A Nurse with a Gun

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Old Military Arms

From a reader:
"Lately, due in large part to your blog, I have taking a shinning to 1911's produced during the war years especially by companies that are not associated with firearm manufacture. One of the things I admire about the greatest generation is how so many dropped everything to become part of the war effort.

So I come to you in order to ask a few questions. Do you think that there may be a time before the end of the current administration where 1911 pistols of the variety I seek will be more reasonably priced? Do you think in the future, on a relative basis that they will maintain parity with the current pricing taking in to account inflation? It seems to me that they have over time proven to be more reliable hedge against REAL inflation than treasury inflation protected securities. I wondered if there was a way to commingle the desire to own a few with my desire to not loose out to inflation over time. Let's not take into account the cost of shooting, cleaning, club membership, etc. as they are expenses I would incur regardless.

Then also, given that it seems that when the 1911's started entering the marketplace they did so around $30-$60 from surplus sources. Given price performance over time, do you think we could expect the same of the current standard issue Beretta?"

I don't think the US military will ever be allowed to sell surplus firearms to the public again. I seriously doubt we will see real M9 pistols on the market.

The M1911A1s and M1911s got a huge boost when Clinton had the remaining weapons in military surplus destroyed. They stayed between $30 and $50 for years before that. It's just supply and demand. With the interest in the "greatest generation" the anniversary of D-Day, and the movie Saving Private Ryan, the M1911A1 pistols got an added boost. The irony is that most of the pistols involved in WWII were M1911s not M1911A1s!

Historically, guns have been poor investments. The rise in prices of M1911s and M1911A1s, however, have caused many to believe there is potential for making money. Even though some have profited, the people who really saw the increase were the collectors who bought the surplus weapons for $30-$50, kept them as they were, and appreciated them because of what they were. They did not buy for investment, they bought because they loved the guns.

There is something to be learned there.............

Do I think the prices will go down? On the run of the mill complete and original guns not commanding stellar prices such as Remington Rands US&S and Ithacas? No. I believe the prices they command today will hold fast and potentially still slowly increase over time.

Regarding the Singers that sell for $25,000? Perhaps. Not many people can afford these kind of prices on collector's pieces. I would expect them to take a tumble, or at best remain stable.

But then, I'm speculating too. Time will tell.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the topic of prices of firearms, I've had a real huge question lately that's been bothering me. In this recent spike of panic buying / post election gun buying, the prices and availability of firearms and ammunition have radically leapt out of the ordinary range, even disappearing. When do you think this will return to a normal scope? or if they even will return in the future? Things are pretty bad for us here in Southern California. Ammo that usually costs 21 cents a round is now over 57 cents a round (average) and most common calibers are not available at all.

I know that's a really hard question to answer and most people say there's only speculation to be offered, but I figured if anyone could put my mind at ease and give a reasonable answer it would be you, since you've been on the gun scene much longer than I and you've probably seen buying trends in and out of each Administration. Thanks I appreciate it.


1:08 AM  
Blogger tom said...

The MONEY to be made in firearms investments tends to be in Double Rifles and such from Established English Makers, such as Westley Richards and Holland and Holland, the work of particular famous gunsmiths, and historical guns. Even then the prices of such collectibles is pretty stagnant right now. Friend of mine has the local high end gun shop that does fine sporting rifles and NFA stuff. Not much moving. Has a nice early Thompson on offer right now. How many people reading this have the $53,000 asking price?

Machine gun owners got quite a boost when the "Machine Gun Owner's Shall Be Bent Over The Fence Act" was signed by Reagan so no more new manufacture or new import machine guns for the general citizens could be entered into the NFA registry. Supply and demand... Something like that COULD happen with the misnomered "assault weapons" but I wouldn't hold my breath.

I can't see M9s ever having much collector value as they aren't a very interesting firearm anyway. Just an average-ish design general utility 9mm. Heck, many of the people they are issued to would rather carry something else. Michael Z. Williamson (the author) got chastised in service for carrying a Ruger .357 on a weapons transport and protection job instead of his issue 9...from his version of Skippy's list: "When acting as weapons courier, I am to use the standard issue sidearm, not a Ruger .357..."

Most of the things that a person would make money on one should have bought 20 or more years ago. Prices on most things collectible have maxed out other than following inflation. They also are possibly one of the least liquid investments on the planet. Reasonably recent acquisition of mine in the mid-range priced collectibles (under 10k) had been on the market for a couple of years before I bought it. Lots of people nibbled at the rifle for 2 years and would come close to buying it and then back out. If I decided to sell it I doubt it'd be any more liquid for me. Most people like their investments to be a bit more liquid than that. If you're looking at sub-$5,000 firearms you aren't looking at things that will appreciate much and if you're looking at plus-$5,000 firearms you're looking at next to no liquidity...

Buy guns you want to collect or hunt with/shoot because you want to collect or hunt with/shoot them. There are a lot better investments than firearms other than the one that saves your life or the life of a family member and the ones that put meat on the table for those who hunt as part of their subsistence.

3:31 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...


I forsee the ammo problem causing a spike in 22 pistol and revolver sales, especially the older stuff. people still want old guns, but they want to be able to shoot them too.

I would have expected the ammo shortage to start to decrease by now. It hasn't. I don't think the ammo compnies are willing to risk the investment necessary for additional production. So, I suspect the shortage will continue. As a result, the prices will stay inflated, at least for now.

I'm just speculating though.......

5:28 AM  
Blogger Mark Horning said...

Most of the M9's currently in military service are worn to hell and back again. Even worse than the Lipsey's Sistemas that came in a couple years ago.

As for the Singer 1911A1 pistols, it is very true that only a few can afford them, then again, only a few were made, and they very rarely hit the market. Items like that do tend to hold their value over time fairly well.

12:03 PM  
Blogger B.S. philosopher said...

From a purely speculative point, I think even the guys who bought surplus 1911s in the 50's and 60's probably aren't really getting a good return on their investment.

Frankly, they'd be better off if they had invested the money into a blue chip stock in the late 50's and sat on it for 40 years.

Guns as an investment is a risky business. As an earlier commenter pointed out, it's more likely to be high-end firearms.

3:26 PM  

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