Antique Gun: Types, Identifying & Valuing

Are you an antique collector looking to buy an antique gun and want to know the many types, how to identify one, and the market worth of antique guns? Or do you own an antique gun and want to sell it for a fee?

You are neither wrong nor right in your desire to purchase and sell an antique gun. On the one hand, antique guns are quite valuable, and on the other side, antique guns are highly prized artifacts. As a result, we understand both parties.

That is why we have compiled material to assist you in your quest for antique gun types, identification, and valuation. Continue reading to learn more.

What is an Antique Gun?

An antique gun is one that was created and manufactured before the 20th century. According to Section 921, 16a of the United States Code, any gun manufactured before 1898 with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or a similar ignition system is considered an antique gun.

Types of Antique Guns

There are two types of guns based on how they load ammunition and fire. Most antique collectors collect antique guns in this category. They are muzzleloaders and cartridge guns.

Muzzleloader

A muzzleloader is any type of firearm in which the projectile and propellant charge is loaded from the muzzle or the forward open end of the barrel.

Collectors who buy this type of gun do not intend to use it. Instead, this type of pistol is collected for its historical significance. They are usually displayed as part of a large collection of weapons.

Cartridge Firing

This is a type of pre-assembled firearm ammunition that contains a projectile, a propellant substance, and an ignition device in a metallic, paper, or plastic case that is designed to fit within the barrel chamber of a breech-loading gun for convenient transportation and handling when shooting.

Identifying Antique Guns

Antique guns are also divided into two categories: long guns, which include rifles and shotguns and can be fired from the shoulder level, and handguns, which include revolvers and pistols and can be fired with one or both hands away from the shoulders.

This section will help you identify the different types of antique guns.

Revolvers

Revolvers
A metal revolver with a black arm(Source: Wikipedia

A revolver is a gun that can be operated with one hand and has six chambers, known as revolving cylinders. It features multiple chambers, each holding a single bullet for firing.

The revolver was invented to eliminate soldiers needing to reload their weapons before firing a shot. They could fire continuously without stopping to reload because the revolver has six chambers, each of which can hold a single bullet.

A revolver, as the name implies, fires a bullet by rotating it through each cylinder until all chambers are empty and the gun needs to be reloaded.

Rifles

Rifles
A silver and wood decorated Belgian-made Martini-Henry rifle(Source: International Military Antiques

A rifle is a long-barreled gun with shallow spiral grooves cut into the barrel to make the bullet spin. This makes the bullet more stable in the air and makes it easier to fire accurately.

The term rifle refers to the early modern machining method of cutting tools to create groovings. The rifle became popular in the 20th century. One thing that makes the rifle different from other long guns is that its barrel has grooves.

Shotguns

Shotguns
1865 German fully engraved double barrel Pinfire Shotgun made of wood and metal(Source: International Military Authorities

Shotguns are long-barreled guns that shoot a shotshell, which is a straight-walled cartridge that usually fires many small pellet-like sub-projectiles called “shot” or sometimes a single solid projectile called a “slug.” These guns fire multiple rounds that spread out as they leave the barrel.

Shotguns are often called scatterguns or fowling pieces. They are usually hand-held guns with smooth-bore barrels, which means they don’t have the rifling effect.

There are four types of shotguns, including semi-automatic, double-barrel, break-action, and pump-action shotguns.

Pistols

Pistols
A colt 1911 government model pistol made from metal and wood(Source: Wikipedia

A pistol is a small gun that can be used with only one hand. One theory says that pistols got their name from the Italian city of Pistoia, which started making handguns since the late 15th century.

Pistols are handguns with a chamber built into the gun barrel. The term pistol is sometimes used interchangeably with revolvers or to refer to any handgun small enough to fit in a pocket.

The Value of Antique Guns

Antique guns are highly valuable collectibles, and the age of the item influences how much it sells on the antique market. Antique firearms can be worth several hundred dollars or more.

Here, we will look at antique gun valuation, their prices, and how much they sold on various antique auction sites.

1. Colt Revolver

Colt Revolver
A 1851 Navy Revolver Colt Gun with Wooden Arm(Source: Wikipedia

Colt’s Manufacturing Company, founded by Samuel Colt in 1855, is an American gun manufacturer that is now a part of the Czech holding company Colt CZ Group.

Colt is best known for designing, manufacturing, and marketing firearms, particularly between the 1850s and World War I, when it was a dominant force in the industry and had a significant impact on industrial technology.

Its early designs were critical in popularizing the revolver and moving away from single-shot handguns. Although Samuel Colt did not invent the revolver, his innovations resulted in the first successful ones.

A Colt revolver and three other antique guns were auctioned off and sold for $800 on Invaluable.

2.  Flintlock Musket Rifle

Flintlock Musket Rifle
An up-close view of the Flintlock Musket Rifle(Source: Pinterest

Flintlock refers to any firearm that uses a flint-striking ignition mechanism, the first of which appeared in early 16th-century Western Europe.

The term may also refer to a specific type of mechanism called the “true flintlock.” It was first used in the early 17th century and slowly replaced other firearm-ignition technologies, such as the “matchlock” and the “wheel lock.” The flintlock musket style of antique firearms sold for $877 at auction on Invaluable.

3.  Caplock Rifle

Caplock Rifle
Four antique caplock rifles(Source: LiveAuctioneers

Alexander John Forsyth, a Scotsman, developed and patented the caplock mechanism for firing firearms in 1807. It has been upgraded numerous times to improve its combat effectiveness. However, caplock firearms were not widely used until the 1840s.

