How many times have you heard someone say when referring to a gun “Don’t you wish it could talk?” It is that history that keeps collectors panting over old firearms like a German shepherd over a T-bone steak. It is that connection with the past that keeps those old guns in our safes when we could be going out and buying new firearms that have all those technological advancements instead.
Clint Eastwood said in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, every gun makes its own tune. No two old guns are exactly alike, even if they are the same identical model. They could have come from two different places, like lost twins. No two tell the same tale.
I remember a Winchester 1894 saddle ring carbine I once had, it was in .25-35 Win. centerfire and it came from a Utah sheep ranch. Somewhere along the line the buttstock broke and the original was replaced with a piece of rough cut Ponderosa pine and had the buttplate screwed back on. The forearm was worn down flat, but that old gun still worked. Who knows where that gun went and what turns its story took since it left the Winchester factory in 1909 up until the day I found it. I only wished I had taken a whitetail deer with it before finances forced me to part with it.
If we are lucky enough, we inherit guns with some of those memories imprinted in them like birthmarks or scars or tattoos. These guns might have a notch carved in the forearm that would scare a collector but are cherished by those of us that like guns we know have done work.
I remember the .30-30 carbine that my grandfather had for more than sixty years. The blued finish was gone, and the forearm had several notches for the deer he killed (though I know if he cut that stock for every deer he really killed it would have been nothing but a splinter). A relative got that old Winchester, but I got his equally prized and cherished Colt Woodsman .22 that he took as much game with as some do with a rifle.
A friend of mine showed me a beauty the other day in the form of 1907 vintage Colt Lightning in .41 Colt. Where had this gun been? Who had carried it? Was it a lawman or just an everyday gent? The possibilities are endless and open to the imagination.
Old guns are small pieces of history. We are their caretakers and their storytellers for the time being, until we too must let them go and they become the property of another to continue their story. Let’s make them good ones while we have them.