Sixty and sixty. It was sixty years ago, the year was 1960, and all these Christmases later, no gift has been more memorable than my cornerstone present that year.

I had read the work of Col. Jeff Cooper and told my parents the only thing I wanted for Christmas was what the good colonel had characterized as the ultimate handgun: the Colt .45 automatic.  I had been shooting since age four, pistols since age nine, and already had my own .22 handgun and a Beretta .380, but my dad was a bit skeptical about a twelve-year-old shooting an “army horse pistol.”  He was an open-minded guy, though, and we hied ourselves hence to Stan Sprague’s Gun Shop in Hooksett, New Hampshire.

            Mr. Sprague (as I always called him) showed us a 1911 Colt that had been produced in the year 1918. We went out behind the shop with a magazine full of 230 grain lead bullet handloads.  I extended it to the length of my right arm (two-handed pistol shooting was considered wimpy then), and I touched off my first of countless thousands of .45 rounds. Carefully keeping the muzzle downrange I turned my head toward my father and said, “I like it, Dad.”

            It was under the tree on Christmas morning. That Colt had become a family project: my sister bought me a GI chest holster for it at the Army-Navy store, and my Uncle Whitney wrapped up a yellow box of Winchester 230 grain full metal jacket .45 ACP. 

            All these long years later, there is no gun I like better (or shoot better, really) than the 1911 .45. That one no longer looks like it did on that Christmas morning in 1960. In the ‘70s, I put in a new barrel and bushing, had better sights installed, and paid for a new blue finish to replace its battle-worn patina.  The original diamond-pattern walnut grips, the checkering almost worn away from decades of carry by right-handed soldiers, would be replaced by a succession of new stocks. My gunsmith friend Nolan Santy roughened the grip-frame for a better hold, and a more modern grip safety and better sights improved its shootability, even if they ruined its collector value.

            Today it maintains an honored place in my collection, and even gets shot every now and then. It and I built our own additional memories.  But it remains a symbol of a father’s trust in his son’s responsibility, as gift guns do.

            I’ve written about this before. Hopefully I’ll live long enough to do so again. For now, I invite you to share here your memories of Christmas guns that had meaning for you.


  1. My memories of Christmas guns consist of gifts given: a Marlin single shot .22 for my son at age 4, a Savage .308 deer rifle at age 12, a Sig 1911 .45 for a recent college grad, and a matched set of Smith & Wesson .357 & .22 and holster for my wife.

    Merry Christmas and wishes for a Happy New Year in 2021.

    • This web site is a daily Christmas present for which to be eternally grateful. The major firecracker that went off in Nashville and reportedly seriously affected recently stored Dominion Voting Systems machines and a local computer cooling system did not exactly appear to be unplanned, eh? More than a little reminiscent of the Oklahoma City bombing and the Pentagon 9/11 strike, right? If we follow the money and chains of custody, we arrive at some of the (surprise!) same old suspects. We are not too late by any means to rescue the 2020 election. We are not to be divided and conquered, but not to fly off the handle, either. The skunks are coming out of their woodpile. Let’s just do stuff peacefully daily.

  2. My one and only Christmas gun was a single shot bolt action .410 shotgun, made for one of the retail stores like Sears or Wards. I can’t remember the company, but the gun was given to me by my oldest brother. I have a twin brother,but he never was interested in guns as much as I was.
    I loved that gun, and even hunted deer with it, using slugs, for my first year of white tail hunting here in Michigan.
    I eventually traded it for a different gun, when I was much, much older. And now, I tend to like hand guns more than long guns. But all of my guns are strictly utilitarian, from my Ruger SR9c for carry, to my Ruger Mark IV 22/45 for plinking and practice, to a Mossberg .22 rifle, a plain old 12 gauge shotgun home defense gun, that does double duty as my deer gun,which I used this year to kill my first deer in over 30 years.
    Merry Christmas, and while I shot my 1911 the best of any handgun I ever owned, I could not reach the magazine release very well,even after putting an extension on it, and had to get rid of it, to buy my Ruger Mark IV.

