to shoot... or not to shoot a collectable weapon


February 22, 2003, 02:15 AM
As documented elsewhere on THR (, I recently inherited a rare old Winchester M1 .30 Carbine.

View original thread on THR (

Today I was lucky enough to spend some time with Ed Silva of Miltech Arms (, based in Northern California. Ed is a man who specializes in restoring weapons of of WWII, and has been working with them for more than 20 years.

[Note: I saw his ad in American Rifleman and realized his operation was just up the road - gave Ed a call and am glad to have met him and hope to tell everyone here on The High Road more about his operation in detail, soon...]

As a favor and credit to his goodwill, Ed detail stripped my weapon and gave me a thorough history of the carbine, cross-referencing marks with various books on the weapon and checking that it was in good condition.

Here's his analysis:

All parts are stock and the gun appears to be unfired, after sixty years of storage. The serial number 5670409 indicates that this was produced about 40% of the way through a batch of Carbines made by Winchester in 1944.

The only dings to the stock are from storage. Moreover, Ed showed me that the edge of the chamber - when examined with a magnifying glass - shows no brass wear.... all that is visible are original tooling marks. These marks are removed during armory rebuilding - this is stock.

As Ed detail stripped my new weapon and did a thorough inspection, his recommendation changed slowly from "shoot it, these guns were made to be used" to "you may not want to shoot this" to "dont shoot this" in the end, after examining all parts, headspace, etc...

The weapon is bone stock, and unfired. Ed said that it is one of the finest specimens he's seen in his career - he seemed totally sincere in saying this.

As the history of the gun's ownership is well documented and authentic, this really seems to be a diamond in the rough.

When I told him what I paid, he told me I got it for a song and I may never be so lucky. ...and here begins the dillema.

To wit, in the end, Ed recommended that I consider perhaps not shooting this weapon, as it has such collectable value.

I guess, in a way, it is living history and the ultimate in scarceness.

Is it right, I wonder, to not enjoy history?

I'm reminded of the outrage I felt when I learned in the 80s that Japanese (and other) investors were buying old Les Pauls and Stratocaster Guitars and storing them, away from anyone who could enjoy them, just as pure investments - driving the price up in the process... not enjoying the instruments for what they were designed.

Which brings me back to the carbine.

I do not plan to sell this weapon ever - it would probably only be inherited by someone in my family.... so, I wonder: why shouldn't I enjoy this gun with live ammunition, while I am alive?

Ed advised: "Well, you may not think you ever want to sell it, but you might." This is a good point but... I SOOOO want to shoot this weapon. I have new mags and fresh soft points...

My question to you all is:

Should I shoot - or preserve - this piece of history?

...maybe a few short test shots?

:) :) :)

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February 22, 2003, 02:27 AM
It's still a piece of history even if you shoot it, but if you can sell it any buy one at 95% condition. And make a good profit, i would do that. Or keep it and buy a shooter.

February 22, 2003, 02:28 AM
I sometimes see some wonderful example that just makes me drool thinking about it but I always pass on the idea.

For me the idea of a gun hanging on the wall or in the safe that can’t be or won’t be shot would drive me crazy.

My MN M-44 was in good shape when I got it. I cleaned it up, refinished the stock (just enough to take off the varnish and smooth out a few dings – I made sure to leave the cartouches and markings in place).

I plan to do the same with the SKS I just purchased.

The joy in firearms ownership for me is the possession of a fine machine (some with a place in history) but still something I can shoot without fretting over “ruining” it.

February 22, 2003, 02:30 AM
If your sure you wont sell it. Than I say enjoy it.

February 22, 2003, 03:08 AM
I wouldn't shoot it. But I've already got one rifle that I don't shoot because it's old (late ninteenth century) and hasn't been checked out, so it wouldn't bother me as much as it would other people. If you want to shoot something like it, I'd get one that has already been shot and use that one while saving the other.

February 22, 2003, 04:05 AM

Hello! Is it because the difference in value between 95% and 99% is so extraordinary, or sentimental attachment, or a wish to preserve history... or what that makes you hold back from shooting your gun?

February 22, 2003, 07:49 AM
I'm reminded of the outrage I felt when I learned in the 80s that Japanese (and other) investors were buying old Les Pauls and Stratocaster Guitars and storing them, away from anyone who could enjoy them, just as pure investments - driving the price up in the process... not enjoying the instruments for what they were designed.