It is said that every firearm with a caplock mechanism is a percussion firearm, which means it is fired by striking an external primer, which fires a flash into the muzzle and ignites the main powder charge.

On the auction website Live Auctioneers, four caplock-style antique firearms sold for $1500.

4.  Remington Revolver

Remington Revolver
Four Rusty Remington Revolvers of different sizes(Source: Live Auctioneers

Remington Arms Company was founded in 1816 in Ilion, New York by Eliphalet Remington, and it became famous for producing the first commercial typewriter on March 1, 1873.

There are two speculated reasons on why the Remington Company started making firearms. The first reason was that Remington wanted to buy a firearm but couldn’t afford it, so he built his own, while the second was that he forged a barrel from wrought iron to see if he could build a better gun than he could buy.

Eliphalet Remington is one of the world’s oldest firearms manufacturers, having produced various types of guns since 1816. Four antique revolvers were auctioned off on Live Auctioneers and sold for $1,400.

5. Flobert Muff Pistol

Flobert Muff Pistol
An Antique Flobert Muff Pistol with Wooden Arm(Source: Live Auctioneers

In 1845, Louis Nicholas Flobert invented the Flobert guns. The Flobert gun is also referred to as a gallery or saloon gun because it is a type of firearm designed for recreational use.

The Flobert Muff is a percussion pistol made in Germany that fires 6mm bullets. It is a single-shot percussion cap pistol that uses 6mm Flobert cartridges. An antique Flobert Muff was auctioned off on Live Auctioneers and sold for $150.

Factors Affecting the Value of Antique Guns

The value of an antique firearm can be affected by several factors. These include the gun’s condition, rarity, manufacturer, and age.

Condition

The condition of the antique gun is an important factor that will influence its value. If the gun is in poor condition, it will sell for a lower price. An antique gun with chips or specific elements removed may also be worth less than an antique gun with no damage.

So the condition of your antique gun will influence how much you may sell it for on auction sites or at retail outlets.

Rarity

A rare antique pistol on the market may fetch a very reasonable price, especially if many collectors are looking to buy it. As a result, the value is affected because the seller may choose to increase the price of the antique gun based on demand.

Manufacturers

The manufacturer is another important factor that influences the value of an antique gun. There are well-known antique gun makers, and some collectors prefer to purchase a specific brand.

Some antique collectors may not be keen on collecting guns from a particular brand. This is a personal preference. Some antique guns from certain makers are in high demand, which could increase their value.

Age

For a firearm to be classified as an antique, it must have been manufactured prior to 1898. If your antique firearm dates back to the earliest days of firearm production, it may fetch a higher price on auction sites or in stores.

Buying and Selling Antique Guns

Before collecting or selling antique guns, there are a few things you should know. This item is not the same as selling or collecting antique furniture or jewelry. Here are some tips to help you buy and sell antique guns.

Have a License

Since gun laws vary from state to state and country to country, it is important to know what the state or country you are in says about owning a gun.

Most antique guns cannot be used for firing, especially considering antique guns must be as ancient as 1898, so after reviewing the state’s or country’s gun laws, you might want to look into whether the state provides an exception for owning antique guns.

Also, contact an expert, someone who is knowledgeable about antique c=guns and is familiar with the law of the location. The person or agency will help you determine whether it is legal to own or sell an antique firearm. You can then apply for your license if it is permitted.

Choose a Reputable Site or Outlet

Today, there are many antique guns for sale on the Internet. When you search for “antique gun” on Google, you can find thousands of different models from different stores.

You can buy antique guns safely from reliable websites like Invaluable, Live Auctioneers, International Military Antiques, and auction houses like Bonhams.

Get an Independent Appraisal

There are professionals who specialize in detecting fake, replica, or antique items. If you can afford it, you should hire an expert to ensure that the antique gun you’re about to purchase is genuine and not a replica.

Consult a Federal Licensee

Working with a federal license is one of your best options for selling an antique gun. The official knows what to do, and once you get your license, you won’t have to worry about anything because you now have federal support.

Store the Antique Gun Properly

If you want to sell your antique gun for a good price, you need to store it carefully and keep it in good condition. You cannot afford for your gun to be dusty and damaged.

If your gun is dirty or in poor condition, its value will decrease. So, keeping it in a clean environment is advisable. Keep it in a box, glass, or acrylic case.

Store Your Antique Gun Unloaded

When bullets are left inside an unloaded firearm, they can be dangerous, especially if the firearm uses back powder. Guns stored with bullets are volatile and can be very dangerous. Unloaded antique guns are the best way to store them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Antique Guns a Good Investment?

We cannot say that owning an antique gun is a wise investment, but we can say that purchasing one today, you may be able to sell it later for more than you paid for it.

Who Made the First Gun?

The origin of firearms dates back to the 10th century in China. The Chinese were the first to develop gunpowder, and historians say that Chinese fire lances were the earliest firearms.

What Countries Permit the Ownership of Antique Guns?

There are currently only three countries in the world that allow residents or citizens to own a firearm, including The United States, Guatemala, and Mexico.

Final Words

Buying and selling antique guns is not the same as buying and selling antique furniture, jewelry, or art. It is more crucial because it is a firearm, and because not all countries allow gun ownership, you must be cautious and follow the law when buying or selling an antique gun.

Most people buy antique weapons for decorative purposes or to preserve historical items. It’s a great way to add some spice and elegance to enhance the appearance of your space. Please leave any questions in the comments section below.

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