Harper’s magazine is not what you would call pro-gun, but I found some inspiration in its July 2021 issue, particularly the article “Radical Nostalgia” by Christopher Lasch.  The article itself is a bit of nostalgia, from 1984 in the magazine’s “From The Archives” section.

It had nothing whatsoever to do with firearms or Second Amendment rights, but it included a quote from Jim Hougan in his book “Decadence.” Lasch said, “As Hougan wrote, nostalgia rarely forms the basis of serious resistance to change, even when resistance is justified; in our tie, it is more likely to ‘decay into a pervasive wistfulness that falsifies the past and serves, not as a lever to the present, but an escape from it.’”

Being who I am and doing what I do, that streamed my consciousness to folks I know who choose their guns more from emotion than from tailoring tools to tasks.  How many of us ever go duck hunting with an ancestor’s double barrel shotgun, even when we know the third shot from something more modern might put more waterfowl in the freezer? Or with that iron-sighted lever action .30-30 when we know that a more modern scoped rifle will give us more range for distant deer and increase our odds of taking home winter venison?

For those of us who learned the tradition of hunting when we were very young, and when the object is the hunt more than the kill and the meat, nostalgia is a big part of it…and the guns of our youth, and our forbearers is part of that experience…the nostalgia becomes one of the most satisfying elements of the hunt. 

Why should people say “nostalgia” as if it’s a bad thing?

At the same time, we have to balance practicality with nostalgia. When I read that article, I was carrying and teaching with a Wilson Combat-customized Beretta 92G Compact Carry 9mm pistol. I started shooting the Beretta 92 in the 1980s, back when it was the hot ticket with cops and was adopted by the US armed services in the mid-‘80s. Today, most cops carry striker-fired polymer pistols and a few years ago the US military cashiered it in favor of the SIG P320. Does that make it – and me – obsolete? Actually, no: it is extraordinarily accurate and reliable, has design features I appreciate, and serves me well in the modern environment.

I tailor the tool to the task. I had two such Berettas in students’ hands in my last class, and one reason I change guns frequently is to stay familiar with all the many guns my students bring “to gun school.” The first quarter of this year I carried and shot with mostly Glocks, the second quarter mostly with an even older design, the 1911 pistol (mostly in its original .45 caliber, but for one class in California, a Springfield 9mm version.  I’m currently planning for a training tour that will take me through multiple “ten-round only” states, and while I have ten-round mags for my Berettas and Glocks, it rankles me a little bit to download. So, for this trip I’ll probably take a 1911 again.  I’ve been shooting those since I was twelve years old, my gun-savvy wife thinks I shoot the 1911 .45 better than anything else, and when I strap one on something inside me just goes “Ahh…home again!”

And I haven’t ruled out carrying a revolver for that tour, either.  Those were the guns of police duty and competition when I was young, and I miss shooting them; it just seems that where things are going these days, a six-shooter might not be the best choice for the current pattern of emergencies that have to be responded to with firearms.

But, enough about me.  Readers: what’s your take on “nostalgia guns”?


  1. Maas, sometimes the nostalgia thing goes in the opposite way. As an officer during my tour in Vietnam in 71-72, I carried a 1911 standard issue on my hip or under my pillow 24 hours a day. I grew to hate the weight of that thing. Now, as a concealed carry person, I would never put a 1911 style pistol on my hip. Not that I don’t think it is a wonderful weapon, probably the best America has produced, but I just can’t bring myself, for nostalgia’s sake, to put one on.
    I’ll carry anything else, but not the 1911. Funny how the mind works.
    I know a lot of other guys with that history feel just the opposite way, and God bless ’em.

  2. Yes, sometimes I have a hard time at dove season choosing between the Browning Sweet Sixteen Dad gave me 45 years ago and the 100yr old double I acquired.
    Then squirrel season comes and it’s Dad’s .22 Browning, my Ruger Single Six .22 first hunting Pistol, or again the shotguns depending on tree foliage.

  3. I recently purchased a Remington Nylon 66 simply because it was the rifle I learned to shoot with. It was the first firearm I ever shot. I also like shooting revolvers, and old military rifles. That said I will grab a modern service pistol or rifle for two legged threats.

