ELITE FIREARMS OF THE LATE 1960s
I am going to take a little time and dive into the end of what I consider the Golden age of classic firearms. This would be the Elite Firearms of the late 60s. I stated in my home page that I believed that the 1950s and the 1960s were the greatest years in commercial firearms development. In this article I will be focusing on the elite firearms of the late 60s into 1970 or 71 era.
By this time of firearms industry was starting to rely on automation to their assembly process and were getting away from the hands-on type work. The quality of the firearms by 1970 would start to decline (IMHO) and would not match the quality and the look of the 1950s. Of course not all of the elite firearms of the late 60s would be considered low quality firearms. Many of the firearms made in the late 60s are certainly considered elite firearms and are very desirable today.
In my article (best firearms in 1964) I would give my reason for not liking what Winchester decided to do with the quality and craftsmanship of all their Winchester firearms. I did also mention that many new companies and existing firearms company’s were making new models and improvements that would slowly start taking many Winchester fans and make them look at new alternatives.
I now think that by the late 60s and into the 1970s that there were so many new and exciting elite firearms that Winchester would have a significant amount of competition by this time. I still believe that there radical change in 64 would help in their decline but I must admit that looking at the competition and new firearms coming on the market that Winchester was going to be hard pressed to keep the great followings it had in the 1950s.
The late 60s would be a significant time for several firearms company’s and some exciting new elite firearms and developments would take place at this time. We will look at a couple of firearms company’s that made great strides in the late 1960s.
Probably two firearms companies stand out for me in the late 60s. From 1965 till around 1970 and 71 the two top elite firearms companies of that period would be the Ruger Firearms Company and Browning Firearms. I would have to give Ruger the top billing for this time and followed closely by the Browning gun company.
Before I start to bring up Ruger or Browning, I am going to mention some of the lesser-known rifles from this period and how they would impact a company like Winchester and some of the main gun companies of that time. As I researched and looked at what firearms were available at this time I would begin to understand why Winchester would not be selling their products like they did in the 1950s.
There was just so much to choose from and high quality stuff to be had. Just some great firearms and certainly of the quality or better than the Winchester line. Just my opinion. Some great elite firearms among them.
At this time many foreign gun companies and American made firearms would be using the Mauser type actions to build quality firearms to sell to the hunting public.
BSA Monarch deluxe
Parker Hale Mauser’s
Mauser Bauer Corporation
H-R Ultra medalist 370
These were some very fine firearms and available to the public. Some of these were of exceptional quality and certainly would cut into the sales of many gun companies like Winchester and Remington. By this time some of the American companies would also start developing some new and quality rifles of their own. I will discuss those as we get further in this article.
Ruger firearms of the late 1960s
Ruger Elite firearms in the late 1960s would start to develop a very new and classic looking bolt action rifle they would call the model 77. In 1967 Ruger would release the model 77 bolt action rifle in the short action only. In 1969 they would advertise the following cartridges 22 – 250, 6MM, 243, 308win, 284win, and the 6.5 and 350 Magnum cartridges. The 6.5 and 350 Magnums chambered in this early Ruger 77 are great collector pieces.
In September of 1970 the Ruger 77 would be offered in the long action model. They would call it the M 77 Magnum model. It would be available in the 25-06, 270, 30-06, and the 7MM Magnum. Ruger would also release the model 77 varmint rifle at this time. It would have a heavy barrel 23 3/4 in barrel and come in the 22-250 cartridge. Any Ruger model 77 without sites would come with Ruger rings that would fit the scope bases that were part of the receiver on the new model 77. Certainly a great concept to a Ruger elite firearm. You would have to buy the rings separately for any firearm that had open sites installed.
The release of the Ruger model 77 would be another of the great line of firearms that Ruger would release not only in the 1950s but for several decades ahead. This would be one reason that Winchester would certainly have a hard time competing with this type of firearm. A great classic look and of great quality. A very progressive company of that time. We will now look at another great rifle of that time and would propel Ruger even further into elite firearms history.
