Antique & Vintage Firearms



2015-06-26 11:18:21

Antique & Vintage Firearms are an area of militaria collectibles encompassing projectile weapons, produced prior to the mid 20th century.

A firearm is described by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘a weapon from which missiles are propelled by the combustion of gunpowder or other explosive’.

The generally accepted definition of antique is based on the US 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which states that antiques are items produced prior to 100 years previously. Vintage is defined as ‘denoting an old style or model’, usually including items produced up to the mid 20th century.

Therefore an antique firearm is a firing weapon produced over 100 years ago. A vintage firearm is one produced during the early-mid 20th century.



Antique & vintage firearms are a popular area of collectibles.

Collectors of antique & vintage firearms often focus their collection on a particular time period, brand or model, or event such as a war or battle in which firearms were used. Previous ownership has a huge bearing on the value and desirability of these weapons. Firearms previously owned by a famous figure, particularly if a gun was a significant aspect of their image, persona or history, are very sought-after.

Some of the most popular items include Colt revolvers, Remington firearms, and Smith & Wesson firearms.

Collectors may obtain antique & vintage firearms through antique auctions, antique fairs, antique shops, gun shows, and inheritance.

In general, you do not need a gun license to own an antique or vintage firearm. When sold on the public market, they are often deactivated and no longer fire.

Antique firearms fall into two divisions: muzzleloading and cartridge firing. Muzzleloading antique guns are usually collected as display pieces. Antique cartridge firing guns are occasionally owned with the intent of using them as shooting pieces, although those made during the mid 19th century, of soft steel and using black powder as a propellant, are not as accurate or effective as those made from the 1890s onwards.

Prior to the late 18th century, muzzleloading firearms were not regularly standardised. This makes their provenance more difficult to establish than later cartridge firing guns.


From as early as 700 AD, ancient Chinese scientists and inventors experimented with gunpowder and fire-lances, a tube filled with gunpowder on the end of a spear used as a flamethrower. They developed firearms in the 12th century. The Middle East obtained firearms in the 14th century. It is speculated that gunpowder came to Europe via the Middle East.

The first use of the word ‘firearm’ in the English language was recorded in the Dark Ages, used to denote the arm holding the match which lit the touch hole of a hand cannon. Eventually the phrase came to become synonymous with the weapons themselves.

During the Early Modern era, hand-held cannons were developed into the flintlock rifle, the breech loader, and then the automatic weapon. The bayonet was conceived in 17th century France.

Firearm development accelerated during the 1800s and 1900s. The Springfield rifle, created by the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts in the 1850s, was among the first breech-loading rifles, breech-loading becoming the standard method of reloading hand-held firearms. Magazines holding multiple munitions were added to the design.

Until the mid 19th century, projectiles and propellant were most usually separate components. They were used in a muzzle-loading firearm, such as a rifle, pistol or cannon. A system evolved of combining powder and bullet in paper known as a cartridge. As of World War I, this method became the primary form of ammunition.

Repeating models that allow a firearm to hold more than one cartridge, and do not require reloading between charges, were also created in the 19th century. The most well-known of these are revolvers, the first of which was the Colt Paterson patented by Samuel Colt in 1836.

Firearms have become the predominant weapons used by mankind. Since the late Renaissance, warfare has relied upon firearms, and their development has guided military history, the way battles are conducted, and the modern army. This has resulted in a fascinating array of antique and vintage firearms available to collectors, often so interesting due to where they were made, who they were used by, and their place in the history of firearm development.


World’s most expensive antique & vintage firearm

A pair of flintlock pistols by Walster, Saarbrucken, with a providence including General George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, and President Andrew Jackson, were sold for $1.96 million at Christie’s New York in January 2002.


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