  3. Mas,

    Your story really struck home with me. I wanted a Colt 1911 from the tender age of about 12 or 13. My 1st job at 16 paid a whopping $1 per hour. It took me an entire summer of hard physical labor to save the $160 it cost at the time. My dad (an old school police detective) took me down to our local sporting goods store and helped me purchase a brand new Colt’s Government model in 45 acp. I was awed by the confidence he placed in me for the responsibility of owning a powerful handgun. I have never betrayed that trust in over 45 years of ownership.

    Yesterday I took it from the far reaches of my gun safe and cleaned and oiled it with all those fond memories I had of it, and my dad. Thank you for your timely article and for sharing such a similar story.


  4. I was 5, my brother was 6. A Daisy Red Rider for him and a beautiful doll for me. I wouldn’t stand it – NO WAY. I raised so much hell that my dad was at the hardware store first time the next morning buying my new Red Rider. Brother and I used the doll for a target hostage, as we danced around hollering war whoops. My poor mom…..4 boys and her only daughter – almost another boy!!

  5. I’m curious. What would you have said back in 1960 if someone had told you that a couple of decades later that, not only would you know the Colonel, but you’d have a well-publicized feud with him?

    I’m not trying to stir up anything. I just find the path life takes people down an interesting thing.

      • Always wondered what the name of your jewelry store was. Guessing it was “Fort Apache Gems.” That was some great family, yours. Good reasons are obvious why you don’t have any successful store robberies to report. Closest I ever came to a dream Christmas present that shot was a “Fanner 50.” I was a happy camper, though. Can’t remember ever shooting my two younger brothers with it. Hope I didn’t. I do remember that it was accurate.

  6. I was given an older bolt action 22 rifle one Christmas, it was probably around 1961. We were poor and that was my gift – which I enjoyed having. I recall many Saturdays carrying it and a couple of boxes of 22LR through town (yes, you could do it as a teenager back then) with a couple of buddies – similarly equipped – to the town dump and shooting at either paper targets or rats. We were taught gun safety early on, then were expected to practice it without having a ‘grownup’ present.
    I do sometimes wonder what ever happened to that rifle. I went into the Navy in 1965 and never went back to my home town afterward.

  7. My Christmas gun, and my first gun are one and the same. It’s an Iver Johnson, single shot 20 gauge shotgun, gifted to me by my grandparents. I’d just turned 13, and mother’s family were devoted hunters, and thought it was time for me to learn. Now, more than 50 years later, I still have that shotgun and some of Grandpa’s handloads. I take it out of the safe, every year or so, to clean and oil it. I haven’t shot it in decades but I’m certain it will still work.

  8. Sigh, I grew up in England, and only got toy guns for Christmas gifts. My two main reasons for emigrating to Canada (In hindsight, it should have been Texas) were to be able to own handguns and Hotrods, both lifelong love affairs of mine. My very first handgun purchase was a basic stock Colt 1911 in .45 ACP. Many, ….many, years later, and a 20 plus year firearms safety instructor, I’m struck by the multiple mentions of the awe and perception that new young shooters have, for the trust placed in them by being allowed to own, use, and shoot a potential deadly firearm. I firmly believe that this trust placed in them at an early aged, carefully guided of course, yet an awesome trust that has a lifelong affect on those individuals. They grow and mature into responsible ethical adults that contribute positively to society. They don’t end up as miscreants that hang out in the streets and rob and abuse little old ladies for sadistic pleasure. Happy Christmas Mas, and all my American brethren.

    • Gerry Kirkham,

      I totally agree with what you wrote about placing trust for responsible behavior into people’s hands. Fantasizing about what you could do with a gun, or a car, is one thing. When you actually have the power of life and death in your hands, I find it forces a healthy individual to think soberly and safely.

      During our wars, 18-year-olds walk, drive, sail and fly around with immense firepower, yet only the bad guys have to fear them. Think of the power an 18-year-old has being part of an Abrams tank crew.

  9. Mine is a Smith and Wesson 422 22LR I got for Christmas when I was 16. I still enjoy shooting it occasionally and even though it’s not the most expensive or the best gun I own, it was the first handgun I owned and will always be special to me. My youngest daughter at 14 can already shoot it as good as me and has claimed it as hers when it’s my time to go. Merry Christmas to all

  10. My father passed when I was 12, but those 12 years had been awesome. Behind my bedroom door stood my father’s savage.22 single shot with a bent front sight ( damaged getting in his uncle’s station wagon ) and he taught me to shot with the bent sight. 14 acres of green house made me the regular critter getter, .5 cent a head. 43 years later and many a offer to fix ” that damaged sight” I wouldn’t fix it for anything. I sit looking at my grandson today ( legos everywhere ) he’ll learn on that same rifle soon and my father would be proud ….
    Safe travels and winding trails to you all.

