There is no better foundation for a collectors firearms than with American classics, like Colt, Winchester, and Smith & Wesson. Winchester and Colt led the evolution of modern firearms, in the late 19th century. In the nearly-250 years since it was first manufactured, the famous Winchester ‘73 repeater remains federally classified as a modern firearm.

If you are looking to start to a collection, or add to an established collection, you can’t go wrong with the classic arms of the mid-18th and early-19th century. Learn about firearms which are most desirable to collectors, and how they changed history. 

Top 5 Classic Collectors Firearms: Collectible Antique and Modern Firearms

The firearms in a collection speaks to the gun owner’s identity as a collector. A gun collection can, either, focus on quantity over quality, or vise verse. The latter, of which being the stronger foundation to build a collection that appreciates in value over time.

For example, in 2018, an original Henry rifle sold at auction for over a half-million dollars. 

Not bad, for a gun first manufactured in 1860. In fact, ammunition is still available for the ‘73, and other rimfire and centerfire repeaters of the same era. For that reason, some firearms from the mid-18th to 19th century are especially valuable to collectors. 

  • Spencer Rifle (1860-1865 )

The Spencer Rifle was quickly outperformed by the Henry rifle – later the Winchester 1866 repeater. But, for a few years, from 1860 to 1865, the Spencer Rifle was the trailblazer in firearms engineering. The Spencer Rifle was revolutionary, and defined the beginning of modern gun design.

At a time, when muzzleloader muskets were the military standard, the Spencer Rifle introduced the most instrumental change to gun engineering seen, to this day. Although not technically a lever-action rifle, the Spencer was the very first magazine-fed, lever-action firearm to see action on the battlefield. 

Shortly before the start of the Civil War, in 1860, Christopher Spencer presented his revolutionary Spencer Rifle to the United States Department of War Ordnance. The Department, however, thought that the firing-rate of the Spencer would result in soldiers needlessly wasting ammunition. Supply trains couldn’t keep up with the demand for ammunition, already, and a faster firing-rate would demand even more.

A few years later, by the hight of the Civil War, the Spencer rifle and carbine were widely used by Union Army and cavalry – though, muzzleloaders remained standard-issue for most soldiers throughout the war. 

Unlike the lever-action repeaters to come, the Spencer rifle was a breach-loader, and required the shooter to cock a lever for each round. Oliver Winchester soon brought to fruition a more elegant and reliable lever-action design – but the Spencer Rifle revolutionized firearms, forever. When it was introduced, the high fire-rate of the Spencer rifle was unlike anything seen on the battlefield, yet – helping the Union forces win the Civil War.

  • 1873 Winchester Repeater

The 1873 Winchester repeater is the original, “gun that won the west”. The classic ‘73 Winchester emblematizes the change to firearms. Sparked by the Spencer rifle and Henry Rifle – Winchester’s early endeavors to make a lever-action rifle successfully produced the 1866 model carbine repeater. 

Between 1873, and 1892, Winchester ‘73 was the most popular gun in the country. It was chambered for .44-40 caliber centerfire cartridges, which was safer and more reliable than rimfire cartridges of the same caliber. The ‘73 was so popular, that Colt chambered the famous ‘73 Single Action Army in the same caliber. 

  • 1873 Colt Single Action Army

To this day, there are few revolvers more prized by collectors than the Colt 1873 Single Action Army (SAA). On the western frontier, at the turn of the century, the Colt 1873 SAA was the most popular revolver in America. 

The ‘73 SAA became a favorite sidearm to the ‘73 Winchester repeater, because both are chambered for the same ammunition. To this day, reproductions are still made by Colt and copied by countless gun manufacturers. But an original Colt ‘73 SSA – nicknamed “the Peacemaker”  – is priceless. 

  • 1892 Winchester Repeater

The 1892 Winchester repeater improved upon the design of the Winchester ‘73. Designed by John Browning, the ‘92 Winchester repeater took the ‘73’s designation, of the most popular rifle in America. The biggest improvement on the ‘73 design was the magazine design and increased stability. 

Browning’s magazine design was more efficient and less likely to jam. Winchester took the 1892 repeater out of production in 1941, with the start of WWII. Even so, many firearms manufacturers, still continue to produce replications. 

  • Springfield M1903

The 1903 Springfield rifle or M1903 represents another evolution in firearms. In WWI, the Springfield M1903 is the most accurate rifle in the world. To its credit, the rifle has seen battle in WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, and is used as a sniper rifle by the current US military. 

Unlike the Winchester repeaters, the Springfield M1903 is a bolt-action rifle. The M1903 rifle was replaced by the M1 Garand in 1936, but the M1903 remained in use decades, thanks to Springfield’s craftsmanship. For this reason, the 1903 Springfield bolt-action still rides a line between antiquity and modern warfare. 

These top 6 collectors firearms can sell for tens-of-thousands of dollars – if not more. Check the Federal firearm transaction records of any old guns you see at auction to be sure if its authenticity. And, be sure that any firearm you are transporting, from auction over state lines, is not prohibited by federal firearms transportation regulations

The Better Gun Collection

Classic arms, like the Colt Single Action Army and Winchester ‘73, are instrumental to the shaping of the America of today. Throughout history, the evolution of firearms defines the progress of human civilizations. These pieces represent the values of freedom and opportunity, which directly shaped the values of the United States. 

If you know someone who has, or is starting a gun collection, share this article with them on social media. If you want to learn about how to liquidate your estate gun collection, check out the blog for more resources. And, subscribe to the monthly newsletter for regular updates on the top collectors firearms to add to your collection.