First Topic: Collecting
Gun collecting can be eclectic or very specific or a combination of both. Let’s look into the some of the types of collecting and the reasons behind those directions of interest. Then I will share some of my “collecting tips” with you.
In my many years of dealing in the collectible firearms industry I think that I have seen just about every type of collecting. I am going to list some below and I would be interested to see the smiles or head nods on you as you read.
- A little of everything collecting. These collectors often have started their collecting as an outgrowth of their passion for hunting/shooting. They have a shotgun, they have a centerfire rifle, they have a rimfire rifle, and they have a .22 pistol. Next thing you know they get another shotgun for specific waterfowl hunting or a smaller gauge for upland and on and on. Then the same thing happens with the centerfire rifles and the rimfires and the handguns. Next thing you know they are a collector and are looking to fill-in the “blank” spaces in their collections with guns slightly different than what they have.
- The brand specific collecting. This speaks for itself. An enthusiasm for a brand. Be it Winchester, Remington or the other “big” names OR the obscure like Hamilton boys rifles. I have seen this type of collecting take over lives and become a way of life for entire families. Go to any major gun show and the entire perimeter of the show will have displays of brand specific collections and more often than not you with see the owners are a married couple who travel with their collection to every major show. I have even seen this as a generational thing, where Great Granddad started putting away NIB Winchesters and the hobby/interest has been upheld 3 and 4 generations in succession until the family needs to build a separate building just to hold their collections; and they are still collecting.
- The type specific collectors.Side by side shotguns, pump action shotguns, lever action rifles, single shots, specific gauges/calibers, etc. These collectors sometimes start out with collecting types within a brand then they either focus within the brand and/or they expand into other brands. Several of the most prevalent of these collectors are the Winchester Model 70 (pre 64) collectors, the Winchester Model 12 collectors, the Browning Superposed collectors, the Marlin lever action collectors. I would say that this may very well be the most obvious type of collecting and seems to generate the most on-going activity in the firearm collecting world.
You need only to consider that to collect all of the Winchester 61, 22 cal pump rifles it takes something like 25-30 different rifles, excluding engraved or special order configurations to see how involved this can get! How many calibers in carbine and rifle configurations were offered in the Winchester model 70? Pre war, transition, post war, low comb, steel butt, plastic butt plate, super grades, standards, featherweights, super grade/featherweights…Almost countless varieties to seek for your collection. And believe me the list of different specific types of guns that get collected is seemingly unlimited!
- Serial number collectors. You don’t see this very often but they are out there. They may collect anything that ends in the number 09. They may collect only single digit number guns. The most prolific of this group are the commemorative collectors who subscribe to a number and will not pass-up a gun with “their” serial number.
- Birth year collectors. This group will buy just about any gun made in their birth year. They have a lot of fun searching.
- Engraver collectors. This can fit also into a Brand collector or a Type collector. Many of the major manufacturers had in-house engravers like Colt, Winchester, Remington, Browning, Ithaca, Purdey, and many others. The Ulrich family of the early Winchester guns; the masters at Colt; McGraw at Ithaca; Ken Hunt at Purdey; Funken and all of those after him at Browning; all of the incredible masters that work(ed) in the Brescia area of Italy. These engravers are collected much like you would buy Picasso paintings or Georgia O’Keefe or any other famous artist. Modern engravers like Phil Grifnee, Ken Hunt, Creative Arts, numerous Italians, Winston Churchill and others are living, recognized for being masters and collected. Some people collect the contemporary engravers who have yet to be recognized for their mastery, the journeyman of their crafts betting that these engravers with be the next masters.
- Here’s what I want it to be collecting I know of collectors who will acquire a gun, send it an engraver for bulino or deep game scene engraving, then send it to another engraver specializing in scroll work, then maybe to a third for gold wire, then to a finishing specialist. After that they send it to a stock maker where a pre-selected piece of rare wood is fitting and finished then it may either stay there or be sent elsewhere for the art of checkering to be executed. This process can take several years of the completion of one gun. These patrons often have more than one gun in the “works”. The only problem with this type of collecting is that since each project is the embodiment of the patrons desires it often does not appeal to other collectors thus this one of the rare categories of gun collecting that may not produce a positive return on investment!
