Me thinks that our JudgeColt got it right again with this post, and here's why I think so. War speeds up technical innovation as well as needs for mass production. Manufacturing before the war was pretty much a hands on deal, but the need for production during WWII, brought an end to a lot of the hands on work as production techniques improved in order to meet production.The "Golden Era" is from about 1900 to World War II. Many would say from the end of World War I to the beginning of World War II. The latter gets my vote because of the huge variety of models and the amazing quality, but leaving out the Colts with the high polish from the Pre-World War I era is a tough call. The "Golden Era" is not just confined to Colts. The Winchester, Smith & Wesson, Savage, Marlin, Remington, etc. lines also exhibit the same quality and variety that did not survive World war II.
I am surprised to see anyone claim that period encompasses the 1970s! I must assume thy have not examined any Pre-War guns. There is no comparison.
World War II saw the end of the era when firearms were made the way they should be and have been. The War brought the demise of the Colt Single Action Army & New Service, the Winchester Model 92, the Ithaca double guns, and many others. The war left the bigger companies with large payrolls as well as overhead in buildings, etc. The smaller companies just slowly disappeared.
By the mid 1950s the old school way of making and finishing arms was closing as labor costs kept creeping up. Many models couldn't be made profitably any longer. By the mid 60s the really nice guns were no more except on custom order.