  4. So a “nostalgia gun” could be one that is fondly regarded while simultaneously thought of as at least somewhat obsolete. Man, give me a full-auto Beretta 92 as a “lever to the present.” I may falsely recall a semi-auto Beretta go spontaneously full auto in one of the You-Tube videos that could rightly be termed a “snuff film” that are so common these days. Or maybe the shooter just had a quick, coordinated trigger finger. Whatever, it appeared to bring a very bad guy down for good in record time. Only thing faster would have been Doc Holliday’s classic side-by-side coach gun at the OK Corral, which weapon by the way he is said to have esteemed less than his single-action, plow-handled revolver!

  5. I have used my father’s model 12 Remington pump to hunt squirrels several times. It just feels right in my hands. I have good memories when hunting the same woods that we used to go to when I was young.

  6. I love old things. But, it is important to remain in the modern world, and keep a grip on reality. Even so, I get so tired of technology changing so quickly all the time (especially computers in the 1980s and 90s) that I want to join the Amish. I will even admit to liking candles. I especially like songs and music that become classics. One of my favorite pieces of music is a Catholic mass written in the 1490s, “L’homme Arme, sexti toni,” by Josquin Des Prez. Guess what? “L’homme Arme” is French for, “The Armed Man.”

    • For some reason, I love exposed hammers on both handguns and long guns. Maybe it is the simple visual safety aspect. Hammer down, not ready to fire. Hammer cocked, ready to go. Maybe it is the drama of watching movie cowboys pull that hammer back to full cock, letting the bad guy know things are about to get serious.

      Exposed hammers really don’t have a place in today’s world, except for making the trigger pull on revolvers really beautiful. But, I love them anyway.

  7. Choosing a firearm for nostalgic reasons is fine for hunting, recreational shooting or competition. All you risk is the game living another day or season, getting grief from your friends or finishing lower in the standings. When choosing a firearm for self defense, you risk your life, and you should choose the best one available to you.

  8. I love my pinned and recessed S&W revolvers and my old three screw Super Blackhawk. I love hunting quail with my fine old AyA side by side, but when it comes to CC, it’s Glock 19 or Sig P935 every time!

  9. Sometimes it isn’t so much nostalgia, but a “beware the man with one gun” situation.
    An old rancher, in his late 70s, shot the practical in one of my first Texas license classes with a single-action revolver. He shot faster than the semiautos, and reloaded faster than the double-action wheelguns. He ended up, after 50 rounds at three, seven, and 15 yards, with two “flyers” in the 9-ring. He’d been carrying that gun for 50 years.
    Ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

    OTOH I still have the Marlin No. 1 I got under the Christmas tree in 1958. I hardly ever shoot it because I’ve outgrown it. But when I have a small student, it’s my go-to “first shots” rifle.

  10. Regarding the Beretta 92s, they just fit. Solid metal frame. Full grip. It fits my hand and the trigger is where my finger expects it to be, especially after Wilson removed that annoying horn from the trigger guard. I can still conceal carry a full sized 92FS, now G, with nothing more than a Hawaiian shirt. Never had a jam. Ever. That’s more than I can say about my 1911s. All it takes is one limp-wristed shot and a fail to feed or fail to eject is inevitable. Not so with the 92s. It’s why I carry one and brought it to class. I also carry a CZ75 Compact from time to time. Another awesome European design. Ergonomic. Reliable. Nostalgia? Maybe. But I’m also practical.

  11. “Sub gun”… Buzz gun” … I remember the old LFI-3 / 4 classes with good memories. But, before them, there was Kontum in May 1972, where we were surrounded; initial air drops not too accurate and our small MACV Team 33 element suddenly running out of 5.56mm. So we “raided’ an abandoned Ruff/Puff arms room looking for ammo and what did we find? SGT Saunders and “Combat”!… Vietnamese had been issued WWII firearms but except for the M1 carbine, most weapons were too heavy / large for the small stature RF/PF troops so they were just stuck “back in the corner in the dark” so to speak with boxes of suitable ammo.
    There were M-3A1 “Grease guns” and TSMG’s including an M1928A1 which I grabbed along with six, 30 round magazines. Saved the day until the air drops became more accurate and we returned to 5.56mm. As you know, I have a Colt M1928N with a ton of accessories, including a C drum and L drums, stick mags, spare parts etc. So nostalgia? Yep… If push comes to shove out here, where we’re so remote “we pipe in light”; methinks the Colt TSMG will make an appearance if marauders come with evil intent. We have multiple long range weapons but “when the enemy absolutely must be destroyed at CQB ranges, accept no substitute!” … Well, my wife prefers her Sterling MK IV suppressed… Women!…:-)

    • Jack Finch,

      I fantasize about urban combat/house clearing with a TSMG and 1911s for backup, since they both use the same ammo.