Of course, the flip side of that would be watching the real-life versions of Bill & Ted put bumperstickers all over them and beat them around on stage for their inauguaral Wyld Stallyns tour. ;)

I agree; to me, guns are made to shoot. I shoot every one of mine (which is why I don't buy certain kinds of guns). If it was documented as being completely un-fired/un-issued, I'd counsel against it, but it's merely a very pristine rifle that you intend to make only somewhat less pristine.

If you can stand turning a $1,000 gun into a $750 gun, go 'head.

February 22, 2003, 07:53 AM
Don't shoot it! Hang it up or lock it away. You know that you always can shoot it if you want to. Buy another to shoot. Quantrill

February 22, 2003, 10:13 AM
I'm kind of torn. I can see both sides of this. If it's really unfired, I'd probably sell it to someone who has a burning desire for one in that condition, and buy a 99% blaster, as I'm not a 'collector'. I only buy guns that I intend to shoot.

February 22, 2003, 10:36 AM
Sven, I am not in your shoes right now so it would be difficult to give advice. I do know that in my area the the M1 Carbines have risen about $200 in value this year. Matching shooter grades are around $750 give or take. Mix masters around $550. Your rifle will increase in value more if it remains as is. An unused bronze fishing lure just sold on ebay for $31,000.

If you want a shooter look for an IAI as mentioned about $450 retail. I have two National Ordnance carbines made from USGI parts around the 1960's. I have $385 in them with 15 magazines. Lots of fun to shoot.

My end call would be to leave this Carbine as is, as you have something that no one else or very few have. It is like having a bank account you can admire, hold, converse about, and will appreciate in value faster than any other investment.---------

February 22, 2003, 10:59 AM
Given what Ed Silva said about it... get it in writing... you could probably sell it for a nice chunk of change, and with his professional evaluation, collectors might trust his rep.

I would NOT shoot the weapon. I would explore options into selling it for a handsome profit, and find a 'shooter' M1 Carbine if I really wanted one.

OTOH, I have started collecting WWII battle rifles, and if I happened across what you did, I might keep it for my collection, but NOT fire it. Some day down the road, it may be worth much more!

Congrats on the find! More pics if you can get 'em, please!


February 22, 2003, 11:11 AM
If it's worth more than you paid, buy another one and use the addition cash for ammo, another gun, training - whatever!

just a thought.

Don Gwinn
February 22, 2003, 11:20 AM
Yup. Everyone was mad at the collectors who preserved those guitars, but nobody was mad that Jimi Hendrix set 'em on fire. ;)

I say it takes all kinds. And personally, I like to shoot what I own, but I'd probably put that one over the mantel and wait till I could get another. If it has absolutely no meaning to you as a collectible, then sell it unfired for the correct price and buy yourself a shooter and something else. Just remember that once it's gone, it's gone.

When we closed out dad's shop, we held an auction. Dad was worried that he wouldn't be able to pay back the bank, so he put some of his personal firearms in as well. The only one that really bothered him (he's got so many he now uses the shop as a hardened gun room) was a Winchester M1 carbine. Not in the condition yours is, but dad's a Winchester nut. It killed him to sell that gun.
We learned a valuable lesson about guns and auctions that day: people who buy guns at auctions are mostly fools. We actually left the shop tags on the guns to ID them, so the prices we'd been charging in the shop were marked right on each gun. Almost without fail, people paid at least $20 more. Often it was $50-100 over our price. If we'd been selling guns at those prices, we could have stayed open!
Anyway, dad made enough to pay back the bank plus quite a bit--more cash than he'd ever had in a bank account at once. He hadn't needed to sell that carbine at all, and it kills him to this day. Every time he sees an M1 carbine he tells that story again.

February 22, 2003, 11:35 AM
I can't give advice on this issue, it's purely one of personal preference. As a collectors item, it's much better remaining unfired. Clean it with CLP and put it away. OTOH, how do you know it works?

I would shoot it, but not a lot. A few years ago I found an unfired nickel S&W 27-2, complete with display case. I couldn't stand not shooting it just to ensure that it functioned correctly. I fired six rounds of a light magnum load I have and it was sweet. Then I put it away, knowing that if I ever needed too use it, I could.

If I owned that carbine, I would run a couple mags through it just to satisfy my curiousity, then I would clean it real well (attempting to remove all signs of brass) and put it in preservation.

We really need a "drool" smilie :)

February 22, 2003, 12:20 PM
It's not everyday you find such a historical gun as valuable as yours. As for the strats, who cares- If the Japanese people paid for the guitars, they should be able to do whatever they want to do. The gun is yours, so now the question should be- do you want to keep it in that great condition or should you use it. Once you fire it, it won't be the same. I think you should look into getting a nice glass case for it and display it. But, if you want to shoot it, go for it. I wouldn't choose the latter though.

