Historic Firearms Memorabilia

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With the wide variety of historic firearms memorabilia available it can be more difficult to decide what to collect than to find the items themselves! Used book stores are usually a good place to find books about firearms, vintage as well as new. Books are always a great place to start in any collecting adventure.

Finding Historic Firearms Memorabilia

While the most obvious choice might be to check out the antique stores, it is probably not the best location to find actual firearms. Antique stores are good sources for accessories and vintage magazines but most are not set up to deal with the regulations governing firearms sales.

Gun shows are often a likely source of older weapons and the dealers are better informed. Pawnshops are also a potential source. Another good way to begin a collection of firearms memorabilia is by getting involved with a gun club or a historic reenactment group.

Many Ways to Collect Memorabilia

Vintage firearms memorabilia encompasses a wide spectrum of items. The aficionados may choose to collect items in small or large groups:

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  • By the century
  • By the decade
  • By the type of firearms
  • By types of use
  • By war
  • By culture
  • By country

Or he may choose to collect items related to the firearms such as:

  • ammunition
  • advertising
  • ephemera

Internet Resources for Firearms Memorabilia

Of course the Internet is an almost endless resource for acquiring any type of collectible memorabilia. eBay has lots of ephemera, especially from World War I and II. If you are looking for actual firearms, however, there are better sites.

  • Arms2Armor has all sorts of vintage weaponry including historic firearms.
  • Gun Broker carries numerous antique and vintage firearms as well as replicas.
  • The Muzzleloading Forum is not only an excellent place to find vintage guns but has a very knowledgeable group with expertise at answering questions and giving information.
  • Dixie Gun Works are specialists in antique weapons and parts.

Historic Weapons Come With Modern Problems

Buying, collecting, and displaying historic firearms presents a number of safety problems. Even while stored or displayed, the owner carries liability risk. If he is using the gun in historic reenactments, the safety issues are compounded.

Basic Gun Safety Rules

In this, as in everything, the basic gun safety rules apply:

  1. Always act as if they were loaded.
  2. Never point a firearm at anyone.
  3. If you have an old grenade or round have a weapons specialist check it out. If it is deactivated, keep records documenting this information.
  4. Keep weapons, working or not, away from people. Maintain a policy of Look but don't touch at all times.

Purchase Insurance

Many insurance companies have special policies for historic firearms. If you are planning to collect one or one thousand, insurance is a wise consideration.

Other Memorabilia

Collectors gather other types of historic firearms memorabilia as well. Antique powder horns dating from the turn of the 19th century can be found for less than $300. Riflescopes can be quite expensive if they are from World War II German weapons. The value of antiques you are considering will be determined by rarity, condition, and desirability, just as with any other collectible.

Unusual Collectibles

There are items related to firearms highly desired, and yet might not immediately come to mind when you consider the genre:

  • Trading cards
  • Photographs
    • Images of war
    • Images of the west
  • Advertising
  • Autographs


In order to get the most enjoyment from collecting historic weaponry consider performing a thorough study. Becoming familiar with the styles and types of firearms throughout history will result in confident purchases.

Recommended Reading

  • Firearms and Tackle Memorabilia: A Collector's Guide by John Delph
  • The Home Front: British Wartime Memorabilia, 1939-1945 by Peter Doyle & Paul Evens
  • The History of Remington Firearms: The History of One of the World's Most Famous Gun Makers by Roy Marcot
  • Winchester: An American Legend : The Official History of Winchester Firearms and Ammunition from 1849 to the Present by R. L. Wilson and G. Allan Brown

Places to Go

  • West Point Museum is the oldest and largest collection of antique firearms in the United States.
  • Royal Armouries a fascinating website for the physical site, which has about 50,000 objects in its collection, including the arsenal of the British army, preserved at the Tower of London.

Preserving History

By collecting and caring for historic firearms memorabilia, history is preserved for the generations to come. By remembering our past, we are able to better understand our present and change our future. Being the caretaker to these fascinating objects allows us to be a link between generations.

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