American Handgunner May/June 2013 Digital Edition - Page 40

SHOOTINGIRON thumB BustiN’ musiNgs from the Duke mike “Duke” veNturiNo Photos: Yvonne Venturino hANDguN esTheTics W ompare those to American-designed handAmerican guns. Sam Colt got his early cap-and-ball revolvers from sixguns a bit blocky, but by the 1860s they the 19th century: were extremely graceful. By 1873, with the A Colt model Colt Single Action Army there was hardly 1861 “Navy” a right angle anywhere. Smith & Wesson (left) and a Colt Model #3s weren’t quite so esthetically pleasing but still not single Action Army. bad. By necessity, Misters Smith and Wesson were swayed by Russian gold into redesigning their Model #3 for large sales, but they certainly complained about how ugly their revolvers became. By 1878, they returned to their natural American inclination and brought out the much more visually satisfying New Model #3. The Austrians started our dilemma of soulless handguns with the Glock. Black, lots of synthetics and square as a brick. Now everyone else has had to copy them. I get it. They work. They shoot every time. They don’t rust. All that is important. Even my own wife chose one as her packing pistol. My complaint is this — can’t synthetics be used to build pistols that still look good? Can’t a pistol be built today with graceful lines and still be reliable? Couldn’t polymers be molded into rounded parts such as the slide on a Colt Model 1903 Pocket Pistol? Does every new pistol have to hold a bazillion rounds so its grip is as big as a beer can? Used to be “gunny” sorts of men took great personal pride in their handguns. There are plenty of well-used Colt SAAs around that were ordered factory engraved. I emphasize well used because the buyers of those fancy revolvers didn’t just set them in a drawer somewhere; they packed them in holsters. Same with Colt 1911s and Smith & Wesson N-frames. Ever wonder why the above types of handguns were so often sold in nickelplated versions? It was because they looked great! Ever notice how handsome a handgun is if the grip material contrasts with the metal finish? Duke says about the only time Even a utilitarian design like the 1911 can be Europeans got handgun esthetics gussied-up quite a bit with a little imagination. right was with the Luger. 40 American Panache C hy are so many of today’s handguns ugly? Do handgun manufacturers test design applicants for a sense of esthetics and then not hire any who have it? Used to be at movies I would annoy Yvonne endlessly by identifying whatever model of handgun someone on screen was using. Such as, “That guy’s got an S&W Model 19 with 2½" barrel, or that Japanese officer has a German P38 instead of the Nambu he should be packing.” Now if someone asked me what handgun anyone on screen was holding I’d have to say, “Don’t know but it was big, square-shaped and black. I blame a lot of this on Europeans. They hardly ever had a lick of sense about what a handgun should look like, especially the British. Europeans had one bright spot among handguns. It was what we know as the Luger, although there never was a Luger factory as such. Someone might ask, “But what about the Browning Hi-Power made in Belgium? They’re decent looking handguns.” My point exactly; they were designed by American John M. Browning. When I was going to movies as a kid, if the bad guy was a European he usually pulled out a Luger before falling to an American good guy shooting a S&W Military & Police .38 or Colt Model 1903 or 1908 Pocket Pistol. Going back even farther to black and white movies on late shows, European or Asian bad guys sometimes would pull out Broomhandle Mausers. They were ugly too, but at least you wouldn’t mistake one for any other handgun. Even a pistol as utilitarian as the us model 1911A1 can be gussied up with finish and grips to make it look good, like this Les Baer thunder ranch special. n fact, fancy after-market grips were probably the most common way professional gun-toters of a past era personalized their handguns. Used to be I always took note of what cops were carrying in their holsters, whether they were giving me a traffic ticket or just sitting at a donut shop. Those wearing stock, as-issued handguns, I would have bet couldn’t hit a bull in the butt at a dozen paces. When I saw a cop’s handgun with fancy grips, my estimation of their ability grew a notch or two. If the handgun was engraved or had some sort of fancier finish then I figured he must be a “pistolero.” I might have been wrong but those were my initial impressions. I’d like to know what our Editorship, Roy, packed in his 20-year career. Might be interesting, eh? (Check out the Insider in this issue! -Roy) Nowadays, all cops have big, square, black pistols. No fancy finishes, no custom grips, no pride of possession. Nothing to indicate which of them might even be a good shot. Well, some carry 1911s nowdays and I’ll bet some of those are gussiedup a bit. Usually a cop with a 1911 in his holster is a gunnie. As far as handgun esthetics goes, I’m glad I grew up in a bygone era. sOMe FlAsh? i * WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • MAY/JUNE2013

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