  12. I don’t go back quite as far or have as extensive A repertoire as the average gun crowd but my first gun thirty years ago was a S&W 686 strictly intended as a house gun. It is still serving it’s purpose well and I’m quite fond of it. Much later as I researched my options for daily carry the S&W Shield fit the bill to a tee and I picked one up in spite of the hype surrounding it at the time. You might say I’m closer to it now than any other firearm I own but that’s not nostalgia.
    When California restricted gun sales to one-per-month it took me a few months to realize it was a restriction rather than a mandate and in that time I picked up two additional S&W snubbies in time to make it on to my carry card renewal.
    I don’t believe the bulk of my choices being S&W constitutes a nostalgia. For me, qualifying the 686 for carry did.

  13. If you collect/accumulate any number of guns, then nostalgia absolutely plays a part. If all you want is the most clearly optimized gun for the task, then your closet would contain no more than 3 or 4 long guns – a half dozen at the most. Handguns? Probably no more than a couple (you do need a backup).
    How do I feel about nostalgia? I wish all men still wore hats, boots, and carried pocket watches on an everyday basis. I still do when I can (the boots are no longer a part of my wardrobe due to old age and edema – I miss them sorely). I even wore boots with suits to work and church.
    I try not to let nostalgia get too radical when it comes to self-defense. All my single action revolvers are for shooting and not concealed carry. However, there are times when I do think about it. 🙂

  14. Nostalgic? I would love to buy and own a .45 colt scholfield pistol (copy) even though its heavy, S/A, and hard to holster, but its the nostalgia that would make them available for $1000. give or take. I was in the Air Force in the 80’s so our only option was the S&W #15 Combat Masterpiece. Its the first revolver that I had ever shot and had to qualify with, a bit of nostalgia but I would refuse to pay $600. to $700. for one today. I dont know if its true or not but I believe that every weapon that a policeman needed prior to 1980 had been manufactured by 1920. I understand what Ron Hendrickson said about the heavy bulkiness of a Colt .45 ACP, but besides the cost I have always wondered why departments would issue 38 spc. weapons for what, approx. 60 years? It always appeared to be inadequate. Guns I love em…

    • Amen brother…I just got a 5″ Schofield replica. First 4 shots under an inch at 15 yards.
      Everytime I pick it up I hear Marty Robins signing “big iron, big iron”.
      And then there’s my Dad’s 1911A1 he carried during ww2.

      • Awesome,, I’ll be there with you in spirit, maybe one of these days though. My last purchase was half price: Taurus Tracker 357 7 shooter. I’m happy with it, and so far at the range its a good weapon, less nostalgic but it’ll have do for now.

  15. I learned to shoot in the USMC back when the M1 and 1911s were what we were issued. That should date me some. I now have a M1 and 3 1911s, 2 officer models and a commander model in .45 ACP. For concealed carry I usually carry a Glock 23 only because of mag capacity. For my birthday, this month, I bought myself a replica Walker Colt black powder pistol. Now that’s nostalgia! I love shooting black powder. I have more modern long guns but the M1 and 1911s takes me back to my youth.

  16. I carried Browning High Power for a very long time, but sciatica and other age related issues have made it difficult and uncomfortable, so I new carry a much smaller, lighter weapon. I do miss my HP very much.

    • I do not miss my BHP one bit.. everytime I leave the property it is on my right hip. I love that old thing Fits my hand, points naturally, is far more accurate than I ever will be, holds 13 in the present mags I have, very sweet and managable to fire. In fact I like the battered ’64 Belgian made which is my EDC sowell I’ve managed to secure a small handful besides that one. “just in case” . All abut the same vintage, different finishes, sighing systems, etc but all treasured.

      Yes I have “other stuff”, Beretta 92, K 40, some HK’s, nothing plastic. Wheelguns of various sorts fill up the locker pretty well, but I haev enver carreid any out in public as a PDW. Except a Smith J frame snub, which I first carried out cycling.Then the LCP came out, but did nor survive the extreme environment, which was replaced with a K 380. Main threat to my “bike gun” is the sweat and other forms of water. Only poly gun I have.