The Ruger gun company would now venture into the unknown. A single shot high powered rifle would not be a great idea according to most people of the time. Hunters and sportsmen alike. But Ruger would certainly try something that was not the norm.
In 1967 he would release the new single shot high powered Ruger NO 1 rifle. It would be released in many different calibers and it would be a very good decision. A great elite firearm to look at and was a classic from the start.
In January of 1972 Ruger firearms would release a new version of the very popular Ruger 10- 22. This would be the 10-22 Deluxe Sporter with the classic style stock with hand checkered pistol grip and forearm. A great update for an already classic elite firearm.
Ruger firearms would have a very impressive line up of great rifles by the end of the 1960s. They would advertise in 1971 this impressive list of rifles.
Model 77 bolt action rifle.
10/22 autoloading carbine.
44 Magnum autoloading carbine.
Number one single shot rifle.
Of coarse Ruger was always noted for their revolver and pistol lineups from its early days. They would add a few updates in the late 60s. They would already have the Ruger Blackhawk in 38 special and 357 Magnum, 41 Magnum, and the 44 Magnum. In 1968 Ruger firearms company would introduce two new cartridges to the Ruger Blackhawk line up.
Number one would be the new Blackhawk in the 30 carbine caliber. This would also be very popular at the time and are certainly a good collectible handgun today.
Number two would be the new 357 convertible Blackhawk that would come with the 9 mm parabellum cartridge. This would require a new interchangeable cylinder. This would also be quite popular at the time and are certainly collectible today. These are both great elite firearms to own, have and to shoot.
Browning firearms of the late 1960
The Browning firearms company would be my second favorite elite firearms company of the late 60s. There could be a very good argument that Browning was better than Ruger as the top company from that time period. They are both excellent choices and would deserve the distinction of being the very best.
Browning firearms are remarkably well finished and have that little extra classy look and finish. They are known for their great looking stocks and excellent metal finish. I always admired their great look. I would not argue with anyone that suggested they are the best of the late 1960s.
The reason some people may want the Browning elite firearms as the number one choice for the late 60s would be their impressive rifles released at that time. They would develop two high powered rifles and two new 22 rifles. I will list the two high powered rifles first.
The new Browning lever action rifle (BLR) would be advertised in 1967 in the Shooters Bible but was not put into production until 1969. Very rare to find those before 1969. The new Browning BLR would become quite popular over the years. A very successful elite firearm from the Browning gun company.
Browning would also release a new semi auto high powered rifle called the BAR or Browning automatic rifle. It would also be very popular but was limited because some states like Pennsylvania did not allow big game hunting with semi auto rifles. They were a great looking rifle with nice lines and was very pleasing to the eye. Another elite firearm from the 1960s.
Browning would release two very nice rifles in the 22 caliber in the late 60s. One would be a lever action 22 called the BL 22 and the other would be a completely new 22 rifle called the T Bolt. The T Bolt design would allow the bolt to be cocked by just pulling it straight back and cycling it forward. A unique design and quite radical at the time.
The Browning BL 22 would be released in 1969. Another fine elite firearm from Browning but would be facing stiff competition from several other companies. Several companies would offer lever action 22 rifles at this time.
Ithaca model 49 selling for 24.95
Marlin model 39 selling for 84.95
Mossberg model 402 selling for 59.95
Winchester model 250 selling for 58.95
Browning BL 22 selling for 67.50
A great little lever action 22 that was a great deal for the money. The Marlin 39 was the only one that came close to the quality of the Browning 22.
Although the Browning BLR was quite popular it would not compare to the reception of the Ruger model 77 from the hunters and shooters of that time. The Ruger model number 1 would also become popular and would get many followers. It could also be hunted with in all states without issues like the Browning BAR semi auto. For these reasons I give the Ruger the number one spot in my humble opinion.
