Persistence of “Obsolete” Gun Designs: 5 Reasons

At a very well-stocked gun shop, the most expensive new firearm might be a Barrett .50 or a TrackingPoint precision guided weapon. But it might not. It might very well be a European trap or hunting shotgun, a well-decorated and supremely finished, but technologically simple double-barrel over-and-under, with lockwork a 19th Century gunsmith would have recognized.

A Luciano Bosis ‘Michelangelo’ 12-bore shotgun. From the Bosis website.

For about $600 a buyer can take home the latest high-tech defensive pistol, or for about the same price a basic clone of the high-tech defensive pistol of 1911. He’s well armed either way, but why has technology marched on in the pistol world, but stood still on the shotguns used by bird busters (of the meat and clay variety alike)?

Any rifle problem in the world from rimfire plinking to open-range elk hunting has a version of the AR that can conceivably be applied to it. But hunters still buy lots of bolt-action rifles, with bolts that owe their basic design to the 19th Century efforts of Mauser in Oberndorf.

Indeed, here in New England, the single-shot break-action firearm continues to hang on in the market; new production continues.

The firearms market, then, is unlike other markets. In 1960 only a few car models sold in the United States came with automatic transmission standard; by 1970, air conditioning was in that market position, by 1980 electronic fuel injection… but these technologies are nearly universal now. Why do “obsolete” firearms actions persist and thrive in a market that has seen centuries of innovation? Why does the innovative product take its place alongside the venerable one, and not replace it?

Here are some thoughts.

  1. In some cases, the innovative product does replace the venerable one. Consider the police revolver. 30 years ago, a mainstay of industry magazine publishers was “revolver vs. automatic for police.” Nowadays, if you brought that article to your editor, he or she would suggest you need your head examined. Many agencies don’t let a cop carry a revolver, any more, even off duty.

    One of Colt’s best loved guns isn’t even made anymore.

  2. The gun buyer is inherently conservative. It’s much easier to sell a driver on the benefits of fuel injection than it is to sell a hunter who’s perfectly happy with his .30-30 on the benefits of a funny-looking plastic and alloy semiauto. (This also hurts European makers who tend to make guns that “look funny” to Americans. Think HK’s hunting rifles of the 80s and 90s).
  3. There is a draw to history in old-fashioned firearms. We double-dog dare you to pick up a Colt SAA and not think about the Old West (even if the Old West of public memory was mostly the creation of dime novels and moviemakers). Ditto, a 1911 and World War II. For many in the shooting sports, the draw to history is personal and familial. If you were the unloved grandson who didn’t inherit Gramps’s Winchester 64, you pine for one; this seems especially true for bird hunters, almost all of whom were introduced to the sport by family.
  4. Sometimes you’re tied by rules. Nobody’s going to get to use a Saiga shotgun in a trapshoot this year. Some states’ hunting laws ban semiauto or detachable-mag-fed semi weapons, on the theory that they promote snap shooting and bad sportsmanship.
  5. Sometimes the older design is perfectly fit for the task. Evolution stops because it has reached a plateau or point of equilibrium (just as evolution of living things is currently thought to do, between incidences of salutary mutation). While many jurisdictions’ regulations restrict hunting weapon magazine capacity, there’s little impetus to change these laws because the game gets a vote, too, and it tends not to stick around when the guns open up. Hunting upland game birds, two shots is often one more than you can practically get off when the birds flush, and two is pretty much the limit. Same with bolts and hunting of ground game. Doesn’t matter if you’re belt-fed, one shot and Bambi is outa there. Likewise, if there is a better gun to teach a beginner the rudiments of safety and shooting than a break-action, exposed-hammer single shot, we surely can not think of what it is.

We’re “thinking out loud,” here, and there might be more than five reasons. We’re most partial to #5 of the explanations above. But you’re welcome to shoot holes in this theory. Are there other guns than the police revolver that have become eclipsed in living memory? The .25 Auto, perhaps… what else?

51 thoughts on “Persistence of “Obsolete” Gun Designs: 5 Reasons

  1. aczarnowski

    Also, non-market forces. Firearm regulation favors stagnation. Auto regulation favors obsolescence.

    Riding my 1977 motorcycle is still great. When I can find gas that doesn’t eat it away from the inside.

    And I’m amazed at how much firearm innovation we do see given the rules they work under.

    Reply
    1. Hognose Post author

      There’s a couple websites with listings of airfields that have ethanol free premium auto gas still. Some will sell cars some won’t.