  17. I still have the first 1911 pistol I bought back in the 1970’s (my mother had to sign for it as I wasn’t even close to 21 then), a Colt Series 70 Government Model but don’t carry it anymore. Of the first 10 or so handguns I have owned, all have been sold or traded off, except for the 1911. I now have exact replacements for all of them, except for a 6″ blued Colt Python, since I can now afford to own them at the same time. However for serious use, I carry a personally customized Springfield Armory 1911 which is the most reliable pistol I have. It will handle reloaded ammo in .45 ACP which would jam my Glock 21SF and SIG 220, and these pistols will feed any factory hollow point ammo, including the early Federal Hydra-Shok rounds. Many consider the 1911 design outdated and obsolete, but it works and when properly modified, is extremely reliable and durable. If I can only have one handgun, it would be my customized 1911.

  18. Ah, this is why i follow this blog. I’m the one with the Win .30-.30, the L.C. Smith 20 ga., the S&W .38. Heck, I even have a Red Ryder to chase critters out the yard before unleashing a ChiChi + a n11 lbs of terrier after them into the poison oak.

    • Dear Jo Ann, you have the best little arsenal ever for California. By the poison oak, CA would be my guess at your home state, through which I have hiked & biked. You know you can get 190-grain factory .30-30 bullets now for bear and the like, buckshot and Brenneke slugs for the 20-gauge as a backup bear gun, and some impressive loads for the .38 if is built for +p, as well as lighter loads for small game. Back in the day, the writer/elephant poacher John “Pondoro” Taylor said that a small .38 was good to carry at all times in Africa because if a lion typically got you down by the lower limbs a head shot (on the lion!) with a full metal jacket bullet would adequately solve the problem. Today’s hard-cast is likely better for finishing mountain lion or bear.

    • I like old long guns, too.. I do have a Marlin 30-30, so old it is pre-microgroove. A pair of milsurp 6.5 Swedes, a BAR in ’06, mid-60’s, M 77’s in various rounds, old A bolts, classic old bolt guns, BLR’s, and one each Mini 14. The ONLY thing I have fires that round.

  19. My Dad thought me to shoot in the mid sixties with a 44us Mossberg 22lr. with peep sights at the local dump, shooting rats with 22 shorts! That lead to me in later years getting distinguished rifle and presidents hundred! I owe it all to my Father! Bless his soul!

  20. Four years ago I took along a Very Old 16 gauge Wingmaster for dove and quail. It stuck and has become my standard. I’m doing the best I can to resist taking my 45-70 lever gun to go Mule Deer hunting this year. I don’t know if I have the willpower to not do it. Nostalgia, maybe. Going back to my roots, Probably. Enjoying the classics, Definitely.

  21. My 1993 Gen 2 Glock model 23 .40 S&W was state of the art when I bought it. It has served me well and passed a MAG 40 and MAG 80 course and summoned the spirit of Bob Houzenga when needed, whom I understand still prefers .40 as his primary.

    However, I’m concerned the opposition’s perspective on ‘radical nostalgia’ is clubs at best, throwing stones at worst.

  22. I guess I lean toward the old stuff. A 1911 just seems to point naturally for me but I learned to shoot with magnum revolvers so I still get out and shoot them from time to time but I use them more for distance practice, say 40+ yards, and use the 1911’s mostly for 20-25 yard shooting. I do own a Glock 42 that I carry in a Desantis Mini Scabbard or a Galco pocket holster but I don’t really care for look or feel of “plastic” pistols. Call me old fashioned.

  23. I am in my mid 40’s but get called a boomer a lot when it comes to guns.
    I like my guns made out of metal and my holsters made of leather.
    My EDC is a revolver becase that’s what I shoot the best.
    I have several steel frame semi autos and if I ever get to where I shoot one of those as good as the revolver I will start carrying it.
    I fear that soon the only choice in budget guns will be polymer striker fired faux glocks.
    That will be a sad day.

  24. I’m very nostalgic and EDC a 686 plus, with 7 rounds of Remington 125gr SJHP magnums and 3 speedloaders, when I’m close to home however since I’m not so nostalgic that I give up all reason I carry a P226 in 357 Sig, with 15 rounds of Underwood 125gr Gold Dots and 2 spare mags. If I’m going to be in a large public gathering setting or large outdoor areas or traveling to similar places throughout the state , we travel with a youth Rugby league, the nostalgic part of me wants to put a 9 shot 12 gauge in the trunk but I don’t and opt for a 20″ Fulton A1 AR with M193, not a tacti-cool set up but 100% retro, and a few spare mags. I live in Texas so I have the ability to do so , Thank God.

