided to discontinue their pump-action BPS.

I always loved the look and feel of the BPS, but as with so many Brownings (of all types), I could never quite get past the “Browning premium” price.

Which, as Phil Bourjailly explains, is largely the reason why it’s been discontinued:

So, what happened to the BPS? Times changed. Semiautos were still called “jam-a-matics” in 1977, and many hunters back then preferred to shoot pumps even if they could afford a semiauto. As semiautos got better, the reliability gap between pumps and autoloaders shrank. Costs rose. The real advantage between pump and semiauto shotguns became price. The pump market adjusted. Remington responded with the Express in the 1990s, a cheaper version of the Wingmaster. Benelli introduced the very affordable Nova around 2000. Mossberg kept cranking out the same humble, durable Model 500 it has always made.

The BPS wasn’t intended to be a cheap pump, and Browning stuck by its gun for a long time. While it’s too bad the BPS was discontinued, honestly, it stayed around a little too long. In the last years of the BPS, it was readily apparent that costs had to be cut to keep the price down, and the gun no longer looked like the glossy 20-gauge that I bought so many years ago.

One wonders what would have happened had Browning followed Remington’s lead (or even preceded them) with a budget version of the BPS, but that’s really not the Browning Way, is it?

So why am I melancholic about the BPS’s demise?  I hate to see ANY gun discontinued, is why.

Primary & Backup

As Longtime Readers (and even a few casuals) will know, my primary carry piece is a Springfield 1911 in, of course, .45 ACP:

…and my backup piece a S&W 637 in .38 Special:

However, I recently acquired (through inheritance, don’t ask) a very battered Colt 1911, not anywhere near in the condition as pictured, but which puts all my 175gr .45 ACP boolets into a half-palm-sized group at 25 feet:

…and I had an evil thought.

Imagine being asked:

“What’s your primary carry piece?”
“A 1911.”
“And your backup piece?”
“Also a 1911.”

Hey, as the saying goes, “Two is one and one is none”… right?

And because the four spare CMC mags can do duty for both guns, I wouldn’t have to carry those bulky lil’ .38 speedloaders either.

Yeah, I know: “But but but… two 1911s are heavy, Kim!” 

I just lost over 40 lbs, so another 1lb or so of gun weight isn’t going to hurt me at all.  And besides, if that skinny old fart Clint Smith can carry two 1911s, then so can I.

Quickie Rant

I made an observation the other day that the prices of new bolt-action rifles of any kind of quality seem to have crept up over the $1,000 mark.  (I make exception here for the “budget” rifles like the Savage Axis line, by the way.)

But it’s even worse for that old stand-by of the impecunious, American mil-surps.  Here, some guy sounds off about this phenomenon, and he’s absolutely right.

Given that mil-surp rifles were almost by definition produced in the jillions, they should cost no more than a few hundred dollars, even supposing that a half-jillion people want to buy these old beauties (unlikely) and especially during these times of Bidenflation.  [FJB]

Here’s a random sample from Collectors:

Even an old beater is over $500:

Don’t even get me started on the Garands and M1 Carbines:

The furrin bolt-action rifles of the same vintage aren’t any exception:

These old bolties shouldn’t cost more than $600, even today.  They have outdated (ergo expensive-to-feed) chamberings and are mostly battered beyond belief.  That’s always been their charm — that, and the fact that you could pick one up for a few hundred bucks.

Nowadays?  No chance.

In fact, the only “bargains” below $1,000 are the crappy Arisakas, Carcanos, Mosins and such.  (The good Arisakas — not the “last-ditch” ones made in uncle Yoshi’s garden shed — fetch prices very close to the Enfields and Mausers as above.)

(A special mention goes to the Swedish 1896 and Schmidt-Rubin 1911 rifles, which remain well below the $1,000 red line and are still excellent rifles, albeit expensive / hard to feed, especially the latter because of their ammo costs.  Even Prvi Partizan stuff is spendy.)

“Yeah, Kim,”  I hear you say, “but those are Collectors prices — and they’re not known for bargains.”

Tell you what:  go to your next local gun show, look for quality rifles of the above makes (i.e. that haven’t been bubba’d and have matching serial numbers and decent bores), and if you find one below a grand, buy it, send me pictorial proof thereof and I’ll send you a box of ammo for it.

Travesty? Sinful?

Seen at C.W.’s place:

Now I can think of few people who are more old-fashioned and curmudgeonly than I when it comes to guns (other than those loons who think that brass cartridges are just “a passing fad” — you know who you are).

And here are my personal favorites in this category, just so we’re all clear where I stand on the issue:

Henry Golden Boy

Cimarron  1894

Hell, the Longtime Reader who sent me the link was even grumping something about the “Ninth Circle of Hell” for the perpetrator of said modification.

Frankly, I think that the above-mentioned circle should be reserved for people like Gaston Glock or the guy who thought that trigger locks on S&W revolvers would be a neat idea.

But for the guy who created that skeletonized monstrosity in the pic?

Nazzo fast, Guido.

Yes, if that thing is chambered for the wonderful .45-70 Govt. cartridge as it seems to be, that thing is going to cause equal amounts of pain at both ends of the gun.  But if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that said .45-70 is the kind of gun that is carried a lot, and fired a little (by comparison to, say, a .22 or similar).  The same is true of any of the big-bore dangerous rifles, of course.

And I have to tell y’all:  I think that gun in the pic is kinda cute.

Would I want to take it out of the case in front of friends?  Nope, it’s like that ugly girl who happens to be a sensational lay:  something enjoyed but not displayed.