      Reply
      1. raven

        pure-gas.org list and map of ethanol free gas stations.
        Your bike, and chainsaw and generator will thank you.
        Also, non ethanol gas stores way better.

        Reply
      2. Perin

        When I drove back and forth across Nevada during the recent holidays the convenience store gas stations at which I stopped (Maverik) had “ethanol-free gasoline” for about 15 cents more per gallon than regular unleaded.

        Hadn’t seen that before, but googling just now I found this: http://www.pure-gas.org/index.jsp

        Reply
    2. Tennessee Budd

      Ski, only one of my 5 bikes was made after 1982. I know how you feel. I also have other older engines; until I “bequeathed” it to a loved & trusted younger relative, I had my grandfather’s ’72 Cheyenne for 20 years.
      Try this: http://www.pure-gas.org/

      Reply
    3. aczarnowski

      Thanks for the responses everyone. Yep – the internet does help with the finding.

      It also helps find guys that still do head work on old and quirky bikes. In my case, dual plugging and upgrading valves to units which don’t require leaded.

      Now I’m just hoping the AMA and others can deflect the oncoming 15% ethanol blends. And, just maybe, the new EPA head might take an interest in unscrewing our fuel situation.

      Reply
      1. Hognose Post author

        A lot of shops can do valve seats to save your old heads but automotive shops that are production oriented don’t want to waste time figuring out a bike head. Better luck with an aviation or marine shop, if you don’t have an old bike specialist around.

        Reply
  2. Keith

    When I bought my firearms back in the 1990’s it was driven by history and personal history.

    I bought a Ruger GP 100 in .357 magnum because for 25 years my father carried a S&W .357 magnum. It was in homage to him.

    I bought a reproduction 1911 and P08, new HP Mk III because of the history and a 92FS because it was the current US service arm at the time.

    I bought a Ruger Vaquero for the cowboy look. All of my rifles are historical item from W W II or the 1950’s.

    I pre-ordered the HMG STG-N because it is as close as I’ll ever come to owning an actual one.

    Reply
  3. Jim S

    Most gas companies make a premium fuel that is ethanol free. At least in the upper midwest. I use the Shell and BP premium for my small engines as they do not like ethanol.

    Reply
  4. raven

    A fine double or sporting rifle is thing of craftsmanship and beauty. And they do the job well.
    Svelte, graceful, elegant.
    We are inundated with aluminum extrusions, sheet metal stamping’s, injection molded plastic, and sprayed on finishes. It is hard to find a good bluing job anymore, most of the new factory blue compares to a second rate refinisher of forty years ago.

    A fine walnut and steel sporting arm , if a woman, would be Lauren Bacall.
    Most modern arms would be that chick on the way to the rave, all tattoo’s and pierced in places you don’t want to go.
    It ain’t just the guns- every damn thing these days looks like it was built by people who thought the height of design was a transformer toy.

    Reply
  5. joshua

    You could argue that the Dan Wesson revolver, with its interchangeable barrels, the Savage 99 and the Ithaca 37 are each best of breed. They are also – all gone. Cost of manufacturing and competition from designs that give the customer 90% of the feature for 1/2 the cost did them in.

    New versions of revolvers, hunting rifles and hunting shotguns offer no meaningful advantage (same caliber or gauge, same performance, same weight and general size) and in many cases, lack the finish and attention to detail of older models (anyone happy with a new slapped together Marlin?) so the old stays in distribution from former owner to new.

    Reply
  6. Jim S

    Sometimes it’s due to the influence of the legendary gun writers. Jim Carmichael was my personal favorite. All I wanted in life – at that time – was to own a rifle as accurate and as beautiful as his and his wife’s guns. Thats why my favorite deer rifle is a 1898 Springfield. Old as dirt (like me) but so great to look at (not so much like me).

    Reply
  7. Hartley

    I’ll go with Joshua – the old works pretty much as good as new (especially in sporting arms) and looks/feels better.
    Besides .25 autos, I’m thinking bolt-action shotguns and slide-action centerfire rifles are pretty rarely found nowadays (though some still treasure theirs!).

    Reply
  8. TRX

    Firearms are essentially simple devices. There hasn’t been much progress in the designs of swords or clubs recently, either.

    Design of firearms is more often held up by chemistry, manufacturing, and legislation than innovation. The percussion cap made repeating arms practical. Smokeless powder paved the way for autoloaders. Established doctrine limited battle rifles to 5 rounds, preferably with magazine cutoffs. John Browning’s designs might have looked very different had precision investment castings or injection molded plastics been available to him. Just in the USA, the Fed and various states regulate configurations, calibers, methods of operation, barrel lengths, and even the shape of the cartridges used in firearms.