Art Eatman
February 22, 2003, 12:27 PM
Yeah, personal preference, for sure. However, from a money standpoint, I think I'd do nothing with this gun, and go buy a used "shooter". You can always get your money back from a shooter, and you have "bought time" to think about what to do with the collectible.

"New, unfired" makes it a true rarity. Much like a mint-state rare-date coin. Never be in a hurry to reduce the value of something.


February 22, 2003, 12:29 PM
it's a virgin gun- do you want to keep it as a virgin or have your way with it? First ensures that the gun is much more desirable, but the second is much more fun- Choices, choices :o

February 22, 2003, 12:30 PM
Please do not shoot it, it is a peice of history. While I would usually say guns are meant to be shot this is one of the exceptions. I second getting the evaluation in writing. It needs to be preserved. Would you have move joy shooting this pristine model than an iai model that costs 400 bucks knowing that you are depreatiating the value and the history with every shot?

February 22, 2003, 12:31 PM
YOU are also a part of history. And YOU have been selected by chance or luck to be a recipient of a very RARE piece of history.

You have the choice to preserve a rare piece of history in a condition that is original and "as-issued." Something that exists in such limited quantities that it almost demands that SOMEONE preserve it.

We are all mortal and when we get a chance to become part of a chain of history as the owner of anything that is actually RARE just for its condition, it almost behooves you to preserve that history.

It would be a shame to change the history of that gun. In my opinion, you could get another (or TWO for the value of that gun) to shoot.

You solicited the advice of a professional who advised you not to shoot it. I would follow that advice.

February 22, 2003, 02:20 PM
If this were NIB, then no...don't shoot it....but since it has been fired, shouldn't affect the value.

I've got a number of collectible highly engraved guns....they've all been taken out and enjoyed....are they collectible? yes....but they are not rare enough to be Museum quality pieces.

This topic is sort of like you faithfully restore an old car to showroom condition or make a street rod out of it? In terms of value, street rods are generally worth and enjoyed more. There are exceptions, no one in their right mind would turn a Duetzenburg into a street rod...there comes a time when the collectible (car or gun) goes to the next quality.

cracked butt
February 22, 2003, 02:33 PM
First off, there probably is no such thing as an unfired military rifle. All the rifles are at least proof tested and very likely function tested before they are issued. Firing a few rounds through it definately is not going to hurt its value, as long as you clean it up afterward to prevent corrosion. I usually find well used military rifles alot more interseting than stuff that is unissued or NIB, simply because a used rifle may have been to Normandy, Iwo Jima, or the Chosin Reservoir, but the chances that a carbine has survived so long without any abuse at all for so long is pretty slim. I would say if the urge is overpowering, shoot a few rounds through it to satisfy that urge and then put it away somewhere safe. AS others have mentioned, if you want a M1 carbine shooter, there are plenty out there that are available.

BTW: Nice rifle.:)

4v50 Gary
February 22, 2003, 02:43 PM
Get a letter from Ed as to his findings. Type it out and put it on a disc so he can edit and print it on his letterhead. Keep those papers with the gun.

Then go out and buy a trasher you can shoot, bash & trash and have fun with.

February 22, 2003, 05:34 PM
It's not as though this is a 1990's vintage Remington 700. It's a piece of history, as some have said.

A true, unfired collectible should remain that way. It's our (your) gift to future generations.

If you just have to shoot it, buy another one in good condition and sell this one.

February 22, 2003, 05:47 PM
After considering the content of your post, put me in the DON'T SHOOT column! I have a fairly large collection, but consider myself more of a shooter vs. collector. I do however have several, that will go to my granddaughter without my putting anything down range. On the other hand, I have a couple I probably shouldn't have, but I don't regret firing them one bit!:confused: To each his own, but the idea of selling for a profit and buying one in 95% is totally foreign to me. The choice for me is simple, to shoot or not to shoot! Sell-NOPE!

February 22, 2003, 05:58 PM
When an expert tells me not to do something, I usually follow there instructions ;) If Ed says not to shoot it, then don't!
Maybe see if Ed knows of one you can pick up (cheap) that you can shoot. THen you can have a show piece and a play piece.

February 22, 2003, 06:06 PM
Don't shoot it. I love playing with historical rifles (milsurps) but none of mine are in that kind of shape with that kind of value attached.

If you feel like you must fire it then buy a shooter and just fondle the one you inherited.

February 22, 2003, 06:18 PM
Any other gun pretty much, i would say shoot, but if the pro says not to, i'd make an exception this once, if you have something that rare, enjoy it from a safe distance, but heck, its your gun man, no one can tell you to not shoot it.

