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June 13, 2008

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Investing in Rifles

There has been a lot of whining over the years about my taste for expensive rifles, but the question has never arisen about how well they have held up as investments. The answer is, mixed. The wood-stocked rifles have done just fine, on the whole, but the synthetic stocks have not even maintained their list price. Wood-stocked rifles are viewed as half work of art, half rifle, and so people get all teary-eyed about them. They don't even have to be particularly good rifles.

A prime example would be a rare variant of the original Winchester Model 70, say, a carbine in 7.65 Mauser. The last one I saw was built in the 1930s, and probably cost $70. But now it's a collector's piece and it costs $17,000. Just a plain working rifle. Or there was the run of Model 99s with fancy wood, lousy engraving, and French gray receivers that Savage turned out in the late 1960s. At the time, these cost around $450, and people snickered. Now, they bring $14,000, and no one is snickering.

Fine wood-stocked rifles tend to do very well, due in large part to the fact that until the 1980s, they were outrageously underpriced. In the early 1970s, a first-rate working custom rifle was about $1,200. A fancy one would double that. If you had bought such a gun forty years ago from a gunsmith of note and taken care of it, you could now get probably four times what you originally paid. Try that with a car.

Synthetic-stocked rifles have not done nearly so well. When they started to appear in the late 1970s, the men who built them looked on the breed as pure working guns, and never mind the fit and finish. Now, the top-rank synthetic-stock guns are as nicely done as their wood-stocked cousins, but their prices don't hold up. If you want one, get it as a tool, not an investment. As the former, it will delight you. As the latter, it will leave you with a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.

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Comments

jstreet

Precious metals, land and stocks are investments.

Guns and cars tend to be considered depreciating assets (for lack of a better term). You kind of figure you will lose your rump on most of them. Sure, there are a few that will actually appreciate in value, but very, very few.

Having said that, to each their own. This is America, and a person can spend their money on anything they wish.

But Dave, when a person disagrees with your choice of spending habits it doesn't make them a whiner, it just means they disagree and/or think you are a bit foolish (but that's their right too).

Enjoy your weekend.

Jim

RipperIII

Dave,
on your advice, I purchased a Tikka T-3 .270 as my first(and only)rifle . I wanted to get it in stainless/plastic thinking in terms of maintenance, durability and functionality, but when I went to purchase the rifle Beretta was completely out of stock in anything but the hunter series in blue steel and hardwood. So with a pressing deadline(my first deer hunt)I took the wood stocked model...got my first deer and I am completely enamored with my wood stocked gun, I think that it is the most beautiful gun in the world, like the saying goes..."you always remember your first" Now I don't presuppose any long term investment value to this gun, but I don't really care, what is important to me is that everytime my eyes fall upon my Tikka...I smile.

RipperIII

Dave,
as a post script to my earlier post, I hope one day to be able to afford more fancy weapons and I certainly don't begrudge anyone who owns them, I admire the beauty as much as anyone, and I dearly love to out-shoot those 5-6 figure pieces of art with my lil' stoeger...

RipperIII

Dave,
as a post script to my earlier post, I hope one day to be able to afford more fancy weapons and I certainly don't begrudge anyone who owns them, I admire the beauty as much as anyone, and I dearly love to out-shoot those 5-6 figure pieces of art with my lil' stoeger...

Bubba

Investing in Rifles!?
How about just investing in firearms? ...guns?
I have a few low (?) grade firearms in my closet. I don't have any spectacular collecter items in there either!
Back in the late 70's and early 80's, I worked in a gun shop. I found out then that ANY decent, above average firearm was a good investment.
I have a problem with the "investment" side of the picture because once I purchase one, I find it very difficult to sell it! But that's just me!
We had a gentleman that would come in the store any time we got a shipment of arms. I can't think of how many times he purchased sets (?) of guns because of subsequent serial numbers! One gent bought a Ruger M77 Roundtop because the caliber was NOT catalogued! Two barrel sets of M12 Win shotguns. Want to find a really pricey collector's item? Look up a M12 Win in 28 ga.! They are out there, but be ready! I know, I know! I'm talking about antique type arms. But that's not all! A Raven .25 ACP isn't even a good trot line weight, but drag out a Browning in .25 ACP and watch real gun nuts slobber!
I have yet to buy a firearm that hasn't appreciated in value, except for maybe my M77/22 in s/s. But I don't care, it ain't for sale anyway!

Guns! Good investment!
Cars! Bad investment!

