Collectors value them for their historical significance and relevance as well as the often detailed and artistic craftsmanship put into their creation. Firearm and sporting gun collectors typically have a sincere passion and scholarly interest in these items and their representation of power and status. With a surprisingly longstanding and global history, firearms can be a reminder of the impressive development of technology over time and ingenuity of mankind. Also undeniable is the factor of fascination with humanity’s primal tendency and instinct to engage in conflict with one another. Whatever your reason is for your interest in antique firearms and sporting guns, it is without a doubt that these items are fine displays of art, craftsmanship, and aesthetic value, as well as symbolic of our cultural development.
The history of firearms dates all the way back to the 9th century in China when gunpowder was invented for the first time. This technology soon made its way to the Middle East and Europe, and in the following century, the fire lance, considered to be the predecessor of all firearms, was created in China. This was a powder filled tube attached to the end of a spear that would emit flames and sometimes shrapnel. Over the following centuries, gun technology would spread and advance, with the musket being invented in the Ottoman Empire by 1465, and smaller portable hand-cannons being invented in the same century in Italy. By the early modern age, these would evolve into the match lock, wheel lock, dog lock, flintlock rifle, breech loader, and finally the automatic weapon.
The antique firearms market can be divided into two sectors, being muzzleloading and cartridge firing. Muzzleloading guns are typically collected for purposes of observation and displayal and not intended to shoot with. Cartridge firing firearms are more usually collected with the aim to be fired, though those produced before about 1890 were designed to use black powder and had relatively lower bullet velocities and heavily arcing bullet trajectories. However firearms saw great advancements when in the early 1890s smokeless powder was first mass produced and great improvements were made in steel metallurgy. These guns were able to shoot accurately at long distance and are even comparable with their more modern counterparts in regards to target shooting.
Antique firearms are highly coveted by collectors and shooters alike, and many take interest in a particular niche of the market such as sporting, military, or self-defense guns. Antique firearm collecting became popular in the 1950s, as this generation had witnessed the ongoings of World War II in the previous decade and become fascinated by what they saw to be symbolic of American victory and ultimate masculinity.
Due to the increasingly scarce existence of antique firearms, prices have seen a steady rise on the market in recent decades. The three factors that play the biggest role in a gun’s value are condition, rarity, and provenance. Collectors often look towards auction catalogues and priced realized sheets to gain better information about antique firearm prices. Some particularly notable and highly regarded manufacturers such as Colt and Winchester Repeating Arms Company have seen their prices increase by three or even four times in recent years.
"...it is always essential to be familiar with and abide by gun control laws."
In the case of antique firearms, one’s collection and how it is used can be greatly influenced by the country in which a collector lives, and it is always essential to be familiar with and abide by gun control laws. Nations such as America, UK, Norway, the Netherlands, Canada, and Australia make special exceptions for antique firearms, though what defines an antique gun will vary by country.
As one of the fastest growing sectors on the collectibles and antiques market, the popularity of antique firearms is undoubtedly due to its historically intriguing element as well as the innate fascination with their very function. Antique firearms not only evoke power, status, and finery, but are stark reminders of the progression of mankind and civilization through conflict as well as technology. With the hobby and market only becoming increasingly hot over the past several decades and only so many antique firearms and sporting guns available, the time to invest in starting your collection is now.