Sunday, June 01, 2014

Guns and grails.

I mentioned the other day that I'd like to have an old Peacemaker of some sort someday. Here's the thing: With gun collecting, that's a completely attainable goal. A surprising number of what we refer to as "grail guns" are within reach of ordinary mortals.

Now, one would absolutely need to be a person of some means to be a serious collector of old Colt's single-actions. Even the cheapest shooter-grade First Generation SAA is gonna be a grand or two, and nice ones are priced more like cars or real estate. Enough Single Action Armies to qualify as a "collection" is gonna be getting into serious money pretty quickly.

But suppose you don't want to collect? Suppose you just want that one shooter-grade Peacemaker to take to the range every now and again, and maybe take apart and clean while you watch Lonesome Dove DVDs? A tangible link to the old frontier that you can touch and hold and call your very own? Well, that's pretty doable, then.

Old Colts, as well as Trapdoor Springfields, Spencer carbines, GI 1911s, Lugers... Stay away from the rarest variants and be willing to accept a worn finish and some mismatched serial numbers and suddenly an awful lot of really cool and historic guns fall into that price range of used motorcycle/nice entertainment system/photography hobby/Florida vacation; a price range that is attainable by most folks via a bit of judicious brown-bagging of lunches.

And unlike that used motorcycle or home entertainment system, a classic gun won't be a thoroughly-depreciated paperweight five or ten years later. A Luger or Peacemaker might not be an "investment" in the hardest fiscal sense of the term, but they at least tend to keep up with inflation (and they're a lot more fun to take to the range than a stock certificate.)


Joel said...

I have always wanted - and never owned - a Luger.

Don't really know why. I just think they're cool.

ISH (Mininerd) said...

There is also a decently large, and fairly accurate, market for replicas of old firearms... And a reproduction Peacemaker is a lot more fun than a coffee table book about old Porches.

Robert Fowler said...

There's a vendor here at the local shows that has several trapdoors. Most of them are under a grand.

He also has a decent collection of late 1800 cavalry swords. Some of those get a bit pricey. I'm waiting for him to get a Marine sword.

My problem is there are so many guns I would love to own and no money. Sometimes retirement sucks.

RevolverRob said...

Great wisdom in this post. The number of "new in box" guns I have bought over the years lays in the single digits. But the number of "mechanically sound, worn finish and/or mismatched guns" is well into the double digits by now.

Of doesn't help that most of the guns that I really love and/or want were ceased to be manufactured oh....30-150 years before I was born.


Anonymous said...

A very good point. However, as a father of two, I find myself second-guessing any gun purchases I am tempted to make these days. I have the basics more than covered and even have a decent collection of moderately-hard-to-find pieces (especially factoring in condition).

Before I spend any money on a gun, I have to ask myself if my family would be enriched more by spending that money on an epic vacation (like the trip to Disney they're still talking about years later) or something that we could all do together (our recent foray into archery).

I also feel like my kids would place more value on the hunting rifle I bought new and used to harvest deer their entire lives or the j-frame I bought new and carried their entire lives. The marks on those guns belong entirely to me and are mementos of my life, not something purchased.

I guess I have a couple grails left, but they'll have to be found at unlikely low prices before I'd jump on them.


D.W. Drang said...

Early in my Army career I was talking to a 'Nam era "retread" who had thrown away a career with Merril Lynch Smith Barney Frank and re-upped. He told me that the safest investment for me was guns, because I knew them (for given values of "know") and they would always keep some value.

BTW, I still get a kick out of the photos I once saw of the SAA collection of Mel Torme...

KevinC said...

I've got a weird attraction to top-break S+W's, so that'd be my collecting drug of choice if I ever get bit with this bug.

Oh, and the guns of the NWMP/Riel Rebellion (because Canada), and also the guns of the Victorian era: Michael Bane showed off Sir Henry Stanley's 4 bore on Shooting Gallery this season, and I had to pause the DVR to bask in it's glory.

leaddog said...

I bought an 1879 version of the 1873 trap door from an estate on a whim and at the urging of a friend who has several. It was an impulse buy, but the attached bayonet sealed the deal. It is a cool piece of history that I could shoot, if I wanted. It appears to be in reasonable condition with a bright clean barrel. As I wipe it down and oil it once in a while, I wonder if it has any interesting stories to tell.