  11. I have a Daisy B.B. gun from Christmas ’64. My older sister received hers the same day.
    Dad set the targets up in the backyard on a cardboard box; fun along with safety instruction.

    First firearm was an Ithaca model 66 Super Single 20 gauge received holiday of ’69. I asked Dad why a single shot?; “you’ll learn to hit” -:) Many doves and squirrels later..

    Here’s a kick. Back in 1965 I had a tonsillectomy at age five. When I awoke there was a
    Benjamin .177 air rifle in the bed with me in the hospital – try that now!


  12. My first 1911 came from my dad as well. I opened a box Christmas 1985 and found the Remington Rand he’d brought back from Okinawa. He said, “You’ll get more use out of it than I will.” Still a favorite.

  13. Mas:

    Excellent! I love these types of articles about guns we remember from the past. I grew up on S&W revolvers, but switched to the 1911 early on. I wanted a lighter one to carry, so my wife surprised me with a .45 Commander one year. I thought I was well stocked with three mags per pistol! Little did we know what Congress would cause many years later!

    Merry Christmas.


  14. I was, like you, Mas, just past my 12th birthday when given my first shotgun, a Model 37 Winchester in .410 gauge, now considered a ‘classic’ from that time period. I can’t remember how many rabbits and ducks and quail fell victims to that ol’ single-shot, but, used properly, it would bring down darn near as many game birds as it’s bigger brothers in 20 and 12 gauges…
    I still have it, too, refurbished a number of years back with a rebluing of the well-worn metal of the barrel and magazine, while I personally stripped and refinished the buttstock and forearm which, when reunited with the “refinished” action and barrel left it looking “good as new”…It sits in the gun safe now as my days of tromping through the fields or woods are minimal, but I do pull it out from time to time to be sure there’s no hints of any rust or any endangerment to the memories it still provides me…..

  15. My first Christmas gun came in 2015, a Glock 21 Gen 4, when we moved out of communist New Jersey to Texas. Since then we have given Christmas guns to our children, one a Henry lever action 22 rifle and the other a Henry pump action 22 and my wife received a Glock 43x one Christmas. As long as we can hold onto our republic I hope to continue these, new to us, traditions.
    Christ is born +++

  16. My favorite Christmas gun was an Ithaca model 37 Featherweight 20 gauge. My Dad had a similar one, but mine had a ventilated rib which I thought was totally cool. I’m guessing I was 13 years old at the time which would have been 1967. We hunted quail in the old shelter belt tree rows in Western Oklahoma. I still have that shotgun and and of my boys has my Dad’s old model 37.

  17. Merry Christmas, Mas, Gail and sundry readers and commenters.
    Like Tim, I got a bolt action single shot .410. It was a Mossberg, and I was 13. Mom and dad were dove hunters (and Audubon Society members and avid birdwatchers), and I had been acting as their bird dog for a few years. I was very proud to be entrusted with my own gun, and dad was proud I got to be a pretty good shot with that small shot pattern. Their safety lessons stay with me still. Great memories from those hunts!

  18. I cannot link my experience directly to Christmas or my father but the sentimentality of your story definitely hit home to me.
    My brother in law helped me pick out and get familiar with my first gun, a S&W 686. Not as a stocking stuffer but out of necessity fearing a repeat of a recent break in of my studio apartment at the time thirty years ago. Most practice was done at his place on the mountain and although he always seemed to have something new on the tailgate at every outing, as he was the sort to go out and buy whatever was about to be banned, he had a thing about his duty weapon and never let me shoot it. I never asked why. He had retired twice from L.A. law enforcement agencies and passed tragically in his retirement.
    I once asked him about concealed carry for myself but they weren’t being issued in Ventura county at the time so we never went down that road together. As time passes and issuance came to be I followed the path and jumped through the still remaining hoops to carry and as fate would have it, the day I picked up what would become my EDC landed on my brother in law’s birthday. I saw it as a sign and have since repeated the tribute annually whether on an upcoming banned list or not. I also made sure to put that 686 on my card as well.
    With rather basic requirements needed to gain the CCW license I knew I needed more instruction and ended up finding this Arabic dude on line that was an odd cross between my brother in law and my dad. As it turned out I would give myself a birthday gift that year of the first of three MAG classes that continue to guide me today.

