Finding my Grandfather's Guns


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AZ
May 5, 2011, 05:53 PM
It seems that a love of firearms skipped a generation. My grandfather was by no means a fanatic, my dad reports he only had four or five rifles and a few shotguns, but he was a hunter and man who took care of what guns he did own. He passed away when I wasn't even 10 and never really got to know him as he lived thousands of miles from me (him in Indiana, me in Arizona). My dad kept a lot of his prized possessions and even a pair of old pre-WW2 Colt 1911s, but sold all of his rifles and shotguns for 500 a piece to my uncle without knowing their true value (apparently they all looked "quite nice"). My uncle who also lives in Indiana then reportedly sold them to a local gun shop. I don't blame my dad, he's never had an interest in firearms and raised that way neither did I until I reached adulthood. When I started getting into shooting my dad says he wished he had kept my grandfathers guns and that's when I learned their fate. I let it go for a long time and tried not to really care but I got to thinking recently. I really only have one chance to try and find them before they're swallowed up into time and distance (which they may be already), forever lost to not only me but my future children. I haven't contacted my uncle yet, a man I've never talked to in my life, but plan to soon. I hope that the dealer he sold them to isn't closed, but even if they aren't what can I do? Is there anyway if I explained my dilemma that I could contact the people they sold the guns to? Do dealers even keep lists like that in Indiana? And if you were one of those people would you sell a gun you own if someone told you it belonged to their grandfather? I know this is all highly unlikely but I don't see why I shouldn't give it a try considering the rewards if I succeed.

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XxWINxX94
May 5, 2011, 06:00 PM
I understand your circumstances. When my uncle who owned around 100 guns passed away, the family was selling them to old friends, gun shops, etc. and most of the good ones seemed to slip away. I finally put a stop to it and took control of all the guns & whatnot related.

I think if you really want them back you should do whatever possible to get them. I don't think the local gun store will give your story any mercy, but all you might be able to do is buy them back and hope to get a deal; if they still have them in the inventory (you'd be very lucky).

If your grandfather lived in a small town, you might have a better chance because more than likely its the same people in & out of the local gun shop.

I think calling your uncle would be the best place to start, before you go out of your way to go across the country looking for guns you aren't certain are around.

You might be able to ask, but certian dealers work differently. My personal FFL keeps accurate lists of everything from day 1, but keep in mind I'm in Cook County and the attitude towards guns here is overwhelmingly negative, so it is essential for my dealer to make sure his shop is ATF-foolproof by keeping lists & records.

Best of luck.

Shadow 7D
May 5, 2011, 06:40 PM
Sorry but, you better butter up your uncle, at 500 a pop, either he made a killing, or bled through the nose trying to save your family heirlooms, and, if you want to complain, refer it your dad.

If he sold them ask him the shop's name and WHEN HE SOLD THEM
Then, if you are really nice, maybe the shop MIGHT help you out, but I don't think they can open their records.

AZ
May 5, 2011, 06:49 PM
My uncle has two safes full of firearms (according to my father) and perhaps he even kept a few of them, I wouldn't know as I've never talked to the guy. It may be tough to "butter him up" as it were because I don't know him and vice versa. It isn't him I'm concerned with it's the dealer that he sold them to. This was nearly a decade ago and I doubt they're even still around, but who knows. I'd just regret not looking. My question mainly focuses around the likelihood of getting a connection between me and who the dealer has subsequently sold the rifles to.

MtnSpur
May 5, 2011, 06:56 PM
Don't want to sound like the voice of gloom and doom but I'm afraid your looking at a bad situation which could conceiveably turn into a worse situation. You stated you've never talked to your uncle in your life and yet out of the blue you are going to call and say "Hey where are my grandfathers guns?" If your dad is agreeable let him discuss the matter, I'm guessing they are brothers? Then there is the gunshop. More than likely all those weapons have long ago been sold and they would be negligent in telling anybody who they sold them to (other than the legal channels).
I wish you the best of luck but your odds are pretty slim stacked right next to none.

Shadow 7D
May 5, 2011, 06:57 PM
So, you need to talk to your uncle, and see if he can recall to whom he sold, IF he sold the guns, then, you know who to talk to, otherwise you might as well post make and SN on all the internet gunboards, cause that proverbial needle in the haystack will be easier to find

You at least know where to look for the Needle....

