Firearms Are an Investment of a Different Type

Colt .32 Auto semi-automatic pistol, left profile with the original box - Sam Lisker photo

Recently, my friends and I were discussing the pandemic. Naturally, the discussion circled around to guns. Many folks paid too much, in our estimation, for firearms. Common pump-action shotguns were bringing twice the pre-panic buying price. Just the same, it is a little like an overpriced restaurant. It may be high, but it is good.

I suppose there may be regrets among those who overbought. I would have hated to have been starting from scratch. What a time to build up a rifle, pistol, shotgun, and ammunition cache! But how big a loss is it really?

Colt 1903, left and a Glock 43X right
That Colt 1903 on the left is a great gun but it should be retired. The Glock on the right is a better tool.

Initial Cost

Folks who routinely keep a truck four or five years and take a $10,000 loss shouldn’t cry about paying $400 for a $200 shotgun or a couple hundred extra for a 9mm pistol. After all, the purchase will serve them well for many years. Just the same, some of us are having to acclimate to a new norm. As an example, once affordable and readily available stand by firearms have crept into a high spot on the totem pole of prices.

I didn’t have a crystal ball to guide me. I prefer prayer to witchery in any case and neither did I have insider trading tips. I have seen this kind of thing before but not quite the panic and lack of preparation this time around. Unlike those clowns in the U.S. Senate who had prior warning and sold off their stock, I suffered a beating in my retirement account.

I guess like Ray Charles said in Lucky Old Sun, I will be working until I am wrinkled and gray. Hell! I am wrinkled and gray.

Value, Worth, Investment

I think new buyers got mixed up about value, worth, and investment. They aren’t the same thing. I don’t buy guns as an investment. I purchase them for a certain chore and often enough because I love shooting and testing firearms.

Investment firearms are new, unfired, in the box, vintage firearms with all original papers. It is your decision whether they are too valuable to be fired. A used gun at about 95% grade is just a shooter. That’s my opinion.

Firearms are made to be used and used hard. I don’t unnecessarily subject them to wear and tear but neither do I baby them. A quality firearm will last for decades. Poor guns are none too good, reliable, or even safe when new. A $1,000 pistol, and you don’t have to pay that to get a quality handgun, will last for decades. That is cheap protection. It is also cheap recreation.

A pump-action and a semiautomatic shotgun
Some shotguns brought more than they should during the panic, but they have excellent performance.

You like guns and shooting, don’t you? Then use the things as they were intended. I care about maintenance and appearance. I own several handguns with pleasing holster wear. That isn’t the same as a scratch from being dropped on the floor.

I like the fit and feel of a well used handgun. Quality firearms become smoother with use. When you wrap your hand around the grip, something says friend. An investment firearm will never have that virtue.

Besides, truth be told, an investment firearm — at best — barely beats inflation. A new handgun will no more bring its purchase price a few months down the pike than my Jeep will ever bring its price when new. However, each will give good honest service and plenty of recreation.

Not to mention the protection and piece of mind of a quality firearm. You are fighting against markup. No dealer will allow as much on your firearm as he may purchase a new gun for. Your used handgun isn’t worth what a new gun and it never will be.

Two old Colt revolvers
These old revolvers are well into protecting a second generation of shooters.

Collectible Firearms

Investing in collectibles is another world and one in which very few are qualified to travel. The occasional rise and fall of value of a certain class of older firearms isn’t a reliable source of wealth. Besides, for every good quality firearm, there have always been many middle-to-poor quality firearms and there still are.

Speculation tends to inflate prices, but someone is always caught when the bubble pops. I have taken a beating on some guns on trade and had to undertake unexpected repairs on others. That is just life.

An example of a poor choice is a buddy who, against my advice, cashed in his 401K and purchased about 35 AR-15 rifles. He isn’t a gun guy in the sense you and I probably are. He was convinced Hillary Clinton would win the election, ban AR rifles, and his horde would be worth a larger fortune rather than the small fortune he gave away.

I said my Lord, you are betting on the Devil to come take us. This isn’t an ethical thing to do! Sure enough, the Klinton’s ship sank. A few months after the election, some makers were offering new AR rifles for $399.

The same buddy didn’t understand why his $599 Glock wasn’t worth $450 at the pawn shop for resale. The guy behind the counter must pay bills feed his family and pay Caesar what is due. This is an extreme example but not uncommon on a smaller scale. A fellow who decided he had better get a shotgun to defend his home during the season of riots cannot complain about his investment. Overpriced or not, it is a stalwart defender of the castle.

Final Thoughts

It is nice to have few extra firearms as trading stock or in case of emergency. Firearms may be sold or traded easily and legally at the local gun store or pawn shop. Some sell better than others. A reputable dealer may offer a fair price or take your firearm in on consignment.

SIG Sauer P226 handgun on an orange silhouette target
If you have a gun that shoots well it is a treasure!

A quality firearm is a different type of investment in my estimation. A firearm is a tool for hunting, for recreational, competetion, and personal defense — with personal defense being the most important. Sure, there are quality firearms from the past worth accumulating. Even the humble and untrustworthy firearms of the past may be interesting, just understand their limitations.