    Mas, my brother in law wasn’t able to guide me along as I hoped but I’m sure as hell glad I found your help and knowledge. If ever you find yourself in Ventura, Ca. I’m at your service, even if it’s just to take a trip up the mountain.
    May your Christmas and years to follow be thoroughly satisfying.

  19. GREAT STORY, MAS! In how many countries is it possible for civilians to give guns to other civilians, versus the number of countries which prohibit this? Freedom is a beautiful thing!

  20. I grew up with a Daisy Red Ryder, and it was what my Dad taught me to shoot. We learned the rules first, then he challenged me to “shoot diamonds.” You took an empty 1950s Coke bottle and turned it on its side, then backed off a respectable distance. If you could put a BB down the neck so it tapped the center of the bottom, it would pop out a “diamond.” We were living in Barstow, California at the time, and my back yard was the Mojave Desert.

    But my “Christmas gun” came under the tree in 1957. It was a Marlin Number 1, with “Microgroove rifling,” a single-shot bolt action. Like Blushingmule, my father said, “When you have one shot, you learn to make it count.”

    By the 1980s I had put enough rounds through it that the bolt was set back, and I had it repaired. It cost more than Dad probably spent for the new rifle, but it was worth it to me, and I took it to a smith who understood that. I don’t shoot it much anymore, having outgrown the stock, but I’ve been teaching beginning shooters now for nigh-on 40 years, and when I have a student that’s on the small side, the old Marlin still steps up.

    And I still honor what my father taught me. My deer rifle is a break-action single shot, in .308. Win.

  21. I wanted a 22 rifle for Christmas when I was 10 years old. My dad would spend a few hours each night in the basement after work and forbid me to go down there. This lasted maybe 6 weeks prior to Christmas. On Christmas dad proudly gave me a Stevens Bolt Action 22 rifle tube fed that he had lovingly totally refinished. We went out in the cold of Minnesota Christmas day to a gravel pit and shot empty tin cans we had brought along (of course we policed them up afterwards). I remember chasing a window peeper through the woods behind our house while firing at him with that Stevens when dad was working out of town. I sold it when I got married for money for a couch. Bad idea.

  22. Christmas 1958 (my 8th one) brought a J.C.Higgins (Sears) Model 41, .22 single shot rifle from my mom and dad. It is the rifle I that learned “sights, breathe, squeeze”. On my son’s eighth Christmas, I had it re-blued by Houston gunsmith Herman Mueske and gave it to him. In 2025, I’ll see it go to his son (Lord willin’.)
    Thanks for asking, Mas. Merry Christmas and a Happy (and hopefully Covid less) New Year to you and yours.

  23. From the time I was 13 until college intervened, the run-up to Christmas starting as soon as the Dallas schools let out, was me and my younger brother heading out with my Step-Grandfather Daddy Raymond to his deer lease on a friends 4000 acre cattle ranch outside of Brownwood, Texas. Daddy Raymond was Senior Food Chemist at Frito-Lay, and he saved up his vacation for our trips. As for my Dad? The Army had taught him that he did not like being cold-he gladly turned us over to Raymond. We took our deer rifles, suitable sidearms, 20 gauge quail guns ; we also took duck guns and the duck boat. We camped out in the cowboys line shack- it had a well pump and a wood stove- I learned to cook duck stew, rabbit and Chicken fry venison steak on the stove. Some days we hunted deer morning and evening and quail in the afternoon. Some days we left the deer lease to drive to Lake Proctor to hunt ducks. Christmas Eve we drove back to Big D for Christmas, on the 26th we would head back west until the 3rd of January.
    That’s the background-
    The Christmas tree at my grandparents house always had heavy square-cornered packages -invariably a box of 20 gauge quail shells , a box of .45 Colt for my Ruger Blackhawk deer hunting revolver , and a box of 150 grain .30-06 for my deer rifle.
    Those boxes were from Daddy Raymond with my father’s approval of course. Of all the Christmas presents, I took them as a compliment- I was trusted as being responsible, mature , reasonable, and grown-up. Those ammo boxes , simple as they were, always made me 10 feet tall.
    I will always remember that.