    I think the bolt-action shotgun is a fine thing, and I fail to understand why they barely exist, and at the bottom of the market at that. And I’ve never understood the lure of the slide action rifle or the two-shot semiauto shotgun.

    As for revolvers vs. automatics… “embrace the power of ‘and’.”

    While I’ve always preferred autoloaders, my everyday-carry gun is a revolver, simply because its shape and mine are more compatible than any of the autos I own. And as long as the power of the reload falls between “makes it out the muzzle” and “unsafe”, it doesn’t care how its cartridges are loaded, or what shape the bullets are. There’s no tap-rack drill if there’s a misfire; just pull the trigger and try again. And foremost… once you decide .44 AMP and .50AE are insufficient for your purposes, you’re out of luck. The big boomers are all revolvers.

    Reply
    1. joshua

      I thought the 2 shot semi auto was designed for skeet. Less felt recoil and less expensive than a good over under. Slide actions are big in PA- you can’t hunt with a semi and the Remington 760 in 30’06 offers you a chance at longer shots than a 3030 with quicker follow up shots than a bolt.
      Absent silly rules, neither type might have left the drawing board.

      Reply
  9. Scott

    I think the reason here, as others have touched on, is that for the last 120 years, cartridges have been roughly the same. For most hunting, an ar does nothing a bolt gun can’t, and it does it in a more awkward package because of concessions to magazine capacity and controlling rapid semi auto fire, adding accessories, etc.
    Similarly, for bird hunting, a saiga is heavy and awkward compared to a superposed, and fires exactly the same cartridge.
    A similar thing is at work with civilian self defense. A 38, 9mm, or 45 will all work the same, and capacity and armorer maintenance and high round count durability don’t matter that much when it’s in your sock drawer, so a 1911 is as good as a Glock with an rmr to most folks.

    In police and military applications you do see folks moving rapidly to new technologies when they’re clearly better than what came before. Hence no bolt action service/patrol rifle or full sized revolver.

    Reply
  10. 6pounder

    The single shot, break open, hammer shotgun and the single shot, bolt action .22 rifle are the two guns that everyone I know, including myself, learned with. They are just perfect for teaching children shooting and safety skills.

    Reply
  11. Keith Z.

    I think it’s interesting that the police automatic revolution was due as much to social changes in police departments and stuff like the Miami FBI shootout than actual technological progress. If cops had wanted to be on the cutting edge of tech they could have had double stack 9mms as early as the 1930s. They were happy with what they had for another 50 or so years. Compare that to today where it seems like some departments are changing their issue firearm every other year (at cost to us taxpayers) in search of rapidly finishing returns.

    Reply
  12. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

    Well, I can give a substantive reason why O/U’s, a design dating back to the Browning Superposed, persist in clay sports to this day:

    1. Range etiquette. Show up on a trap or skeet range with a semi-auto and people will raise eyebrows. Show up a second time with a semi-auto after they’ve had a word with you about ejecting your empties into the position to your right, and they will give you a rubber band to put around your receiver. If you won’t use that, you might be invited to go somewhere else to shoot. Trap shooters do not like having someone’s empties fly into their lane, period.

    With a O/U, you can choose whether your gun ejects or just lifts the shells out of the chamber. Since they come straight back, most shooters pluck or catch their shells coming out of the chambers and put them into a bag on their belt, keeping the shooting position clean/clear for the next shooter.

    2. You have two different chokes – one for closer shots, one for further shots. You simply cannot achieve this with a single barrel shotgun.

    3. Range Safety. When you’re packing a semi or pump gun on a trap, clays or skeet range, people have to look closely at your bolt to see if it is racked back. With a break-type shotgun, people can see at a glance that your gun is safe.

    4. Reliability. The modern O/U’s in the top end of the market are able to shoot 10’s of thousands of rounds per season, and get nothing more than basic maintenance during the season. Perazzi and Krieghoffs own the top levels of shotgun competition because of how durable they are.

    In the field, a semi-auto is probably more suitable, because when you drop a nice O/U or SxS down the side of a mountain when you’re chukar hunting… watching a grown man cry isn’t pretty.

    Reply
    1. John Distai

      I was going to write what you have for #1. And as I get older I don’t want to bend over to pick up my empties.

