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Having a good reference gun library can help dealers buy-sell used guns.

Having A Good Reference Gun Library Can Help Dealers Buy/Sell Used Guns

There are no less than two excellent references covering the Post-WWII Colt Single Actions, many of which can be worth far more than one would normally think. Handling one such gun can pay for the reference book several times over.

There is an old saying that "Knowledge is money". That saying could not be more true than for the dealer who is dealing in used guns. There is such a huge variety of used guns on the market it is virtually impossible to be knowledgeable about them all. The best way to have that knowledge readily accessible is to have a substantial reference library available.

Most dealers do not realize how important having such a reference library is. They go about their business often under-pricing many guns that are brought in, not realizing the extra profits they are missing because of the lack of knowledge. It is absolutely incredible how many times a simple marking or an odd feature on a gun like a Luger or Colt Government Model can make its market value jump hundreds of dollars. Without the knowledge to recognize such markings or features, those hundreds of dollars in profits will be lost. To have that knowledge usually also means that you must have a good reference book on hand.

It is difficult to convince most dealers of the fact, but in my opinion, if a dealer handles a substantial volume of used guns and he does not have on hand $1,000 worth of firearms reference books, he is making a mistake. Not only that but he is undoubtedly loosing far more than $1,000 in potential profits because of not having such references. I can give dozens of examples in my own experience that will verify that fact.

A recent example involved an obscure Japanese military pistol. I was offered an opportunity to purchase an odd .32 automatic pistol with a couple of oriental characters on it. The owner said that it was a rare Japanese pistol but he did not know its name or much about it. He wanted $400 for it, which seemed a lot for almost any .32 auto. Fortunately I had recently purchased the book titled The Hand Cannons of Imperial Japan, by Harry Derby.

I had purchased the book because I had noticed a huge increase in collector interest in Japanese handguns, and this book is the standard reference in that field. Also, I had noticed an increase of WWII war trophies coming out of the woodwork (so to speak) as WWII vets got elderly or had passed away. Since virtually all Japanese handguns in the U.S. are former WWII war trophies, it seemed like a good book to have on hand. Though I am generally knowledgeable on most Japanese handguns, the one being offered to me was totally beyond my knowledge. In fact, I was not sure it was even Japanese.

However, using Derby's book I found that the odd .32 pistol was a rare Japanese Hamada. Only about 5,000 were originally produced and only nine were known to exist in U.S. collections when the book was written in 1981. Needless to say, I purchased the pistol which, incredibly, was accompanied by its original holster and correctly marked spare magazine. As you could guess the profit from the sale of this one pistol would more than pay for a $1,000 reference library by itself. Without that particular reference book, I would have undoubtedly passed up purchasing this pistol.

This example is far from an isolated incident. There are many others. One involved what looked like a run of the mill artillery model Luger with 1920 re-issue markings. It also had other markings. After checking several references I discovered that the markings indicated that the pistol had been issued to the WWII Nazi Naval eastern fleet. Those markings boosted the resale value of the pistol nearly 100 percent. Fortunately, I had the reference that allowed me to identify what I had and I made the substantial extra profits.

A number of years back, I purchased the standard reference The British Service Lee, by Ian Skennerton. Time and again the book has enabled me to identify odd Lee Enfield variations that would have otherwise been unrecognized. The resulting extra profits have earned the cost of the book back many times over.

Yet, another such reference book I would not be without is Mauser Bolt Rifles, by Ludwig Olson. Covering both military and commercial Mausers this book has been an invaluable asset in identifying Mausers that I have encountered. In one case it enabled me to identify and purchase an extremely rare military Mauser variation for only $65.00!

One book that I have mentioned in previous columns as an absolute must is Flayderman's Guide To Antique American Firearms, by Norman Flayderman. It is a tremendous reference on a wide range of fields including antique Colt, S&W, Winchester, Stevens, Remington, Sharps, and many others. It also serves as a price guide.

There is no question that because of Flayderman's Guide, I have made thousands of dollars that I would not have if I did not have it as a reference. Indeed, because of this book I made over $1,000 on just one Winchester lever action that I purchased from another dealer because of the information in this particular guide. The ironic thing is that the dealer had a Flayderman's Guide in his own shop book rack and evidently never had looked up the rifle in question, to see exactly what it was and what it was worth! I did and I made the profits.

While Flayderman's Guide gives ball park values, it is best not to take them as gospel but rather to use them as starting points to make inquiries with knowledgeable authorities in a specific field. In most cases the other reference books will only serve to identify the piece and give you a feel for its relative rarity. It then remains for you to research what the piece is worth. The key is that with the proper reference books, you can correctly identify what you are being offered and what you are selling.

