Collecting the Significant Firearms / Calibers in US History?


January 1, 2003, 03:26 PM
Let's say a guy (okay, let's say it's me) wanted to have in his collection every major historically significant firearm or caliber from the late 1700s to the present. What would they be?

By major I mean I would look at the Garand as major, but the M14 as an offshoot. Also, knowing that History Channel did a top 10 thing not too long ago, but seemed to focus on military calibers, I don't want to focus strictly on military applications (though they should be included) but also on general innovation.

Below is my list. Let me know what you think I left out or what I should delete. Working replica firearms count because I don't have a money tree in the backyard, no Class 3 because CA won't let me have any.

- Flintlock rifle, either Jaeger or Pennsylvania (I think the Kentucky was an offshoot of the Pennsylvania)
- Hawken rifle, percussion (I think my Great Plains counts)
- SxS BP shotgun
- .44 revolver, not sure if it should be 1851 Navy or 1860 Army or maybe a Patterson
- Civil War era rifle (I have no expertise here)???
- Lever action rifle (44-40? I have a 30-30)
- Colt .45 SAA
- Winchester 1897 pump shotgun (or should it be a Model 12?)
- Springfield '03
- 1911 .45ACP (though mine are all modern)
- Double action revolver, .38 Special (maybe an S&W Model 10?)
- Some DA Semi-Auto?
- M1 Garand
- M16 (or AR15, which I'll never have in CA)
- Other modern innovations (I was thinking plastic pistols, but the US stuff is all an offshoot of the Glock)???

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January 1, 2003, 03:41 PM
Flintlock rifle, either Jaeger or Pennsylvania (I think the Kentucky was an offshoot of the Pennsylvania)

You pretty well pegged it on the Pennsylvania/Kentucky. If I recall correctly (somebody PLEASE correct me if I'm wrong) they are indeed one and the same. It became known as the "Kentucky rifle" because of its use on the frontier, of which Kentucky was then a part.

guy sajer
January 1, 2003, 03:58 PM
I have chosen a similar path . I think collecting the firearms fielded by our military from it's beginning to present is a good lesson in history . There are a miriad of choices and they make a solid investment . I started at the Civil War to present . Plenty of guns and models to choose from.

January 1, 2003, 04:20 PM
First, the 1851 Navy is a .36 caliber, 1851 Reb Navy is a .44 caliber. The 1836 Patterson was alao .36 caliber round.

Now onto others to have;
Brown Bess Musket
1861 Springfield Rifle Musket (Civil War)
Henery Rifle (Reproduction if you want to shoot it) or a Winchester 1866 or 1873 Rifle.
Springfield Trapdoor rifle
Rem 870 (Set the standard for post WWII shotguns to equal).
A Mauser action Rifle (many rifles we have today can be traced back to the Mauser.)

I'm sure other will fill in what I've left out.

January 1, 2003, 04:21 PM
You'd have to put a couple of rimfire calibers in there to represent the first cartridge rifles and handguns.
I doubt you can find a .44 Henry in rimfire without selling your house.
The first successful cartridge revolvers were the old S&W's in .22.


4v50 Gary
January 1, 2003, 05:59 PM
Starting with flintlocks, you could go with a Brown Bess (non India pattern), .69 caliber Charleville Musket or a New England fowler. All would be appropriate for the Revolutionary War. The majority of men who fought used smoothbores. There were riflemen and rifles were predominantly made in Pennslyvania (you're right about the "Kentucky" rifle), Virginia, Maryland, North & South Carolina. Very few rifles were made in the New England states (pre 1776) though there were gunsmiths who could and did make them (David Rittenhouse made a scoped rifle for New England militia lieutenant Charles Willson Peale - famous painter).

After the War, you could get a 50 caliber Harper's Ferry 1803 rifle. This was the gun carried by Lewis & Clark's Corp of Discovery. They were confident it could stop this bear that the Indians warned them about. Yeah. Before and during the War of 1812, we had about 4 battalions of riflemen armed with it. Unlike the British Baker though, the 1803 did not take a bayonet.

The .69 caliber smoothbore remained our predominant military arm until about 1849. The Mississippi rifle was adopted in time for the Mexican-American War but it served mostly in the hands of militia troops (Jeff Davis First Mississippi Rifles).

About 1855 the Burton Ball, an improved Minie ball was adopted in the 1855 Springfield. You can turn to Navy Arms, Euroarms for a replica of this gun. It fired a .58 caliber minie and the 1855, along with the newer 1861 version (didn't have the maynard tape priming system) saw widespread use by both sides during the Civil War. Smoothbores were still around and in use by both sides. In fact, the demand for firearms resulted in a multitude of guns being adopted and there was very little uniformity by either side. Go to the NRA Museum (Fairfax, VA) or the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco if you want to see a lot of Civil War breechloaders.

