In Praise Of Wood And Steel
Written by Guest Contributor,
in Section Facts About Guns
Not that I don't have plenty of "Black Guns" in the safe, but when I want to really have a good weekend I find it necessary to break out the "Oldies"
For me that means a nice 1903 or A3, maybe an M1 Garand / M14 or even a WW2 Mauser.. Yes they are heavy and have a slow rate of fire, but in terms of the "Cool Factor" they are hard to beat! As for hitting power, the puny 5.56, although proven pretty effective in it's current state, is still a flyweight compared to Grandpa's rifle! Shoot some steel or even rocks with the 5.56 and then whack it with your buddy's M1 and you will immediately see what I mean!
My love for the old guns started in the mid 60's when my friends and I could walk into Wards or Sears store and buy surplus rifles for money even Farm boys could scrape up. My first was a British MK4 Enfield and as I recall it was just shy of $20.00.. Ammo was sold by the pound from a big keg and put into a paper sack.. Ahhh... the good old days... My best friend stepped up another $10.00 or so and came out with a 1903 Springfield.
One trip to the gravel pit on his dad's farm and I knew I just had to have a Springfield.. I sold the Enfield to another kid and threw in the Ammo. Next Saturday I was the proud owner of my own 1903.. Our rich friend (His family actually owned the farm we worked on) bought a big old M1 Garand rifle for what I thought was too much money, I think maybe twice what we had paid for the Springfields..
The following Sunday found us back in the pit and we all had great fun shooting the old M1 rapid fire but I was still happy to have the Springfield. Compared to the Garand the 1903 seemed so sleek and fit so well I was even happier with it. As a boy I really could not appreciate the real quality and fine design of the Garand, that did not come till some time later. I spent a good part of my youth committing many 'Sins against Guns" as I, like many others, began to "Sporterise" cheap Mil Surp rifles. Quite a few Springfields, Enfields and Mausers were chopped, restocked and turned into affordable hunting rifles.. Little did I know what a shame that was going to be.
I moved to Utah in the early 1970's and had ample opportunity to associate with some men who's names would someday be famous nation wide. The old Curmudgeon Parker Ackley helped me on quite a few projects as well as Bliss Titus, Don Jacobs, Dean Parker, Roy Glissmeyer, Gil Biggerstaff and most of all Charlie Parker..
Charlie Parker was a wizard of M14 Rifle building and took me under his wing to teach me the ins and outs of building what I consider the sweetest of all "Battle Rifles" the M14 pattern.
During my youth I lived near Geneseo, IL. and was well acquainted with the crew at Reese Surplus who would go on to partner with Elmer Balance and produce the now famous M1A.
Complete rifles were somewhat short in supply at the time but Bob Reese would help me in procuring M1A receivers and we built some fine rifles out of M14 parts kits. Charlie even had a source for take off "National Match M14 barrels which were for the most part great shooters.
In the early 80's I was able to take night courses at the Utah Trade Tech in Machine shop and with the help of a friend who needed lots of custom gun work acquire a nice JET Lathe and Mill. This was to be the foundation of my small shop which in one form or another has stayed active since.
In about 1990 I noticed that the cut down rifles I had worked on a decade ago were still around Gun Stores and Pawn shops but were quickly loosing desirability since so many modern gun makers were building low cost sporters at very reasonable prices. By this time I was a fairly active Collector of US Military Rifles and I decided the time was right to try and make amends for the earlier error of my ways and started picking them up when I could.
If they were unmolested in the metal they would go back to as close to issue as possible. If they had been drilled and tapped they were a fine candidate for a 1903A4 Sniper. Today my true love is bringing back a piece of history by restoring these old guns to their former glory. I am happy to say I am not alone in this as many of my projects are for young folks with a real appreciation for our American History, the Freedom we enjoy and the place our courageous Veterans with their Wood and Steel rifles had in creating it!
Dan Briggs is the owner of "Far West Armory" in St. George, Ut.
FWA specializes in all US small arms repair and restoration Krag to M60.