How to Collect Antique Firearms: A Guide for the Savvy Collector


Smith & Wesson .44 Double-Action Frontier Model Revolver decorated by Tiffany & Co. This revolver is exceptional as one of the most elaborate Tiffany-decorated firearms of the late nineteenth century. Made for Smith & Wesson’s display at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, the pistol stands as an unrivaled example of the silver firm’s distinct contribution to the decoration of American firearms.

Collecting antique firearms is a serious hobby with many opportunities to purchase unique and exciting pieces, like the beautiful Tiffany & Co. .44, pictured above. 

But let the buyer beware! You had better know what you are doing before entering this arena.

To ensure the best investment for your collection, you must thoroughly research market pricing and reputable dealers. From exploring the market for pricing information to finding a reputable dealer who offers inspections before purchase, many steps are involved in collecting antique firearms.

Whether you’re just getting started or an experienced collector looking for new additions, understanding how best to secure your investment will help ensure success when collecting antique firearms.

Understand the Basics of Antique Firearms

Antique firearms are an exciting and unique area of collecting. Antique firearms can vary from ancient flintlock pistols to contemporary armaments such as WWII-era rifles. Understanding the basics of antique firearms is essential for any collector or investor who wants to make a wise purchase.

Research available market offerings and their associated prices through auction sites and gun shows to maximize the value of your antique firearm purchase.

Researching prices on auction sites and checking out gun shows will help you better understand what money you should expect to pay for your desired item. Studying historical information about specific pieces can also give you an edge in negotiations with dealers or other collectors.

Winchester Model 1886 Takedown Rifle decorated by Tiffany & Co.

Finding a Reputable Dealer:

Buyers must do their due diligence when selecting an antique firearm dealer or seller they plan on working with. Look into reviews online, ask around at gun clubs and stores, and look into licensing requirements before deciding which dealer is right for you. This step could save time and money down the line if something goes wrong during your transaction process later on down the road.

Inspect Before You Buy:

Inspecting each piece thoroughly before committing to buy it is essential in this hobby; even if all looks good from afar, hidden flaws may only appear upon closer inspection – rust spots, broken parts, etc.

Taking pictures while inspecting each piece will provide helpful documentation should anything go wrong after the purchase has been completed (eBay sellers often require such photos). Have someone knowledgeable about guns inspect alongside you so they can point out any potential issues that might not be immediately obvious otherwise.

Colt Third Model Dragoon Percussion Revolver. This Dragoon model revolver and its mate (presented to the Czar of Russia) are considered among Colt’s masterpieces. Apparently, they were created as part of a set of three pairs of gold-inlaid revolvers that Colt took with him to Europe in 1854—a real beauty.

Once purchased, securing your investment should always come first; getting proper insurance coverage for your collection will ensure that no matter what happens, all pieces remain protected against theft or damage caused by natural disasters such as floods or fires. Storing them properly – away from moisture sources – and regular maintenance checks are also necessary to keep everything safe over time.

Getting up to speed on the basics of collecting antique firearms will help you make informed decisions and protect you from what I call a “learn burn.”

Key Takeaway: Pursuing the pastime of acquiring vintage firearms can be an exciting venture, but it is essential to undertake due diligence before any acquisitions. Be sure to find a reputable dealer, inspect each piece thoroughly beforehand, and secure your investment with insurance coverage for added peace of mind.

Research the Market

Antique firearms are an investment and require research to get the best deal. It is essential to understand current market prices for antique firearms and what factors influence their value.

Understanding value is critical to familiarizing with antique firearms such as single-shot pistols, percussion revolvers, and cartridge handguns. Familiarizing yourself with the features of each type is essential in deciding which models are worth investing in.

Additionally, researching historical events that may have affected production or demand can give insight into how specific models might be priced differently than others.

Colt Model 1862 Police Revolver. The ornate brass grip of this pistol features a female figure representing Christianity and Justice. John Quincy Adams Ward created the original model of the grip for a pair of pistols presented by President Abraham Lincoln to the governor of Adrianople (present-day Edirne, Turkey) in 1864.

Having established a baseline price range, it is time to scour online forums and tap into the collective wisdom of gun enthusiasts. Delve into discussions about pricing trends in the market and any other relevant information, such as care tips or legal regulations associated with ownership, sale, and transportation. With your research completed, you can make an informed decision on the purchase price of a firearm.

Supply and demand are always at play when buying and selling antique firearms. Pay close attention to the dynamics of supply and demand and the state of the economy when it comes to collecting antique firearms. This will affect pricing trends.

Colt Model 1855 Pocket Percussion Revolver. Samuel Colt presented this revolver to John P. Moore. The handle was carved from the Charter Oak, owned by I. W. Stuart. The tree was revered as a symbol of Connecticut’s struggle for liberty.

You need to have realistic expectations regarding your return on investment (ROI) that you can expect from buying specific types of antique guns at certain times throughout the year.

Exploring the market is critical to guarantee optimal value for your money. Do your research when it comes to finding a dealer.

Key Takeaway: Researching the current market prices and supply and demand dynamics of antique firearms and staying up to date with pricing trends is critical to maximizing your return on investment. By tapping into gun enthusiast forums and understanding historical events that may have affected production or demand, you can stay ahead of the game when investing in these collectible items.

