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Thursday, June 20, 2013

5 Things You Might Not Know About Antique Firearms

On any given news day, one sure hears an awful lot about modern guns.  The term "assault weapons" gets thrown around like a Sunday football and "concealable weapons" also get their fair share of press as states rush to vote on new gun laws.  You know what type of guns are gladly being ignored from this glaring spotlight?  Antiques.

It was after prohibition and the United States had had its fill with mafia gangsters and their violence.  The National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) attempted to target the weapons that were popular with organized crime by regulating their favorite weapons: machine guns, short barreled rifles, short barreled shotguns, silencers, destructive devices (think grenades, missiles, mines, poison gas, etc), and the wonderfully vague genre of "any other weapon."  The NFA required lots of registration, imposed stiffer fines, charged taxes, and greatly restricted the availability of the weapons listed in it.  It also exempted muzzle loaders from the Act (they would later be included in legislation if they could be modified to a non-muzzle loading weapon).  The exemption of muzzle loaders was the first instance of a protection being offered to an older weapon.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) built on the NFA by placing import restrictions, requiring FFLs, and constructing that fun list of questions when filling out ATF Form 4473 (Are you a felon?  Are you a fugitive? Etc).  The GCA was the first piece of legislation to define an antique firearm.  It along with the Arms Export Control Act (according to Title 18, Section 921(a)(16) of the U.S. Code):

"(A) any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or before 1898; and
(B) any replica of any firearm described in subparagraph (A) if such replica -
(i) is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition, or
(ii) uses rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade."

(Note: The full, current ATF definition can be found here and can be found illustrated here).

So basically any gun made in or before 1898, replicas thereof, anything that uses "a primitive ignition system", or that uses ammunition that is no longer commercially available is considered an antique.  Now that we know what an antique is, we can delve into what makes them so attractive.

1.  They were birthed in a law that attempted to stop organized crime.
If you read the above paragraphs, you know that antiques were defined so that they wouldn't get lumped in with all the "gangster guns" that the government was trying to stifle.  Even as far back as 1934 people were concerned about what would happen to their favorite old muzzle loading guns and were ready to include them in Federal legislation. That's a pretty neat bit of history.

A Savage navy Model Percussion Revolver., Lot #3169.  A fantastic collectable, but not so useful for gangsters.

2.  Antiques have history.
This should come as a no-brainer, but antique guns have history.  Maybe a particular antique was used in a certain military conflict.  Maybe it had an innovative design.  Maybe that innovation changed the course of events surrounding it.  Maybe the model, or a specific firearm, may have been used someone historically significant.  The best part is, that's only half the history of the gun!

Many gun collectors say that nobody really owns their guns, but instead people are only stewards of them for a short time.  After that they'll be passed down, given as gifts, sold, or consigned.  The people that have collected a gun after its useful life has passed are sometimes referred to as the gun's "secondary history," or "provenance" as collectors like to say.   Maybe the Colt Single Action Army you have your eye on was part of the most famous Colt collection of all time.  Maybe that shotgun was long held by a collector widely known to collect only the best.  Maybe there are documents that trace the gun's provenance after it left the factory.  Maybe it was your grandpa's.  These historical details are all fascinating to the vast majority of gun collectors and antiques routinely provide them.

If your gun has a document, like this Colt Single Action Army
Lot #1021 has, from a noted expert on
the subject authenticating your gun that adds
provenance, collectability, and value.
If that same expert states that your weapon
"could possibly indicate a Custer connection," in
his three page authentication letter,
you've really got something.

3.  Antiques can be shipped directly to your house.
That's right!  Any gun you buy that needs to be shipped for you to acquire it typically must be shipped to an FFL (Federal Firearms Licensed dealer).  Not for antiques!  Thanks to the rules of the GCA, antiques are exempt from that requirement.  If you buy an antique, you can have it shipped directly to your doorstep.  How's that for convenient?