Sheepdog1968
May 5, 2011, 07:41 PM
I think it is worth a shot to try. If uncle can tell you what year and what shop and it's still in business there is a good chance they might help (or act as a go between) if you are nice about it and tell them the story. I doubt you will find them all but if can even get one of them back it will be worth it. Think of the hunt to get them back as an adventure and enjoy where it leads you. As much as I like what I own, if I was contacted by a previous owners grandchildren, I'd sell them to the grandchild for what I paid for them.

buck460XVR
May 5, 2011, 07:58 PM
I would write your uncle a letter stating how you would like to recover some of your grandfather's guns. He is the only chance you have. He may be nice and offer you one of his grandfather's guns still in his possession. He may be able to give you a few leads of where the sold guns have gone. If not, you're probably SOL. If I were in your shoes, I'd be happy to get one, especially if your grandfather only had 6 or 7 to start with. It's unfortunate that things like this happen, but it seems that in this case, it wasn't because of greed, but because no thought they were important. If this is the case, you have a good chance of getting your uncle's help. Even then, unless your uncle still has some in his possession, your odds are slim.

AZ
May 5, 2011, 08:19 PM
Thanks for the advice, all. I plan on writing him a letter (more personal) and asking him about them. Pretty sure he didn't keep any (and it appears I made a mistake in my OP, he's my father's uncle, my great uncle). I'll follow it as far as I can because it would be worth it for even just one rifle that belonged to him. I just have this feeling that I'll run into a roadblock at the dealer because of all the privacy that's expected when buying a gun these days.

bri
May 5, 2011, 08:55 PM
Good luck in your quest! Even if you track down only one of your Grandfather's firearms, it'll be worth the effort.

Black Butte
May 5, 2011, 09:34 PM
If you can track any of these firearms down, you may be able to retrieve them, but expect to pay full price.

AZ
May 5, 2011, 10:37 PM
I'd plan on paying more than full price as I'd be convincing people who don't necessarily want to sell to do so.

Readyrod
May 6, 2011, 09:31 AM
Think positive. Your great uncle may be a cool guy. He may still have all/most/some of your grandfathers guns in the safe. Maybe he kept some for posterity and might want to give them to you. You never know. You could end up with a shooting friend as well. Just don't try to butter him up too much, be nice and honest.

USAF_Vet
May 6, 2011, 10:01 AM
Let me play devil's advocate for a moment.

If your uncle is your fathers brother, i.e. your grandfathers son, he has just as much right of ownership via inheritance as your father does, and depending on how you look at it, more right to own them than you do. If there is not a blood relation between your late grandfather and your uncle, you might have a case. Maybe. I'd ask your dad to get involved on your behalf, considering you've not said a single word to the your uncle your entire life. Starting the relationship with "Hi, I'm the nephew who has never spoken to you before. I only do so now because you might have something I want." isn't going to fly very far with most people.
If this transaction occured shortly after your grandfathers death, 10 years ago as I recall in the OP, you are probably SOL if they were sold. If they were kept by your uncle, there is probably a legitimate reason, and he might be so willing to hand over guns he paid good money for. He may not be willing to give them up at all. If they are sold, a dealer would (should) have records of every gun bought and sold under his FFL, but that same dealer might not give you information on who may have purchased the guns he bought from your uncle. I wouldn't give a customers personal information to just anyone with a story. Depending on the age of the guns, they might not be serialized, and then all you've got to go on is a description of guns you've never seen.

To me, it sounds like more trouble than it's really worth. I'd focus more on those pre-WWII 1911's you said your dad kept. those would be well worth the effort, and chances of success are a million-fold better.

Edit: Read where you said it's your great uncle, your grandfathers brother. The guns are family heirlooms, or would have been had they not been sold. If you want to establish contat with your great uncle, go for it, but not under the auspices of finding guns sold long ago. Establish a relationship with the man, find out as much about your family in past generations as you can. That, in the long run, will be far more valuable to you than some old rfiles.

natman
May 6, 2011, 02:01 PM
Unless your uncle sold the guns to the shop within the last year, the chance of finding many of them still in inventory is slim. You have no right to know where the guns were sold. The guns have changed hands at least three times since you had any legitimate interest in them (grandfather to uncle, uncle to shop, shop to first new owner). The gun shop would be violating the privacy of the new owners by telling you where they went. You might get some response by telling the shop your story and politely asking them if they will contact the new owners on your behalf to see if they are willing to sell. It would help a lot if your uncle remembers exactly WHEN he sold the guns to the shop, because they will have been logged in by date of acquisition. Be prepared to pay top dollar to get them back.

Good luck.