After the war, despite the proven advantage of the lever action, the War Dept. adopted the Trapdoor Springfield rifle in 45-70. This was our mainstay until the .30-40 Krag was adopted.

January 1, 2003, 06:21 PM
Just a thought, you might want to trim it down to a more specific line than just "historically significant" -- ie -- military longarms, sporting longarms, self defense handguns, etc. For example....

Brown Bess or Charleville musket (Revolutionary era)
Harper's Ferry musket (1812/Mexican war era)
Springfield rifle-musket (Civil War era)
Krag rifle (Spanish-American War)
Springfield 1903 rifle (WWI, WWII)
M1 (etc....)

flintlock longrifle
Hawken percussion rifle
Sharps cartridge rifle
Sporterized '03 or early Remington/Winchester bolt gun.

flintlock pistol
pepperbox revolver
cap and ball revolver
Colt SAA (gotta have that one. :) )
.38/.357 or so DA revolver
glock/other wondernine

In short... seems to me that a "every significant" piece is gonna be really expensive and kinda unfocused as far as a presentation goes.

FWIW.. just my latent wannabe museum curator coming out. :p


January 1, 2003, 06:22 PM

I think you're prety well thought out. I would include a single shot .58 Caliber Dragoon pistol as well. A S&W Schofield would also be worthy, I believe.

Also an M-1 Carbine, as it was pretty much a first of a kind. A Gyro-Jet if you can find one. Also a S&W model 39. Although the m-39 was an absolute POS, it was the first commercially succesful american DA/SA centerfire auto.

good luck with your collection

January 1, 2003, 07:38 PM
To even BEGIN, you need one of every Springfield and Harper's Ferry rifles and muskets they built, plus the Brown Bess and Charleville. Then you need all the guns that won the west, beginning with the Pennsylvania long rifle (when the west was back East) and going up thru the West as in Wild West. Then you need all the guns from the 20th century wars. This would be a fun but large collection.

Mike Irwin
January 1, 2003, 08:07 PM
Don't forget the Hall Rifle, everyone...

Quite frankly, in some ways, Ben, you'd need one of just about every model and caliber firearm ever made.

January 1, 2003, 11:16 PM
Great suggestions so far.

Mike -- my goal has ALWAYS been to get one of everything ever made..:D

Kaylee -- I kinda like your idea as it compartmentalizes the collecting. You concentrate on a section and can then feel more like you're accomplishing a goal.

I'd still like to hear some more ideas on shotguns as well. The way I'm looking at it, there wasn't much innovation between the BP double barrel and the first pump gun. Sure, they switched from frontstuffing to shells, but you were still getting two shots out of a two barreled gun until the pump came along. But then I could be wrong.:)

The advice on near pre-during-post Civil War arms is also quite helpful as I'm not as up to speed on arms of that era as I should be. Anyone have any recommended readings to alleviate that?

January 1, 2003, 11:25 PM
Also an M-1 Carbine, as it was pretty much a first of a kind. A Gyro-Jet if you can find one. Also a S&W model 39.
Cheygriz -- I had both the M-1 Carbine AND Model 39 at one time and sold them both. Just goes to show you should never sell your guns.:)
The M-1 bums me out the most. It was a Singer, and when I see what they're going for today, I just want to build a machine that kicks me in the butt every five minutes.

4v50 Gary
January 1, 2003, 11:42 PM
BenW - better think again once you look at Civil War guns. Never has the state or ordnance been so unorganized as during that war. Not only for us but also for Johnny. .54 Round Ball and Burton ball for the Mississippi Rifle. 451 Whitworth and 451 Kerr for the Whitworth and Kerr Target rifles. .52 and .54 cal for the Sharps falling block (one inf, one cav). The Spencer had its special cartridge as did the Burnside breechloader. Try to buy a Spencer today (Romano Rifle Co. makes a working replica, but different caliber). The Union certainly had its act together when it came to getting supplies through (something the Corn-feds never did get right).

guy sajer
January 2, 2003, 09:12 AM
Gary ,
I would have to disagree with you your point regarding the Union getting it right . The Union procurement system was corrupt , with many guns being contracted for that should have never been manufactured if not for under the table deals with high ranking officials . We fielded over 20 different carbines when only 1 or 2 should have been standardized . Any idea of the difficulties to procure and deliver in the field all of those gun specific strange fragile cartridges that some of those carbines needed ? I would imagine that more than once , they came up short on ammo . What a quartermasters nightmare !