Collector's Lot of Two C.S. Pettengill Double Action Revolvers, Lot #3181

4. After purchase, you can walk out the door with it.
No waiting period.  No background checks.  No ATF paperwork.  Heck, in Illinois you don't even need a FOID card to purchase an antique.  If you purchase an antique firearm at, say, a Rock Island Auction Company auction, you can walk out with it the very same day.  You can pay cash and leave because they are viewed as collectables and not as usable weapons.

Sanchez Marked "EL RALLO" Spanish Percussion Miquelet Rifle with Elaborate Gold, Silver, Engraved and Carved Decoration, Lot #1176.  It also features a three dimensional monkey as the hammer.  It requires no paperwork.

5.  The story behind choosing the 1898 year is a pretty good one.
The year was 1968 and gun legislation was being passed in response to a number of high profile assassinations.  The House had passed its version of the GCA and the Senate had passed theirs.  To reconcile the differences between the two bills a committee came together and one of the members of that committee was a Senator Russell B. Long (D - LA).  In the course of reconciling the two bills the NFA's definition of an antique was determined to not be broad enough and the question arose, "What does define an antique?"  Well, Senator Long happened to be acquainted with Red Jackson, the renowned Dallas, TX gun dealer, known worldwide to be an expert in the realm of collectable firearms.  Long asked Jackson the same question that had come up in committee and after some thought, Jackson came up with the year 1898.  Allegedly he had done so based on the success of Mauser's M98 bolt action rifle.  While not the first bolt action rifle ever, its action quickly became the most common bolt action system in the world thereby making its design one of the most successful ever.  Some folks just think that a bunch of Washington bureaucrats came up with 1898 based on the fact that it was 70 years prior and provided a nice, easy, round number with which to work.  Since when is government work that simple?

Winchester Model 1873 Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter, Lot #1039.  This gun's primary history is well known as "the gun that won the West," but it also comes with a factory letter documenting the beginning of its secondary history.

As you can see, there's a lot more to antiques than most people realize.  They have two separate histories, each of which is fascinating in its own right, while enjoying numerous privileges and protections under current Federal law.  We have over 1,500 firearms in our June 2013 Regional Auction that can be classified as antiques!  Take a look in our online catalog and find the ones that'll have a place in your collection.  After all, there's no paperwork!

-Written by Joel Kolander


Friday, June 14, 2013

Unusual Arms

Here at Rock Island Auction Company we see weapons of all shapes and sizes, from impressive carriage-mounted Gatling guns to the smallest, cased ring guns.  Huge specialized Barrett rifles designed for long distance precision sit on the same racks as your favorite plinking Ruger 10/22, while gorgeous Winchester lever actions rub elbows with Colt Peacemakers.  We take all kinds here and this week's post is to show that we mean all kinds.  Prepare to feast your eyes on some of the unusual and unique designs that gun makers have designed over the years.  Some you may have seen before, but some may be bring light to something that you never knew existed.  We hope for the latter.

Pepperbox Pistol
The pepperbox pistol's heritage stretches back as early as the 15th century.  If one barrel is good, more must be better, right?  It existed in a time before the invention of the bored-through cylinder, as a way to fire more than one shot without all that pesky reloading business.  Muzzle loaders were still king at that time and eventually pepperboxes would be replaced by the Samuel Colt's 1836 patent for a "revolving gun."  Pepperboxes have been made for all different types of firing machanisms: matchlock, wheellock, flintlock, percussion, pinfire, rimfire, and centerfire.  Most pepperboxes would rotate automatically with every pull of the trigger (self-cocking), long before that technology was utilized by revolvers.  Their downfall was brought about by several flaws in their design.  The first being that all those barrels made the gun quite front-heavy and thus difficult to aim, even if aiming wasn't the largest priority for this close range, self-defense handgun.  It was also nearly impossible to aim due to the placement of the hammer on the center rear of the gun, taking the place of any potential rear sights.  The last flaw of the pepperbox was that of potential chainfires.  A chainfire occurs when the igniting of propellant in one cylinder unintentionally sets off the propellant in other chambers, firing them simultaneously.  While, I secretly think that this would be rather fantastically devastating, it would only be so if your gun was on target.  If not aimed properly, as these guns often were not, it would leave you with, at best, fewer additional shots and, at worst, an empty and not very heavy object to throw at your assailants.  A chainfire could also explode the entire weapon, leaving you wounded with no weapons with which to defend yourself and a very upset attacker.