Bubba

rob

Being lucky enough to posess a Model 12 in 28 gauge - Skeet barrel, good wood, checkered and in mint condition - I know of hens teeth.
Good guns - Classics or those built by a good custom maker - Goens, Jaeger, Fischer - Will not lose you money.
Those that whine about expensive tastes are boorish, not opinion expressors.

rob

Let me change that previous post a little - Not necessarily boorish, but boring. Anyone can trumpet the 870 or 110 or 700 - These are good guns, fun to shoot and will put meat on the table.
But to appreciate a custom gun or a rare bird enough to buy one, or have interests in them, shows a different level of appreciation for the sport (and art) of firearms, not to mention your quarry.
It doesn't make you a snob (although with some people it does), mostly it shows a refined interest in your passion. Mario Andretti wouldn't be satisfied looking at Ford Taurus', just as Petzal has probably grown weary of looking at (and appreciating) plastic stocked, Wal-mart production guns.

Del in KS

Just got back from the range. Shot my 2 most favorite guns. Shiloh Sharps 45-70 with Montana Vintage Arms vernier tang sights and my Bingham Flintlock long rifle. They are a joy to hold and shoot. Both have beautiful wood and are very accurate. Neither will ever be for sale in my lifetime.

Del in KS

The Flinter is a Lancaster style with Tiger striped maple full stock and engraved brass patchbox. The barrel is a Getz 39" swamped with Siler lock. Natty Bumpo would have loved it. It was $1300 in 1991 I expect it is worth more today.

rob,
I new what you were talking about on your first post. If I could afford it, damn right I'd own those fine guns and never feel a need to explain to anyone.
The word 'afford' trips some men up. Money in the bank doesn't mean you can afford it, theres other thing in life.

Jim in Mo.

rob,
Sorry that was me.
Been having comp problems lately.

Jim in Mo.

Del,
I always get confused when talking about older rifles. Since I've never owned one.
So the Sharps is a enclosed bullet (45-70) but yours others are blackpowder? Never shot muzzeloader but shot flint. That would take some getting used to with the delay, but I did ok.

Bubba

Some custom guns are real eye catchers and appreciate in value. Some custom guns, well, they're just high priced tent stakes.
I've been over this before and I say it again, "Be very careful when selecting the caliber for a custom rifle!" Found a mind boggling custom on a used gun shelf in Dallas. Wood and metal? Superb! Caliber? It was a .333 G&H Magnum! Where ya gonna find ammo?! Had it been in .270 Win, .30-'06 Spgfl, even .338 Win Mag or .243 Win, I might have considered the purchase.
Maker has a lot to do with the retained value of a custom arm. Built by Joe Bob's Real Good Guns. Who knows. Built by Griffin and Howe of New York!? Snatch it up at a reasonable price!
Jackson Custom Guns in Turner Town, Texas (yeah, yeah, Melissa Lambert's home town, and yes, it's really there!) put out some very fine custom guns, but they're no longer in business. One of their arms should be worth a small fortune!
Decent firearms in decent calibers will only appreciate in value! Period!

Bubba

dickgun

Rob, et al,
I do not think Dave missed the boat in his post. (Nor did you, necessarily in your comments) He clearly, in my mind, deliniated between wood stocked long guns and long guns not stocked in wood by saying that the non-stocked wood guns were 'working guns' and would not hold/increase in value like some wood stocked guns. I think there have been just as many (or a heck of a lot more) wood stocked guns not worth half their original price, regardless of vintage, as there are non wood stocked guns today. I am fortunate to have a few of both. I have, for example, a Rem .416 in kevlar from the Rem custom gun shop. which is as plain jane as they come, but, for a quality working gun for a working guide on dangerous game, it is one of my favorites. Perfect balance, performance and confidence go with that rifle when needed in a tight situation. I also have a couple of nicely stocked pre/64 mod 70 Win of .375 and .300 which. unfortunately, I do not tend to take into the field as I have rifles with composit (not plastic) stocks that are preferrable in the conditions in which I take them.
dickgun

LowRecoil

Rob: You're kidding, right? Please tell me you're just joshing. You can't seriously believe that appreciating a certain grade of firearm equates to a higher plane of appreciation for the game to be shot with that firearm.

If you truly do believe that, then you are merely one of an ever-expanding group of "sportsmen" with the means to purchase high-end equipment - firearms and other things - who feel the need to sit around and congratulate each other on their "refined" tastes and their greater appreciation of the finer things. I guess that somehow this self-aggrandizement goes a long way toward justifying the added expense of shooting, say, a Purdey rather than the pedestrian 870.

Please understand that I am not in any way suggesting that custom firearms, or highly-engraved firearms, or collectible firearms, or any type of firearms are somehow elitist. Shoot, I wouldn't mind a closet full of classics. I am merely pointing out that a greater balance in the checking account does not equate to a greater appreciation of the craft and art that goes into producing a first-rate firearm or of the value of a game animal.

Fact is, a vast number of hunters can be brought almost to tears by gazing upon the work of true master gunmakers. The only problem is that many of those same hunters, after that gazing, then go home to the reality of mortgage payments, doctor bills, college tuition, etc. A $10,000 gun is not an option for them, but don't delude yourself into thinking that they don't appreciate it.

Get over yourself, sir.

Trae B.

Dave how much do you reckon a 303. british from old war times is worth in good condition.

