There is an objective and a subjective definition of what might be meant when you hear the term “antique guns for sale.” First, there is the legal definition, prescribed by the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934, which specifies a legal definition. For the full verbiage of the law, you can visit the website of the BATFE, but in summary, some of the big takeaways are as follows. A firearm may be considered antique if it was produced before 1898, and not intended for modern rimfire or centerfire ignition systems, although it also includes firearms designed with these systems of ignition for which ammunition is no longer produced.
This provides the framework for a legal definition. However, you might also consider modern sidelocks or muzzleloaders to be antiques even though they were only produced a few years ago. There are also some firearms that you might colloquially refer to as antiques; for example, the M1903 was produced through 1949 and the .30-06 Springfield cartridge with which it is frequently paired may be old but is anything but a dinosaur. It utilizes a modern centerfire mechanism and both the ammunition and the firearm were produced after 1898. You might hear these rifles called antiques, but that does not make them so.
At any rate, if you’re looking for antique guns for sale to round out your collection, here are some of our best tips for locating them and (hopefully) getting a great deal.
Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open at the Range
Spending some quality time at the range, especially at ranges that allow black powder shooters, is a great way to locate other collectors and sportsmen that might have an interest in antique firearms. Some collectors are still dedicated to arcane black powder cartridges and muzzleloaders, and they show up at ranges from time to time.
Interaction with them will not always prove fruitful; for example, some of them may be shooting heirlooms that have been passed down, but others might know of other collectors willing to sell part of their collection, or of traders or gun shops elsewhere in the country, of which you have never heard.
Strike up a courteous conversation. Compliment another shooter’s gun, and ask how they came by it. You just might locate a brand new source of antique firearms that you knew nothing about.
Visit Local Gun Shops and Talk to the Owners
Not all gun shops are good sources of information about antique firearms, or even sell them. However, some gun shops take pride in their consignments and actively solicit sources of antiques that they then offer up for sale. Some sellers even specialize in the sale of genuine antiques, reproductions, and black powder firearms. If you can fund one of these, it’s a gold mine of “oldies.”
Stop in frequently, because when a deal pops up on the rack, it may not be there for long. Even in such an esoteric market, a good deal is unlikely to last long. Some antique firearms may even never have been fired and are sometimes sold for a song. If you want to get a great deal on a product for which there is such a strictly limited supply, you need to actively make yourself available.
By the way, a reputable gun shop that frequently offers antique firearms is also a great source of information, whether or not there’s something that catches your interest in the current catalog. Talk to the owners about their sources; some traders might come in frequently to offer what they have found for sale, and the proprietors of the shop might be willing to connect the dots for you.
Follow Your Favorite Producers
While no one can produce an “authentic” antique in the sense that guns manufactured before 1898 are no longer manufactured, many modern producers create reproductions of antique firearms, or manufacture entirely new models of sidelocks. CVA, Traditions, Lyman and Pedersoli all lead the market for muzzleloaders and reproductions, whereas specialty companies like Uberti and Pedersoli specifically produce reproductions based on original models.
You may be looking for the goods of a bygone era, but it’s 2021. Follow these producers on social media and you’ll be the first to know about new production and plans as well as any specials and deals. You may also be able to get in touch with these producers and find a shop in your area that sells them.
Talk to Friends and Family That Also Collect Guns
Finally, our last pointer is to keep in touch with friends and family that also shoot or collect old guns. If they have them, they may be able to point you in the direction of their preferred gun shop. They might even be willing to part with some of their collection, for a price, of course!
Stop by Our Shop
As the area’s leading supplier of firearms and parts, we’d love for you to come visit us in our shop in Easton, Pennsylvania. We carry countless firearms and parts, including reproductions of historic models as well. Check out our collection online first to see if something catches your attention - and if not, you can always get in touch with us at 610-250-3960. If you can’t see it on our website, we’d still be more than happy to point you in the right direction. Make sure you follow us on social media, too - Facebook, Instagram and Twitter - so you can be the first to know about any new offerings or specials.