The “Good Old Days”

When I was young (How I regret that phrase), the old guys used to bore me with stories of how much better the hunting was, how much better the guns were, how much better—and simpler—cars and trucks were, or even how much prettier the girls were. Now that I am among the old guys I am sometimes tempted to wax similarly. But was it really better 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years ago?

Forty years ago killing a trophy whitetail was quite an achievement. There were plenty of deer around, but management for trophy deer was in its infancy. Nowadays there are literally dozens of B&C whitetails taken each year from all over the country. A similar scenario is true for elk as well. To be sure, there continues to be challenges and work to be done in the conservation arena, but there is no doubt that in many cases hunting has improved.

When I got started in all of this gun and hunting stuff some four decades ago the Winchester Model 70 that hunters knew and loved had been replaced by a much cheaper bump-and-run rifle. Rifle pundits of the day wailed and bemoaned the passing forever of “The Rifleman’s Rifle.” Used Pre-’64 Model 70s commanded $700 to $1,000 when a new Model 70 or Remington was about $240. At that time there were several of us who had memorized the weekly delivery schedule of guns to several guns stores in our area, and we made those rounds each week in order to be able to get a Smith & Wesson premium revolver in .357 Magnum or .44 Magnum. If you were 30 seconds late another guy would lay claim to one of these beautiful instruments as it came off the truck. Today any well-stocked gun store will have several Model 70 Classics (the pre-’64 action) in a choice of chamberings, as well as some good Smith & Wessons. Sure, the prices appear to be higher today, but gas was barely a buck a gallon in the early ’70s too.

And for you black-rifle types: You are no longer part of a fringe group that the public casts a hairy eye toward when you pull out your tricked-out semi-auto. Back then I bought an H&K 91 semi-auto. As I removed it from my truck one day, a neighbor saw it and freaked out. She was absolutely sure that I would be soon shooting up the neighborhood. Today, uncase that same rifle and one is likely to gather a crowd intent on checking it out.

Point is, I am thoroughly impressed with the variety and quality of the guns available today. Modern manufacturing technology has brought custom quality to the masses at prices that heretofore were thought impossible. Except for the hopelessly hoplophobic places like California and New York City, laws and attitudes toward guns and hunting have started to progress toward our side. It’s a good time to be a gunner and a hunter!

Dave Campbell
Dave Campbell began his hunting career with a spear off the southern California coast in the late 1960s. It did not take long for him to graduate to the gun on land. Campbell is the founding editor in chief of the NRA’s tremendously successful Shooting Illustrated magazine. In 2006 he also edited the iconic book of terminal ballistics, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter—A Definitive Study. He returned to his beloved Wyoming in 2007 as a freelance writer, though he usually refers to himself now as a “recovering editor.”
  1. Peter Caroline Reply

    You are right, this is a great time to be a gunner and a hunter. But, if you are a collector, let me remind you of the golden 1950s and early ’60s. I was moonlighting for Interarms in Alexandria, VA, back in the late ’50s. Lugers were 30 bucks, P-38s were $20. Webleys and other big old British revolvers were $15. Casually DEWATed Sten guns were $15, and Thompson 1928A1s and StG44s were $80. The majority of European auto pistols were in the $15-$25 range. You could buy an M1 carbine anywhere for $22.50, and an M1 Garand was $87.50, which I then thought was exorbitant! I’m still kicking myself for the guns I didn’t buy.

  2. Brad Woodward Reply

    Excellent and so true. I have a few relatives who never had anything to do with firearms. They were not against guns or hunters, they simply never felt the need…Until the current Federal Administration began taking steps to limit our freedom. Now they are very active in firearm ownership, training and innovation as well. We are a locomotive that will not slow down.

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