      I prefer a bolt action rifle over a semi-auto because I find the concentration break and mechanical effort to cycle the bolt interesting and it adds to the ‘zen experience’. Shooting semi-autos doesn’t feel the same, and seems boring to me. Perhaps it’s a precision over volume thing.

      Reply
    2. raven

      ” because when you drop a nice O/U or SxS down the side of a mountain when you’re chukar hunting…
      WW Greener mentions this in “The Gun”, a user of one of his double hammerless guns fell down a mountain and the gun did not discharge- he was using the example to extol the safety of the newfangled inside hammer guns.

      Reply
  13. weredragon

    Adding to the O/U hanging on in clay target games, for me I break 10-12 more birds on a sporting clays course with an O/U than a semi. Two reasons, first two chokes in case one target is in my face and the other is way out there. Second reason, quicker for the second shot, even a semi seems to take longer to be ready for the second shot. Interestingly, I score a few better with a pump than a semi, I think pumping the action helps with recoil recovery.

    PA legislature proposed allowing semi’s for hunting, last I saw PA game commission still needed to approve. In other words, don’t run out and by that semi just yet.

    Reply
  14. LSWCHP

    I’m a revolver guy. I just bought a lovely 40 year old Smith Model 19 4″ that has hardly been fired and I’m now hunting for a Model 14.

    I used to shoot with a young bloke who started on semiautos but came to his senses after a while. One day he looked at me after a match, grinned happily and said “You know, revolvers just have soul”. For me, that says it all. I’m not restating option #3, but for me the old designs and the actual guns themselves have beautiful spirits that I want to be associated with. Newer guns, not so much. I’m an engineer and have built machines all my working life, so I may well be crazy though. :-)

    Reply
    1. Boat Guy

      Coming late to revolvers (cops in the family were carrying Pythons but I was MILITARY; hence 1911) I have been scoring some nice examples when opportunity presents; mid-60’s Model 27 5″ being the high point so far. The only revolver I had with the lock-blemish on the side was traded away. Currently carrying a 1984 S&W 686 4″ much of the time.

      Reply
  15. Kurt

    Just my opinion but the revolver to auto change in LE circles had as much to do with pop culture as anything else. In most cop movies and TV shows the good guys were armed with revolvers period. If a character was using a semi-auto pistol 9 times out of 10 he was the villain. And at least post 1971 if you depicted a certain cop to be a real man’s man hard case type you had him carry a .44 magnum. (Example : Dirty Harry and the Swat Team leader on Hill Street Blues.) But along came 1986 and a new show that had the lead cop carry not just semi- autos but the ultimate combo for the time… A Bren10 and a Detonics Combat Master as a backup. Yup, Miami Vice. And as far as I could tell at the time there were few if any men or boys out there that did not want to be Sonny Crockett. Heck at my pretty conservative church in the spring of ’87 there was only a few boys that were not wearing a white suit coat and pants with a pink t-shirt to 1st communion…. So just my two cents, that show did more to make it ok for the good guys to have semi’s as duty guns then anything. And then life sorta imitated art.

    Reply
  16. Dienekes

    When I decided to “modernize” and EDC a 9mm, I went out and bought a utilitarian Gen 4 Glock 19. It works, but it’s essential ugliness makes it embarrassing to carry, even when hidden under a cover garment. You feel like Kaiser Wilhelm and his withered arm that everyone pretended not to see. But it’s THERE.

    So it is that the Glock lurks in a dark corner of my safe, while I carry an obsolete, but classy little BHP most of the time. It puts a little spring in my step, which I can certainly use in my dotage.

    Reply
  17. Tennessee Budd

    Sometimes the old design just works, and some folks shy away from new-fangled complications. I’d love to get my hands on an S1000RR, but have you ever seen a Ural? They work, & they seem to be tough.
    I’ve actually been thinking about finding an old slant-six Dodge truck for a backup (or more) vehicle. They’re hard to break.
    I’m carrying a P229, but I still have & occasionally carry my 1911, and sometimes in winter my GP100. Hell, my truck pistol is a P-64.

    Reply
  18. Aesop

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    And while a revolver may occasionally have a failure to fire, success comes in pulling the trigger a second time, hitting the next round along.
    Whereas a failure to feed or failure to extract from a wheelgun will be about as common as bigfoot sightings at Disneyland.
    As a bonus, .357 seems to serendipitously do things to people hit in that bowling-pin sized area on the target that only head, spine, and heart shots do to people with 9mm or even .45.

    But as a renaissance man, all three are acceptable.

