What Drives Your Passion?

What Drives Your Passion?

Some airguns are a personal link to the past

By Dennis Adler

Not sure what this says about me but Richard Boone as Paladin was my favorite western hero when I was a kid.

I am drawn to certain CO2 air pistols and the occasional CO2 air rifle by my past and my passions for certain guns I have owned, be they airguns or actual cartridge firing guns. I grew up in a family where there were no guns. My interests stemmed from watching TV westerns in the 1950s and 1960s, Have Gun, Will Travel, Wanted Dead or Alive, Gunsmoke, and Bonanza, (and I could throw in a few others I liked like Trackdown and the Rifleman) and classic TV detectives like Richard Diamond, Peter Gunn, and Mike Hammer.

Running a close second to Paladin was Josh Randall. Both were killers, bounty hunters, soldiers of fortune, but they also lived by a code and had honor and great compassion. Maybe that’s just the way they were written, but I got it.

I learned about the old west and the 1950s era I was growing up in not only from school and books, but from what the small screen portrayed as the past and present. Somewhere in all of that the truth existed, but I went through all of the phases along the way; cowboy hats and boots, gun belts, Fanner 50 single actions, even the now very collectible Wanted Dead or Alive Mare’s Laig lever action cap gun.

Yep, I was just like most 10 and 11 year olds back in the 1950s, bitten by the cowboy bug. Back then I put on the hat, boots and the gunbelt because it was fun. I was a kid.

But I never really grew out of it. This photo is from a Guns of the Old West article I did a few years back when I reviewed the new Chiappa .44-40 Mare’s Laig like Steve McQueen used in Wanted Dead or Alive. Talk about reliving your childhood.

But it wasn’t until I got my first BB gun, built in the shape of a Colt Model 1911 and designed to shoot BBs, pellets or darts that I actually had something that did more than make a cap go bang. I discovered target shooting. Other kids discovered hunting, I leaned more towards shooting for scores on a target. I also found my first real firearms passion, the Colt Model 1911.

Obviously the television shows I had watched rarely had a 1911 (the occasional detective show) and as I grew up my interest was focused on purchasing a 1911 and learning how to shoot the legendary .45 ACP semi-auto. I finally got one in my early 20s, an old WWII model, and discovered they were harder than hell to shoot accurately! I literally could not hit the broad side of a barn with it. Not that I was shooting at people’s barns, (there weren’t any where I grew up anyway) but at the target range I could barely keep a shot on the paper target at 50 feet. I went through a lot of ammunition learning how to shoot that gun and eventually got fairly accurate with it. So, the Colt .45 ACP was my original passion.

For me, it began with an old WWII era 1911A1 back in my early 20s, not one so fine as this example, but it was my first passion as a gun enthusiast.

Life’s unexpected turns took me in vastly different directions as a journalist and photographer, none of which had anything to do with being a cowboy, detective, or even a target shooter for the next decade or so. Those of you who like automobiles might look me up on Amazon.com and see how many automotive books I have written over the decades. Then life sent me in another direction altogether. I had been based in California for my entire career when not traveling with various automakers around the world to photograph cars in exotic locations, when it all came to a sudden stop. I won’t go into details but I had tuned a corner, reevaluated my life, found someone who made my life better and followed her to Pennsylvania. (See what happens when you watch too many Hallmark movies). I was still writing books but as fate would have it I decided to write a book on old guns. That was over 20 years ago, and a lot of gun books and gun articles have followed. History has taught me that embracing old ideas, old passions and giving them new life, even late in life, is what keeps the past in our present.

Life runs in circles sometimes, and 50 years later I found that I still had a passion for the 1911A1, only as a CO2 model. I just had to make it look like the .45 ACP I had in my 20s. Defarbing has become another passion.

Airguns have always been a second passion for me and during the last 20 years I have tested hundreds and written about them in magazines and books. When I walk into my office there is a table on one side with air pistols on it. Some for testing, some for extended use, some that will be there indefinitely, and the first gun is the Swiss Arms 1911A1 I used for the Airgun Experience articles on Defarbing a 1911. It is there as a reminder of my first passion, my first 1911 (which didn’t look much better than the defarbed Swiss Arms and didn’t shoot as well!) and that the past can be recaptured in some often unusual ways.

When I was a kid I put on the hat, the boots, and gunbelt for fun. Honestly, even today, it is still fun whether I’m shooting a pair of Crosman Remington 1875 CO2 revolvers for Airgun Experience or a pair of real .45 Colts for Guns of the Old West. For the true of heart, you never outgrow your passion.

I began as an automotive journalist and ended up being a firearms historian. I get paid to put on the cowboy hat and wear the cartridge belt and fire the guns of the Old West, whether they shoot .45 Colt or 4.5mm pellets, and some might say I am living the life, but I am just following my passion. What’s yours?

4 thoughts on “What Drives Your Passion?

  1. I think these airguns and the firearms they represent, harken back to the times you grew up in and those you wish you did grow up in. I remember coming back from a Cowboy shooting match years ago . I was standing in the kitchen wearing my outfit , complete with duster, a saddle bag with my revolvers, and a lever rifle in a scabbard and my hat. My wife looked at me and told me to walk two doors down and ring the doorbell of her twin sister. Have to listen to the little woman . Put myColts, empty of course, in their holsters under my duster and did as told. Walked up the steps , rang the bell , and a familiar surprised face looked at me. “ You are in the wrong time, “ she said . I tipped my hat and said ,” Yes ma’am “. That says it all


  2. Your recollections are a tad younger than mine from the late 50s whereas mine are early 50s but also reflecting the delay of screening in the UK. Must be post 53 when we got a TV. Hoppalong Cassidy with his sarsparilla and the Lone Ranger with “Dick the all american boy”. Cowboys dominated children’s TV and in turn our play and led to a demand for firearms which were available in spades.
    I had so many I could equip a children’s party boys and girls. Never graduated to air rifles possibly because at age 11 I shot myself in the eye with my brand new blank cartridge pistol and ended up in hospital. Suspect mother put her foot down!! Did teach me the importance of safety though.



  3. Speaking of automobiles and guns, it bothered me on the Roy Rogers show where the good guys chased the bad guys down at the end of the show. And I was sure Roy would jump off his horse and tackle a rider down the side of a hill. But no, here came Pat Butram on Nellybelle. A Jeep CJ. 🙁


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