    Mas- Thanks for sharing your Christmas memories. Merry Christmas to you and EP.

  24. A few months before the Christmas of 2017, my Dad asked me “If you could have any new pistol you wanted, what would it be?” I was 50 and he was 73 and we’d both been dedicated shooters for decades, so it was an intriguing question. And one in which he was baiting me just a bit, as I could see in that Irish glint in his eye. I think I knew what he wanted me to say.

    My father had retired as a Captain with the Texas Highwat Patrol about 15 years before. He was born in the Texas Panhandle and raised around numerous WWI, WWII and Korean War veterans, as well as many deputies, city and state police. He was *very* adept at shooting and in fact, was the first to teach me how. The influence of all those older guys who’d “been there” informed his mindset on firearms greatly; he grew up on the doctrines of Col. Jeff Cooper and, despite his deep appreciation for his S&W m28 .357 Mag and Colt Pythons, his first love was the 1911. It won wars, you see. A couple of ’em.

    I, being something of a passionate Sig Classic P-Series devotee, almost answered “A P226 Legion in .357 Sig, that’d do the trick…”, but I didn’t. You see, he’d been fighting cancer for a few years and we both suspected time might be shorter than we were hoping. So instead I answered “I love Sigs, but I don’t have a 1911 like you do. How about a Scorpion Fast Back Carry?” He smiled a subtle, knowing smile that seemed to say “It’s about damed time….”

    Now, I thought he asked the questions rhetorically, or maybe was thinking of an early birthday gift for me for next year. Nope. Texas Highway Patrolman don’t do anything or ask anything without having a plan, son.

    A few months later, I had driven up to their home to stay with them over the Christmas holidats. And on Christmas morning, guess what was in a heavy wrapped package under their tree? Yep. That Sig 1911. He’d also gave a Dan Wesson 1911 to my brother and the previous year, he’d gifted a 1911 to each of his three grandsons. When I opened the box, I was gobsmacked. The Old Man had gotten me. I never saw it coming.

    Later that morning, we drove a short distance to my brothers house, which was out in the county a bit, and in the cold, windy Texas Panhandle air under a pale yellow winter sun, together we all shot the 1911’s that my father had gifted us. I asked my Dad to be the first obe to ever shoot that Sig Scorpion Fast Back, which he gladly did. I am so glad I asked him to, it somehow made it an “official” 1911.

    My niece snuck up behind us and took a photo of the six of up, lined up like some motley volunteer minute man skirmish line, blasting away at old wooden posts, cracked plant pottery, whatever. Just having a good time. A bit over a year later, that photo became a treasure to me.

    My father passed away on New Year’s Eve 2018. It still hurts and his absence is a loss that can’t be filled. Great Men leave great vacuums, nothing can seal a hole that big. But I have the Sig he gave me, and that distant, slightly blurry photograph that shows a very great man, his two sons and his grandsons, spending a Christmas afternoon in a delightful, special way. In that photo, I see his roots and influence extending so much farther than he ever knew it could or would.

    Not just in his passionate spreading of the Gospel of Col. Jeff Cooper, but in how to be a good man, stay strong and do the right thing. We are all small branches of a great West Texas oak, each blessed to have even a small part of him in our blood.

    I’ll never let go of that Sig. Whenever I hold it, I feel my Dad’s hands on it as well. I’ll never be the evangelist for it he was, nor will I ever deploy it as efficiently or effectively as he did. Over 30,000 rounds through a P226 has caused irretrievable muscle memory in my right arm, I simply and practically cannot start over again.

    But I can thank my father for making me understand the 1911, not only as a pistol but as a concept and discipline. And for that, I’m truly rateful; it makes me feel connected to its sweeping iconic history, if only in a small way.

    And on a side note, as long as men like Jeff Cooper and my father are around, the 1911 will never be obsolete. There’s too much history, too much austerity, too much dignity, too many memories and too many serious men who truly understand it for it to die. It is the ultimate American fighting handgun.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Mas. I gsve me a moment to remember and cherish mine.