- Condition collectors. Regardless what the grade of the gun or rarity of it the item of utmost concern to these collectors is New In The Box condition. And there is always a better one that yours out there somewhere.
- Investor collecting. These collectors sometimes are gun enthusiasts sometimes they are just investors who are looking to acquire a gun for its increased value potential. With the softened economy and the fact that the dollar does not draw much of a return when placed in a bank some people, usually with the help of a knowledgeable dealer, will buy guns based on the historical fact that good guns increase in value. There are lots of very fine collectible firearms that hare sitting in the closets or safes of investors who I can’t really call collectors! This is a double edged sword in that we collectors would love to see those guns on the market but with them gone it makes our similar guns that much more scarce and desirable!
I have touched on just some of the types of collecting. If you are thinking about collecting I have some suggestions (tips) which I will discuss below. If you are collecting now maybe I have shown you a path that you may want to concentrate on or a type with which you may want to get involved. Regardless, you are interested in guns and that is part of our American heritage that is fun to pursue.
- Condition, condition, condition. Just like in real estate where the top three things that you need to look at is location, location, location; the condition of the gun is the single most important criteria in collecting! My suggestion is that whatever you decide to collect you seek the best condition available. In my many years in the business I can honestly tell you that guns with very high condition are always the easiest to sell; meaning that high condition is most desirable! This is not to say that if you have found a good example of what you are looking for than you may want to acquire that gun; but then always keep on the look-out for a better one. I know many collectors who know better than to pass-up on buying a good gun, because it can be very valuable “down-the-road” trading material.
What is high condition? The best is NIB (new in box). NIB is not always possible but still look. Next would be “as new” with or without box. After that high condition can be relevant to what type of gun you are looking at. I suggest that you purchase a Blue Book of Gun Values and study the grading system that they publish. It is very accurate and includes photographs which help immensely.
- Scarcity, options. After condition you might want to look for your specific gun with special order factory options. This could be a deluxe model, graded models, special sights, longer or shorter barrel length, engraving, single triggers, beavertail forends, etc. Some guns there just are not lots of options, some guns there are lots of options; you will quickly learn what was available from the factory and then you can formulate a collecting plan. Another nice bonus in this category is a “factory” letter or provenance on the gun about its origin, authenticity and possibly history.
- Buy what you like! If you are new to gun collecting buy or search out for guns that have an appeal to you. Do not just buy guns because you have heard that a “so and so” is a good investment. You can lose your interest in a hurry of you don’t buy the type of guns that you like. What young kid did not want a “cowboy” gun when he was younger? Now a somewhat older you can look for a nice lever action rifle and a matching revolver. Caution…The first lever action rifle will lead to a second and a third and… The same is true with the single action army revolver.
- Find a mentor. I don’t care who it is, seek guidance. You won’t have to be an interested collector for long before you will meet someone who can help you with answers to your questions. Someone who will know where to look for your “dream” gun and to sometimes tell you what to stay away from buying. Although higher-end dealers are in the business to sell you their guns, I promise you that most of the dealers that I know personally are in this game for the long haul and they want you for a long term customer so they will share their knowledge with you. Ask them questions, listen to them and remember that it is your money so do not hesitate to have them guarantee their guns as being “as described”.
- You will make mistakes. Trust me; if you don’t make a mistake(s) in your gun collecting, you are not collecting. Generally your mistake will not be of epic proportions, it will be a small, “I kinda got screwed on that one” deal from which you will recover. If you do make a mistake of “epic” proportions, then you did not ask questions or you did not get the guarantee!
In summary gun collecting is a lot of fun. It can become personal passion. It can become a family passion. It often becomes an enjoyable way to have fun and at the same time it becomes a rather nice investment. One of my dearest old friends used to invite me over to his basement, which was lined with gun cabinet after gun cabinet full of collectible Winchesters, where we would pour ourselves a Scotch and play with his “certificates of deposit”! Many years later we now pour ourselves a beverage of our choice and play with one of his many very fine English Sidelock Shotguns (bigger certificates of deposit)! I mention that just to illustrate that he could have put money into the stock market or other investments, but what fun is it to play with a piece of paper!!
Happy collecting... If you have questions or comments please send them to me.
B C Kinsey
Second Topic: Shotgun Shooting Secrets
(that everyone should know!)