February 23, 2003, 12:00 AM
I made my decision - to shoot it very lightly and gingerly to confirm operation, get a feel for how it groups and sights.... and then basically set it aside.

Here are the results of my first two shots from 25 yards, using Winchester 100 grain soft points - not holding a bench rest, but using my elbows on the stand:

I stopped there - for a while - as this really just clinched it for me that this is not going to be my 'plinker', I will be saving for an IAI or more 'standard' M1 for my original goal: semi-auto rifle for short range plinking, possible varminting.

This was hidden upside, and I feel very lucky - a custodian of history.

Next I resolved to test a 10 shot group for overall patterning. I adjusted my aim so that I was aiming the iron sights 4 inches high - basically covering the orange dot... hard to confirm aim like this, but I don't know how to adjust for 25 yards.

Well, here was my first ever 10-shot group out of anything longer than a pistol:

The trigger pull is a little stiff - 5-6 pounds? - and I am still learning how to sight that peeper.

I may shoot her again - maybe once a year - don't worry, though.... I'll go easy on her as I plan on getting that IAI or more 'standard' M1 Carbine soon for some mid-distance fun.

Anyone got one for sale? :)

Thanks again for the advice. You guys are all really helpful.


February 23, 2003, 12:21 AM
I had a feeling curiosity was getting to ya...probably why you started the thread to begin w/ ;) ANyway, now that you've got that out of your system, clean it up nice and set it asde and buy yourself a shooter!

3 gun
February 23, 2003, 12:41 AM
Sad to read about someone taking a Mickey Mantle rookie card and putting it in their spokes. True, carbines where made to be shot and most were, that's what made this a true museum piece. Unfired is a state you can't clean back to and may not exist anywhere else again. This rifle truly was one of a kind. A priceless part of history has been lost.

February 23, 2003, 01:29 AM
Glad you enjoyed shooting your new gun, Don't let anyone shame you for it based on what they consider prudent. You're enjoying something you spent money on to use anyway, and thats what matters. To the folks that are gona whine about that, where were you with offers big enough to keep him from shooting it??

February 23, 2003, 02:08 AM
Below is a link to a digital movie (3.6 Megs - large download) of the firing, filmed by John Paul "Fitz" Jones.

Please be patient with the download - we throttle our bandwidth on this server - you may want to 'pause' playback until it has been completely downloaded, then play it:

February 23, 2003, 05:03 AM

I feel so fortunate to have seen this weapon in person today at our Sacto THR shoot.


Honestly, I got chills and an exhilarating rush looking at, and then actually HOLDING a piece of history.

I mean, a real, honest part of our nation's heritage.


Thank you for that experience, Sven.

I bet it was even better shooting it!!!

Ed advised: "Well, you may not think you ever want to sell it, but you might."

Frankly, Ed is not right in the head.

I would honestly first sell an appendage before I would sell such an artifact.

I hope the same goes for you, sir.

If you ever came upon such dire straits that you considered selling that weapon, call me.

I'll give you a grant so you can hold on to that.

It would be a true travesty for you to have to sell that.

Nice meeting you today!

February 23, 2003, 08:24 AM
My thoughts, Normally I like to collect and shoot all except some very rare or fine examples - it sounds like you have one of the latter so I would myself keep it unfired.

February 23, 2003, 09:04 AM
Congratulations. That's what I would have done because I have no great feeling for what some relation or not 30 years from now might be inclined to do with that or any other rifle. Unlike Mickey Mantle baseball cards, firearms are reviled in some circles and who knows what might become of it in the wrong hands. Wouldn't it truly be a waste for that rifle to be crunched never havig been fired. Better to shoot it and get some satisfaction now. I'd take a rifle like this out on July 4th, Veterans Day or Memorial Day just because I could.

A couple points: Keep the firing rate low so the barrel doesn't heat up;and don't readjust the sights more than you have, it's not like you'll be shooting a match. Clean it up carefully and put a good coat of CLP on it. Did you save the brass?

February 23, 2003, 11:24 AM
Don't shoot it.

Get another one to shoot.

They're great fun to shoot, but an unfired specimen has a LOT of extra value.

February 23, 2003, 11:26 AM
Oh, you shot it.... :(

February 23, 2003, 11:59 AM

I have to tell you this thread caught my attention.

Three years ago I had a Winchester Carbine passed down to me and it sounds like it could be a brother to yours. Early configuration, all original and in nice condition though mine has been fired.

Mine was carried on Bouganville by a Navy Corpsman. This guy went through the Battle of Coral Sea, survived his ship being sunk, and was about as gung ho as they got. The Corpsman in question was my uncle's brother in law.

