Sooner or later, most of us who are drawn into this strange world develop a feeling for machinery, not just guns, but machinery in general, and learn to appreciate, revere, and lust after, Nice Machinery. In order to appreciate two upcoming rifle reviews, which deal with guns that are Nice Machines, you have to understand the concept.
A few weeks ago, Hardbark McLoughlin and I were contemplating a set of draftsmen’s tools that were used to create the surrender document signed by Mamoru Shigemitsu on the U.S.S. Missouri in 1945. The lettering on this historic document had to be perfect, and in those days it was done by hand with a whole series of jewel-like tools, each of which was a masterpiece of the machinist’s art. Nowadays, this work is all done by computer, and the tools, built like so many fine watches, have almost no value. But they are truly Nice Machines.
Some time after that Chris Kravitt of Treestump leather and I discovered we have a mutual admiration for the 100-year-old harness stitching machine that Galco leather keeps in its booth at shows. When the Galco people found it, it was a rusted-out wreck, and they spent no end of time, effort, and skill to restore it to pristine condition. Chris and I agree that it’s both both Nice Machinery, and that it speaks volumes about a company that would go to all that trouble to restore it.
Any Randall knife is a Nice Machine because it was beaten to shape on a forge by someone who had mastered this arcane art, and the rest of it was made by hand as well. The Ka-Bar, which is one of the supremely useful knives of all time, is not a Nice Machine because it’s made by machine, and by the pallet load.
No pump shotgun is a Nice Machine except for the Winchester Model 12, and this on account of its eerily perfect pointing and the fact that it’s largely built by hand.
A standard-issue Model 1911 is not a Nice Machine. A Smith & Wesson E-Series 1911, which is nearly a custom gun, teeters on the brink. An Ed Brown 1911, all $3,000-plus of it, is the very definition of a Nice Machine. Just rack back that slide and you, too, will believe.
A Luger, which is nearly useless as a combat sidearm, is a Nice Machine. A Colt Python, despite the fact that it will shoot loose after 50 rounds, is a Nice Machine.
Any green binocular, no matter what its price, cannot be a Nice Machine. Green is the color of toads, and mucous. The proper color of binoculars is black.
Parker shotguns and Winchester 21s are not Nice Machines when compared to high-grade British, Italian, Belgian, or Spanish doubles, which are.
Rifles based on Remington 700 and Savage 110 actions, for all their faultless operation and peerless accuracy, are not Nice Machinery, since both actions were designed with economy in mind. A rifle based on the original Model 70 or Model 98 Mauser is pretty much there, assuming the rest of it is not junk.
The Winchester Model 94 is not a nice machine, nor is the Marlin 336. The Savage 99 with the spool magazine is on the borderline. The Winchester Model 86 and the original Model 71 are as Nice as you can get.
Is there anyone I haven’t offended? Good. We will get back to this in a little bit.