Five Double Action Pepperbox Revolvers, Lot #1175

Triple Barrel Derringer
When it comes to firearms, two barrels seems to be the unwritten rule that few dare to breech.  The derringer manufactured by W. W. Marston is diminuative to be so bold, but its number of barrels is not all that is unusual about this piece.  There were only 3,300 of the little guys manufactured between 1864 and 1872, so its limited production number makes it a rarity.  It also features 4 inch long, superposed barrels and 4 inches is a very odd length to have on a derringer of any make.  The ornamentations, such as its factory engraving and ivory grips, of course always add to a gun's collectability.  However, my favorite part is on the right side of the pistol which show a tiny selector knob.  It functions to select which of the three barrels will fire when the singular trigger is pulled.  It's a rather genius addition that prevents all barrels from firing at once, giving the user 2 additional chances should the first shot miss.  It also avoided the use of a larger trigger mechanism and helps keep the gun small, as a derringer should be.  In a gun that barely measures over 6 inches in overall length, I can only imagine the tiny mechanisms inside that determine which barrel will fire.  Another interesting design aspect about this manufacturer, is in some models the left side of the barrels was flattened, without effecting the bore, and fashioned into a slide that would hold a flat dagger.  Not only did the third barrel provide an extra shot, but also allowed for a sturdier dagger.  With this tiny protector in your pocket, you were ready for all sorts of trouble!

Factory Engraved William Marston Triple-Barrel Derringer with Ivory Grips and Four-Inch Barrels

Duckfoot Pistol
You'll get two guesses how this handgun got its name, but you'll only need one.  The duckfoot pistol is a type of "volley gun," meant to fire all of its barrels at once.  Volley guns are typically much larger and are little more than multi-barreled cannons; the duckfoot is the handheld version of this design.  These handguns were used when the user would anticipate multiple assailants.  It saw most of its use in prisons, aboard ships to repel raiders or mutineers, by bankers, and riot police.  The angled barrels were designed to spread the damage.  Arguably one would achieve the same effect at a distance with a modern shotgun, or in those days with grapeshot or canister shot, however none of those are so concealable as the duckfoot.  Designs of the duckfoot vary wildly with different shaped barrels, different angles of said barrels, and bayonets for after the weapon was fired.  The most popular option is the four barrel configuration, with none of the barrels pointing straight.  Which brings us to its first design flaw: the fact that the gun will kill everyone around what you are actually pointing at.  Also, after firing such a (hopefully) deadly volley, you were then still operating a flintlock pistol.  Each barrel would then have to be individually loaded by measuring the powder, pouring the powder, placing a patch and ball, ramming the ball down the barrel, and priming the singular pan.  Needless to say, this rather lengthy reloading sequence would be less than ideal when facing an angry crowd, likely composed of criminals, into which you have just fired a gun.

