One of my late father’s hobbies was gun collecting and competitive shooting. He was a licensed gun dealer, member of the NRA, and a trained concealed handgun instructor. As can be expected, my siblings and I grew up around guns and were taught by our father to respect a gun’s power and the damage it could cause. We were instructed about how to hold, fire, clean, and store a firearm. When my sister and I became independent and moved into our own apartment, Daddy made sure that we each had a handgun for personal protection.
With all the mass shootings of late, gun control has been a very hot topic. I fully expect some of my readers will object to my topic today, but I personally do not believe that blaming guns or lack of strict gun control laws is the problem. It is not my intention to start a debate here, but only to add a footnote to the subject matter. As part of my studies to become a certified antique appraiser, I studied about guns, swords, and armor. I thought I would share some of what I learned and facts that I thought were most interesting.
Guns and how they are related to a time and place is how a collector begins to appreciate the fact that for more than four centuries, guns were instruments of survival. In America, Kentucky rifles were the first guns of consequence that were made here. They were used in the French and Indian wars (1754-1760) and during Pontiac’s Conspiracy (1763-1765). The French and Indian War was American backwoodsmen fighting against French and Indian allies. Pontiac’s Conspiracy was another conflict between the backwoodsmen and Indians. The Kentucky rifle, was described by Captain John G. W. Dillin in the dedication to his seminal 1924 book, The Kentucky Rifle:
From a flat bar of soft iron, hand forged into a gun barrel; laboriously bored and rifled with crude tools; fitted with a stock hewn from a maple tree in the neighboring forest; and supplied with a lock hammered to shape on the anvil; an unknown smith, in a shop long since silent, fashioned a rifle which changed the whole course of world history; made possible the settlement of a continent; and ultimately freed our country of foreign domination. Light in weight; graceful in line; economical in consumption of powder and lead; fatally precise; distinctly American; it sprang into immediate popularity; and for a hundred years was a model often slightly varied but never radically changed.
Other American guns that changed modern warfare are the Mississippi rifle, Springfield rifle, Sharps single shot, and Spencer Seven Shooter. The Spencer’s were the first to see action and were designed to meet the needs of the military. They were easier to load than the Colt and other repeaters. Even though they were heavy, they were widely distributed to the Union troops. The Civil War was when the rifle became a truly decisive weapon. The Springfield rifle, in the hands of Federal troops, along with anti-personnel artillery fire, stopped General Lee’s mass assaults at Gettysburg (July 1863) and ended the tactics of the Napoleonic age of warfare (maneuvering masses of troops in open country).
Determining the value of an antique firearm today is greatly dependent upon the condition, rarity, and historical association of the weapon. If you are lucky enough to own one of these five rifles, you have a true part of American history. Some recent research revealed that a Kentucky rifle in good condition would be worth about $4000, an 1863 Springfield musket rifle about the same, a Spencer Seven Shooter (rare in good condition) is about $3000, a Sharps single shot is about $2200-$2800, and an 1841 Mississippi rifle is about $3150.
If you are interested in an appraisal on your antiques and collectibles, contact me at 866-653-9669 or email: email@example.com .