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ASK THE GUN GUY ARCHIVES
-- Summer 2001
Q&A column by Jim Supica, as originally published in Shotgun News.
On this page:
Featured essay: SELLING COLLECTOR AMMUNITION
SELLING COLLECTOR AMMUNITION
Q - Jim, my husband has , 1894 Winchester 30 Caliber Empty Boxes , with or
without ammunition. They are for sale. Can he sale these over the Internet?
If so, where could he get a good price for them. Could use a reply!
A - Linda, it's perfectly legal to sell ammunition over the internet. I would suggest that you would want to be sure you are selling to a responsible adult if you choose to use that format.
Second hand ammo sales are a bit dicey in some respects. Most retail gun shops will never handle second hand ammo for liability reasons -- they have no way of knowing how the ammo has been stored or even if it may be reloaded ammo rather than factory original. This is important for the following reasons:
Most modern ammunition is very stable and has an extremely long shelf-life. However, storage in extreme heat can degrade any ammunition. Experts I've spoken to have indicated that this can sometimes result in a significant reduction in the power of the ammunition. One reliable source reports that in some instances the ammunition may become more powerful, resulting in a very dangerous situation for the shooter & bystanders if the ammunition is fired & the excess pressures cause the gun's metal to fail. Gun shops have no way of knowing what kind of storage or handling second-hand ammunition may have had in the past, and are understandably unwilling to risk such sales.
As to reloads, most knowledgeable & safety conscious shooters refuse to shoot reloaded ammunition unless they have loaded it themselves, or it has been remanufactured by a responsible licensed ammunition manufacturer. Handloading is a wonderful hobby, but a moment's inattention during the process can result in a dangerous batch or single round of ammunition (usually the result of an error in reading the reloading manual "load recipes", or a multiple charge of powder in a single case). Accordingly, when reloads are sold, they are nearly always offered as "components only", with the expectation that the buyer will disassemble the rounds and reload them with this own loading equipment & data. This will generally reduce the value to less than that of the brass cases & bullets as individual components.
Of course, some older ammunition has collector value. As an example, at a recent auction, we sold a single box of Robin Hood .22 Long cartridges for $1,320; a box of Peters League 20 ga. black powder shotgun shells for $2,695; and a single round of 1" WRA Gatling ammunition for $1,100.
Now that we have the Antique Road Show "I had no idea!" examples out of the way, we need to come down to earth and recognize that such individual pieces are in fact extreme rarities (hey, that's why they bring the big bucks!)
I'm guessing from your description that you probably have .30-30 Winchester boxes & ammunition. Some of the very early boxes may have good collector value. The round was introduced by Winchester in 1895 as the .30 Winchester Centerfire (.30 WCF) as a chambering for their Model 1894 Winchester lever action rifle. It was the first American small bore centerfire rifle cartridge designed specifically for smokeless powder, and throughout the 20th century reigned as one of the most popular rifle rounds. The earliest boxes from the 1890's should be worth several hundreds of dollars. I would think than any .30-30 box made prior to WWII would have some collector interest.
Current production empty boxes, however, have virtually no collector value. If you care to store them for 50 years or so, they may have some value in the future, but for now they are essentially candidates for the range trash bin.
If you mean the wooden cases that multiple boxes of ammunition came in, any of these will usually have some collector value. Our recent auction prices for wooden ammo cases ran in the $10 to $50 each range, although some rare cases in excellent condition could certainly bring more.
As to your specific question, you can indeed offer ammunition for sale on the internet. Ebay, in a spasm of corporate paranoia a couple years ago, prohibited the sale of guns or ammunition on their service. I believe you could still probably offer empty cardboard cartridge boxes or wooden ammo cases for sale there.
Happily, there are several websites dedicated to online auction of guns & related material. Although I do very little with online gun auctions, I'm told that one of the most popular is auctionarms.com. Others that may work well for you include a-gun.com, gunbroker.com, e-gun.net, and armsbay.com.
