Sometimes nostalgia can be used as an excuse for being lazy and not wanting to investigate new products or ideas and admittedly my age group tend to be some of the worst offenders. But old is not necessarily better and to prove my point, here are a few examples of times when, in a sport steeped in history and nostalgia, looking forward is better than looking back.
Cheap and Better
Accuracy is more reasonably priced now than it has ever been. You can buy an inexpensive bolt action centre fire rifle that shoots better than anything expensive or medium priced from the 20th century. Take a look at the groupings and consistency of such modern day offerings as the Savage Axis and the Remington 783 to get a taste of what a five to six hundred dollar rifle can now do.
Sliding up the price scale a little, Weatherby has made their USA manufactured Mark V the most accurate rifle the company has ever produced. Savage Chassis rifles, which are as accurate at long range as many rifles double the price. I have a shooting friend who is fortunate enough to be able to afford quite a few expensive Sako and Blaser long range rifles which, when decked out could cost as much as a compact car and, having shot many rounds at long range, admits that the Savage he owns will match or beat anything else in his collection.
Companies are now making available lightweight stainless steel barrels and actions fitted to properly work with synthetic fibre stocks which are now very accurate and also work great for bad weather and long hunts.
The accuracy and long range capabilities of 21st century rifles has increased the interest and popularity of target shooting. Whether it’s a 17 HMR at 100 yards or 338 Lapua at 1000, more shooters popping primers is good for our sport and the industry.
Those Damn Kids
Rejecting the baseless argument they somehow cause violence, video games such as Call of Duty WWII have been beneficial to our sport and created a whole new interest in vintage firearms for the younger generation. Who would have believed a 28 year old would be interested in a Lee Enfield rifle or a Colt 1911 45 ACP? In the 1990’s we sold M1 Garands for $375 and now they regularly fetch $1500.
Additionally the interest in handgun shooting and collecting has exploded with two-handed combat type shooting and the huge variety of pistols. The willingness of club members to mentor new shooters in various handgun disciplines has really filled many gun clubs again.
The barrier to entry in the sport for these new shooters has also been kept quite low. Technology and production changes maintain 22 LR ammo at a reasonable price. In the 1970’s CIL Whiz Bang ammo sold for just under a dollar. You can still buy .22 ammo for $3.50. A 1973 dollar is now $6 due to inflation so that’s a pretty good deal. I remember reloading a case of shot shells in the early 70’s for $40 and you can still buy a case for $75. Compare that to the $1.25 I’m paying for a litre of gas when I used to pay $0.67 agallonand I’d say they’re doing something right. Keeping the cost down has allowed cheap shooting and encourages more people to participate.
The lament that the industry will never be the same is not wrong; it is changing as we continue to embrace the internet (that only took 20 years) that makes information such as load data and repairs more easily accessible. And while retail is currently on a race to the bottom as far as pricing in online stores goes, likely that will level out as it has in other sectors as we play catch-up. Until then, get those deals while you can! And as for the industry never being the same, I say accept it and look forward to what it will look like in the next five to ten years.
Keep your ballistics apps running and your biometric grips steady and I will see you on the range.