People collect all kinds of things. Old cell phones. Funko pops. Sneakers. Coins. Cars. Minerals. The list goes on and on. I wouldn't be surprised if, when the very first ancient smoke pole was produced for the commercial market, the same guy that bought the inaugural model came back the next day to see if there was a new and improved version for sale. Thus began the tradition of gun collecting, or so I theorize. 

Today, there is any number of reasons to acquire a firearm-- for sporting uses, personal defense, and as cherished passed-down family heirlooms. It is also standard to get them "just because." Once you have more than one, you are on the road to being a collector, which can take any number of avenues. 

It is up to the budding collector to decide what they want kind of guns to fill their safe with, and that is one of the most American things ever stated. 

 

Some choose to go with a certain manufacturer, for instance, all things Colt. (All photos: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
Some prefer guns made in certain countries, such as German-made compact handguns in this case. 

 

You can carry this on to calibers-- only collecting .44 Magnums-- or styles-- collecting single-action revolvers of the Old West era only-- whatever. I know at least two different people who try to acquire guns manufactured the same birth year as them. 

Guns with long factory runs will have numerous generational engineering changes to improve the firearm and make it easier to produce. For instance, the Glock 17, which has now been around for 40 years in continuous production is on the fifth Glock-declared generation while collectors recognize several different incremental variants as well. The S&W Model 10 is on its 14th generation since 1957.

Some collectors who really like a particular model often grab one of each variant, or try to, and such sampling can really illustrate the factory changes over time. 

 

These two FN (Browning) Hi-Powers are both Belgian-marked but are very different, with the left being a WWII-era Pistole 640(b) made for the German army and subsequently carried by an Alabama sheriff's deputy after it was brought back to the States in a duffle bag after 1945, while the BHP on the right is a T-series gun made in the early 1970s and sold to the Israeli military then recently imported to the U.S.. Talk about yin and yang. 
Comparing the two BHPs, the 1944 gun, on top, has early FN features such as the internal extractor and "thumbprint" slide while the T-series, made some 25 years later, has an external extractor and smooth profile slide. 

 

On otherwise collectible pieces that are not in "mint in box" condition, there is nothing wrong with minor updates that do not permanently change the firearm, coupled with occasional range visits to fully enjoy the gun. Just be sure to save any of the original parts that are removed so the gun can be "reset" down the road if desired.  

 

When updated with new springs and grips, as well as a more up-to-date magazine such as a Mec-Gar 15-rounder, the T-series is a great shooter that has proved very reliable, showing why the BHP was one of the world's best-known combat handguns. 
Speaking of continued use, guns like this ex-Spanish Guardia Civil Star BM, an 8+1 capacity commander-sized 9mm single stack, was made in 1977 and is still very capable today, if a bit heavy when compared to the current crop of micro 9s. 

 

A durable piece of history, firearms can often carry a story of another time and place, frozen in history as much as a prehistoric fly caught in amber. 

 

This circa 1920 production German Mauser M1914 .32 ACP is complete with the original holster it was captured with by a GI in 1945. His name is inside the flap. 
It is loaned out from time to time to a local WWII reenactor group to pass its story, and that of the Vet who brought it back, to new generations. 

 

Guns can also be collected due to a familial connection to a historical event or period. 

 

This Walther P-38, a rare late-production circa 1976 P4 variant with a shorter barrel and reinforced frame, was issued to the West German border guard (BGS) and customs (Zoll) agencies. It is important to me because my grandmother had fled her birthplace in then-East Germany, refusing to live under Communist oppression. She became a West German citizen in 1962, just after the Berlin Wall went up, and later legally emigrated to the U.S where she had an American flag in front of her house until the day she died. 

 

Current events can often be a boon to collectors. A sort of Newton's third law as applied to the firearms market if you will. 

For instance, as a side effect of the thawing of the Cold War after the demise of the Soviet Union, the mid-1990s saw Russian military surplus firearms flood the market at prices that would make you cry today. Mosin M91/30s for sale by the crate (20 rifles for $1,100), complete with all the accessories. Nagant M1895 pistols, with holsters and cleaning tools, for $49 a pop. Tula-marked SKS-45s with early 1950s production dates for $99. This leads to the easy argument about investing in firearms. 

The important takeaway if you find yourself in a similar market:

While they seem almost too inexpensive at the time to waste precious dollars on, once the supply dries up for whatever reason and the going price shoots up, any would-be collectors who missed out can do in later years is shake their heads and moan about how they "shoulda got one when they were cheap." 

 

One recent blip on the collectible guns radar has been the adoption of the Beretta APX by various Italian police forces. This caused several surplus 1970s Beretta 92 and 81 Cheetah models to hit American shores, while at the same time surplus gear dealers carried liquidated stocks of matching holsters and web gear for peanuts. 

 

In the end, gun collecting is a natural part of human nature, at least in a free country, anyway. 

Love cool old guns like these? Be sure to check out our carefully curated Military Classics and Collector's Corner sections where history is just a click away.

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