Weatherby rifles of 1968-70
Weatherby firearms would also be introducing some fine new elite firearms at the end of the Golden age of firearms 68-70. Weatherby would introduce a new firearm in 1968 called the Weatherby varmintmaster. It would be based on a new scaled down version of the Mark V action. They would advertise it to be the strongest varmint action in the world. It would be chambered for the 224 Weatherby Magnum and the 22-250 cartridge. A great looking rifle and in two great cartridges.
Weatherby would also introduce the new 240 Weatherby cartridge in 1968. This would be available in the Weatherby Mark V rifle. A great addition to a stellar line up of Weatherby cartridges.
Weatherby rifles would introduce a 22 semi automatic in 1969. It would be called the Weatherby Mark XXII deluxe 22 automatic. The Mark XXII deluxe would have the same quality and the look of the Mark V. Truly a great looking rifle that you came to expect from Weatherby. A great addition to their rifle line up.
Another great Weatherby rifle would be introduced in 1970. This would become a great addition to their stellar line up of elite firearms they produced. This firearm would be called the Weatherby Vanguard that would be priced like the Winchester or Remington rifles. It would be made in Japan and based upon a Sako type action. A very nice looking firearm and have that Weatherby name. A very popular firearm for Weatherby in the years to come. It would only be chambered for the 30-06 in 1970. A very nice line up for Weatherby in the late 60s.
Weatherby would certainly earned the right to be called one of the elite firearms and this period. You could not argue with the great looks and innovation of this time period.
Remington Rifles in the late 60s
Remington would introduce a couple of great center fire rifles at this time. The first one would be the Remington model 788 bolt action rifle. The second would be a new version of the Remington 600 rifle that was introduced in 1964. It would now be called the Remington 660 model. I do consider them elite firearms (IMHO).
The Remington 788 would be one of my favorite rifles of this period. I would hunt with a 788 in the 7mm-08 cartridge and also use the 788 in the 222 cartridge. This was to me one of the most accurate commercial rifles you could buy. Not the prettiest gun of that time but certainly a great shooter. Came in many different cartridges and available with a detachable mag. A truly elite firearm that was introduced in 1967.
The next rifle to be introduced by Remington in 1968 would be the Remington 660 model. It would replace the model 600. The Remington 660 would have a 20 inch barrel and no rib. A great gun to collect and are very desirable. I especially liked the 222 Remington cartridge in this rifle. Lightweight and a great to carry. Not the most pleasant gun to shoot in the Magnum cartridges.
Remington would also introduce the 500 series of 22’s in 1967. The Remington 580 22 single shot, the 581 box magazine 22, and the 582 with the tubular magazine. A great lineup of fine looking bolt action 22s from Remington arms in 1967.
Winchester firearms of the late 1960s
The Winchester firearms company of the late 1960s would definitely have a good line up of quality firearms from 1965 to the 1970 timeframe. They would definitely have some fine Winchester center fire rifles at this time. They would still have the time honored model 94 and the Winchester model 70. Winchester would add a few upgrades to these great rifles in the late 1960s era. They would also add a nice variation to the Winchester model 88 and 100. The model 88 variation would be considered a great collector piece today. More on that below.
Winchester firearms would advertise several variations to the model 70. The standard model and the Magnum model. They would advertise a target model 70 and of course the model 70 deluxe. Winchester would offer the model 70 African model in 1967 for $325.00. Of coarse that would be in the 458 Winchester Magnum.
In 1967 Winchester would introduce the model 670 bolt action rifle. This would be the cheaper version of the Winchester model 70. They would advertise the model 670 rifle, 670 carbine, and the Winchester model 670 Magnum. They would come in many different calibers with open sites and no hinged floor plate. Definitely a move by Winchester firearms company to compete with many of the cheaper hunting rifles being offered at that time. The Remington model 788 would be a classic example of the rifle that would compete with the Winchester 670. One advantage of the 788 was the ability to have a detachable magazine.