YooperJack

Milton Friedman, the late economist, was once asked what the best investments were. He said "Buy things that you enjoy. If the go up in value, you get monetary return. If they don't appreciate, you still enjoyed owning it. Can you think of a better description of a nice gun?
YooperJack

Shaky

I lost a little money on only one firearm, a 6.5 Sweedish Mouser, because I ruined the stock and had to build another. However, all the guns I have owned and traded or sold have made a little money.
There are some I own now that have appreciated considerably, that are not for sale at any price. Most that fall into that catagory were plain jane guns at purchase, and were discontinued. An example; Ruger Blackhawk flat top .357, $50 in '64(used,as new). Purchased because a hound driven bear tried to clinb into my boat with me. Last month was offered $2200 for it,but I didn't sell. An old LC Smith 12ga.sxs that I can shoot very accurately, payed $75 worth $1500. A mod.94 Win. 30/30 made in 1953,with the box it was shipped from the factory in, still looks like new, though I have shot it many many times, payed $35, turned down $750, still have it, will when I die.
I own a Rem. custom shop 700, with the most beautiful wood stock I have ever seen on a factory rifle, not for sale at any price, consistantly shoots under moa. Am I gloating? No, but What I am saying is, as stated above, this is what I wanted, this is what I enjoy, I never disfurnished my family for any purchase of gun, or gun related object, and my safe and loading room are stuffed full.

Milton  Burton

Glad to see somebody say something nice about Jackson's Custonm Guns, althought it's in Turnertown, not Turner Town. It's out of business because Doug Jackson, the second generation passed away several years ago. He was my gunsmith and friend for many years, and I am glad to see him remembered. Aside from being a fine craftsman, he was an all-around fine guy. Much missed among shooters in our area.

Zermoid

And let's not forget what current laws can do to gun values, when the "assault" weapon bill went into effect I saw the value of my stamped out by the billions AK go from $100 to somewhere in the $500 to $750 range overnight. And the $75 SKS went over $300, at least locally. I recently bought a couple of handguns and was shocked to see the price jump over 10 years time, used 1911A1, almost $500, used to be 150-200 used. And a 44 Mag SS Revolver, also $500 range, last one I bought was a used 10" barreled Dan Wesson I bought about 15 years ago for $179.
Anyone got a time machine?

Zermoid

Jim,
If you get the right amount of primer in the pan there is no real delay firing flintlocks, I always used FFF for main charge and primer, just sprinkle enough to barely cover the flash pan and it is dang near instant ignition as long a your flint makes a good spark. I used natural flint for practice and German Cut Flints for hunting, whooo boy do those things ever give a good shower of sparks when fresh!
I have got to get another flintlock one of these days, I miss it!

Michael

Blue steel and walnut will always capture my heart. You forgot to mention Dave, that considering who the rifle/shotgun belonged to can drive the price up. Having one of Uncle Bob's shotguns makes it more valuable to some of the shotgun looneys I know.

Del in KS

Jim in MO

The Sharps is a 12 pound falling block single shot in 45-70. The gun in Quigly was a Shiloh Sharps. My gun is slightly different from the movie gun which had plain wood. That movie made demand go way up and I had to wait 5 years for mine.
The Flintlock I mentioned is a muzzleloading longrifle with a long graceful barrel. It tapers down to 4" from the muzzle then flairs slightly out to the end. It really appeals to the eye, is well balanced and only weighs 6.5 pounds. Both gunstocks are loaded with figure.
The Sharps has American Black walnut-looks like stump wood the other is curly maple with a dark stain that really brings out the grain in the wood. Heck I'll Email you a pic so you can see for yourself.

Duck Creek Dick

Low Recoil:

You might read Rob's post a little more carefully. You assume that he is a wealthy gun snob, when it could very well be that he worked a second job and ate ramen noodles for the last six months just to afford that Mod. 12 28 gauge. One doesn't have to be rich (though it sure as hell helps) to have a refined taste in nice firearms. I have a beautiful Mannlicher Schoenauer carbine, a classic AE grade Fox and a 1946 Luscombe airplane in the hanger. I drive an 11-year old truck and live in a house I bought for $25,000 in 1989. After busting my tail working on a Bureau of Reclamation drill crew, I then made huge sums of money working retail sales for 12 years. Sound snobby to you? Can you understand Rob in a little different light now? All a matter of priorities,eh?

Duck Creek Dick

KJ

I've never looked at a firearm purchase as an "investment," though I own a few that cost more than my first car. And I never bought one in a hurry. I bought the guns I have because, for whatever reason, I liked them all. Maybe it was the feel. Maybe the look. Maybe the design and construction. But with each there is an aesthetic "something" that connected me and the firearm. Maybe someday I'll own a really fine custom-made rifle with an ornate stock and lots of fancy engraving, and maybe not, but I'll never begrudge anyone for owning such a piece, or look down upon the firearms I own. I sure like looking at all of them.




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