  25. I’m very nostalgic and EDC a 686 plus, with 7 rounds of Remington 125gr SJHP magnums and 3 speedloaders, when I’m close to home however since I’m not so nostalgic that I give up all reason I carry a P226 in 357 Sig, with 15 rounds of Underwood 125gr Gold Dots and 2 spare mags. If I’m going to be in a large public gathering setting or large outdoor areas or traveling to similar places throughout the state , we travel with a youth Rugby league, the nostalgic part of me wants to put a 9 shot 12 gauge in the trunk but I don’t and opt for a 20″ Fulton A1 AR with M193, not a tacti-cool set up but 100% retro, and a few spare mags. I live in Texas so I have the ability to do so , Thank God.

  26. I started carrying a Colt Combat Commander 45 in a Milt Sparks holster. It concealed incredibly well, fit my hand perfectly, and fired a decent cartridge.

    When .45 got expensive, I bought a S&W M&P 2.0, 9 mm compact with a thumb safety to preserve the hand training that I acquired from shooting the 45 for decades. The Smith is far lighter than the .45 which I always notice when I switch.

    But I can’t conceal the 9 for the life of me. It’s fat, bulky, boxy, and prints under anything I wear. Even though it’s bigger, the 45 conceals even under a t-shirt. Maybe it’s the holster, but I’m not a fan of most plastic guns.

    Further, I live in a nanny state that mandates 10 round mags, and 12 pound trigger pulls, which the Smith came with. Why deal with the double stack thickness when you’re limited to 10 rounds?

  27. I’m 72 years old. House gun is a Sig 1911 Commander size in 45ACP. It’s the handgun I shoot best and instinctively. Been shooting 1911’s since my dad taught me to shoot his Remington Rand he carried in WW2.

    I have a a number of firearms considered nostalgic like my 1968 model 94 lever action I got as a wedding present from my better half. Still together after 50 years. And she’s a revolver shooter since she was 10 years old. It’s not really nostalgia that drives what I shoot. It’s a combination of skills learned over many years and choosing the right tool for the job. I’m fit for my age and an avid competitive shooter in steel challenge.

  28. Although I have updated my supply of firearms, mostly handguns, through the years, I do keep going back to my originals. For example, I currently have a Glock G27 (.40) with G22 magazines (15 round), a Kel-Tec P-11 (9mm) with S&W M59 magazines (15 round) and other guns acquired chronologically including “Six-Gun” revolvers. But for EDC, I still revert and carry my PPK/s .380 (1990) and S&W M39-2 (1979) most often.

  29. Ah, nostalgia!!
    H and K P7. That was the straightest shooting center fire gun I ever owned. That was due to its fixed barrel being exactly where my finger pointed, a trigger pressure that was a dream and a gas piston operating system. It was all steel so it soaked up recoil. Unfortunately, when I left home, I had to part with it.
    If I wanted to hit exactly where I wanted, the P7 was it, but it wasn’t IT!
    IT was something that I sought out across two continents. I kid you not, I flew 9300 miles to see one live and in its natural habitat. It was a stainless steel .45 caliber AMT Hardballer. While there, I picked up five 7 round magazines, a rubber Pachmayer grip, a rubber coated straight mainspring housing, a ambidextrous safety, an extended slide release and a sweet Bianchi fast draw rig with a steel lined holster. The pistol was shipped back home and after assembling the accessories, and learning you really did need a taper crimper die when you reload. I shot that .45 in competitions once a month, 90 rounds at a go, pretty much right up until I left for here. Sadly, she also had to remain behind.
    As I see it, there’s a difference between Uber precise and what you choose to fight with. As a soldier, if we had to fight, I knew what would have been buried inside my kit bag.
    But there’s one last bit of nostalgia yet to relate. I read voraciously and in the last 10 years, have also written science fiction. Back then, I came across a short science fiction story by Randall Garrett called Frost and Thunder. Read it, it’s good. That story got me thinking, a pistol is personal and mine needed a name. So I sought out an engraver and told him what I wanted. She became Dragonsinger.
    After I came here, my dad visited the gun shop where I left my guns. The guy behind the counter said he remembered Dragonsinger. It was still out there, albeit with a new match barrel. I guess I shot it so much, I cracked the barrel. She shot straight, for me.

  30. Two Uberti replica handguns I want to acquire: S&W Schofield and 1861 Colt Navy. Although either could be used for self defense if I had nothing else, neither is as efficient as the S&W M&P 9 I already own. My only reason for wanting them is that they are good representatives of their era and make neat range toys.

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