    My main quibble is the inbred engineering idjits who think they can’t make a functional modern gun also a work of art, on the first try, but instead rather go out of their way to make a piece butt-ugly by design, and then go for extra style points of troggish design by adding the forty-eleven things that No One Needs Or Wants, because they can.
    It’s like their entire design teams must be made up of left-handed orcs lacking opposable thumbs, and they get their artistry from kids who flunked out of paint-by-the-numbers school. Wood selection, woodworking, fit, finish, blueing, metalwork, polish : Hey, American gunmakers, these things are neat, you should learn them, and you can, too!

    While our Host has justifiable fun with Bubba Gunsmiting (not a typo), most of commercial gunsmithing these days is run by industrial-level Bubbas, with a commensurate budget, as evidenced solely by what they burp out.

    And only a soulless bastard bunch of corporate idjits shrewed by soulless bastard shyster @$$holes (but we repeat ourself) could issue the S&W M29 and a host of other classics, with the goddam action lock.
    It should be prosecutable at the Hague as a crime against humanity.

    If, just for the helluvit, someone at the majors would hire some folks guns with design, jewelry, woodworking, and pen-making creds, and have them sit down with their gun designers, it would pay dividends.

    Reply
    1. Hognose Post author

      I was amused to see a magazine on the stands with some new Remington plastic pistol — just in time for SHOT, of course. And I reflected on the fact that, while the jury is out on whether Remington learned anything from the R51 disaster, the magazines sure haven’t. Without reading the article I know it praised the gun, based on either not shooting it, or on shooting a few rounds. We’re about to get a post-SHOT barrage of experts who fired one mag from a hand-tuned pre-production example on Media Range Day, and just love it….

      Reply
      1. John Distai

        Every review in a magazine sings the praises. It doesn’t matter what type of product it is. Because advertisers dollars matter. (But you knew that).

        When I read Amazon reviews of a product, I make an effort to filter out the highly-rated reviews in favor of the low-rated reviews for the non-haloed perspective.

        Reply
      2. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

        What was really infuriating about the R51 episode was that all Remington needed to do to be successful was … make the Model 51 again. No “improvements.” Just replicate the Model 51.

        It worked. It worked well. The US military tested it as competition for the 1911 – and found that it worked, and worked well, had fewer parts to deal with, was easier to clean, etc. The reason why the 1911 hung on was that it already had money invested behind it, and the Dep’t of War/Ordnance was already tooled up for it. That’s it. Everyone who tested the Model 51 in the early 20’s was impressed with it.

        Remington, not content with this outcome, decided that they had to make “improvements” to it.

        Morons.

        Reply
      3. TRX

        The R51 is a prime example. The original gun was attractive, in an Art Deco sort of way. The remake is a caricature. And apparently they spent so much time uglifying the gun they forgot to make it work…

        Reply
  19. 11B-Mailclerk

    I spend a great deal of time, money , and effort in Cowboy Action Shooting competitions. Thus I tend to have the “Old is Good” bias.

    I also spend some time each month as a range officer. It is eye opening.

    There is an entire cohort of new shooters, ~10 years deep, that thinks an AR-15A2 or Glock 17 is “seriously old fashioned”. Many of these folks learned on MSRs and latest-gen 9s. They have never bothered with a single-shot, because they wouldn’t use a flintlock, either. If they shoot a .22, it is as modern as they get, probably with an electronic sight.

    In another 20 years, these folks and their follow-ons will -own- the field. It is in our interest to guide them, but they are going to drive firearms innovation in ways we old-farts cannot conceive.

    Reply
  20. Slow Joe Crow

    I think some of what is going on is specific types reaching an evolutionary plateau. You can see this in centerfire semi-automatic rifles. From the wide variety of designs in the early 20th century, action designs have basically distilled down to gas operarated with a rotating bolt or tilting bolt. Pistols have also distilled down to Browning style tilting barrel actions with the main variation being hammer or striker fired. While there are exceptions, the majority have converged on the most successful designs. There are parallels with hand tools, if you look at a combination wrench, other than incremental improvements in metallurgy to allow thinner profiles, the only significant change in the last 150 years has been the introduction of relieved corners (flank drive) in the 1980s. This hasn’t stopped some “designers” from trying to improve things, since a hipster just launched a kickstarter to make open end wrenches out of what looks like xylophone keys.
    The other reasons for obsolete designs is specific limits, like cowboy action shooting, or clay pigeon disciplines. Motorcycle racing has similar situations, speedway racing still uses single cylinder bikes with one gear and no brakes, in sharp contrast to the all electronic wonders used in Moto GP.
    BTW, old BMWs benefit from the Bing “aircraft” kits which have alcohol resistant floats and diaphragms. Personally I sidestep this since my 78 BMW has Dellorto carbs.

