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Sporting firearms in 2000 A.D.

SPORTING FIREARMS IN 2000 A.D.

What will our hunting rifles, our shotguns, and our hand-guns look like in the year 2000? A good question and one deserving of careful speculation.

Ask any practicing sportsman today and he'll tell you, most likely, "Ah, I don't think guns are gonna change much!"

The old Winchester Model 70 (it was first the Model 54) has been kicking around since 1925, and it is hard to imagine that anything much will happen to it. And on the Remington side of the equation the Model 700 is an evolutionary shooting iron. It started out as the Model 720, and then the Model 721, and the 722, and, finally, after the forerunners, the Model 700 put in an appearance. It is the best of the Remington line.

The Marlin Company has produced the same lever action sporter in a multitude of useable calibers for three-quarters century. And Savage first introduced the old workhorse model known as the Model 99 in that same year -- that is 1899. It is difficult to envisage anything happening to either the Marlin or the Savage over the next decade.

As for scatterguns, we have a fine assortment of autoloaders, pump repeaters and most interestingly over/under models. There is a number of side-by-side shotguns but by far the majority are imports mostly from Spain..

Now the handgun situation just currently is strongly influenced by the determination of the U.S. military to swing over to a 9mm auto loader. This, you may be assured will have its influence on pistols by the year 2000. There is another factor in the equation and that is the enthusiasm for pistol silhouette competition and the other phase referred to as "Practical" competition. This is a sort of cover up sobriquet for what amounts to practice for combat. Both these new shooting games have a lot going for them. And both sports will influence handgun design for the next decade.

War always has a marked effect on the design of rifles and the last several brouhahas we've been in have had their effect on our firearms development. Rifles are going to the self-loading design and while this stems directly from combat, it will influence our sporting arms over the next ten years. I'd not predict that the dear old bolt action is going to be cast aside but it is my feeling that a good many more sporting types will load themselves.

The company that has gone farther and done more to further the selfloader is the Browning outfit. These people have demonstrated that some of our hottest calibers (round like the .270 '06, 7mm Rem. Mag. and .300 Win. Mag. and the .338 Mag.) may be fired in an automatic quite successfully. My prediction is that we will see a full development of the selfloaders in the years immediately ahead.

There is a long standing prejudice against automatic arms for a number of reasons, none probably more long standing than the fact that the rifles weren't accurate. This was because the gun was without a strong locking breech. As a simple blow-back, it could not lock up very securely. Too, chambers were sloppy and again this was so that the empty cartridge would extract rapidly and surely. The old Winchester MOdel 1907 in .351 caliber comes to mind. Chambered for a round that was little more than a revolver cartridge, it was sloppy and slow. And inaccurate.

Today, we have autoloaders that are tackdrivers. The rifle shoots quite well as any of its counterparts and the fact that a following round is just under the gunner's finger has a vast amount of appeal. I'd reckon that in the year 2000 we'll have the bolt action sporter still with us but the popularity of a fine variety of automatics will cut deeply into the bolt action market. After all, the slowest, most awkward and time consuming action on any firearm today is the dear old bolt-operated musket. More deer have been killed with the lever action carbine than with all the other rifles tossed together. For the observer to make so bold as to predict that the lever gun will disappear over the next eleven years would make him thoroughly detested. I would hardly make so bold a statement as to say the lever action rifle will be cashiered but I will predict that with the upcoming surge toward selfloaders that the skids will be greased for the ancient model.

There is a craze just currently for lighter and lighter rifles. The boys are seeking a .338 Magnum that only weighs 6-1/4 lbs, with a barrel only 20 inches in length and a plastic stock that will weigh only 11 ounces. I sometimes wonder if some of these exponents of the ultra featherweight number have ever actually fired a .338 at a weight less than 7-1/2 pounds. If they have not, they should give it a whirl! Light rifles despite the recoil are the "in" thing and I'd presume this affection for the feathery model will continue.

There is a very pronounced trend toward the fiberglass stock. I would expect this swing toward the plastic butt will not only continue but grow infinitely stronger over the period 1989 - 2000.

What seems to be the impelling reason to go to the phony sort of stock? There is somewhat of a complex history involved here. To begin with, those wizards of the benchrest sport found that the fiberglass number simply shot better than the old wooden stock. It took quite a long time for the rank-and-file shooter to become a ware of this but now he has caught on with a vengeance. The plastic job is selling like hotcakes.

All the big arms companies now offer various of their standard models with the plastic butt in position. I'd make so bold as to predict that in the next ten years virtually all our sporting guns will go to this kind of rear end. Of course there will be dudes with a pocket full of dinero who will have people like Reinhart Fajen make a Circassian stock but plain over-the-counter sporting arms will exhibit the fiberglass.