Engraved Seglas Marked Duckfoot Flintlock Pistol

Cane Gun
Ah yes, the cane gun.  When the foppish dandy of the mid to late 1800's wishes to defend himself against the occasional ruffian or violent mongrel, he could do so in the style of the time with his Remington Cane Gun.  Keep in mind that the 1800's were a period notorious for their crime and gang activity, especially in the state of New York, infamous for its Five Points neighborhood.  Granted, Ilion, NY where Remington Arms was housed, is over 200 miles away from the city of New York, but no doubt Remington took the fashion cues and safety needs of the time and combined them into this deadly package.
At the time canes were carried as fashion accessories and as a status symbol, thus a man seen carrying one would not seem out of place.  While normally, even a good sturdy stick would be a welcome companion on a evening walk, a cane gun would undoubtedly give an air of security to the bearer.  Cane guns have been known to even carry a pepperbox pistol, dagger, and a combination of each.  Remington made 2,300 of his cane gun, 1,800 were in the .22 or .32 rimfire caliber, and the rest being made as a percussion guns in .31 and .44 caliber.  They were available with decorative grips that could be made out of several valuable metals and formed into a preselected shape of the buyer's choice.  The tip was often made of steel and could be "plugged" with a small piece of cork to prevent debris from clogging the barrel.  Remington's master mechanic, J.F. Thomas, held the patent on this device in 1858 and received its extension in 1872.  This date range, combined with the fact that the patent did not specify the ammunition type (cartridge or percussion), ensured that Remington would be the sole U.S. manufacturer of the cane gun throughout its peak years and as its popularity faltered as the U.S. entered its bloody Civil War.

Remington Cartridge Cane Gun

Palm Pistol
These pistols were invented in 1882 by Jacques Edmond Turbiaux, a Frenchman who apparently decided that the derringers, pocket pistols, pepperboxes, and cane guns of the time were not enough in the realm of concealable firepower.  The Pal Pistol's primary feature is that instead of possessing a standard trigger, it was squeezed with the whole hand while the barrel protruded through the second and third fingers.  It was originally a 7-shot, 8mm weapon called Le Protector, that would eventually be produced in a 6mm, 10-shot version.  Not only was the gun concealable until needed, but it was even concealed as it was fired!    Later the pistol would be produced in America as "The Protector Pocket Pistol," or "the Chicago protector" by Minneapolis Firearms Co. and eventually by the Ames Sword Company of Chicopee Falls.  That's a lot of Midwestern cities for one sentence!  Its primary shortcoming was similar to other concealable weapons of the time: it look way too long to reload.  Though it utilized cartridges and not percussion or flintlock, the pistol had to be disassembled to be reloaded.  Its other weakness was exactly that - it was weak.  The 6mm version was smaller than today's .22CB rounds, and the 8mm wasn't much better.  Despite their lack of "punch" these pistols enjoyed a lengthy popularity relative to other "gadget guns" of the era.

Minneapolis Firearms Protector Palm Pistol

The Palm Pistol is in a lot with a Sharps Model 2A Four-Barrel Pepperbox Pistol

Successful or not, one has to marvel at the ingenuity employed.  These guns, and many more, were built with either a specific purpose in mind or attempted to improve a design before some innovation would inevitably replace it.  The periods of "improvement" between successful designs can be some of the most intriguing moments in gun manufacture.  They stimulate a fascination with the historical by evoking the names of men and companies, issued patents, stories of success and failure, and the national context surrounding those inventions.  They also delve into the development of human ideas and progress.  Showing how designs evolve is a glimpse into and how humans learn and think, step by step.  It hearkens to our primal tool-making days and how problems are recognized and analyzed, then solutions proposed and implemented.

These are just a sample of the unusual actions and firing mechanisms that we see on a daily basis.  Do you have an unusual weapon that you've thought about consigning?  Click here for a description on how you can get started.  Do you want to search for a specific, unusual firearm in our upcoming June 2013 Regional Auction?  Just click that link and you'll be taken directly to our "search catalog" page.  Be careful though!  With over 6,000 items you may catch yourself browsing for a long time.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Bunch of "BOOM!"

Note:  All explosives are inert.

When walking through our warehouse, sometimes an item is so uncommon it jumps out at you and makes you say out loud, "Was that a _____?"  You have to quickly backtrack two steps, investigate it, and fully satisfy your curiosity.  This week's article incorporates several of those items and each one will be up for sale at our June 2013 Regional Auction.  These are fascinating weapons that instantly attract attention where ever they go.

