This Sunday afternoon I was cruising down the highway listening to Bachman-Turner Overdrive when the DJ came on the radio and said, "you're listening to (I can't remember the DJ or program name), the best of the 70's, 80's and 90's." What I do remember, is the 70s, 80s and 90s comment. That's a pretty broad spectrum when you think about it. A whole lot of things changed during those 30 years and not just with music but with guns too.
Although Smith & Wesson introduced the first stainless steel revolver in 1965 with the Model 60 Chiefs Special .38, the first semi-automatic handgun in stainless steel didn't come along until the AMT Hardballer .45 in 1977. Stainless Steel was used in cutlery long before it was introduced in gunmaking. General Electric and Union Carbide industrialized the use of stainless steel in the early 1900s.
The introduction of stainless steel in semi-automatic handguns wasn't the only change, making smaller versions of the 1911 became popular in the 1980s.
That Double Diamond Officer's .45 ACP is 1 of only 3 stainless guns in my collection. The 1980s answer to gunmaker's low profit margins, stainless steel, was soon to be challenged by the next bright idea of the 1990s, polymer.
Colt was updating and improving these guns during the 1980s and 1990s. That Government Model .45 is called a Series 70. The Officer's Model is a Series 80. The Gold Cup, even though made in the 90s is still a Series 80 and not a Series 90.
That never-ending pursuit to mass produce guns cheaper and faster was alive and well. CNC machining had replaced hand forging the metal in the mid-60s. Less expensive materials replaced more costly raw materials. Gunmakers were selling the advantages of stainless steel to the public as though they were selling kitchen wares and bathroom fixtures.
Machining was and is the cost driver in making gun parts, more so than the cost of the raw material. The sulfer content of the stainless steel made it easier and cheaper to machine. Then with the 1990's comes polymer. Hey guys! This is even cheaper and faster than stainless.
My Sunday afternoon Gun Blog posts can turn into incoherent ramblings at times. And on occasion, particularly when I'm not writing about a specific gun, I can get off into several different subjects without intending to. I had no plan of getting off into stainless steel until I realized that one of my guns was in fact stainless steel.
My intention when I started blogging was to talk about the 70s, 80s, 90s and how the .45 ACP was replaced by the 9mm in the military in the 80s. Then I wanted to address how Smith & Wesson thought they could replace the .45 ACP with the .40 S&W in 1990 (I've never owned a .40 S&W). Boy did I get sidetracked.
There is a case to be made for stainless steel. I've conversed with a few ardent fans, but let's be honest, it was introduced in the first place because it was cheaper, not better. For now, I think I'll shut up and just post some photos of these 3 guns from the 70s, 80s and 90s so you can see the nickel, stainless and blue in all their glory.