Firearm and Knife Collecting: A Healthy, Hearty, and Rewarding Pastime

By Bob Campbell published on in General

There is more to collecting than you might think; the psychological and personal benefits are many. Collecting has no time line; it may be enjoyed at any point in life, which isn’t true of sports or mountain climbing. Quite a few of us despise the idle moment and like to keep life interesting. Nothing does so like a good hobby. Jump in and get started. You will not be disappointed.

Three Colt .22s. Two from 1926 and one from 1948

Three Colt .22s, two from 1926 and another from 1948. All are a joy to use and fire.

Not long ago, a friend asked to borrow a Hemingway book after spotting a dog eared copy on my book shelf. I reached into a closet and presented him with a pristine copy I had found at an estate sale. It was less than three years old; the older book was a first edition. I don’t know if he quite got it, but  he seemed impressed he was able to borrow a new book instead of the older edition.

Hemingway, Alger, Maugham, Fitzgerald, Twain, and London fill my shelves with a special place in the garret reserved for Lovecraft. The originals are well used but in good condition, the type I like—used but not abused as my friend Robert Helms would say. As for firearms, I like a handgun in excellent mechanical condition but with honest wear. When you find such a firearm, it is like reaching into the past to shake hands with the previous owner.

There are those I respect who keep firearms and history carefully preserved. Some collect only perfectly preserved handguns in their original box. Others collect rusted firearms. I do not collect all Colts or all Smith and Wessons but a few in my collection are my favorites.

Randall #27 knife and Traditions Sheriff’s Model revolver

Sometimes collectables are highly useful. In the worst case scenario, the Randall #27 and the Traditions Sheriff’s Model might be the author’s choice for survival. That’s a Rocking K Saddlery holster.

Some think a collector is obsessed with his hobby. He spends his time sequestered, hunched over a desk or cabinet. That isn’t me although my granddaughter did try to lock me in the garret with my Kodak camera collection. At three she knows how to wind up an old Brownie and press the button to get the mechanism going.

I am a gunwriter, but find relics of the writing and reporting trade interesting. In life, I constantly run into those that are bored, apathetic, or have no energy. They enjoy neither home or work. No adventure, no gumption!

When Joyce and I climb into the Silverado on a Saturday, we are excited because we do not know what the day may bring. It may be a World War II canvas shotgun shell belt—as I recently purchased from our friend Riskay Business—or a Smith and Wesson. Philco, Ford, and military binoculars are found, but not often enough. How about a 1930s EKG machine? My law enforcement background led me to the wrong conclusion. At first, I thought it was a lie detector. Well, mistakes are made and each measures heart waves and pulse. Besides, the old EKG machine is too cool to discard. People, who think they have problems, simply cannot direct their focus away from their problems long enough to enjoy themselves. Their sense of wonder is dulled. They need an outside interest. The need to start collecting.

ex highway patrol revolver

This ex highway patrol revolver is a great collectable—and ready for action.

It helps if you are successful enough to have at least some discretionary funds. However, if you are able to read, you can learn. If you can learn, you are ready for the first step in collecting. Boredom and idleness are killers. You will love longer with an adaptive mind and  are engaged in a worthwhile pursuit. Satisfaction and entertainment are the rewards. Collectors enjoy the search for information and basking in the warm glow of camaraderie. The dig for facts the pursuit of the collectable and the fraternity of like-minded individuals is all important.

Let’s face it, the collector or perhaps more correctly the hobbyist, is an important part of the economy. We buy things and seldom sell. It will all be sold at our estate sale. Every hobby deserves respect and attention. We typically preserve some type of artifact with design efficiency. The Colt pistol and the Randall knife are among these.

We do not collect junk, although I have seen collections of far less desirable firearms. As an example, I recently appraised a collection of Llama firearms. And while not my favorite, I had to admit that each was carefully boxed, unfired, and in excellent condition. Certainly, commercially, they were a material accomplishment as many were sold. The collector is sometimes hardnosed in his dealings, but he isn’t a businessman steered solely by profit. We hope the collection appreciates in value, but this isn’t the only goal.

Adjustable front sight on a Colt pistol

The elevation adjustment is by the front sight on this old Colt.

I may find the occasional good deal on a certain piece, but then I may pay above the going rate for a certain specimen. We may not be the boss at work but when collecting we are in charge of our enterprise. And if we get a little over obsessed with certain things, well, better to be nuts over Colt and Browning that simply go nuts in general.

Hobbies are an aid in personal development. They develop a healthy mind and social skills. A hobby tells more about a person than his job. After all, many of us fall into a job or do not really like the job. We like to think we love our hobby. Once someone learns what you do for a living, you are stereotyped. However, when we talk about our hobby, the young, old, offbeat, professor, and mechanic have much in common.

Common ground is a good thing to have. We work for a world that seems to worship the lowest common denominator. As collectors, we work to collect and preserve the best things in beauty and quality. In collecting, you sometimes make mistakes. A mistake in a hobby means less than a mistake at work or a misstep in the stock market.

I am able to change, to learn, and take things in stride when I pay too much or when what I purchased isn’t quite what I thought it was. Collecting has no time line; it may be enjoyed at any point in life, which isn’t true of sports or mountain climbing. Quite a few of us despise the idle moment and like to keep life interesting. Nothing does so like a good hobby. Jump in and get started. You will not be disappointed.

Are you a collector? What are a few of your best pieces? What don’t you own that really want? Share you answers in the comment section.


Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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Comments (6)

  • Moe Dube


    Thanks to Bob Campbell for one of the best articles I have read on any subject. Too bad non-gun enthusiasts will miss out on the multi-faceted messages abut engagement vs. melancholy as a major ingredient in a purposeful and enjoyable life. I will add this article to my eclectic collection of interesting articles, poems, cartoons etc. along with books, guns and blades. Keep up the good work!


    • Bob Campbell


      You are a poet!
      Thanks so much for reading.

      Bob Campbell


  • Jeff Caldwell


    Enjoyable article. Loved the personal touch!


  • Bruce Combs


    I was wondering if anyone else has experienced shooting a Glock 9mm.
    I remember buying one when they first came out and it was so accurate and with no discernible recoil that I got bored shooting it. Likewise with an AK 47 as a semi automatic with no discernible recoil was so accurate that I stopped shooting out of boredom. I was wondering if anyone else has had the same experience with these particular guns?


  • Andrew Husser


    Thanks. I enjoyed your article. While not a collector per se. I tend to accumulate stuff. Like all the 60’s Rock albums I couldn’t afford when I was a teenager. Way too many books some worthwhile monetarily most not. Some firearms like an Iver Johnson 32 S&W top break revolver my grandfather owned probably the first decade of the 20th century . An HK P7 of the kind I carried as an LEO and my off duty Chief’s Special I bought in 1977. Ive been putting off purchasing a S&W Model 10 the type I carried as a patrolman until 1993. Thanks for the gentle reminder to buy it and how collecting stuff that interests you is important.


    • Bob Campbell


      I am listening to James Taylor as I write this!

      I have an Iver Johnson short .36.

      The Model Ten is generally available for less than 400, good time to buy.


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