How to Invest in Guns

Many questions arise on the subject of investing in firearms.  Look guys, I’m not going to tell you what guns you should and shouldn’t buy.  I’m not a Stock Broker or Financial Adviser.  And I can’t tell you what a good buy is because Gun Values hinge very heavily on the Gun’s Condition.  Condition is everything Make, Model, Year, and Condition.  Condition is like Mileage on a Car since there is no Odometer or such in a gun.  In a gun, every little mark, scuff, blemish, scratch and ding subtracts from a gun’s Value.

Let’s talk about this more…

If you are going to invest in guns, I would stay away from buying New Guns of Common Manufacture.  Those are not meant as investment pieces, and it’s going to take a great deal of time before you see the value in those return.  Much like the classic old Winchesters… Yeah, almost a Century later, now they are worth a mint.  If they are in a good condition.  Pawn Shops and Gun Stores are a good place to crawl for valuable old guns.  People will pawn, trade in guns or put guns on consignment all the time.  The trick is to strike while the iron is hot.  Right after it gets in.  The choicest guns will not ride the shelf for very long.  This is where you getting to know the Gun Counter Guys could pay off.  Because if they do get something in that’s very nice, that they don’t take home themselves, they just might give you a call giving you the heads up that they have something interesting.  And since Gun Counter Guys are pathologically lazy (My name is Ogre, and I’m Lazy) and one of them efforts enough to actually pick up the phone and call you… It’s probably something worth taking a look at.

Some new guns are made in small numbers, and those can go up in value fast.  We’ve seen guns from Kel Tec, such as their nifty little shotgun, and FNH with the SCAR16 when it first came out, instantly demand a premium because of the slow manufacture and high demand.  Owners would turn around and flip them for profit when they were able to get their hands on them.  But this is a very risky buy and I don’t suggest you try.

Stick with known names.  Brands that are known to be desirable and for holding value.  It’s cliche, but Colt, Winchester and such are the ones people go for… the Classics.  There is a reason they have become classic.  They are sought after.

What you want to look for are old gun.  The older the better.  Look for as near flawless condition as possible and original packaging with all the cards and manuals and everything still in the box.  Look for signs of corrosion, wear, or such problems.  Some guns require a delicate touch.  There is a certain etiquette when handling them.  With extremely old guns, don’t dry fire them.  Don’t cock them.  Don’t cycle them.  Because that is causing wear and diminishing the value.  In revolvers, it causes a ring on the cylinder.  If the gun is in such good condition that it doesn’t have a ring – don’t make one.  Don’t act like you know what your doing with that first year production blued Model 29 and then spin the cylinder and flick it shut.  Because you just bought that.  Make sure your hands are CLEAN and DRY.  Pick the gun up gently like you would a Baby Bird.  Don’t put your finger on the trigger, but instead hold in like you are examining a fossil.  You can hold it up to the light, turn it, but be respectful of it, because it’s someone else’s investment before it becomes yours.  If you have demonstrated proper care and are likely to actually hand over cash for the gun, it is polite to ask “May I open it?”  Once permission is granted, carefully work the latch and ease the cylinder open to examine the workings.  When you close it, do so without turning the cylinder.  It is never kosher to disassemble, so don’t even ask.  “I think I like this WWII Colt, mind if I Field Strip it?”  Yes, we bloody well mind.  This is akin to going up to your First Date’s Father and saying “Your Daughter is a Hotty, mind if I tap dat ass?”  I’m sure he appreciates that you asked permission, but the question and idea behind it is offensive.  So no… Don’t ask to take apart that 1911 that might be more valuable than your Car.  One slip and you can put a scar on that gun and easily knocked a third of the value off it.  Much like the Save it for Marriage thing… you buy the gun, then you can take it apart.

Okay, so you bought that old classic gun… Huh… Has some corrosion on it.  Can you clean it?  Yes, but very very carefully.  Oiled Cloth is fine.  Steel Wool is not.  Push a Brush down the barrel?  I wouldn’t.  A Patch, sure… but carefully.  For the Love of All that is Holy, don’t refinish anything.  Don’t think you are helping it, because what you are doing is Destroying It.  Remember when I said Condition is Everything?  Well, I’m talking ORIGINAL CONDITION.  You refinish it, you ruined it.  It’s like a Salvage Title on a Car.  And Gun Guys will know if it’s been Refinished.  We can sense it.  We can smell it.  We can hear it.  If you listen carefully, you can hear it too… it will speak to you.  But you do have to learn the language.  When I was younger, I took a class on grading Firearms Conditions.  It’s helped me immensely.  I’ve not seen them offered in some time, but I took it at a college.  It wasn’t for Credit, and it was just a Day, and it cost me a hundred bucks… but it’s saved me and made me thousands.   The NRA has some information on Firearms Grading.

NRA Firarm Ratings
FACTORY NEW
All original parts; 100% original finish; in perfect condition in every respect, inside and out.

EXCELLENT
All original parts; over 80% original finish; sharp lettering, numerals, and design on metal and wood; unmarred wood; fine bore.