Winchester would release the new style Winchester model 88 lever action rifle. The new style basket weave checkered would be added. I personally did not think the new style checkering was a big problem. I myself rather liked the look.(IMHO). A nice addition to the model 88 was released in 1968 and called the Winchester model 88 carbine. They would also offer this model in the semi auto model 100.
They would offer the model 88 and 100 till 1973. Not many of these models were made and those available are very collectible especially in the model 88. And of course a favorite little round of mine is the 284 Winchester. If you can find a Winchester model 88 carbine in the 284 cartridgeyou would have a very desirable rifle. A great collectible elite firearm.
Of course Winchester lever action rifles would also be prominent at this time. Winchester would still make the standard 94 carbine and introduce the Winchester model 94 antique carbine. Made from 1964 till 1983. They would advertise the Centennial rifle model 66 and the carbine model 66 in 1967. Nice specimens today are very desirable.
Winchester would offer the model 94 in the 44 mag 20 inch version in 1967 and discontinue that model in 1983 another nice collector piece from that era. They would also advertise the Winchester 94 classic in 1967 with a 20 or 26 inch octagon barrel. Another collectible piece from the late 60s.
Winchester would also introduce the Winchester model 200 series 22 caliber rifles of this era. Winchester would introduce the 200 series 22 Magnum rifles in 1963 and continue production for 10 years. The Magnum models would be the lever model 255 and slide action model to 275. Both could be bought in standard model or deluxe model.
Although Winchester would release some fine firearms in the late 1960s I I do not consider them to be of the quality that Ruger and Browning would release at this time. Yes they did add to the models they already had but did not develop anything new and trend setting in my opinion. I did like the new style Winchester model 88 and the new carbine but found the 200 series of 22’s to be lacking in comparison to the Browning, Marlin, or Remington 22 rifles (IMHO).
There are some good collectible firearms of the Winchester line from the 1960s. Some can be available at reasonable prices.
I keep emphasizing that Winchester had very heavy competition and comparing the model 70 against other rifles from that period can be very telling. The price of the Winchester 70 deluxe would be around $274 in 1968. You could buy a Browning Safari grade rifle with great wood and that classic Browning style for $217. A Husqvarna Imperial Custom grade rifle would sell for $232. Two exceptional rifles that competed with the model 70. Many great elite firearms in the 1960s era.
Colt Firearms in the late 1960s
The Colt Firearms Company in the late 1960s would have the same issue that Winchester would have at this time. Colt would have a great firearms line up in the late 60s but would have very stiff competition from new models and variations from other gun companies.
They would stop production of the new Coltsman rifles in the mid-1960s. I believe this was because of stiff competition. You could purchase a Remington 700BDL for around $150 in 1968. The new Ruger 77 with rings would be around 175.00. You could also buy a Winchester 70, Savage model 110, Browning Safari, a Husqvarna lightweight sporter for 165.00, and several other bolt action rifles from that time period. Great for the shooting public to have many models to choose from but not great for Colt or Winchester at that time. Just a great selection of quality firearms.
The Colt firearms company would introduce a couple of 22 rifles in the late 1960s. Again these were nice firearms but again they would be hard pressed to compete with all the 22 rifles made at this time. The two models are the colteer and stagecoach models. The original colteer was a single shot 22 bolt that was discontinued in 1966. The new colteer and stagecoach models would start in 1965 and cease production in the mid-70s. Not a lot made of these models and finding them in good condition can be a nice addition to any gun collection.
One of the most significant moves by the Colt Firearms company would be the addition of the new revolver called the Colt Diamondback. This would be introduced in 1966 and be manufactured till the mid-80s. This would be one of my favorite revolvers of the 1950s and 60s era. They are very desirable today and very collectible. Just one great colt revolver.
Another fine Colt firearm from the late 60s would be the introduction of the peacemaker scout 22 single action revolver. A well-made single action that had a case color frame and of course that quality smooth action colt was famous for. Another great Colt to collect.