  25. I was 16. Dad and I went to tamiami Gun Store in Miami. We selected a new Remington Fieldmaster. Std model. I got it that Christmas morning. I hAve a picture of me pretending to sleepwalk dreaming with it at port arms. It’s still in fine shape. Many thousands of rounds plunked thru it. Accurate as all get out.

  26. My first firearm was given to me at Christmas by my uncle who was in the Marines at the times. A Remington Nylon 66, I spent many hours in the basement laying on a blanket shooting targets and afterward field stripping it and cleaning it out. That’s the rifle that started my life-long relationship with firearms.

  27. Christmas 1963. Age 14. A Czech Brno war surplus Mauser in 8mm. I don’t remember whether it was from the Sears or Wards mail order catalog, cut down and refinished stock. Years later it acquired scope sight and was rechambered to 8mm-06. Two barrels later it still goes deer hunting every fall.

  28. I was home for winter break, 1980, first year of college, eager for my brother on Christmas morn to open a present I “made” for him. We pranked each other throughout childhood, never gave each other serious presents, so I thought I really “got” him this time. I got the laughter I eagerly expected when he opened a small box of sawdust with a picture of a 2×4 on it. It said “million piece puzzle.”

    Immediately after, I opened a long box from him: a used 16 ga. break-action shotgun he said made him think of me when he saw it. He was anxious to see if I liked it as much as he hoped I would.

    Gulp. I was filled with a whirl of emotion: chagrin, amazement, love, pain… I didn’t want to shoot with or hunt with anything but that gun after that. A reminder of how I underestimated his love for me and had multiplied my love for him.

  29. A Remington bolt action .22, model 512x in 1964 from my father. It ‘raised’ me, and then my son. The last time I saw it my 15 year old granddaughter was shooting it!

  30. Both of my parents were killed in a plane crash in 1983 when I was ten years old. My father was a police officer, a small business owner and an inexperienced pilot. He and my mother celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary by flying to a nearby city to have dinner at one of their favorite restaurants. They hit bad weather on their return flight and died in a corn field.

    After a brief custody battle, my brother and I went to live with our Uncle. He passed away shortly before Christmas. He was a retired police officer. I inherited his S&W Model 60. Although he did not speak much about his experience doing undercover narcotics work in the 1970s, I believe this was his backup gun. And I will always cherish this gift.

    Like Mas, I too have a love for the 1911. In the summer of 2017, I began my journey learning to build 1911s under the expert tutelage of Mr. Bob Marvel in Crete, Nebraska. During my last visit with him at his shop, he asked me to write his book. The awesome responsibility of sharing his work with the world is an enormous and indescribable privilege for me.

  31. I was given a Benjamin .177 air rifle when I was about seven. I traipsed the rough lots and fields around our home alone, or road my bicycle with the gun across the handlebars to my cousin’s where we would go out in the fields and woods not yet cut and destroyed for neighborhoods now. Geez, we were out there for hours unsupervised … and it was the greatest freedom I knew.

  32. I hesitate to share this because it’s such a downer to an otherwise upbeat theme:
    I just learned of a tragedy in my niece’s high school senior class. Although she wasn’t in attendance, many of her classmates were at a New Year’s Eve party. Two of the boys got in a fistfight because one had invited the girl the other liked. It turned ugly when one of the boys pulled a handgun and shot the other in the chest ~ dead before EMS arrived.

    It strikes me that had this boy been taught the power of a gun and the awesome responsibility when carrying it, and perhaps a session of what the law demands of even a “good shoot” event, then this whole thing would have never happened.

    Why is it that the argument for sex ed was that “these kids are going to do it anyway, at least they will understand the dangers…”; that driver’s ed was to teach “how to properly handle a deadly machine, and how to operate it safely…”. Yet even the suggestion of teaching a proper gun safety & responsibility class scares the beejeesus out of people?

    And this happened in an area where gun ownership is common and very traditional, hunting season opening cuts down school attendance, a small town where these boys knew each other, etc ~~ although I don’t know the details of either one except that my sis-in-law says the dead boy “was such a good kid.” No idea just how the whole thing escalated to what it did.

    Just tragic.

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