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Don't Jump The Gun! Identification Tips For Newbie Antique Gun Collectors

Starting an antique gun collection can be both entertaining and educational. Not only are you investing in something that interests you, you are also investing in a potential piece of history. Some of the most valuable antique guns have a story to tell and a popular place, name, or event behind them. However, with so many fakes on the market, you should never jump the gun in assuming a gun is antique. There are a few tips that you should be aware of if you are new to the antique gun collection scene.

Know Your Condition Standards

The NRA has issued condition standards for both modern and antique guns. Knowing what these condition standards are can help you determine if the antique gun you are interested is worth its listed value. Conditions standards for antique guns are as follows:

  • Factory New
  • Excellent
  • Fine
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Poor

Knowing which category a gun falls under will help you determine what you should pay for the gun. Keep in mind that guns rated as factory new and excellent will command the highest values. The value tends to decrease for guns in the fine, very good, and good categories. Guns under the fair category will have little to no value and guns in the poor category are undesirable by gun collectors.

Know Your Federal Firearm Laws

Federal firearm laws help you identify whether a gun is considered a Curio or Relic, also known as C&R under 27 CFR §478.11. According to this law, a gun must meet one of the existing three requirements in order to be considered a C&R:

  • The manufacturing date of the gun must be at least 50 years before the current date although this does not include firearm replicas.
  • The firearm must be certified by a municipal, State, or Federal museum curator in which C&R firearms are exhibited and of interest.
  • Firearms that command substantial numeric value because they are connected to a historical person, event, or period or the gun is considered rare, novel, or bizarre enough to command such value.

If you are in doubt regarding all of the aspects identified under the law, make sure you speak with a professional. An antique gun dealer can help you in identifying whether a gun is considered a C&R under the specific standards listed above. Expect to pay more for a gun that falls under a decent NRA condition standard combined with it meeting the requirements of being a C&R.

Know Your Details Well

Just because a gun looks old does not mean that it is. Some people will go out of their way to create a fake or a replica that looks similar to the real thing in an attempt to pawn it off on an unsuspecting victim for a high price. A gun with rusted metal may appear to look old, but it is possible for someone to age metal parts before placing them on a gun.

Look for signs of wear around the metal, such as in the wood. Look for signs that someone hastily put the gun together, such as sloppy craftsmanship. If in doubt, take it to an antique gun professional for help. Experts can typically identify a gun on sight though that is a fine art rather than a science. In some instances, the professional may need to run tests on the gun to determine its true origin.

You should also look for an identifiable signature. In many instances, gunsmiths were proud of their work and would sign some portion of the gun after they finished making it. Keep in mind that signed guns are easier to authenticate compared to unsigned guns. Furthermore, a signed gun will bring in considerably more money than an unsigned gun.

Finally, pay attention to the details of the gun to determine what kind of gun it is. For example, when it comes to antique guns made in America, you will generally find that flintlock guns are worth more than percussion guns. Percussion guns were produced shortly after the flintlock gun. However, percussion guns were eventually converted back to flintlock, so have a professional help you in determining if it is an original flintlock or a converted flintlock.

Overall, starting an antique gun collection may consist of hours of research pouring over every detail you can possibly find. Thankfully, a professional can assist you in ensuring that you are making an authentic purchase. If in doubt, always make your purchases through a reputable antique gun seller rather than an individual claiming to sell an antique gun.