Introduction

Along with our sister auction, CT Firearms Auction, Nest Egg Auctions has special expertise in handling antique firearms. Antique weapons are connected to certain places and times, and can give their owner a deeper understanding of that time period. A revolver from the Civil War, for instance, tells a story about America in the mid 19th century. In addition, these sorts of items have inherent collector value: War is a defining characteristic of human history, and these objects are physical remnants of important historical events. Antique firearms are quite popular at auction, and these items are available to be purchased by anyone.

English Flintlock Pistol
English Flintlock Pistol. 18th century.

What is an “Antique Firearm”?

The term “antique firearm” has a specific legal meaning. According to government regulations, an antique firearm is a firearm that was produced before 1898 or reproduces such a weapon, as long as the ammunition the weapon takes is either no longer mass produced in the U.S. or are not modern rim or center fire rounds. This means that matchlock, flintlock, and percussion cap weapons are all classified as antique firearms, whether they were made 150 years ago or yesterday. Antique firearms can be bought and sold like any other item, and you do not need a license to purchase one. While these regulations can be confusing, the experts at Nest Egg Auctions know these regulations well, and can tell if a firearm qualifies as an antique.

History of Firearms

Afghan Flintlock Musket
Flintlock Musket. Afghanistan or North Africa. ca. 19th century.

Firearms have been produced for over a thousand years. In the 9th century A.D., gunpowder was invented in China. Firearms were invented soon after, and reached the Islamic world and Europe by the 1200s. Guns changed warfare forever. The famous and ancient Theodosian Walls of Byzantine Constantinople, which had held firm for over a thousand years and against many enemies, were demolished by Ottoman cannon fire in their successful siege of 1453. Guns have been present in the Americas since Europeans arrived in the late 15th century.

History of American Firearms

Firearms have been produced in the United States since the late 18th century, with the founding of the Springfield Armory in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1776. Weapons were produced there as well as by other manufacturers on a wider scale in the early 19th century. The location of the Springfield Armory along the Connecticut River made certain that the Connecticut River Valley would become the center of American firearms manufacturing. The manufacturers that emerged during this time are names that are still famous today. Colt was founded by Samuel Colt in Hartford, CT and he began to produce his famous revolvers in 1836. Eliphalet Remington founded Remington Firearms in 1816.

Savage Revolving Fire Arms Co. Navy Model Revolver
Savage Revolving Fire Arms Co. Navy Model Revolver. ca. 1860.

There are two major factors in the early to mid 19th century that greatly affected the production of firearms, being the Industrial Revolution and the Civil War. The Industrial Revolution made mass production possible, especially with inventor Eli Whitney’s system for making interchangeable parts. This period saw the change from flintlock guns, which used a piece of flint to light the gunpowder, to percussion guns, which used a percussion cap to light the powder. While firearm production did develop much before the American Civil War (1861 – 1865), the Civil War put the Union’s industrial might fully behind the war effort, and rapidly advanced firearm design and production. Revolvers were perfected, and repeating rifles with more advanced rimfire and centerfire ammunition emerged. These firearms saw increased use after the Civil War, especially in the Wild West. Revolvers and repeating rifles became commonplace in the West, where lawmen, cowboys, and Native Americans lived and died by their piece.

U.S. Springfield Model 1873 Trapdoor Rifle
United States Springfield Model 1873 Trapdoor Rifle.

Interesting Antique Firearms

Nest Egg Auctions has sold a number of interesting antique firearms over the years, some of which were made not far from our auction house. As the Connecticut River Valley was a center of firearms making until rather recently, there were a number of antique firearms that were made in our state, from Colt and Winchester, to Marlin and Savage.

In 2013, we sold an early Colt revolver. This was a Colt Root Model 1855 .31 Cal. Side Hammer Revolver. This gun was a pre-Civil War attempt by Colt to make a functional pistol that could shoot multiple rounds. This gun was in very beautiful condition with much of its remaining bluing remaining. Colt’s design for the 1855 developed into other later models that were more popular. This was a rare gun, and it sold well over its estimate.

Colt Root Model 1855 .31 Cal. Side Hammer Revolver
Colt Root Model 1855 .31 Cal. Side Hammer Revolver.

Another interesting gun sold by Nest Egg is a Marlin Model 1881 .38-55 Lever Action Repeating Rifle. This rifle was a workhorse in the Wild West, where guns like this were a necessary part of life. It was a dangerous time and place to be, where wild animals or hostile people were not long off. Therefore, the ability to rapidly shoot multiple rounds without having to stop to reload was critical, and guns like this Marlin became indispensable. This example was found in an attic, and even featured 9 kill notches on the top of the wooden stock.

Marlin Model 1881 .38-55 Lever Action Repeating Rifle
Marlin Model 1881 .38-55 Lever Action Repeating Rifle.

Selling Antique Firearms at Nest Egg Auctions

Here at Nest Egg Auctions, we have a deep knowledge of, and appreciation for, antique firearms. Our team is specially qualified to handle and sell these pieces of history for good prices. If you have an antique firearm, and you would like to sell it at auction, Nest Egg would be happy to work with you. 

Allen & Thurber Worcester Pepperbox Pistol. 1837.
Allen & Thurber Worcester Pepperbox Pistol. Pat. 1837.