Sighting-in your shotgun? I know you are about ready to dismiss this article already because you sight-in a rifle not a shotgun and I agree with you except for the fact that you have to know where your shotgun shoots compared to with where you are looking! Let me repeat that: You have to know where your shotgun shoots compared to where you are looking!
Remember those times every year, early in the bird hunting season, when you miss that first shot then you “bear down” and hit the bird on the second (or third) shot? Very simply you were not looking where your gun shoots. I will bet that a huge percentage of the people who go out and buy a shotgun never pattern the gun with the ammo that they are going to shoot. Would you ever take a rifle out deer hunting that you have not sighted-in? Of course you wouldn’t! You would never go big game hunting without first knowing exactly where the rifle shoots.
So why on earth would you pack up your new $2500 Beretta, put on your $700 worth of “proper” upland hunting gear, put your $3500 bird dog (with e-collar) into your $350 aluminum porta kennel, climb into your $55,000 Suburban and drive two hours (or two days) to miss the birds that you shoot at? It does not make much sense to me either. But there is a simple solution: Sight-in your shotgun.
Sighting-in your shotgun is different than patterning your shotgun, but the two functions can be accomplished at the same outing with the same equipment; just different procedures. I think we all know how to pattern a shotgun but if not here your go. Usually at your local trap/skeet/sporting clays club there is a patterning board which is often a sheet of plywood held up vertically by a couple of support posts. A better patterning board is a couple of vertical posts with open mesh steel in the span. You attach your pattern target, which you can either buy at an outdoor sporting store or you can make the pattern sheet with a wide roll of paper and a magic marker. The target has a 30” diameter circle with a target in the middle and a vertical and horizontal line that divide the target into 1/4ths. I like to tape the targets to the patterning board. Then you step back 25-30 yards, load your gun, mount your gun and fire at the target. You do this to see where the density of the shot hits the target. Patterning allows you to determine the correct choke.
Now for “sighting-in”. The exact same process as above for patterning, except now you only step back about 15 yards and with a little change in your mount. You have stepped back, you have loaded your gun now I want you to close your eyes while you mount the gun. No I do not want you to shoot with your eyes closed (although sometimes we feel like we are hunting with our eyes closed!). Mount your gun with your eyes closed; without changing the gun mount open your eyes, acquire the target and fire with both eyes open. Instead of a pattern in a 30” circle you will have a concentrated/dense pattern that will be very easy to discern where the gun is shooting compared to where you are looking. This is “sighting-in” a shotgun and think you will be amazed.
The lucky ones of you will have your target with top of the center almost obliterated. Ideally your shot will be “dead on” left to right and just a touch high vertically. About 55% high to 60% high and you are ready to go hunting.
I asked you to mount your gun with your eyes closed for an important reason. The perfect gun mount you bring the gun to your face NOT your face to the gun. Remember that first shot that you miss every year then you “bear down” and hit the second shot? You did not have a good gun mount. Bringing the gun to your face instead of your face to the gun is easy to learn and will make your shotgun shooting much better and easier.
At home, facing in front of a mirror, close your eyes, mount your gun and open your eyes, both eyes. You should be looking just over the top of the rib (barrel). If I was at the muzzle end looking back at you I want to see your iris just above the flat of the rib. I am not going to try to write all of the techniques that you can employ to learn to properly mount a gun so call me if you want specifics.
Now you have sighted-in your shotgun and it shoots left or right, or too high or too low; now what? If your gun mount is good and this is happening and you have a modern semi-auto or pump you probably have an easy fix. Many of today’s guns come with stock shims to correct those specific problems. I have lost count on how many shims I have changed in my lifetime to correct problems for customer’s shooting. It works!
A side x side or and O/U shotgun may not be so easy to correct, but it can be done. I recently was at a friend’s house going through his guns for him and found two really nice, small frame, small gauge Winchester 101’s. I looked at the guns and I said to him “bet you don’t shoot these worth a darn?” He asked how I knew that? Pretty simple, both guns’ stocks have left-hand cast to them and he is right handed; so they do not fit him AND he has owned the guns for 15 years and never understood why they did not shoot well for him. The guns are now having their stocks “bent” to correct the problem.
Stock bending is a centuries old process to change the cast and the drop on wood gun stocks. Done by a competent and experienced stock bending specialist, it works.