Hope that helps! -- Jim
Photo caption - Some collector ammunition can be quite valuable. This box of Robin Hood .22’s brought over $1,300 at auction.
FOREHAND & WADSWORTH REVOLVERS
Q - I am the staff attorney for a law enforcement agency. We are
attempting to ascertain the approximate value of a handgun. The information
we have is a Forehand and Wadsworth. We believe the
weapon was a .38 cal. (though we are not 100% positive). Question #1 - Can
the calibre of weapon be determined by the serial #? Question #2 - Can the
approximate value be determined by the serial number. Our dilemma is that a
claim has been made that the weapon in question has a value in excess of
$1700.00. We contend the weapon is worth more in the neighborhood of
$200.00. Any help would be greatly appreciated. - Aaron.
A - Unfortunately, relatively little has been published about F&W guns, and no serial number info available to the best of my knowledge. Best way to determine caliber is to measure the diameter of the bore. Most ".38" caliber cartridges will have a bore diameter in the .35 to .40 range (approx .36 being the most common.)
It should be relatively easy to identify the gun and find a realistic retail value by consulting Flayderman's Guide to Antique American Firearms & their Values -- available through any bookstore or online sources such as Amazon.com. Most major libraries should have it, but be sure you're looking at the current (8th) edition if you're using it for valuation.
The most commonly encountered F&W guns usually worth in the $150 to $250 range. These are "pocket sized" revolvers, usually top-break double action, sometimes solid frame double action or solid frame single action spur-trigger revolvers.
There are a couple large frame F&W revolvers which can be worth $700 to $3000 or more depending on condition. These are .44 caliber large frame revolvers - about the size of a Colt Single Action Army or S&W N frame revolver. Nearly any original 19th century large frame single action revolver will have good collector interest, and the F&W’s are quite scarce.
Photo caption - Although interesting 19th century designs, most .38 caliber Forehand & Wadsworth designs don’t bring high prices. Pictured here are an F&W hammerless topbreak & F&W British Bulldog. By contrast, .44 cal. F&W single actions can be worth much more.
MARLIN & BALLARD SINGLE SHOT
Q - Could you tell me the value of a Marlin Ballard No. 3 Gallery rifle, 22caliber with a 24 inch octagon barrel. It belonged to my great-grandfather and a relative who now has it wishes to sell it. I would like to have it for sentimental reasons but I have no idea what to pay. I want to pay whatever is the fair current market value. Can you help?
A - The original Ballard single shot rifle was an early cartridge design introduced during the Civil War and manufactured by 5 different makers from 1862 through 1873. The design was picked up by Marlin in 1875, and manufactured as a sporting rifle through 1891. They were accurate and popular single shots during their day, and are eagerly sought after by collectors.
There are a wide variety of Marlin-Ballard single shot rifles, and the differences between models can be a bit subtle. If you have identified the gun correctly, Flayderman's Guide notes that a Ballard No. 3 Gallery Rifle will usually be worth somewhere in the $750 to $1,500 range, depending on condition. There is also a variation called the No. 3F Fine Gallery Rifle which will bring more. Hope that helps. -- Jim
Photo caption - The Ballard single shot action was introduced in Civil War carbines, such as this Ball & Williams carbine. It was later used in the popular Marlin Ballard sporting rifles.
Q - I have in my possession a Smith and Wesson 7 shot revolver. On it are marked patent dates of April 3, 1??5, July 5, 1859 & Dec. 18, 1860. On the hand piece (grip) it has a name F.C. Jackson. 1st Conn. Cav'l and the serial numbers are 37869. On the barrel is says Smith and Wesson, Springfield Mass. To get the chamber out you have to lift a lever just before the hammer and lift the barrel up and the chamber slips out. (I'm sorry if the explanation seems weird) -- Danny, NJ.