    Reply
    1. TRX

      I’ve put a lot of miles on some seriously fast bikes, but I wouldn’t turn down an old R90/S if one became available at the right price. Heck, even a plain R75.

      Watching the world compress ahead of you like the Millennium Falcon jumping into hyperdrive is great, but sometimes you just want a nice ride in reasonable comfort.

      Also, I’m now old enough I don’t care to ride around on something that looks like a brightly painted stink bug…

      Reply
  21. Eric S.

    Take a trip to Manhattan to see the Beretta Gallery. Over/Under works of art that go for upwards of $250k. The most amazing part about it? It was the nicest gun store experience I ever had even though I told the guy I could never afford one. The dude was just handing me different guns saying, “feel the balance & weight of this one… swing it around and notice how handy it is.”

    It’s really made me want to buy some kind of Beretta.

    Reply
    1. ToastieTheCoastie

      Speaking of NYC. The Met has a section dedicated to weapons that are art: elaborate pistols, inlaid suits of armor, etc. Very cool.

      Reply
  22. ToastieTheCoastie

    Some designs just can’t be improved upon. The 1911 is so beautiful because it perfectly synthesizes old fashioned and the modern.

    Gotta love a good revolver too.

    Reply
  23. ToastieTheCoastie

    Apologies for being a 2 comment nutjob, but some of the folks up here in Alaska are deadset on carrying an automatic for bear protection. It’s just odd to me that there are people that are determined to force automatics into that role even though there are plenty of great revolvers for that. It’s like there’s a philosophical thing.

    Reply
  24. John M.

    “Indeed, here in New England, the single-shot break-action firearm continues to hang on in the market; new production continues.”

    I think that makes a #6: Price. Low price explains IMHO 85% of the market for single-shot break-open designs, and many of the low-end single-shot bolt guns also.

    -John M.

    Reply
  25. John M.

    Typo, or maybe a “thinko”:
    “But hunters still buy lots of bolt-action rifles with bolts…”

    -John M.

    Reply
    1. Hognose Post author

      Thanks, John. Rewritten to make my intent clear, the hunters buy lots of bolt-action rifles, AND the bolts in the rifles are ones Mauser would recognize.

      Reply
  26. Brad Suhr

    I believe many “obsolete” firearms designs are only considered so because they are obsolete for military purposes. For example, the bolt action rifle is only inferior to semi-autos such as the AR in terms of rate of fire. Even the current budget bolt action rifles are superior to their semi-auto counterparts in every other respect.

    Where handguns are concerned, I prefer semi-autos, but I am also enough of a traditionalist that I prefer steel to plastic. I can’t stand the blockiness of the “modern” style Glocks, HK’s, etc. For me, the old school 1911 and Hi-Power types are slimmer, more comfortable to carry, and fit my hands better. The “modern” designs all feel like I am holding a chunk of 2×4 in my hand. I will also take the 1911 trigger over anything in a “modern” auto pistol. The attributes that make the “modern” autos more suited to military and police service are irrelevant to me and represent no real improvement for my purposes. Over and above that, wheelguns have a relationship to auto pistols that is similar to that between bolt action and semi-auto rifles. Yes, the wheelguns have a disadvantage in rate of fire, but no auto pistol can match them for power, accuracy, and reliability.

    Among shotguns, a similar pattern emerges. The semi-auto provides an advantage in rate of fire and may mitigate felt recoil, while it is less versatile, less reliable, and much more expensive than a pump shotgun (which I think of as the typical working man’s shotgun). Neither can match the reliability, balance, and handling of a quality double. I have carried all three afield and would reach first for a double barrel for use in the field.

    Post WWII, the real improvements in the firearms world have come in the form of improved metallurgy, improved materials (such as wood laminates, fiberglass, and plastics), improved powders, better bullets, improved optics/sighting systems, and higher manufacturing standards. The “obsolete” designs often benefit just as much from these improvements as the “modern” designs. Often, the real advantage of the “modern” designs is found, not in actual use, but in ease of low cost manufacture.

    For civilian purposes, I don’t believe there has been significant improvements in the firearms themselves for most of the last century. For military purposes, I believe the same thing can be said about most of the last 60 years.

    Reply

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