Find a Reputable Dealer

When acquiring antique guns, tracking down a dependable merchant is one of the most critical steps in collecting. Reputable dealers specialize in antique firearms and can provide quality products that are both safe and valuable. Before acquiring from any seller, looking into the matter thoroughly is essential.

Start by asking for referrals from people with experience with antique guns or gunsmiths. Investigate the seller’s credentials – confirm they are certified, insured, and competent. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the dealer’s experience with antiques; move on if they don’t seem confident in their answers.

You should also check out online reviews before committing to a purchase from any particular dealer. Look for customer testimonials detailing their experiences with the product and service the seller provides. This will give you an idea of what kind of company you’re dealing with before committing.

Once you’ve identified your preferred dealers, it’s time to inspect their inventory in detail before making a final decision.

Pair of flintlock pistols. These pistols rank among the most lavishly embellished Neoclassical English firearms known. They are the masterpieces of Gunsmith Samuel Brunn.

Take a look at photos or videos of the guns they’re selling. Eyeball them for any damage or alterations that could affect performance or value in the future. Dig deeper by asking questions about their experience dealing with antiques.

If possible, request references from previous customers who have bought similar items from them to gain insight into what kind of service they provide when it comes to these kinds of purchases.

Ultimately, remember that investing in an antique firearm is akin to investing in any other type of asset: ensure you protect your investment by conducting comprehensive research before purchase and exercise caution when making a significant decision.

Before purchasing, ensure the dealer is trustworthy by researching them thoroughly. Once you have identified a reliable vendor, let’s go on to evaluating before making the purchase.

Key Takeaway: Before investing in an antique firearm, it’s essential to do your due diligence by researching reputable dealers and seeking references from previous customers. Additionally, be sure to thoroughly examine the gun for any damage or alterations that could affect its performance and value before committing to a purchase.

Inspect Before You Buy

When it comes to antique firearms, inspection is critical. It’s essential that you inspect any antique firearm before purchasing it to ensure its condition and authenticity. Here are a few tips for inspecting an antique gun:

  • Check the overall condition of the firearm.
  • Examine the barrel, receiver, stock, and other components for signs of corrosion or damage that could indicate wear and tear.
  • Examine the barrel, receiver, stock, and other parts for any visible deterioration or corrosion. If present, these should be avoided as they could potentially render the firearm unsafe.
  • Finally, look for any modifications to the original design – such as aftermarket triggers or sights – which can significantly reduce its value.
Gold-inlaid Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver. This Model 1851 Navy revolver belongs to a select group of Colt percussion firearms decorated with profuse engraving, relief carving, and flush or low relief gold inlay, of which about twenty examples are known to survive.

Next, examine all markings on the firearm closely. These will usually include the manufacturer name, model number information, and serial numbers that help identify when it was made and by whom.

Note any discrepancies between the gun’s markings and what you were told about it; such disparities could suggest potential fraud or misrepresentation from a party involved in the transaction.

I can’t stress enough that it is important to thoroughly inspect the firearm before you purchase it. Once you are confident that the firearm is as advertised and in good condition and will remain that way, then complete your acquisition.

Key Takeaway: Before acquiring any antique firearm, it is necessary for a professional to assess its state and genuineness. When examining an antique gun, check for rust or wear-and-tear on the barrel, receiver, stock, etc., as well as discrepancies between what is printed versus what you were told about it by a dealer or seller. Put simply: buyer beware.

Secure Your Investment

Securing an investment in antique firearms necessitates taking specific steps; these include being mindful of the correct storage methods.

Primarily, the need for proper preservation should not be disregarded. Antique firearms require special handling and storage due to their age and fragility.

Investing in a quality gun-safe or lockable cabinet protects your collection from theft or damage. For optimal security, it is paramount to keep firearms out of the reach of children.

Cased Colt Model 1860 Army Percussion Revolver. Samuel Colt presented this finely engraved revolver to Major Charles Traintor Baker (1821–1881), an officer in the Fifth Regiment of Connecticut Volunteers, at the outbreak of the Civil War.

Maintaining the gun’s state is essential for its lasting worth and to make sure it can be passed down through generations. It’s also necessary to properly keep your antique guns with regular cleaning and oiling as needed. You can purchase specialized cleaning kits designed for antiques at most gun shops or online retailers.


Doing your homework can help you locate a bona fide, appealing antique firearm that will bring both worth and pleasure for years to come.

When collecting antique firearms, it’s important to take time with each step of the process, from researching the market, finding a reputable dealer, inspecting before buying, and securing your investment, including purchasing insurance to protect your investment.

By taking these steps seriously, you’ll ensure many years of enjoyment from this unique hobby.

Do you have an antique firearm collection? Tell us about it. We would love to hear from you.

About the author

Hi, I'm Teri Franks, the voice behind Prescott Voice. I've spent years immersing myself in all that Prescott has to offer, and I love sharing the unique stories and experiences I've discovered. When I'm not writing, you'll find me exploring Prescott's trails or tasting our local cuisine. I believe that the vibrant lifestyle here in Prescott inspires us to live a healthier, happier life. Come join me on this exciting journey as we explore Prescott together.

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