The first weapon that grabbed my attention was this M72 LAW.  Of course this item jumped out at me!  Unless involved in the military between 1963-1983, one never gets the chance to see this weapon up close and personal.  The M72 LAW replaced the HEAT rifle grenade and the "Super Bazooka," and preceded the AT4 as America's premier anti-tank/anti-armor weapon.  It saw use for twenty years and was designed to be a lightweight, inexpensive, disposable, single-shot weapon.  It came prepackaged with a rocket and collapsed like a telescope.  When collapsed it was waterproof and not armed.  Once extended, it was armed and ready to knock out some enemy armor.  It could be disarmed, but would no longer maintain its waterproof seal once re-collapsed.

U.S. Springfield M1 Garand Rifle (top) with Inert M72 LAW Launch Tube and U.S. Inland M1 Carbine (bottom)

We also have a second listing with an inert M72 LAW!  It is pictured below with a German camera, German binoculars, and a pair of gravity knives (what a great name for a knife).  The camera with the brass frame is particularly appropriate for items involving tank battles due to the "Nazi-themed engraving including a "75" Tank Warfare Badge on top over the word 'Panzerkampf.'"

Lot #3658

One might not think that a weapon so small is capable of a lot of power, but please keep in mind that it was used to destroy tanks, utilized a well-designed projectile, and can do this to a pile of boxes.

And that's the BACKblast!

In addition to the two lots containing M72 LAWs, we have yet another item for the U.S. military buffs out there.  This is an M1 Carbine set up in its grenade launcher configuration.  For those who are more detail oriented, that means it also has the M8 grenade launcher, the M15 sight, the M6 launching cartridges (2 packs), a green canvas belt pouch, and an inert grenade set into the M1A2 launch adapter.  The M8 converted the carbine to fire rifle grenades, while the M1A2 adapter slid over the top of the M8 allowed standard Mk. II frag grenades to also be launched.  The M6 launching cartridge necessarily packed a much larger punch than the standard .30 Carbine cartridge in order to launch explosives downrange up to 250 yards.  This powerful recoil has even cracked the stock and caused injury to a individual operating the weapon with an improper technique.

U.S. Underwood M1 Semi-Automatic Rifle in Grenade Launcher Configuration

If European military arms are more your area of interest, then you should have a large interest in the following lot.  It includes a Panzerfaust, a shield for a Panzerschreck launcher, a hardwood case   containing two Panzerschreck rockets, parts for an MP-44, and an MG-42 barrel case.

1) Inert Panzerfaust anti-armor weapon, 41" long, with tan paint finish. 2) Clamp-on shield for a Panzerschreck launcher, tan paint finish with spare eyeshield.
3) Assortment of parts for an MP-44, including trigger assembly and stock. 4) Sheet metal MG42 barrel case, green paint finish. 5) Hardwood case, containing two inert Panzerschreck rockets. Lot is good or better overall.

For those wondering about the difference between a Panzerfaust and a Panzerschreck, a Panzerfaust (translated as "tank fist") was a single use, preloaded, light weapon used to take out enemy armor or tanks.  It was designed to be used by a single soldier and saw wide spread, successful use by Nazi Germany from 1942 until the war's end.  Technically the Panzerfaust is not a true rocket, but a recoilless gun, the round having no propellant of its own once it leaves the gun.  A Panzerfaust also lacked a trigger, but instead used a small pedal that would be squeezed by the hand to fire the weapon.  A Panzerschreck ("tank terror"), on the other hand, was a larger version of the then-effective U.S. Bazooka.  It fired an 88mm rocket and was a scourge on Allied armor throughout the war.  However, its size required a minimum of a two man team to fire it and the large amount of smoke produced when fired would give away the Panzerschreck team's position, requiring quick relocation after use.

