Gun collecting is a great way to lose money. Believe, I know. Over the last 25 years, I’ve bought everything from Parkers to Purdeys. I made some bad deals and some good ones. Most importantly for you, I’ve learned what you need to know to buy and sell vintage shotguns without getting burned.
Last September, I shared my hard-earned knowledge at the Orvis Game Fair in Millbrook, NY. This Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we’ll cover Part 1 of my presentation. Next week, I’ll post part 2, starting Monday. Part 3 will appear the week after that.
How to buy without getting burned
Part 1: The Three Most Important Questions to Ask a Seller
Question 1. Is the gun all original or has it been redone?
WHAT DOES “ORIGINAL” MEAN?
When we talk a gun’s “finish”, we’re referring to stuff like the blueing on the barrels and triggerguard, the color-case hardening on the action, and the finish applied to the forend and stock. When these finishes are “original”, they’re the ones the gunmaker applied to the firearm when the gun was new. When a gun is “all original”, all its finishes are original.
When a gun is redone or refinished, one or more of its finishes have been reapplied. Re-blued or re-blacked barrels are the most common types of refinish you’ll come across. Refinished stocks and recut checkering are also common. Sometimes, people re-color a gun’s action, too (especially on American guns).
WHY DOES “ORIGINAL” MATTER?
Generally, the more original a gun is, the more valuable it is. While refinished guns can be excellent shooters, they’re never as valuable as comparable, all-original examples — regardless of what some sellers will tell you.
So when buying a gun, the first thing to ask is: “Is it all original or has it been redone? If the seller says “Yes, it’s all original”, then great, you know what you’re dealing with.
But if the seller says redone, you need to follow up with “What has been redone or refinished?”
A lot can go wrong when a gun is refinished. Barrels can be reblued the wrong way; Checkering can be ruined when it’s recut by unskilled hands; Actions can warp if they’re recolored the wrong way. So it’s important to figure out what has been refinished and then look into how well that work was performed.
Something else to consider: Why was the gun refinished in the first place? Some people reblue barrels and refinish stocks to freshen up how they look. But people also reblue barrels after a dent or bulge has been repaired or after the barrels have had significant rusting and pitting removed. And every time barrels are reblued, a little metal is sanded off and polished away. A little of the barrels’s overall health goes with it.
When a gun is all original, you don’t have to worry about any of this.