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Waxing philosophical: why do we buy what we buy
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March 30, 2024 - 3:14 pm
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This is something I ponder often.  

It’s a complicated question with many tentacles.

First, why do we select certain brands, models, etc. (I’m not referring to individual rifles)?  

For some rifles, we admire the design, the chamberings, the function, their place in history and so on.

After that, it often gets personal.

For me, the M1886 has been a strong favorite.  There is much I admire about this model Winchester.  However, it quickly gets personal.  My Dad’s first deer rifle was a M1886.  As many know here, I have a strong penchant for the .33 WCF.  That’s an easy one.  My Dad’s ’86 was a .33.  My uncle’s ’86 was a .33.  My Dad let my other uncle use his .33 after my Dad bought his next deer rifle.  We don’t have to stretch our brains too far to understand there is a strong psychological explanation as to why I have more .33’s here than any other ’86 chambering.  There are also other contributing explanations.  For example, had my family favored ’86’s in .50-100-450, I wouldn’t have as many.  It has helped that the .33’s have been much more affordable over my collecting career.  This speaks to Clarence’s point in another thread – it’s fine to collect what you like – but you also have to collect what you can afford to buy.

There’s another aspect of personal.  I think this is the main point I had in mind, and flows from recent posts made here of members showing off their pieces.  Certain pieces simply call to us.  And sometimes, VERY strongly.  Sometimes we can define why, sometimes not.  

Here’s a paradox in collecting.  For collectors, the very top conditioned pieces (e.g. rifles that look close to the way they did when they left the assembly line) are the most desired and sought after.  However, these rifles typically have little character, no history of use, no personality.  Occasionally, we see the term, “safe queen” used with a negative innuendo.  

Rifles that have use and character are a very individual thing.  It’s a delicate balance.  Most of us do enjoy pieces such as I’m describing – but not with too much use or character.  The amount varies from collector to collector and again, it largely depends on how much that piece calls to the individual collector.  

There is a retired gunsmith I used to use.  I’ve taken his retirement hard as it’s been a loss to me.  Eric was a truly skilled, experienced, talented gunsmith who could be trusted with any collectible piece.  I think everyone here knows what a find such a gunsmith is.  Over the course of many years, when I brought something to him, I would routinely bring along three or four to show.  These were typically pieces I was most proud of such as various Winchesters, my Deluxe Bullard Schuetzen repeating rifle, Burgess folding shotguns and so on.  He was always interested to view these pieces.  And of course, over the many decades of experience being a gunsmith, attending gunshows and having a bent toward antique/collectible firearms, Eric had seen a lot.

In thinking back over all of the visits I had with him, there were two rifles that produced a pinnacle of reaction from him. In each case, I recall his reaction vividly.  In both cases, he did not want to hand the rifle back to me.  It was really amusing and I’m sure all of us have, at one time or another, been on both sides of this situation.  That is, we were so taken with a rifle that it is a physical struggle to unclasp your hands and hand it back.  It was very comical to see.  He just couldn’t let go of it.

So, of all these rifles I brought by, what two were they that produced this pinnacle of response?

First:

http://i.imgur.com/S2Ezj2I.jpgImage Enlarger

This is a Peterlongo custom rifle built on an 8x50R Steyr.  

Again, reactions are personal and have to do with individual histories.  And in this situation, Eric was a first class stock maker.  He could turn a blank of wood into something fabulous.  And I think it was his admiration of how this particular stock was made – the proportions, geometry, workmanship spoke (shouted) to him.  The rifle of course had other interesting features such as the solid rib, engraving etc.   

