Your Must-Read Guide to Purchasing Antique Firearms

America is a country of collectors: baseball cards, plush toys, and comic books reign as popular collectibles. Did you know antique firearms are also highly sought after?

Buying and collecting old guns can be a profitable side project. Old firearms in pristine condition can fetch collectors $30,000 or more at auction.

Yet old guns are still guns. You must know crucial rules, and you must also know which guns carry value.

Do you want to learn about the fascinating world of antique guns? Check out this guide.

Look at Make and Model

Make, and model is where all antique gun collectors start. Are you interested in World War II service weapons? Learning the make and model of those weapons is the only way to find them.

You'll also find that some manufactured models carry more value than others. For example, post-Civil War Colt Single Actions like Winchester and Merwin Hulbert are highly collectible.

Are you interested in 20th Century military weaponry? Check out this page.

Know Condition Ratings

The gun collecting community has several different rating standards for grading the condition of antique firearms. While you don't need to know every rating system, knowing the most common is crucial for profitability when purchasing or selling pieces in your collection.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) offers the most widely used antique gun rating system. Here are the criteria:

  • New: Constructed of all original parts and original finish
  • Excellent: All original components with 80% of finish intact
  • Fine: Original part construction with over 30% original finish
  • Very Good: All the original parts with an original finish of less than 30%
  • Good: Minor replacement parts with small rust dots present
  • Fair: Major replacement parts present with rusting and pitting present
  • Poor: Major and minor part replacement with extensive repair

Gun restoration may be a fun hobby, but antiques without original parts and finish are not sought-after collector items. Make sure you look for original parts and rust-free metal when buying antique weaponry.


An antique gun is still a gun, which means your collectible is subject to federal regulations.

If you are interested in collecting antiques only, you may not need a traditional license to carry or a license to own. However, not having those licenses limits what you can collect at any time.

Firearms 50 years old or older receive a Curio and Relic (C&R) designation. To possess a C&R gun legally, you only need a Collector's Federal Firearms License.

As stated previously, these licenses are very limited in scope. With them, you are unable to purchase or possess modern firearms.

Collecting Antique Firearms

Collecting antique firearms is like holding history in your hand. Many of these guns come from specific historical moments like World Wars and other conflicts.

The antique gun business is also profitable if you know what you're looking for. Make sure to educate yourself on the valuable makes and models and the various rating systems.

Do you need more collecting news and tips? Check out our page for all the latest gun collecting articles.