I have an original Smith carbine myself as that is what one of my relatives brought home from the Ohio Volunteer Cavalry after the war . My uncle still has that one .

January 2, 2003, 09:28 AM
A couple of historically significant I'd add to your list are the (since no NFA for you, the semi versions) Thompson and the BAR. Both played a significant roll in WWII, Korea and even the gangster era in the US.

January 2, 2003, 10:54 AM
And lessee, a U.S. Model 1917 Enfield in .30-06.

The aforementioned M1 Carbine.

A 1903A3 to go with the 1903 of WW1.

A 1903A4 to go with the 1903A3.

A M1D to go with the M1 Garand.

A M1 Thompson, or semiauto ATF-legal clone.

A M14 clone, or M1A, because it's still a historically significant offshoot of the M1 Garand.

Remington Model 11 shotgun, as used by troops in WWII, and a mechanical twin to the historically significant Browning Auto 5.

Mausers, Mausers, Mausers!



Military rimfire trainers, to include the Mossberg rifles and High Standard pistols.

U.S. M1917 revolver in .45 ACP. Either or both the S&W and Colt versions.

Luger P-08.

Walther P-38.

Kalashnikov variant. (May not be easy in **********)

SKS variant. (Again, see above ********** reference)

Then there's the commercially significant firearms... ;)

January 2, 2003, 11:28 AM
I am the 3rd generation of gun collectors. My grandfather had the largest gun collection in the south at his Sonewall Court Inn outside Atlanta Ga. He had LOTS of stuff from matchlocks thru lugers. It was infact a museum (and some say a brothel) along with a restaraunt. It burnt down in middle 50s but they saved some stuff that wasnt hung from cieling ect. I was left what was left and my father kept the valuable stuff and parceled it out for my college and first house ect. When he passed I got 46 pieces as I can remember. I sold the stuff that belonged in museums like wheelocks ect. over the years to buy property or start business ect. I have kept a dozen or so pieces of which most are cased for easy storage. Have you ever seen a "best" grade cased English 16bore(riflled) brace of double barreled "traveler's pistols"? Tells you about travel in 1830's. These are worth $16000 but don't compare to the 1851 factory engraved Colt brace with extra cylinders, with gold inscriptions presenting them to Confederate col. guess Sherman missed those: worth $30-50K . These guns were preserved and are in safe deposit vault (above ground temp controlled) along with few others for my posterity. They seem to appreciate well and have a lot more real value than Fiat money or other paper. I have known a few guys who did collect all martially important firearms. Their collections when they went up for post humus auction were very big and extensive and took their whole life and a FORTUNE, not my cup of tea. I do like cartridge shootable stuff representitive of modern (post 1880) era and have most notable example of such arms worldwide. I think colecting all variants is where you get bogged down IMHO.:D

Mike Irwin
January 2, 2003, 11:57 AM
Regarding the Union procurement system...

It's amazing that it worked at all, quite frankly, and astounding that it worked as well as it did.

During the Civil War the Union Quartermaster's Corps had to supply nearly 200 different types of small arms ammunition to Union troops.

4v50 Gary
January 2, 2003, 12:30 PM
Hey Gewehr98 - you left out the M1C to go with the M1D. Don't forget the M1903 with the Warner Swasey scope for WW I. And a Sharps 45-70 with brass scope (First Sergeant John Ryan at Little Big Horn had one) and all the target guns carried by Berdan's Sharpshooters (Co. E & I and a few from F), Andrew's and Brady's Michigan Sharpshooters.

January 2, 2003, 12:39 PM
I was just rattling down my own collection and some of the items that are conspicuous in their absence.

Need a Billy Dixon Sharps, too.

4v50 Gary
January 2, 2003, 12:46 PM
Impressive collection Gewehr98. Everyone should have one like yours. :)

January 2, 2003, 12:54 PM
They will. Or at least a very small percentage of the population. ;)

My two stepsons are already bickering over who gets what.

January 2, 2003, 03:04 PM
Gewehr98 -- you're not helping matters with the big list.:D

Actually, one of the reasons I was trying to keep the US collection list down to "major" firearms is because I recently got into milsurp collecting and am already getting more of them (including Mausers, lots of Mausers:) ) than I have room in my safe!

January 3, 2003, 01:28 AM
I have room in my safe!

Never let this be the deciding factor in your firearm collection! :)

As yet, there is no "one safe a month" legislation. Buy another Safe! Can even get a shipping discount of you buy two at once.

January 3, 2003, 10:50 AM
Never let this be the deciding factor in your firearm collection!
Actually at this point I'm looking into the feasibility of just armor plating a bedroom and being done with it.:D

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