The other use of good reference books is to help prevent you from buying a fake and/or modified firearm that is worth only a fraction of what it is being misrepresented as. Several examples come to mind.

One involved a modern Colt repro percussion revolver that had been "aged". A reference book told me the serial number was too high to be an original. Several times I have been offered M1903 A4 sniper rifles that were made from standard M1903 A3 rifles instead of being originals. They were easy to identify as fakes because a reference showed me the correct positioning of the receiver markings, something these rifles did not have.

Another time I was offered a fake M1903 National Match rifle, but it was easily identified as a fake by comparing the bogus Star gauge marking at the muzzle with a real Star gauge marking pictured in one of my reference books. There is no question that having many good reference books on hand has saved me from hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of mistakes.

That is the good news. I can also relate many instances when not having the proper reference handy has caused me to miss purchasing many guns and, consequently, missed making substantial profits.

One case involved an odd Winchester 1886 .45-70 with a short smoothbore barrel. I dismissed the gun as having been butchered by someone to shoot .410 shotshells so I did not purchase it. I later found out it was an extremely rare and valuable M1886 line throwing gun. I could have purchased the gun for a pittance but hadn't because of the lack of the proper reference material on hand.

Unfortunately, that was not the only expensive mistake I've made. It is the nature of such mistakes that in most cases you never find out about the mistake at all. It is a case of "ignorance is bliss". Rest assured that you have made similar mistakes, too, because of a lack of information on a given gun.

Besides the standard reference texts in various fields, there are also other general reference texts that can be extremely useful.

One such book that I have used many times is the Standard Directory of Proofmarks, by Gerhard Wirnsberger. Another that is invaluable is Cartridges of the World, by Frank C. Barnes. The former is invaluable for identifying the country of origin for European sporting weapons and often can also reveal such things as whether or not a 16-gauge shotgun has modern 2-3/4-inch chamber, whether or not the gun has been proofed for modern ammunition, etc. The latter book is invaluable in helping to find out the chambering of guns that are not marked and the like.

Besides the references that I have already mentioned, some more references that you should consider having on hand include any of the standard texts on a major collecting field or model. Some examples include: The Browning High Power Automatic Pistol, by R. Blake Stevens; The Krag Rifle Story, by Franklin Mallory; The Springfield 1903 Rifles, by LTC William Brophy; The Winchester Model Twelve, by George Madis; The Ninety-Nine (Savage), by Douglas Murray; The Colt Peacemaker Ready-Reference Handbook, by Keith Cochran; The Broomhandle Pistol 1896-1936, by Erickson and Pate; The Luger Book, by John Walter; the Military Rifles of Japan, by Fred Honeycutt; The Winchester Book, by George Madis; the History of Smith and Wesson, by Roy Jinks; L.C. Smith Shotguns, by William Brophy; plus many, many others.

The decision on what books to buy depends a great deal on what you are interested in, what types of used guns you are seeing most often, the interests of your clientele, and, in many cases, what guns you have already purchased. For example, if you purchase a Mauser rifle collection, you may want to acquire the standard reference book on the subject before you start selling them off.

The cost of the various books range from a low of about $15.00 to a high of over $100. The average price for a good firearms reference book is probably about $40.00, suggested retail. It is usually possible for most dealers to purchase most books at a discount. Many knowledgeable dealers do a brisk business selling gun books. Such an approach offers several advantages. It allows the dealer to purchase books at a maximum discount, and it allows dealers to use their book stock as a reference library.

Sources for good reference books depend a lot on which book you want. The Brownells, Inc., gunsmith supplies catalog offers many of the books mentioned as well as others at dealer discount prices. The Rugers Book Center probably catalogs more gun books than any other single source.

Both the Gun Digest Annual and Stoeger's Shooters Bible contain extensive listings of firearms books and sources.

I don't expect any dealer to go out and drop $1,000 or more on books on the strength of this column, but I highly recommend that you start buying a good reference text every month or so. It will be money well spent, and it will reap many dividends in the form of higher profits over the years.

PHOTO : This Mauser Broomhandle is a Model 1930 commercial model which is worth more than a common

PHOTO : WWI military production version. Without a good reference book would you know the

PHOTO : difference? The simple presence of certain markings on such a gun can mean it is worth

PHOTO : hundreds of dollars or more.

PHOTO : This is a 2nd generation Colt Single Action Army.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Karwan, Chuck
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:May 1, 1989
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