The other rifle that prompted his strong reaction was a Ross M-10 .280 that had been reworked by J. Woodward and son, including restocking and conversion to left-hand bolt:

http://i.imgur.com/SSmrB9y.jpg?1Image Enlarger

http://i.imgur.com/mwOIRmL.jpgImage Enlarger

http://i.imgur.com/RbIlvGM.jpgImage Enlarger

 

I don’t want to make a post as long as this without showing a Winchester:

http://i.imgur.com/37kmjz9.jpgImage Enlarger

This one speaks to me.  This is a .32 Special carbine that spent most of it’s life working on a Western North Dakota ranch.  Despite spending a lot of time living large in the outdoors, it is mechanically perfect with an excellent bore.  For me, it hits that just right sweet spot between use and abuse.  I love the dark wood.  This carbine truly drips with personality and character.  It has been there and done that.

A final point I will make relates to the matter of photographs.  When we show off our rifles and look at the rifles of others on our forum, we are looking at photographs.  Looking at photographs is not the same as holding a rifle in your hands.  We talk about the importance of this when purchasing – so you can better be aware of any defects.  The other aspect of this is finding those rifles that truly speak to you.  For that to be at full force, you need to be in the presence of the rifle – have physical contact with it.  I think my gunsmith’s reaction I described above would not have been nearly as powerful were he looking at photos vs. holding them in his hand.  For the .32 Special carbine I show above, I’m sure that from the photos, many of you will be able to have some appreciation for its character.  However, it is my contention that to feel how I feel about it, you need to have it in your hands.  

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March 30, 2024 - 4:10 pm
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Well said.  Did you teach philosophy by any chance?!  Tim

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March 30, 2024 - 4:18 pm
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I like your ’94 (except for the horse-whip attached to the sling-ring), but I like the one I have better, because it has the worn down fore-arm caused by yrs of being carried across a saddle-bow, probably with a leather loop around the horn to keep it from falling off; otherwise the two guns are very similar, except mine is a re-barreled rifle.  When I sold off my other ’94s yrs ago, this was the only one I wanted to keep. 

I don’t know anything about Peterlongo, but compared to sporters built in Germany before WWI on the 1888 Commission rifle, his fore-end seems too thick to me.  I’ve never seen more meticulous workmanship on any gun, inc. “best grade” English guns, than on many of these  reworked ’88s, many built not in one shop, but under the ancient guild system, one maker doing only stock work, another metal work, another engraving, etc. 

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March 30, 2024 - 4:53 pm
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tim tomlinson said
Well said.  Did you teach philosophy by any chance?!  Tim

  

LOL!

Tim – surely you agree there is a great deal of philosophy to the kind of gun collecting we do.

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March 30, 2024 - 4:58 pm
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clarence said
I like your ’94 (except for the horse-whip attached to the sling-ring), but I like the one I have better, because it has the worn down fore-arm caused by yrs of being carried across a saddle-bow, probably with a leather loop around the horn to keep it from falling off; otherwise the two guns are very similar, except mine is a re-barreled rifle.  When I sold off my other ’94s yrs ago, this was the only one I wanted to keep. 

I don’t know anything about Peterlongo, but compared to sporters built in Germany before WWI on the 1888 Commission rifle, his fore-end seems too thick to me.  I’ve never seen more meticulous workmanship on any gun, inc. “best grade” English guns, than on many of these  reworked ’88s, many built not in one shop, but under the ancient guild system, one maker doing only stock work, another metal work, another engraving, etc. 

  

Clarence –

Your story about your ’94 illustrates my point nicely.  You kept the ’94 that spoke to you the loudest.  Very interesting that it is the only one you wanted to keep – the one with most wear and it had been altered to boot.

On my Peterlongo, yes the forend was not shaped in a delicate manner.  I’m sure that was by intent.  Again, different styles appeal to different people.  I have admired many customized 1888 Commission rifles.  For the amount of fine detailed work that went into them, they are typically underpriced for what they are.  That is one reason to collect them – you get a lot of rifle for the money.

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March 30, 2024 - 5:44 pm
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Steve, well said.  I have several (low value) ‘inheritance’ guns, which will stay in the family forever, no consideration of dollar value, so not a part of your thoughts on ‘why we buy’.