Colt would have a very stellar line up in the mid-1960s. They would advertise the single action Army peacemaker model and also be updated new frontier models with 45 colt, 44 special, and the 357 Magnum. They would have a bunt line models with 12 inch barrel’s. They would have several frontier scout models in the 22 long rifle and 22 mag. Colt would have that stellar colt 22 automatic pistols at that time and also the matched target, sport model, and Huntsman. They would also have available some old-time favorites. The officers model match, trooper model, official police, and police positive special would all be still available in the mid-60s. You could still purchase the Stub nose models like the detective special, cobra, and agent models. A great lineup of colt revolvers and certainly some of the best of that elite firearms period.
And of course Colt firearms would have advertised a great Colt Python in three different barrel lengths. 2 1/2 in, 4 in, and 6 inch. Another one of my all-time favorite revolvers of this time. A great time for Colt firearms and maybe the best that Colt firearms ever produced was at this time (IMHO).
Thompson/Center Arms Contender
A completely new firearm to come on the scene in mid-1967 was the new Thompson/Center Arms single shot pistol called the Contender. The main concept was that you could easily change barrels and have several different cartridges for each barrel and interchange them all with the same frame. The first Contenders would be chambered in the 22 LR, 22 WMR, 22 JET, 22 HORNET, and the 38 Special, 357 Mag. The introductory price in 1967 would be $150 with one extra barrel.
That Thompson Contender would be very popular in the 60s and 70s and of course many new cartridges would be added in the years to come. It was a well-made and versatile handgun and many were used for hunting in those early years. It was well-suited for carrying a rifle and also have the contender available in a holster. A nice firearm and certainly collectible in these early variations of the 60s and 70s. It certainly was very versatile.
There are of coarse other firearms companies of that time who would bring forth then develop new firearms. Companies like Smith & Wesson would introduce a couple variations of models already out and did have a significant handgun line up in the 1960s. Like colt they were very popular and had a loyal following.
High standard firearms had a good line up at that time. Harrington and Richardson would have many guns available. And Browning and Beretta would have quality handguns available.
Time to put together my list of favorite elite firearms of the late 1960s time period. I am going to make 2 lists that will be of my best 5 choices of collector firearms of that period and my personnel favorite firearms of that period. I will start with my list of the 5 best collector firearms of that period. Of course this is my opinion and you could argue that others would be better choices. Many great firearms of the Elite Firearms of the late 60s.
Winchester Model 88 in the 284 cartridge. Not a lot made and very desirable
Colt Diamondback Revolver. A true classic elite Firearm.
Ruger Model 77 from this Time period. Hard to find and very collectable.
Browning BAR in Higher Grades. Just a Classic look and feel.
Ruger Blackhawks in 30 Carb and 9mm. Great addition to any collection.
My list of favorite firearms of the Elite Firearms of the late 60s.
Remington Model 788. Really liked the little 222 Remington.
Ruger Model No. 1 Just liked that look and feel
Remington Model 660 For the same reason I like the Ruger No. 1
Winchester Model 88 in 284 Win One of my all time favorite rifles
Colt Diamondback Revolver One of my all time favorite handguns
What was happening in the late 60s
A new Ford truck called the Bronko would be introduced in the late 1960s. The new Ford Bronko would cost around $2500.00 in 1967. They have become very desirable today. A great hunting vehicle of that time. I would use mine for hunting and trapping in the 1980s. I would own a 1967 with a 6 cylinder and a 1968 with a V-8 289. Worst gas mileage I ever had was with that V-8 289. Would get 9 MPG no mater what I did. Lots of power but was geared low. Enjoyed both of them. And what a great lineup of Muscle cars from that era. Ford, Dodge, Plymouth, Chevrolet and others would have some great cars released at this time. Elite Firearms and Elite Cars of the 1960s.
Prices in 1968
New Home in 1968 $26000.00
Gas was $0.34 a gallon and eggs were $0.50 a dozen.
Movies released would include A Space Odyssey, and Planet of the Apes. TV shows would include Gunsmoke, Red Skelton, Ironside, Green Acres, and many other classics.