A - Danny, it sounds as if you have a S&W Model One .22 rimfire spur-trigger tip-up revolver. These were made in three different issues from 1857 through 1881. With the patent marking & high serial number you report, yours would be either a 2nd or 3rd issue. The 2nd issue would have a "square" grip (actually flared at the bottom), octagonal barrel, and unfluted cylinder. The 3rd issue would have a birdshead grip, round ribbed barrel, and fluted cylinder.
The most interesting part of your gun is the inscription. It sounds as if it may be a Civil War era presentation. (If so, your gun is most likely a Model One, Second Issue, as the Third Issue was not introduced until 1868, a few years after the end of hostilities.) S&W spur-triggers were never official issue sidearms, but were highly popular as personal purchase or presentation handguns for Civil War soldiers.
Please bear in mind that not all such inscribed pieces are authentic. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous individuals have been known to add bogus inscriptions to firearms to defraud unwitting collectors into paying more for a historically attributed firearm. If you know the family this piece originally came from, it would be a nice boon to future history enthusiasts if you would get a brief signed notarized statement indicating how long they had owned that gun with that inscription (be sure to include the guns serial number & the inscription in the statement). Also, it's good to keep the pistol together with any documents, old photos, or other memorabilia from the original owner -- any such accumulation will significantly increase both the historical interest and collector value of the piece. It would also be interesting to research the background & service record of Mr. Jackson, and keep that information with the gun.
Photo caption - Smith & Wesson tip-ups such as this Model One, Second Issue, were popular private-purchase Civil War sidearms.
CUT BARREL HOGLEG
Q - Dear Jim Supica,
I have recently tried to identify the value of a revolver that has been in family for over fifty years. It is a Model 3 Russian First Model o "Old, Old Model Russian". Although originally manufactured with an 8” barrel, the revolver now has a four and three eights inch barrel and ivory grips. Judging by the tooling and soldering techniques used this modification looks to have been completed by a professional gun smith of the late nineteenth century. During my research I have found that cutting off the barrels of these longer firearms was a popular modification with the Law Enforcement communities and the so called Outlaws of the day. You will find attached a copy of several photographs of the revolver. Any information you can give me would be appreciated.
Thank you for your time.
A - O.J., the S&W First Model Russian is essentially identical to the S&W American revolver, except that it is chambered for the .44 Russian cartridge (and usually marked "Russian Model" on the barrel) rather than the .44 American or .44 Rimfire cartridges. I generally find that Americans & First Model Russians with their square butt hogleg profile & strong association with the American West will generally bring more than 2nd & 3rd model Russians. The 2nd & 3rd Models have a distinctive appearance, with triggerguard spur & extreme knuckle backstrap. These features give them a colorful Victorian era appearance, but also make them awkward to fire.
I think your conclusion about cut barrels is basically a sound one. A barrel in the 4 to 5 inch length range was easier to draw from a holster, easier to conceal, and easier to carry in a holster when on horse back or sitting in a chair than the 8" to 6.5" barrels standard on early S&W single actions. I believe that many lawdogs & desperados did indeed have their guns modified by a "Mexican rabbi" to a more handy configuration.
Nonetheless, unless there is documented proof of ownership or use by a famous or infamous individual, a cut barrel will always reduce the collector value of an old single action revolver.
The gun shown in your photos is a handsome one, appearing to retain a generous amount of what may be original nickel (or certainly an excellent older refinish), and colorful aged ivory grips -- factors which both help the value. As a whole, your gun has that colorful "Old West" look. I would think that it might retail in the $900 to $1,700 range. A similar gun which had not had the barrel bobbed might bring double that. If your gun had been refinished or had the barrel "stretched" back to original length, it would be worth less than it is in its current configuration in my opinion.
Hope that helps! - Jim
Photo caption 1 - While colorful & evocative of the Old West, cut barrel single actions such as this handsome S&W will bring less than similar sixguns with uncut barrels.
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