In my case, I have a few which grew on me after I owned them for whatever reason, even thought they were not perhaps highly sought after by me at time I acquired them.  Some well worn but all original 92’s fit this.

My first Colt Gold Cup MK IV comes to mind. After having hundreds of firearms pass through my hands, I often said that if I could only keep one, that Colt would be it. Since I handload almost exclusively everything I shoot, I can say with certainty that over 5,000 rounds have passed through that Colt. (Mostly mild cast bullet loads).

I recently found a brand new MK IV Gold Cup, which I’d sought for a while, and I was delighted to have it.

 

But that original Gold Cup from the 70’s is the one I’ll keep forever.

Nevada Paul

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March 30, 2024 - 9:12 pm
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Nevada Paul said
Steve, well said.  I have several (low value) ‘inheritance’ guns, which will stay in the family forever, no consideration of dollar value, so not a part of your thoughts on ‘why we buy’.

In my case, I have a few which grew on me after I owned them for whatever reason, even thought they were not perhaps highly sought after by me at time I acquired them.  Some well worn but all original 92’s fit this.

 

  

Paul –

Wow! This really describes my experience.  I have many that when I first acquired them, I wasn’t all that enthused.  Now, I seem to like them better with each passing day.  Several of these are less-than-high-condition Model 1892’s!

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March 30, 2024 - 9:17 pm
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clarence said
I like your ’94 (except for the horse-whip attached to the sling-ring), but I like the one I have better, because it has the worn down fore-arm caused by yrs of being carried across a saddle-bow, probably with a leather loop around the horn to keep it from falling off; otherwise the two guns are very similar, except mine is a re-barreled rifle.  When I sold off my other ’94s yrs ago, this was the only one I wanted to keep. 

I don’t know anything about Peterlongo, but compared to sporters built in Germany before WWI on the 1888 Commission rifle, his fore-end seems too thick to me.  I’ve never seen more meticulous workmanship on any gun, inc. “best grade” English guns, than on many of these  reworked ’88s, many built not in one shop, but under the ancient guild system, one maker doing only stock work, another metal work, another engraving, etc. 

  

Clarence –

By the way, the Peterlongo Steyr did have a nice piece of wood on it.  The bright sunlight in the other photos washed it out a good bit.

http://i.imgur.com/324j9s8.jpgImage Enlarger

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March 30, 2024 - 9:41 pm
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steve004 said

Nevada Paul said

Steve, well said.  I have several (low value) ‘inheritance’ guns, which will stay in the family forever, no consideration of dollar value, so not a part of your thoughts on ‘why we buy’.

In my case, I have a few which grew on me after I owned them for whatever reason, even thought they were not perhaps highly sought after by me at time I acquired them.  Some well worn but all original 92’s fit this.

 

  

Paul –

Wow! This really describes my experience.  I have many that when I first acquired them, I wasn’t all that enthused.  Now, I seem to like them better with each passing day.  Several of these are less-than-high-condition Model 1892’s!

  

Yeah, Steve. I think part of the ‘later appreciation’ stems from recognizing just how difficult it has become to find verifiable 92’s (put in your favorite model here) in original condition for reasonable prices, never mind whether they are ‘museum quality’ or not.  Several of my 92’s were intended to be ‘placeholders’ when I found them until I could find or afford upgrades. Now they’ve grown on me and I fully appreciate what I have.  The only ‘upgrades’ I’m still seeking are for a couple which fall outside the ‘letterable’ range. I’d like to have letters for all calibers in both rifle and SRC.