This is another “call me” for information.
Two last things and these are as important and gun mount and knowing where your gun shoots: BOTH EYES
OPEN and LOOK AT WHAT YOU ARE SHOOTING AT
With one eye closed you have no depth perception, period! If you don’t believe me try parallel parking with one eye closed; in fact try hitting a golf ball or just about anything with one eye closed; it does not work. Most of guns shot a BB gun or a rifle before we shot a shotgun so we aimed the gun and that habit followed us into our shotgun shooting. Quit it! Quit shooting with one eye closed RIGHT NOW! If for some reason your other eye is dominant than put a piece of scotch tape or a smudge of chapstick on the lens of your shooting glasses just over the focus spot of your (wrong) dominant eye. Now your weaker eye takes over and you still have your depth perception. Practice with both eyes open until you get used to it and soon you will not even remember closing one eye!
Now: Look at what you are shooting at. It is physically impossible to see the end of your gun barrel (the bead) and the bird at the same time! This is where your gun mount takes over. The proper gun mount and keeping both of your eyes looking at only what you are shooting at, be it a blue rock or a bobwhite quail is imperative. With the proper gun mount your eyes become an extension of where your gun is going to shoot so you never need to see the bead on the end of your barrel.
I promise you that if you know where your gun shoots, mount your gun properly and shoot with both eyes open looking at your target, your shotgun shooting experiences will be much more rewarding and a lot more fun.
Well in order not to confuse you any more than I probably already have I am drawing this to an end.
B C Kinsey
Third Topic: Long Gun Storage
There are many opinions on the subject of long gun storage and since I am asked the question once in a while I thought I should write down my answer.
I store my long guns in dedicated "gun safes". By dedicated I simply mean safes that were designed specifically for protecting guns from theft and/or fire. These safes are all pretty much the same regardless of brand..They are a steel box with a reinforced steel door that has a variety of bolts and some kind of a locking device. Most of the steel boxes are lined with a fire resistant material and most are tested and carry certification as to the length of time they will withstand an established external heat keeping the interior below 350 degrees. Personally I see much sense of buying a safe with a rating over 1/2 hour unless you live in an extremely remote area where the fire department will not be able to get to the fire quickly.
My biggest concern with gun safes is about the damage that can occur on your fine firearms when there is no fire or burglary! RUST is the single most common damage to guns stored in a gun safe. Remember that these are steel boxes and steel can "sweat" from heat and changes in humidity. Living in the midwest, as with most parts of the country the weather changes constantly and my safes are subjected to huge temperature swings and dramatic changes in humidity.
So how to prevent RUST?
First make certain that when you place your gun safe you put a moisture barrier between the bottom of the safe and the floor (usually concrete that also "sweats"). The moisture barrier can be as simple as a garbage bag or as complex as a custom pallet. I don't care as long as there is something between the floor and the safe that moisture cannot penetrate.
Second use a in-safe dehumidifier. My favorite is a "Golden Rod" or similar constant heater that you put into the safe, while it stays plugged into a wall outlet. Your safe will most likely have a grommet to run the cord through and I like to seal that hold with silicone or the spray foam stuff once the cord is in place. You may use desiccant but you have to monitor desiccant because it becomes full of moisture and needs to be "baked-out" occasionally.
Third after you clean your long gun (keep from wiping it completely dry) put each in a silicone treated "sock" like those made by Sack-Ups. I think they are about $8@. The "sock" has multiple purposes and all are good for protecting your guns. The silicone treatment keeps moisture away. The "sock" has enough fabric to keep guns from "bumping" into each other in the safe. It is pretty evident that the manufacturers mush used "stick guns" for determining how many guns a safe can hold because as soon as you put a scoped rifle or a SxS in there then you see that the 14-gun safe is actually a tight 10-gun safe. So the gun "sock" are great at preventing little bumps and bruises.
Finally, Up or Down? Butt down or Muzzle down? It depends. Recoil pads are made of rubber or a rubber blend that when compressed for long periods develops a memory and will harden...those guns I always put muzzle down. Butt plates and checkered butts are not a big of a concern but I put mine muzzle down for an entirely different reason..It keeps and oil for draining into the buttstock.
Well there you have my "expert" advice for storing your long guns.
B C Kinsey