An interesting fact about these new stocks is that they are not cheap. Far from it! They are just as costly and more so than a stock made of good walnut. But beyond this the stock is so finished that the barreled action may be dropped into place, cinched up, and it will really shoot! Again, the fiberglass is impervious to rain, sleet, snow and heat. Truly major advantages.

As for rifle sights, the natural presumption would be that in another decade every really worthwhile game rifle will come from the factory with a scope on it. Almost 20 years ago, one of our major manufacturers gave this one a try and the experiment was an abysmal failure. The trouble was that the company who whipped their rifles out equipped with the optical sight could not foresee just what kind of glass the buyer wanted. A4X glass was first offered and the dealers reported back that a lot of potential buyers wanted a 6X; still others wanted a vari-power, a scope from 3x to 9x, and so it went. The company had learned its lesson. The scopes were all withdrawn.

On this one, I'll beg to pass. Certainly every serious hunting sportsman wants a scope sight but the selection is so big that it is up to him to make a choice.

There are a million handloaders. This very sizeable crew continually produce wildcat calibers that are very obviously an improvement over standard calibers. Almost yearly the big ammo companies take up one or more of these wildcat rounds and standardize them. This is all well and good and represents progress of the kind we like to see. You may be sure that by the year 2000, we will have not less than a half-dozen new cartridges.

The trend this past quarter-century has been more and more toward the over/under scattergun. I sometimes conclude that this is somewhat of a fad. Joe has a superposed model; Fred Has an over/under and so by God and by Jesus we've got to have one! Just when this passion for the top-and-bottom model will pinch out I'd hesitate to predict. However, I think it just might sorta run its course.

There is an obsession that you can shoot better with the stacked barrel job. I have yet to see any really concrete evidence that this is indeed a fact. All the winning skeet champions fire the over/under but I sometimes wonder if they shot the Remington Model 11-87 or the Browning Model 12 pump repeater if they wouldn't stack up scores quite as good. Only time will tell.

Despite the very obvious popularity of the superposed shotgun there is only one such shotgun manufactured in this country. Sturm, Ruger makes and over/under -- and a right good one -- and all the others come from Europe or Japan. This seems a curious anomaly in view of the popularity of the gun. It just might sorta peter out over the next longish decade.

The most popular shotgun in the hunting field these days is the autoloader. The gun has a lot going for it and I predict that by the year 2000 it will dominate the scene even more than it does today.

Once too heavy, bulky, badly balanced, and not too reliable as to function, the automatic is now light of weight, excellent of balance and exceptionally reliable. I like 'em!

There are a number of pump repeaters quite as good as the autoloader but not so popular with the shooting man. This is not to say the pump gun won't be very much with us during the period we have under discussion -- you may be sure it will. One of the brightest spots in the saga of the pump was the decision of the Browning Company to commence the production of the Model 12 Winchester. This grand old gun is the premier pump repeater of the field and I predict a bright future for it over the next many years.

Handguns

There will be an intensive activity in the handgun field over the forthcoming decade. This flurry got cranked up about the year 1978 and it has been mounting ever since. I see no possibility of abatement over this decade ahead. Handguns are given wide publicity in the Rambo-like movies, on TV, and in the news media. This, you may be sure, creates interest. Such very legitimate agencies as the NRA, the local and state shooting associations, local clubs and even the individual who is a handgunner accomplishes relatively little to stimulate interest. It is the Rambo stuff that does it.

The arms companies -- Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Colt, Charter Arms, and the myriad of importers are very much aware of the trend and they are doing their little boy best to produce new models and innovative changes in existing types.

Pistol silhouette competition is going like a wildfire; it now claims 40,000 enthusiasts and national matches as well as international competitions are fired. Every state, virtually, holds it matches The so called "practical" match firing, a thinly disguised combat practice is equally popular and one of the things that has brought it to the fore is the very sizeable money prizes.

The ammo manufacturers in consonance with the handgun makers have offered a series of new cartridges. Invariably more powerful than existing loadings. This is a powerful stimulant to the handgunner who is searching for a more powerful round. In the beginning the pistol silhouette shooters tried to fire out to 200 yards which is the extreme distance of the match with revolvers but this was mostly given up in favor of the single-shot pistol with scope attached. Calibers are frequently rifle cartridges which certainly extend the sure-hitting ability of gun and shooter.

In the beginning at the "practical" match firing the boys were almost unanimous in their choice of autoloaders. Now that has changed somewhat and there are many revolvers on the firing line. Despite the fact that the U.S. military have settled on a 9mm service weapon I'd hesitate to predict that there will be any marked or strong swing to the autoloader over the years ahead.

PHOTO : The Ruger Model 14 autoloader,.223 cal is the wave of the future. More of the automatics

PHOTO : will appear by the year 2000

PHOTO : By the year 2000, more and more rifle stocks will be made of synthetic materials (because

PHOTO : of its lightweight) like this MPI stock, which can be fitted quite easily.
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Author:Askins, Charles
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Jan 1, 1989
Words:2118
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