Is It a Good Idea to Use Your Collectable Guns?

To shoot or not to shoot? If you want to blow up a gun-owner bulletin board, start a thread about whether or not you should shoot collectable guns. The responses will fly in furiously – and some will be furious. Here is a sample of some of the more entertaining missives from the yes-shooters and the no-shooters:


Yes: Personally, if I bring it home, it's getting USED.
No: I have guns that are too valuable to shoot and take a chance on breaking a numbered part.
Yes: It seems a pity to condemn a gun to the safe without the occasional fondling.
No: There are some guns that are meant to be looked at and admired but not shot.
Yes: If it doesn't shoot, it is just a knick-knack.
No: Had I shot either of my pistols, the value would have dropped, and I couldn't have sold them at maximum value like I did.
Yes: Maybe in 50 years my grandkids will be sad that I ruined some of these, but in the meantime we'll have a lot of fun with them.
No: Why would you want to take a chance of destroying a part of history?
Yes: They were designed and built TO BE SHOT.... Retiring them from active duty in their prime would be an insult to them and their creators.
No: My 1911A1 experimentals are in my safe and will remain unfired. I will continue to share them with others at shows and private showings, and they will be willed on when I am gone.
Yes: I got rid of all of my "pristine...unfired...bla-bla-bla" guns. I'm not a museum, I'm a shooter!
No: So someone here would take a NIB unfired 1892 Winchester and actually shoot it? I'll bet you wouldn't!
Yes: Shooting some of these historical pieces is just the right thing to do, and loads of fun to boot!
No: I'll admit I have a few “safe queens.”
Yes: I have some guns well over a hundred years old and still shoot them every now and then.
No: Only a fool would shoot those beauties!!
Yes: Guilty! I shoot 'em. Don't much care how old or how rare, figure if it ain't me, it'll be someone else.


So … when you are done laughing, what do the experts say? We and other experts argue that there are some weapons that should not be fired – even though technically every weapon has been shot due to factory testing. Those include collectable guns that are in pristine condition, and also very rare weaponry that is not so pristine. In addition, if the proper ammunition is not available, it can be harmful to a collectible to use improper substitutes. A cartridge case that ruptures, while rare, could result in a total loss of the weapon’s value.
Bruce Canfield, historian, collector of post-Civil War weaponry, and author of 10 books on gun collecting, states on his web site, “there has long been something of a running feud between collectors of U.S. military weapons and those who enjoy shooting the same. Sometimes the opinions expressed are less than civil. I’ve never really understood … why it has to be an ‘Either/Or’ scenario.”


It really comes down to the individual collector – and the reason for collecting. If it’s as an investment, then the gun shouldn’t be used much, if at all. If it’s for personal reasons, that’s a different story. Which is why many collectors have guns that they shoot and ones that they don’t. When you run into a collector with the opposite views from yourself, please … be tolerant. You’re both on the same side of the REAL gun use debate!

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