My dad also carried the carbine in Europe, and though he didn't hang on to his, he did bring back a full magazine which I have. If I recall there are a couple different years mixed in there. Where did you research the headstamps?

Great thread.

February 23, 2003, 12:20 PM
Aw, 3gun's just jealous cause he's never fired a piece of history.:neener: :D

Now that its somewhat proven, you probably should take it easy on it though. Cut out the targets and store with it too. Its virtually unfired, yet proven. Date the targets too.

February 23, 2003, 03:55 PM
I saved the brass, with John Paul helping me learn how to spot brass (use the sunlight to your advantage, and walk in circles).

Shooting on the 4th of July sounds appropriate, as does saving targets and video of each event.

The targets have been saved - digitally. I have enough junk floating around that I do not want to start collecting targets in anything other than high-res digital photography.

The man who owned this weapon before me fought in Iwo Jima and was one of those guys who had stacks of rifles and guns, just sitting out in his house... unfortunately, he passed away before I got to meet him, but the tales I hear from his brother (80 years old) are intense... they would use the carbines to clear tunnels above their anti-aircraft battery.

He'd walk up to a T intersection with arms crossed, two carbines in hand... WHAP-WHAP-WHAP-WHAP-WHAP he'd fire, and then he'd listen for any sounds of scurrying about.

I guess the Japanese were holded up in the tunnels, and would not surrender or come out.


Copying my post ffrom Yohan's poll thread, to clarify:
Folks - the gun had been shot before. Ed Silva's testing showed that the barrel had very light wear - test firing, perhaps sighting in, etc. The bolt showed use marks, etc.

Ed's point to me was: don't wear this out.

I won't.

I hope my kids (no wife or kids yet) someday appreciate this as much as I do - that's probably the only way I will be able to ensure that it is preserved, short of donating it to the Winchester museum or something.

Here's a question for you: do you think my future children would be able to appreciate the value of the weapon without firing it themselves? =)


Now - help me get back to plinking:

...what kind of Carbine should I get for my plinker? USGI Mixmaster, or IAI new?

February 23, 2003, 04:08 PM
Shoot the damn thing, it won't break. I've got a Marine WW2 K-Bar knife that my wife's uncle carried in combat in the Pacific during WW2. I use it all he time, and its still works and looks fine.

February 24, 2003, 09:21 PM
Sven, thanks for ignoring my first post. You have made me feel better about being weak. I will pass on more guns to my grand daughter in "like new" condition. I have thought about it, and she will love them more because grandpa shot them! See I can talk myself into anything.:D Notice how FIRM I was in my advice to you in the first post? ;) Enjoy the gun.

February 24, 2003, 09:38 PM
It's not rationalization - its being practical and making a decision that you can live with. I feel I can live with this.

Can you imagine being on your death bed, at a ripe old age... as as you start fading toward the bright white light... you wonder to yourself, "I wonder if that old unfired carbine even worked? Darnit, I shouldda fired it..."

It might be enough to send you to purgatory, or another life as a walnut tree or something, depending on your belief system. ;)


Just put in an order for a 'shooter' carbine to fill my original spec (which was superceeded): a post-2000 CA-legal 'urban assult carbine' I can have fun with from 25-50 yards - and use should the need arise.

I'm considering attaching a removable red dot 1x optic on there... check out my thread here on THR and chime in with your thoughts:
Red Dot on an M1 Carbine (

February 24, 2003, 10:36 PM
I mean, really. What's the most fun you can have with a virgin?;)

February 25, 2003, 01:19 PM
Glad you got it out of your system, Sven. Like you said on your deathbed is when the regrets are going to come out. Who would want to think about not firing a gun at a time like that? :D

Aside: My dad got an Inland 30 US carbine equally as nice in the '60s. After we cleaned the cosmoline off I would bet $100 it had never been shot. We took care of that oversight. :p

NOTE: If the wood is not almost black as the base of a telephone pole, I would not think it's in "original" condition. They were SOAKED in cosmoline both wood and metal.

February 25, 2003, 01:42 PM
I had a similar problem with a mint-condition, non-import Iranian mauser carbine. In the end I've decided to sell it, since I hate having rifles stored away.

My vote is "don't shoot" on this one. Not so much because of the investment in cash, but because SO many of these carbines have been loved to death. Though many were made, there aren't too many left that are truly mint. As a piece of American history, I think you've got to set this one aside and get a modern clone for shooting.

February 26, 2003, 10:16 PM
capnrik, I don't remember!:D

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