Nevada Paul

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March 31, 2024 - 12:14 am
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Hello, my name is Mike and I’m a Winchester collector. 
I wish I could say why I buy the guns I do, that’s why I so often say the poor little orphan followed me home. This happened before I realized I was a Winchester collector as only one safe is dedicated to collectable Winchesters. It’s not genetic, no history of this addiction in my family even though they have been very understanding and supportive. I’m not an 1894 collector even though a half dozen (or maybe nine) have taken up residence here. I’m not a Model 12 collector in spite of four nice examples and at least that many of the later versions (1200 and 1300) that I keep around for social equipment. I’m not a Single Shot collector as I’m pretty sure I only have three, only a pair of 1892’s have followed me home. Maybe they don’t like me. I don’t have a pre-64 Model 70 even though I’ve put several thousand rounds through some later models. I’m not a Winchester .22 collector…..well, maybe I am. The little guys are wonderfully made, I can generally afford them and this old tightwad loves the fact that I can grab relatively low cost ammo off the shelf and shoot them to my heart’s content. 
All kidding aside I love Winchesters because I love history. It’s a great thing to read about history but quite another to handle a rifle that was there when our country was growing and developing and may have played a role in that history. We can feel the history in some of these old guns, I think sometimes the prior custodians join us on the range or in the field. You can’t get that feeling from a stainless steel and composite rifle made a few years ago.

 

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March 31, 2024 - 2:49 pm
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TXGunNut said
Hello, my name is Mike and I’m a Winchester collector. 

I wish I could say why I buy the guns I do, that’s why I so often say the poor little orphan followed me home. This happened before I realized I was a Winchester collector as only one safe is dedicated to collectable Winchesters. It’s not genetic, no history of this addiction in my family even though they have been very understanding and supportive. I’m not an 1894 collector even though a half dozen (or maybe nine) have taken up residence here. I’m not a Model 12 collector in spite of four nice examples and at least that many of the later versions (1200 and 1300) that I keep around for social equipment. I’m not a Single Shot collector as I’m pretty sure I only have three, only a pair of 1892’s have followed me home. Maybe they don’t like me. I don’t have a pre-64 Model 70 even though I’ve put several thousand rounds through some later models. I’m not a Winchester .22 collector…..well, maybe I am. The little guys are wonderfully made, I can generally afford them and this old tightwad loves the fact that I can grab relatively low cost ammo off the shelf and shoot them to my heart’s content. 

All kidding aside I love Winchesters because I love history. It’s a great thing to read about history but quite another to handle a rifle that was there when our country was growing and developing and may have played a role in that history. We can feel the history in some of these old guns, I think sometimes the prior custodians join us on the range or in the field. You can’t get that feeling from a stainless steel and composite rifle made a few years ago.

 

Mike

  

Mike – 

Appreciate the outline of your story.  Yes, walking into a gun store that is filled with stainless steel and composite rifles (and black rifles and pistols) is something I don’t do  It is a waste of time for even to walk though a store like that (which seems the majority of stores these days).  The same is true for many gun shows.

What we do as collectors and why we do it is more mysterious for some than others.  As Mike casts about for an explanation, he notes there is not a genetic component.  For some here, there is a strong genetic component.  Several here have mentioned for example, that their fathers and were Winchester collectors.  That does cut down on any mystery.

When one of us walks into a gun show, what we decide to buy is guided by what we like,  but superseding that is how much money do we have in our pocket.  I have rarely walked into a gun show and walked out with the rifle I wanted the most.  

The above point leads me to my next point.  Many of the rifles we have in our safes and cabinets ended up there because they were a, “good deal.”  Perhaps associated with the phrase, “I couldn’t pass it up” (and we had enough money in our pocket to cover their cost).  With many of these rifles, we progressively warm-up to them over time.  I have several.  As Nevada Paul suggests, if they are clean, decent, all original rifles, they do stand out among a sea of rifles that are not.  A bit of brown finish on them seems like less of a detraction.

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March 31, 2024 - 5:37 pm
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Every worthy academic society needs an uplifting Motto.  For WACA I  suggest something like this:

“Collecting Winchesters is cheaper than a psychiatrist, although the cost of a divorce lawyer can more than make up the difference.”

It would sound better in Latin.

