People are just not hunting in past numbers.

That is a fact, proven by looking at the sales of hunting licenses. I haven’t heard figures on the fishing license sales but it wouldn’t surprise me if they are also in a dramatic tailspin.

There may be a variety of reasons for this decline in the outdoors activities but certainly a lack of small game cuts into sales, as does a lack of interest in these areas and perhaps people don’t need game meat to survive anymore, preferring to shop in the store. I cannot explain it, but one cannot deny the crowds of people who attend the gun shows, which are nothing more than a gigantic flea market of guns and related items.

There are a large number of people who are collecting firearms and some that consider this collecting an investment. Looking at it primarily from that perspective, one can only speculate on which firearms will increase in value or at least hold their value. I am one of those who attend the show held every three months at the Arden Fairgrounds and have a variety of reasons for being there. Since I am not a wealthy person, I rarely purchase a firearm at a show but instead I concentrate on things related to guns such as books, reloading and dies. I also attend just to see some of the firearms from my youth. It may be an old Mannlicher or custom Mauser but just admiring the workmanship put into these special but old rifles keeps me interested. There is also the brotherhood attraction and I do like to talk reloading and quality rifles. It is at the gun show that I find people with a like interest. The person with little interest in firearms would be amazed at some of the old junk that is carried out from the show with pride as a show visitor finds a new treasure.

What I would look at with a yearning to own are those custom rifles built by name gunsmiths, such as Sukalle and Biessen, that sell for figures in the five digits. Or how about a fine figured stock by one of them? At the show, you quickly learn that the new 788 Remington is now bringing a premium price as do the low-cost 600 from the same company. Remington once made a rifle that was produced to compete with the Winchester Model 70, called the 725. I have seen an increase in interest over the last three or four years. Once an unknown, that model will bring premium prices. The reason? They were only produced for four years and not many were made. In that short span, there were but 15,000 made. That’s not very many. It is always the unpopular firearm that is sold in low numbers and is rare that brings premium prices.

One of the most successful rifles ever made was the Model 70 Winchester although numbers produced were not all that high by today’s standards. Overall, the rifle was offered to the public in 1936 and made through 1963. This rifle was considered the rifleman’s rifle and was top of the line. The Model 70 was and still is an example of outstanding workmanship. Its predecessor, the Model 54, was a great rifle and the 70 is nothing more than an improved 54. First offered in 1936, Winchester offered the Model 70 in nine chamberings: .22 Hornet, 220 Swift, 250-3000, 257 Roberts, .270 , 7mm Mauser, 30-06,300 h & h magnum and 375 h & h magnum. Of course, as time went by, other rounds were added and in 1947 the two rarest cartridges were added: the 35 Remington and the 300 Savage. Both were dropped the following year, making these two the rarest of the Model 70s. With but 362 built in the Savage chambering and 404 in the Remington, it’s a miracle that any are around 80 years later in original form. Surely, some were lost in fires and, of course, some would have been re-barreled.

An occasional question comes up about two other chamberings, Winchester did use a very few leftover model 54 barrels and built a few rifles in both 7.65 Argentine and 9mm Mauser but these rounds were never catalogued. If ever you have the chance to be at a gun show and you see one of these two, please call me and tell me. I’d really like to see that one, too. Perhaps more on the model 70 in a future article as it is very interesting all on its own.

George Block writes a weekly outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.

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