How to buy vintage shotguns without getting burned. Pt. 1 of 3 …..

Boss & Co. Side-by-Side Pigeon Gun 12 Gauge (Assisted Opening - 1 1/4" oz. Nitro Proofed)
Boss & Co. Side-by-Side Pigeon Gun 12 Gauge (Assisted Opening – 1 1/4″ oz. Nitro Proofed)

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.

A. H. Fox/Savage Sterlingworth Deluxe Brush Model SxS Double Barrel American Shotgun
A. H. Fox/Savage Sterlingworth Deluxe Brush Model SxS Double Barrel American Shotgun

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?

TOP: A 28g Parker VH BOTTOM: a 12g Parker VH
TOP: A 28g Parker VH BOTTOM: a 12g Parker VH, both guns are all original

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).

William Greener 10g Percussion Side-by-Side 1853 New York Exhibition
William Greener 10g Percussion Side-by-Side 1853 New York Exhibition

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.

Extremely fine Parker VH 20ga with original hang tags
Extremely fine Parker VH 20ga with original hang tags

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.

Wednesday I’ll discuss the 2nd most important question to ask when buying a vintage shotgun:

What’s the condition of the barrels?

What’s original look like? A lesson from two VH-grade Parkers…

TOP: A 28g Parker VH BOTTOM: a 12g Parker VH
TOP: A 28g Parker VH BOTTOM: a 12g Parker VH

When it comes to vintage shotguns, especially vintage American shotguns, original condition matters the most. But what does “original condition” look like, especially on a couple VH-grade Parkers that are 80+ years old.

28g Parker VH SxS
28g Parker VH SxS

Take a look at these two. The first is a 28g that looks like it spent most its life in the field. The second is a 12g that looks like it was locked in a gun case since new. Both look all original to me.

28g Parker VH SxS
28g Parker VH SxS

 

28g Parker VH SxS
28g Parker VH SxS

 

28g Parker VH SxS
28g Parker VH SxS

Parker VH 28ga 28” SxS for sale: All original gun that has never been fooled with. These are very hard to find and super rare in original condition. Bright, shiny, 28″ bores choked f/f.Serial Number: 165290, Barrel Length: 28”, Barrels: 28”, Gauge: 28ga, Stock Dimensions: 14”, Stock Comb: 1 1/2”, Stock Heel: 2 1/2″ Price: $14,500 

Very near mint and all original Parker VH 12ga 28″- Reference Gun
Very near mint and all original Parker VH 12ga 28″- Reference Gun

Very near mint and all original Parker VH 12ga 28″- Reference Gun: Advanced collectors always have what they call “reference guns”. A gun that they know to be all original to compare other guns to. This particular gun, a 225k SN range VH 12ga with original 28″ Vulcan Steel barrels is absolutely a reference gun. Made with capped pistol grip, splinter forend, double triggers and extractors.

Very near mint and all original Parker VH 12ga 28″- Reference Gun
Very near mint and all original Parker VH 12ga 28″- Reference Gun

The gun remains in exceptional near mint original condition with more than 98% original barrel blue, virtually all of its bold original case color, and nearly all of its original stock finish. Here are the technical details on the gun: made on a 1-1/2 frame with drops of 1-1/2″ at comb and 2-3/4″ at heel and LOP of 14-1/2″ over the original DHBP. The gun weighs 6lbs 15oz and the barrels measure .730 (R) with .018(mod) and .732 (L) with .028 (imp. mod) and both barrels have .028MWT.  This gun is guaranteed authentic and completely original in every respect and comes to me from one of the great Parker collections in the country. PGCA Letter included identifying the gun exactly as found today. It is very near mint and truly fantastic. I wish every Parker I owned was this fine and easy to describe. Simply put, no excuses on this gun. Price: $5995

Very near mint and all original Parker VH 12ga 28″- Reference Gun
Very near mint and all original Parker VH 12ga 28″- Reference Gun
Very near mint and all original Parker VH 12ga 28″- Reference Gun
Very near mint and all original Parker VH 12ga 28″- Reference Gun
Very near mint and all original Parker VH 12ga 28″- Reference Gun
Very near mint and all original Parker VH 12ga 28″- Reference Gun

What to look for when buying vintage shotguns…

Gavin Gardiner’s Guide to Sporting Guns: What to Look for - Condition.
Gavin Gardiner’s Guide to Sporting Guns: What to Look for – Condition.

So you want to buy a vintage shotgun. This short video will introduce you to some of the things you should look for when looking at old doubles.

Gavin Gardiner is one of the UK’s top gun auctioneers and an authority on fine side-by-sides and OUs. While the shotguns in this video are high-end and British, the lessons Gavin teaches apply to all doubles, from Parkers and Purdeys to Foxes and Francottes.

Gavin Gardiner’s Guide to Sporting Guns: What to Look for – Condition.

Hear my big mouth, now on on Clays & Birds …

My 15 minutes of fame are here — finally! Andrew Schatz over at www.ClaysandBirds.com interviewed me last Saturday.

Andrew’s a good guy (even though he runs Braccos -haha) and his podcast is worth subscribing to and checking out whenever possible. For this piece, Andrew and I talked a bit about where to find good vintage guns, what to look for when buying them and the #1 most important thing you must do before closing a deal.

Take a listen. My interview starts at 25:00.

Buying and collecting antique shotguns: a discussion with Martin Willis..

Antique Auction Forum
Antique Auction Forum

Martin Willis is one America’s leading experts on antiques. His website the Antique Auction Forum is a great place to learn all about the business of buying, selling , and collecting them. Last weekend I sat down  with Martin and talked about one of my favorite subjects — collecting antique shotguns.

You can listen to our discussion here. Our discussion covered everything from my favorites to the dark side of collecting – fakes and phonies – and how to protect yourself from them. I hope you enjoy it.

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