- Bill 

 

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March 31, 2024 - 5:45 pm
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Zebulon said
Every worthy academic society needs an uplifting Motto.  For WACA I  suggest something like this:

“Collecting Winchesters is cheaper than a psychiatrist, although the cost of a divorce lawyer can more than make up the difference.”

It would sound better in Latin.

  

Hmmm… that is a mighty fine Motto.  But what version?  Here is how it looks in Latin:

"Wintoniensis colligens vilius psychiatra est, quamvis divortii sumptus causidici plus possit quam differentiam statuere."

Note:  I just made an edit - "Winchester" does not translate nicely into Latin.  It will translate but does not translate directly to meaning an American gunmaker.
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March 31, 2024 - 5:59 pm
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Zebulon said
Every worthy academic society needs an uplifting Motto.  For WACA I  suggest something like this:

“Collecting Winchesters is cheaper than a psychiatrist, although the cost of a divorce lawyer can more than make up the difference.”

It would sound better in Latin.

  

I like it, Bill, but as a lifelong bachelor with a few antagonistic interactions with healthcare “providers” I’d prefer “Happiness is a crowded gun safe and a lively gun show”. Since I never got better than a “C” in Latin (and I haven’t gotten any better since!) I’ll leave the translation to the smart folks.

 

 Mike

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March 31, 2024 - 6:11 pm
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TXGunNut said

Zebulon said

Every worthy academic society needs an uplifting Motto.  For WACA I  suggest something like this:

“Collecting Winchesters is cheaper than a psychiatrist, although the cost of a divorce lawyer can more than make up the difference.”

It would sound better in Latin.

  

I like it, Bill, but as a lifelong bachelor with a few antagonistic interactions with healthcare “providers” I’d prefer “Happiness is a crowded gun safe and a lively gun show”. Since I never got better than a “C” in Latin (and I haven’t gotten any better since!) I’ll leave the translation to the smart folks.

 

 Mike

  

Beatitudo est plena gun tutum et vivam sclopetis spectaculum

Mike, yes better to keep psychiatrists out of the equation Laugh
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April 1, 2024 - 2:06 pm
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Great post Steve. When I first started collecting approx 10yrs ago, one of the things that stood out as far as what guns I wanted to collect came from comments from a couple long time collectors that Winchester’s fetch more money and are “generally” more desirable than say Marlins(might be debatable today). Kinda like the Marbles/Lyman debate about which is a better sight and many will say Marbles although Lyman was primarily the factory choice for Winchester.

For me there’s a lot of family connection to what I like or attracted to for example the model 94 lever action 30-30 that my father owned and hunted with, to the 32WS carbine I inherited which was my younger brothers before he passed so they always get my attention whether browsing the internet gun sites or at a show. What has changed over the past few years is I now only collect condition as prices are a lot of times out of reach for the average collector and so when I see a high condition gun still reasonably priced I jump on it if funds are available. I have a keen interest for the “Wild West” days and the history and Winchester’s just do it for me over the others in that regard(personal choice). Being retired I have to look at my collecting from a financial lense now and condition is the most desirable to the majority as Steve stated “(e.g. rifles that look close to the way they did when they left the assembly line) and the most desired and sought after.”, so this is where I am and character unfortunately takes a back seat now but I’m ok with it.  Jmo. 

 Rick C 

   

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April 1, 2024 - 3:15 pm
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RickC said Kinda like the Marbles/Lyman debate about which is a better sight and many will say Marbles although Lyman was primarily the factory choice for Winchester.
 

Getting your foot in the door first, & establishing a reliable partnership, is always a tremendous business advantage, & for many yrs Lyman had no serious competition in the aftermarket sight business; to that, add that their variety was unsurpassed.  But it can’t be disputed that Marble improved on Lyman’s original idea after his patents expired by adding their stem locking adjustment, which compensates for wear & looseness in the stem.  Sometime between 1925 & 1929, Marble’s tang sight did become a factory option.

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