It’s been a matter of reflection for me that the gun culture – what I like to call the gun hobby – has dramatically changed in the past two decades. Even when I was a lad, gun magazines were still mostly about hunting and target shooting arms; so-called “tactical” weapons took a definite back seat (though their growing popularity was by this point very evident). Today it seems “tactical” is everything, and while that does have its perks (the AR-15 in particular is a real friendmaker – those who consider it a dangerous weapon of mass destruction fail to realize how easy and enjoyable it is to shoot), it’s about this time in the conversation that I begin waxing poetic about the virtues of simpler weapons. Weaponsman, too, reflects on how much the hobby has changed:
Welcome to the covers of Guns magazine — from 1964. Here are the first six months:
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:
- Daniel Defense AR in .300 AAC Blackout.
- The Taurus CT-9 “tactical” 9mm carbine and matching PT111 G2 “Millennium” pistol.
- The Armalite AR-31 “tactical” bolt-action rifle in 7.62 NATO.
- SIG-Sauer P227 .45 ACP service pistol.
- Ruger AR in 7.62 NATO.
- Colt USMC M45 .45 ACP service pistol.
- Customized Mossberg 590A1 “tactical” shotgun and matching Taurus Tracker (5-shot .44 Magnum) pistol.
- 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).
- The disaster intro of 2014, the Remington R51 pocket pistol (if you’ve got XXXL pockets, maybe). Before it turned disaster.
- S&W .460 Magnum. (You can hang up your .45 now, they do make a .46).
- Robar SR-21 bolt-action precision tactical rifle.
- 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).
It’s really amazing, when it’s put that way, how much things have changed. It’s exciting to have the civilian market so taken by modern military weapons; not since the 1920s has the civilian population been so invested in the development of military small arms (as much as I may go back and forth on this, I think it’s truly wonderful that people want to improve on the current state of the art). At the same time, though, the more traditional gun-related pursuits have their merits too. If all goes well, the hobby will be enriched both ways – by those wanting to push the envelope, and by those wanting to revel in the past.