FINE
All original parts; over 30% original finish; sharp lettering, numerals, and design on metal and wood; minor marks in wood; good bore.

VERY GOOD
All original parts; none to 30% original finish; original metal surfaces smooth with all edges sharp; clear lettering, numerals and design on metal; wood slightly scratched or bruised; bore disregarded for collectors firearms.

GOOD
Some minor replacement parts; metal smoothly rusted or lightly pitted in places, cleaned or reblued; principal lettering, numerals, and design on metal legible; wood refinished, scratched, bruised, or minor cracks repaired; in good working order.

FAIR
Some major parts replaced; minor replacement parts may be required; metal rusted, may be lightly pitted all over, vigorously cleaned or reblued; rounded edges on metal and wood; principal lettering, numerals, and design on metal partly obliterated; wood scratched, bruised, cracked, or repaired where broken; in fair working order or can be easily repaired and placed in working order.

POOR
Major and minor parts replaced; major replacement parts required and extensive restoration needed; metal deeply pitted; principal lettering, numerals, and design obliterated; wood badly scratched, bruised, cracked, or broken; mechanically inoperative; generally undesirable as a collector’s firearm.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Learn the grades, and learning them as Percentages is even better.  Knowing this information is going to let you negotiate for a better buy and allow you to make a better sell.

Keep an eye on the Gun Auction sites and boards Online.  Gun values also have Popularity Tides.  Due to American Pop Culture, a gun that had little street appeal can suddenly surge in popularity based on a book or movie.  For examples, bookwise, Dead Six for example has sold 673 Million 5″ .44 Magnum S&W’s while the movie Romeo and Juliette has sold 938 Bazzillion Nickle Plated Taurus 92′s with gaudy grips.  I exaggerate of course, but only slightly.  Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers did give us a resurgence of interest in guns from WWII.  Thompsons and M1 Carbines especially.  Kahr Arms has done well buying Auto Ordinance and making those Carbines.  You can by them New and have no fear of ruining history by shooting the hell out of them.  Original examples enjoyed a nice climb in value.  Of course, any WWII gun did as well, and especially the German guns.  Villain Guns are always desirable.

There is actually a market for guns used in murders.  Blood Guns.  And knives as well, but that’s a completely different market and values on those stem from how bloody and gruesome and public the killings were.  Take a guess on the value of the .44 Charter Bull Dog used by Son of Sam.  Guess in your head, then go look it up.  Most guns end up in police evidence lockup, but some get out.  If it can be documented that that gun is that gun in question, it can be worth quite a bit more than just make model and condition would suggest.  Same thing goes for guns owned by any public or historical figure.  But again, that’s a whole other market we are not getting into.

If you want to get into investing in guns as an investment, it’s all about research, education, and jumping on it when the moment strikes.  Then you have to have patience.  Decades worth.  You can’t just go around Day Trading on Gun Investments… I mean, yeah, you can, I’ve done it, but it can also bite you in the ass.  Start out easy.  Like say, take only 500 bucks with you to the next gun show.  Yes, Investing is Gambling, so treat it as such.  Having educated yourself as much as you can on gun values and conditions for say 2 or 3 brands, crawl a gun show slowly.  Take your time.  Find something you like, make note, and keep moving.  See if you can find something else like it better condition or cheaper.  If you liked that gun well enough, go ahead and snag it and then carry it prominently.  You might be able to flip it.  I did this once and wound up heading home with no new gun, but two hundred bucks in my pocket more than when I went in.  Thats like Day Trading.  But the best returns on investments is when you let them mature.    A 400 dollar investment some years ago is now a 1200 dollar pot of gold, as evidenced in one specific case I know.

The best thing about investing in guns – The Stock Market plays no part in this.  Politics can.  Your guns can double over night in values.  I remember clearly 500 and 600 dollar AR-15′s suddenly worth 1000 to 1500 bucks over night thanks to an autograph by Bill Clinton on a piece of paper.

Have fun investing in guns.  But don’t go too deep all at once.  Cashing on in an investment like this requires something else.   The Willing Buyer.  A gun worth 3000 bucks on paper isn’t worth crap if there is no buyer willing to pay for it.

5 thoughts on “How to Invest in Guns”

  1. I would be extremely cautious about advocating the Average Joe to invest in guns as a way to make money. Collecting as a hobby – yes, collecting with intent to sell, no please no.

    Could think of 10 things on the top of my head that would make more money more quickly and I can only think of 10 things.

    Love it as an excuse though with the Missus!

    If you have $500, just go buy 15 oz of silver. It will hold the value the same as the gun for now, and it will increase over time at a higher rate as inflation increases. If it doesn’t, I will happily buy the silver from you at the price you paid.

  2. We have some customers like that. One guy picked up a Barrett .50 cal rifle for $6000 5 years ago and recently sold it for $10,000. We have a lot of guys who buy rifles like that with quite a few gambling on the Government may make them Class 3 which would increase the value I believe. If you can get a classic, Colt or S&W revolver that is older will increase in value. A S&W Model 10 has doubled in prices in the last couple of years. I used to see them for $150 to $200 and now I see those same ones for around $300 and up.

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