But if I did go on a hunting party with that gun and a bunch of buddies, all the mockery and abuse would mean less at the end of the day when they came back to the camp exhausted from carrying their magnumthumpenblitzenboomer cannons over hill and dale, while I arrived with a slightly owie shoulder but otherwise as fresh as a daisy.

Feel free to comment on my opinion, of course.

Gratuitous Gun Pics: Two Double Rifles

We are all, I think, familiar with the concept of restoring-and-modifying a car, such as getting a beater Jaguar XJ6, and fixing it up so that the interior looks as good as it did when new, with leather seats, a walnut dashboard and an exterior paint job that is much better than what British Leyland could do back in the early 1970s.

But instead of trying to restore the haphazard and dare I say opaque intricacies of the of Lucas Electrical Co, you rewire the thing with proper materials and mechanicals, and instead of trying to fix the broken Jag engine, you drop in a decent Murkin small-block 375hp Corvette V8.  Now you have a car that looks like a Jag, but in fact it’s been “fixed” so that you can avoid all the hassles and heartaches of Jaguar ownership.  It’s now a “resto-mod”.  (Jaguar purists may faint now.)

Alternatively, you can restore a car by bringing it to “concourse” condition, using only original (OEM) parts and eschewing any action that may make it look (and perform) any differently from its original fresh-from-the-showroom incarnation.  Most Porsche 356 owners will know exactly what I’m talking about, here.  This is a “restoration with no modifications” job.

And yes, you can do this with guns too, and here are two examples from those evil Merchants of Nostalgic Death at Collectors Firearms.

Gun #1 is a double rifle made in the late 19th century by W.W. Greener and Son, and it’s a monster.

As you can see, this old girl shows all its years, but remains a fully-functional double rifle.  However, it has been carefully re-sleeved to take the excellent .45-70 Government cartridge instead of whatever it used to chamber.  Most of the problem with shooting these old guns is that they are chambered for cartridges of esoteric dimension, e.g. the .400 Nitro Express which I guarantee you will not find at Bubba’s Bait ‘N Bullets on a back road in West Virginia.  But .45-70 Govt?  Oh hell yes, and probably with several different bullet weights and manufacturers withal.

And here’s the thing.  I love me my double rifles — there is a reason why they’re still used on hunts and safaris all over the world, and that’s because you can get two massive bullets into the hide of a Cape Buffalo or lion almost as quickly as using a semi-auto rifle (those double triggers, oh yes sir).

This particular piece of gunny resto-mod even has a fiber-optic sight installed (which does make my mouth resemble an after-lemon bite, but still), because for Gentlemen With Shit Eyesight (like me), we need all the help we can get.  So I could live with that thing, especially if I was loading up some extra-heavy Buffalo Bore monsters in the chambers.

So that’s the Greener double rifle, priced at around $3,750.  Would I take this old warhorse out into the field?  One word:  gimme.

Now let’s look at the “restored” (Porsche 356-style) double rifle up next.

Gun #2 was made by Holland & Holland, also in the dying years of the 1800s, but it’s a different rifle altogether.

You can see that this gun has been restored to showroom condition (by no less than Holland & Holland themselves), and it is an absolute beauty, as you will see anon.

It is still chambered for its original cartridge, the fearsome .450-400 Black Powder Express (BPE) — the numbers standing for a .45-caliber bullet being sent on its way by 400 grains of black powder.  (Makes the old Sharps “buffalo” chambering of .45-120 look kinda anemic, dunnit?)  Here’s a modern manufacture, by Kynoch:

…a box of which caliber is included with the purchase of the rifle.

Now, a gun of this quality, restored by its original manufacturer is not going to come cheap, and the Holland does not disappoint, at $27,500.

But it’s not going to come in a flimsy cardboard box like some Savage or Ruger rifle, no sir.  Instead, you can take this home with you:

(right-click to embiggen)

The case alone is probably worth about $3,000.

When people ask me why I love guns, love talking about them and love shooting them, this kind of rifle is one of the reasons.

It’s beautiful, deadly and of utter quality.  And when it comes to guns with which to hunt the most dangerous of game, I can’t think of a better trifecta than that.

By the way:  that $27,500 is about a quarter of what you’d pay to restore a Porsche 356 to concourse standard.

But we can talk about that dream some other time.

Also:  in case bells are ringing in your head, this is not the H&H Royal Grade ($70k) that I looked at a while back.  Same gun, different grade, and (very!) different price.

Gratuitous Gun Pic: Twin Ruger M77 RSI Rifles (.22-250 Rem & .308 Win)

Here’s a $5,000 solution to someone of a practical mind.  Let’s assume that you would like to have a couple of rifles that would do duty on varmints and on medium-sized game.  But you’d like them to be identical in every respect but chambering, so that you would be familiar with both the action, the trigger and the shouldering thereof.

Why not, asks Steve Barnett (Merchant Of Death Extraordinaire), get these two?  Here’s the Ruger M77 RSI in .22-250 Rem (which spells “death to varmints” in no uncertain terms):

…and here’s its twin, in .308 Win (which spells “death to pretty much everything else”):

Yes of course they’re identical:  that’s the whole point of the exercise.  And at under $2,500 each, it seems to me to be a very practical and elegant solution to the “one gun, two calibers” demand made for hunting.

Longtime Readers will also know of my inordinate fondness for the full-stocked rifle, and Ruger’s RSI line fills that to capacity, oh yes it does.

As for the boolets themselves, here’s a comparison (with ballistics):

All that remains is to mount two identical scopes with identical reticles to the above rifles, and the brief is filled, I think, pretty much to perfection:

And yes, I think the term “elegant solution” is entirely appropriate here.