RandyGC said...

Always wanted a wartime production "NAZI" Hi-Power, just because.

Never acted as the really nice ones at various Death Merchants were always above my limit.

Then I picked up a BHP for use as a project gun from what I think was an estate sale for a very good price for a generic BHP.

Got it home to start evaluating it and found the Waffenamt all over it. (At the show I checked the barrel and looked for obvious wear etc., I was planning to refinish it anyway so didn't look that closely at the markings).

I paid a fair price for a project gun and a VERY good price for something I had always wanted. Sometimes you just get lucky.

alath said...

Unfortunately my grail guns are less attainable.

DP 28

I don't know why this is my grail list; they're not all the greatest weapons but they all have a certain indefinable je ne sais quoi.

Being full auto unfortunately puts these things into a price range where I am more likely to consider a down payment on a rental property than a great toy that keeps up with inflation.

Carmel IN

greg said...

Back in my formative years, I read a LOT of Alistair MacLean books...and there were several firearms that turned up again, and again, and again in his books. His hero's preferred Navy .455's, and almost always carried a 4.25 Lilliput as a backup. He extolled the stopping power of the 7.62 Lugers, and his bad guys carried Schmeissers well into the 1970's.

Of course, these gun's formed my first batch of 'Grail' Guns.

Imagine my disappointment as I got older, and found out however thrilling of a tale he might be able to write, Mr. MacLean's gun knowledge was...well, lacking.

In fact, just today I was re-reading part of the Guns of Navarone, wincing each time Keith Mallory eases off the safety on his .455.

I still wouldn't mind one(although the Schmeisser would be tough to get my hands on), but any 'grail' gun I get, be it Lilliput, or Luger, of Python, is going to have to a 'shooter' grade...I want something I can have fun with, not just look at.

og said...

I used to really want a Luger, then I saw someone "Modernize" a broomie, and I have wanted to do that ever since. They put ivory grips on it and it had a really beautiful stock; they did a deep cobalt reblue with fire blued accents. Ever since, I have wanted to find a functional but not collectible broomie and do the same thing. I only have five project guns to work my way through before I can start thinking about that.

Kristophr said...

Bannermann special trapdoors are still pretty cheap. Everyone should have one.

tailwind said...

So, no comments on a thoughtful, common-sense post about buying a collectible firearm without taking a second mortgage,and 30 comments on a post about some bozo who steals skin for profit.

What is the blogosphere coming to?

FWIW, I have a collectible or two that didn't break the bank, but don't have any plans to get every variant of them. I like the ones I have, although they are in real nice shape and I am reluctant to shoot them.

Kevin R.C. O'Brien said...

There are two ways to have a "collection" -- one is to go all out on something specific and attainably narrow for your means (whatever they may be). I met a guy who collects H&R top break revolvers at the range, he has a lot of guns he bought for $25 and $50 or swapped for a couple of bricks of .22.

The other way is to just get what you want. When I was a kid my collection focus was on "unusual semi-auto military rifles" and "Russian and Chinese guns" (back before they were available except as Finnish Army surplus or wartime bringacks. You don't want to know what I paid for a rusty Chicom T56 SKS). But there was also a "that's really neat" factor. I never did get a Dardick tround pistol or a GyroJet.

The only guns I've regretted are the ones I've sold.

Critter said...

I've had a couple of Luger down the years. mismatched and slightly worn, one in .30 and one in 9, they were by George Luger and they were beautiful. They came part with ease, shot like laser beams and cost just over three bills. How I miss those guns.

NotClauswitz said...

That's how/why I got my 1909 Colt, I wanted a period gun that was the replacement to the ineffective .39LC pistol, t0o go with the 1900 Krag. I'm not a collector by any means, just an accumulator.

Sabre22 said...

I got one of My Grail guns a few years ago now Colt Python Blue not Stainless though and six not a 4 inch barrel. So now I need its 4 inch counterpart

Firehand said...

My Grail Gun is a S&W K-32. And I WANT it in used-but-mechanically-good condition because I want to take the thing out and shoot it.

Problem is, every single one I've found, both at shows and on-line, is NIB or LNIB; and priced way over what I can justify spending for one. I've asked a couple of S&W collectors if they ever see any 'used and good to shoot' ones: "They turn up occasionally, but they get grabbed before anybody gets a chance to hear about them."