Can you understand why a history or firearms enthusiast might do double take or two in the RIAC warehouse?  Even working here, one can still encounter the unexpected, the historical, and the just plain cool.  To see more great items in our June Regional Auction, click here to be taken to our Online Catalog.  You can search for any genre you like and see some great pictures in the process.  You'll probably find something that makes you do a double-take of your own.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The ABC's of Shotguns

Some of you may have already seen many of the impressive numbers regarding our June 2013 Regional Auction.  Over 6,000 firearms in more than 2,700 lots are certainly numbers that indicate more people trust Rock Island Auction Company to sell their guns than any other auction house.  With this wonderful abundance of consignors we received a high number of shotguns.  That in mind, we are able to present to you "The ABC's of Shotguns"  Before you begin scrolling and clicking, you should know that many of the lots in our Regional Auctions contain several guns.  Since each picture is of one lot, there may be multiple guns in one photo.  If that is the case, I'll be sure to specify which firearm matches which letter of the alphabet.  Enjoy!

A - ArmaLite

A rare Armalite AR-17 Shotgun is shown on bottom.

B -  Browning

Browning Long Tang BT99 Single Barrel Trap Special Shotgun with Case

C - Colt

Colt Model 1878 Double Barrel Hammer Shotgun with Factory Letter

D - Daly, Charles

Engraved Charles Daly Field Grade Over/Under Shotgun with Box

E - Evans, William

Engraved William Evans Side Lock Side by Side Shotgun

F - Fabrique National

Engraved Fabrique National Superposed Skeet Shotgun

G - German Shotgun

O. Th. Bautsch Berlin Double Barrel Side by Side Hammer Shotgun with Engraving and Gold Inlays

H - Husqvarna

Two Husqvarna "Lupara" Pattern Double Barrel Shotguns

I - Ithaca

Signed Engraved New Ithaca/Armi Beschi Grade 4E Double Barrel Side by Side 410 Bore Shotgun

J - Joseph Lang

The Joseph Lang side by side shotgun is pictured on top.

K - Kassnar Imports

Engraved Kassnar Windsor I Hammerless Shotgun is pictured on top.

L - Lanber Armas

Engraved Spanish Lanber Over/Under Shotgun

M - Mauser

Mauser Oberndorf Over/Under Skeet Shotgun

N - New Baker

The New Baker Model 1896 Shotgun is pictured in the center.

O - Over/Under

Armi Marocchi Field Master Over/Under Four Barrel Skeet Set Shotgun with Case and Accessories

Remington Model 12 Wingmaster Slide Action Shotgun with Weaver Qwik-Point Sight.  The Qwik-Point
sight can be seen prominently on the bottom shotgun. 

R - Ruger

Factory Engraved Savage Model 745 Semi-Automatic Shotgun

T - Tristar

Three boxed Tristar shotguns.

U - Ugartecha

Engraved Ugartechea Side by Side 1985 Ruffed Grouse Society Shotgun

V - Valtro

The Valtro Model PM5 Slide Action Shotgun with Extended Box Magazine is pictured on top.

W - Winchester

X - Super X

 The Winchester Super X Model 1 Semi-Automatic Shotgun is pictured on top.

Y - Youth Model

Winchester Model 120 Youth Slide Action Shotgun with Original Box is pictured on bottom.

Z - Zoli Rizzini

Abercrombie & Fitch Marked Zoli & Rizzini Side by Side Shotgun

Those are the ABC's of shotguns, folks!  These shotguns and MANY more will all be sold in our Regional Auction taking place June 28th, 29th, & 30th 2013.  All auctions are free to attend and open to the public.  Thursday is our Preview Day when we are open 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. so that you or an agent may touch, handle, inspect, and review any firearm on which you'd like to bid.  Can't make it to our auction?  Not a problem!  You may submit sealed bids via email, fax, or phone.  If you prefer to bid live, you may also bid using our online service or via telephone speaking with one of our many personable phone bidders.

To see all of this auction's shotguns, please click the categories listed below.  You may view all of our other categories by heading to  Happy viewing!