I am primarily a handgunner. For the intended purpose, very few handguns of the past match the performance of modern quality firearms in accuracy and reliability. Parts resupply is another matter that isn’t ideal with older guns.

The handgun that defends the home is an investment worth its weight in gold, in my opinion. That is the real payoff.

Do you own any collectible firearms or do you prefer a gun that says “Hello” when you wrap our hand around the grip? A gun that seems to be as excited about going to the range as a hunting dog is to the woods or field? What kind of guns do you own? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • AR-15 pistol top, AR-15 rifle bottom
  • man looking over his son's should as he shoots a .22 LR rifle
  • Colt 1903, left and a Glock 43X right
  • Three boxes of .22 LR ammunition
  • A pump-action and a semiautomatic shotgun
  • Two old Colt revolvers
  • M1 Jungle Carbine
  • Marlin .22 rimfire rifle with scope
  • Old Astra revolver, right profile
  • Colt .32 Auto semi-automatic pistol, left profile with the original box
  • SIG Sauer P226 handgun on an orange silhouette target

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (12)

  1. Bob Campbell: “A new handgun will no more bring its purchase price a few months down the pike than my Jeep will ever bring its price when new”.

    I beg to differ Bob, I have been buying/selling guns for 63yrs and have around 750/800 of them. I have a collection that would make me mega dollars still. I have weapons from the Civil War area and up that have never been fired. I have everyday guns to the very rare unusual. I have sold hundreds of them since 1959 and never, not once did I not make money. This does not include family, friends and gifts mind you, as far as to the general public, not one did I lose money, even the everyday good condition to New In The Box.

  2. I have a Smith & Wesson model 66 with a 2-1/2″ barrel that I paid $250.00 in 1981. I recently saw the same gun in worse condition at a gun show selling for $1150.00. It made me happy to see that a gun I own had more than quadrupled in value. Needless to say, I have a Smith & Wesson model 29 in blue, 6-1/2″ barrel that I paid $300.00 in 1980. At gun shows, the same gun is selling for over $1,000.00. I’m glad to see that because I’ve held onto these guns and some others that I am getting a major return in my investment if I were interested in selling them, which I am not. I also recently just saw a semi-auto Uzi selling for over $5.000.00. Had I had the money in the early 80’s I could have bought one new for about $500.00.

  3. Mike

    I have often said that reaching back in time to shake the hand of a shooter–
    your quote, stepping into their shoes, is even better.

    Thanks for reading.

  4. The author mist be paid by the word because he managed to cram 50 words of ibformation into only 2000 words

    Rule no. 1: Don’t buy new retail…whether it’s trucks, 4-wheelers or guns.
    The second you buy a new vehicle it’s immediately “used” and worth 10% less than you paid for it.
    Same with guns
    Buy on the secondary market and avoid the ‘Instant Depreciation.’

    Rule no. 2: A well made gun by a quality manufacturer in 90% condition bought on the second hand market will probably at least hold its value if not increase.
    And the appreciation in value, though slow, is not taxed as a capital gain like investment accounts.
    I ‘wish’ I had bought EVERY good condition Ruger, S&W and Colt revolver…and EVERY Marlin and Winchester lever action…and EVERY Savage-Stevens SxS, single shot and bolt-action shotgun…and every H&R .32 Revolver with the funky cylinder release I saw 10 or 12 years ago.
    They’re all selling for twice 2010 prices.

  5. I like old military guns, especially if they have stock markings. I always wonder who held this gun before me.

  6. Great article. I always buy what I want (if the price is reasonable). I never think of “investment.” I think some gun snobs under-rate some weapons. I have a Rock Island .45 GI, and it is my go-to.

  7. I’ve done “D. All the above”. I understand the value and appeal of new high tech firearms, but to me they don’t have the same soul as old weapons. Partly history, partly craftsmanship, old guns have a story to tell. Having said that, I enjoy shooting them also, as that kind of puts me in the shoes of those who used them. This is especially true of military weapons. Yes, I have some new toys that I snapped up during the Obama crises on the speculation that our government would consider their preferences more pertinent than my Constitutional rights. I can and do use them, but don’t have a love affair with them. They give me the pleasure of owning good tools and that’s about it. I guess I’m just not a fan of plastc.

  8. An investment firearm is a Luger P08, MP 40, full size Uzi, Sten Mk2, Mauser C96, old west lever action rifle …

  9. Investment? Maybe 30 lowers. What if something is banned? Will you have enough for your children and grandchildren? I acquire (never sell) because I enjoy quality firearms. My best are Sig and Beretta. I also collect mechanical watches and I wear them. Best are IWC and Tudor. Just like my fine cigars and bourbon, I use/ consume/
    enjoy everything. Reminds me, Im out of bourbon. Weller 107, Van Winkle. Cigar: Foundation The Wise Man, Oliva V.

  10. Great perspective, Bob. My grandfathers each only had one shotgun and I somehow wound up with both of them. Probably worth $200 apiece if I tried to sell them but priceless to me. I plan to leave my grandkids something like 17 or 22 guns apiece, depending on where I am when I die. I collect guns because I like to have them, shoot them and share them, not because they’re a great monetary investment. Actually, the way I’m able to buy or acquire them, most of them are a pretty decent investment.

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