Anonymous said...

I continually keep my eyes open for two guns, one a pistol, the other a rifle. I have never clapped eyes on an example of the pistol, and even pictures online are scarce. The rifle is a "grail gun" solely because I want to find one under a certain price; there's usually one or three of each on Gunbroker at any given moment, but they're priced well beyond my desire to pay.

What are they?

Short-rail CZ 75 Pre-B.
Savage 99 or Winchester 88 in .358 Winchester.

I already have my other "grail guns," which makes gun shows fairly boring, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

It perturbs me greatly to go to the basement to clean out some old boxes and find one or two of the catalogues I received as a C&R holder. Lugers for $250.00....Balistar Molinas(sp?) for $110...broomhandles for $175, Swiss rifles for $80.

I have to stop cleaning out the basement.....

Get your grail guns now, folks....

kaeghl in ILL-Annoyed

Tim Ellwood said...

I have bought a couple of my "grail guns" here. Luckily, it is down the road from my house. You never know what they will get in.

Matt said...

My grail guns? Not very graily, but not to spendy either. .22lr revolvers from H&R, High Standard, Charter Arms. .22 rifles, semi and bolt, made for the old department stores (Sears, JCPenney, Walmart etc) and .410 shotguns made for the generic hardware store market prior to '68.

Goober said...

You know, I don't think that I can recall seeing one single peacemaker in the Lonesome Dove movies?

I'm pretty sure Gus carried a Walker Colt. I know this because his pistol is featured prominently in the scene where he is obliged to whack the bartender in order to procure something other than surly service. Bad gun handling...

I want to say that Call carried a Russian, but I haven't seen the movie in years.

One of the things that I appreciated about the movie, in fact, was tha authenticity of the firearms used. Seemed to me like back in the John Wayne days of westerns, you either carried a peacemaker, a bowie knife, or both. Eastwood was the only popular cowboy actor that did anything other than a peacemaker. No 60's variant army or navy revolvers, colts dragoons, russians..... Just peacemakers.

will_1400 said...

My Grail guns are all but unobtanium: PSG-1, WA2000, and SVD.

Of the three, the Walther wouldn't get shot by me. Being a southpaw means I'd be getting a face full of gas, brass, and charging handle with every shot.

roland said...

Alath, full auto toys are appreciating much faster than real inflation due to that old fixed supply thing. I know a dude who bought an Uzi in 2000 for $3k. They're trading at $11k+. Buy an MG42 or a BAR. You won't regret it.

Stretch said...

My grail gun is an unbubbaed, non-"K"-fied G98 to go with the M98 bayonet my Grandfather brought back from WWI. I found one for $700 but it was, quite literally, falling apart.

mikee said...

I knew I had gone from "fun shooting" to "stupid spending" when I got the bayonets for the Swedish Mauser, the Lee-Enfield and the Swiss Schmidt Rubin.

Sure, they look good in the gun safe, but the only rifle I can use at the range with a bayonet attached without feeling silly is my Mosin, because the damn thing is attached to the barrel and it shoots better with the pointy end extended forward.

Rob Reed said...

Well said. I always wanted an UZI and when our state laws changed so I could actually own one, I made it happen.

Granted, the money I spent on the UZI has kept me from getting some other "grail guns" but I'm fine with the opportunity cost here. I'll still pick up a Luger and Broomhandle Mauser and a few other things eventually. None of those are going up in price as fast as MG's anyway.

Beaumont said...

Where to begin? Mauser Zig-Zag, Bergmann-Bayard, Mauser 71/84, and many more.

I don't have a theme aside from liking funky old guns that I can shoot. The above would fit in nicely with the Vetterli, Beaumont-Vitali, Mannlicher, and Enfields I already have.

Scott said...

I might be buying a SAA in the near future. My wife and I have friends that came into one as an inheritance and have no interest in or desire to keep it (they think guns are icky) and they have repeatedly ignored my suggestion of taking it to a dealer to sell so I finally said I'd buy it so they could quit worrying about it jumping out of the closet and murdering them in their sleep. Anyone know what a 1898 manufactured SAA with 4 1/2 inch barrel chambered in .41 colt and little nickle remaining is worth?