This is How Much the Gun Culture has Changed: 50 years ago, the guns on magazine covers were single-shots.

Welcome to the covers of Guns magazine — from 1964. Here are the first six months:


The covers are:

  • a lion trophy;
  • bandleader turned benchrest competitor (and shop owner) Artie Shaw
  • a highly-decorated Sharps carbine;
  • an oddball 14mm smoothbore double pistol;
  • handloading editor Kent Bellah demonstrating his two-handed handgun-hunting hold; and,
  • a photograph of two custom flintlocks in the collection of Churchill’s of London, one of which was made for King George IV circa 1790.

So we have two hunting-themed covers, one celebrity target shooter, and three antique firearms. See anything missing? We’ll see if it shows up in the second half of the year:


and these are:

  • A solid-gold and rosewood percussion deringer (yes, it worked; the one-off pistol sold for $6,000 in 1964);
  • a peculiar indoor Schuetzen rifle;
  • two Colt 1851 revolvers from the Mormons’ museum in Salt Lake City;
  • A Danish flintlock rifle, similar to a Kentucky rifle but very ornate;
  • three Winchester Model 94 lever-actions; and,
  • a percussion rifle of great significance: made by Eliphalet Remington in 1816 for his friend and neighbor Peter Pontious, it was at the time (1964), and probably still is, the oldest documented surviving Remington.

What didn’t show up, of course, is a modern military or military-style weapon, or even a semi-auto. Most of the guns shown on the cover of Guns 50 years ago were single-shots. It wasn’t just the covers that were missing these rifles; there are very few stories inside the magazines about military weapon development. Don’t take our word for it; download the magazines and check them out yourself. Guns has made them freely available for us.

The cover-girls of 2014? We can see the covers here (and read them online for free, or download digital editions, but you have to pay for those). They are:

  1. Daniel Defense AR in .300 AAC Blackout.
  2. The Taurus CT-9 “tactical” 9mm carbine and matching PT111 G2 “Millennium” pistol.
  3. The Armalite AR-31 “tactical” bolt-action rifle in 7.62 NATO.
  4. SIG-Sauer P227 .45 ACP service pistol.
  5. Ruger AR in 7.62 NATO.
  6. Colt USMC M45 .45 ACP service pistol.
  7. Customized Mossberg 590A1 “tactical” shotgun and matching Taurus Tracker (5-shot .44 Magnum) pistol.
  8. Springfield Armory (the company) SOCOM 16 in a green polymer stock (this is a snubnosed version of the M1A rifle. It is not used by SOCOM in any capacity; that’s just marketing).
  9. The disaster intro of 2014, the Remington R51 pocket pistol (if you’ve got XXXL pockets, maybe). Before it turned disaster.
  10. S&W .460 Magnum. (You can hang up your .45 now, they do make a .46).
  11. Robar SR-21 bolt-action precision tactical rifle.
  12. Two compact Kimber pistols.

Compare: except for two revolvers and a pump shotgun, everything that made the 2014 covers is semi-auto. There are no semi-autos in 1964; the only repeaters are revolvers, lever-actions and a boxlock double-barrel. There are no celebrities in 2014, and no hunting or target-shooting photos. There are no antiques: everything is new (and not to put too fine a point on it, made by a firm that can buy advertising in Guns. So far, the 2015 issues have a knife on the cover, too: doubles their appeal to advertisers).

The very last issue of Guns for 1964 did show a glimmering dawn of things to come. On Page 20-21, a spread introduced a radical new gun from Colt, which they called the “AR-15 Sporter.”


“Kids today! First it was the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, then that little Ford Mustang. Now a plastic and aluminum gun that looks like something Buck Rogers dropped off from the 25th Century. Fifty years from now, do you think that people will look back and wonder what the people of the 1960s were thinking?”

We’re not sure, but history records that most of them (the Beatles, perhaps, excepted) were smoking stuff that didn’t get them high.

This entry was posted in The Past is Another Country on by Hognose.

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

2 thoughts on “50 Years Ago, the Guns on Magazine Covers were Single Shot

Stefan van der Borght

Oooo, I’ll be grabbing March 1964 for sure. Gee, WM, a Sharps! Thanks for the cool link!