Opinions are like shopping bags: cheap and ubiquitous. Mine get about as much notice. Most recently, I’ve held forth on Chihuahuas, subsidized soybeans and motorists who drive 55 in the left lane. The soybean has kept its record reasonably clean, so I’ve managed one positive review.
Firearms have tripped me up. To report on them as tools is to ignore their soul. To admit that they have soul takes Darwinism to a new level. It also leaves some current guns with poor marks. It’s no trick to make firearms that work. Brilliant 19th-century inventors did that. CAD drawings, CNC machines and better steel can improve hardware, but they don’t add or maintain soul – or even elemental “gunniness.”
Before John Browning tired of sending designs to Winchester, he came up with some of the most fetching rifles ever, from the 1886 to the 1894. For decades after the Civil War, lever-actions proved as popular as the Homestead Act. Then came the Model 1895, a lever rifle for the government’s powerful .30-40, .30-03 and .30-06 cartridges.
I’m not a fan of the 1895. It does show the wonderful machining and finish common to firearms of its day. It does function reliably, and permits use of pointed bullets. But the 1895 is a cruel rifle. The stock comb is sharp and has lots of drop. It jabs you viciously in the chops. The sights don’t line up for me. When I cycle the action, the lever pinches my fingers. All that shuffling steel smacks of machinery by International Harvester. In the 95 you can also sense an incipient loss of soul.
Lest you think I’m heaping dung on a grave, I’d buy a minty 95 in a heartbeat, were it affordable.
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About the Author: Wayne van Zwoll is a regular contributor to the Gun Digest annual, and author of the Gun Digest Book of Sporting optics. He is a nationally-recognized expert on rifles, optics and western hunting.
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