AZ
May 6, 2011, 03:07 PM
I completely agree and it's something I've been thinking about ever since the OP. I talked to him on the phone yesterday and he seems like a really swell guy. Turns out he kept one of the rifles but did sell the rest. I didn't bother asking what he kept because I didn't want him to think, as you said, that I was just calling him up to retrieve something I wanted, which I wasn't. With the exception of my brother no one else really enjoys firearms and getting to know someone who does while maybe learning more about my grandfather in the process will probably turn out to be far cooler than any collection of guns. Thanks for the input.

SaxonPig
May 6, 2011, 03:19 PM
I hate to be the face of doom and gloom, but I have seen similar circumstances a number of time. In the vast majority of cases it proves impossible to locate guns. Even a couple years often means they go through multiple owners and tracking them is virtually impossible. Then, in the rare instances where the gun is actually located, the current owner has no interest in selling.

I know of a retired cop who tracked down his service revolver after 20 years. It was owned by a very elderly man (late 80s) who had been the previous owner's lieutenant on the force! He had purchased it from the department all those years ago when the patrolman had turned it in. He hemmed and hawed about selling to the retired cop for about 3 weeks and then decided to keep it. It didn't matter that is a former colleague, a man with clear emotional attachments to the gun, it was not for sale.

How disappointing would that be?

I feel your pain. The only gun I got from my granddad was a Remington O/U derringer. It was stolen in 1985. I have photos of my dad posing with his rifles, shotguns and pistols (including a 7.5" First Generation Colt SAA) but when he died in 1957 there was no insurance and mom was broke.

Good luck if you pursue the quest. But I have to tell you that I would not waste my time and energy.

Stevie-Ray
May 6, 2011, 10:12 PM
With the exception of my brother no one else really enjoys firearms and getting to know someone who does while maybe learning more about my grandfather in the process will probably turn out to be far cooler than any collection of guns. Now, you're talking. ;) And who knows where that may lead. I'd do my utmost to get to know him.

Tomcat47
May 6, 2011, 10:36 PM
You have nothing but time to lose by trying! Go for it!

If the Gun Shop did sell them and has records (which is probable) they most likely will not give you the information you desire!

HOWEVER!....Ask them kindly what they would charge to attempt contact via phone or letter telling them they have a family member that is interested in discussing to purchase the firearm they have.

I think they would do that....and I would gladly pay them to track em down if I desired to have a piece of my family history!

Good Luck! :)

Readyrod
May 7, 2011, 11:54 PM
I talked to him on the phone yesterday and he seems like a really swell guy.

sweet

1894
May 8, 2011, 12:00 AM
While the gun shop in question shouldn't tell you where the guns went, they may (with your uncle's request) be able to tell you exactly what they bought from him - if he doesn't have that information. If you can get the makes, models & serial numbers then you can post ads looking for those types of firearms in the region in which the gun shop is located. When you get responses, you can verify the numbers for the guns that aren't too old to have them). Or, maybe get the back story on how the new owner acquired said pieces.

Is is a looong shot? Yeah. Will it be a huge PIA? Yeah. But, it may be the only shot you have.

Good luck in your quest! And be sure to let us know how successful you are!

19-3Ben
May 8, 2011, 12:02 AM
getting to know someone who does while maybe learning more about my grandfather in the process will probably turn out to be far cooler than any collection of guns.

Great way to look at it. You have an opportunity to reconnect with lost family. Nothing (not even guns) is more important than family.

danprkr
May 8, 2011, 05:51 PM
You might try getting the gun shop to contact the new owner's for you. I can see them not wanting to let you have the contact information, but especially in the case of an old shop with lots of regulars they might be willing to call Ole' whosis who bought your grandpa's whatsit for you. Just a thought.

Or maybe a list posted in that and other LGSs with the story might bring some out into the light. Good luck.

SSN Vet
May 9, 2011, 11:04 AM
Be very diplomatic, when you talk to your uncle....

It will take considerable tact to avoid sounding like a greedy little upstart who wants to lay claim to grampa's old hardware. Especially since it sounds like you don't have any kind of relationship with him already.

If your really interested in reconnecting with your "roots". Start putting together some genealogy info. and work up your family tree. Then you can write up a short bio. on your heirs and ask your dad and your uncle to tell you stories about gramps. Stumble into the whole topic of guns (so Dad says that grampa liked to hunt. Did you ever hunt with him?) and then let your uncle freely divulge those details he's willing to tell.

hso
May 9, 2011, 01:21 PM
This was nearly a decade ago and I doubt they're even still around, but who knows. I'd just regret not looking. My question mainly focuses around the likelihood of getting a connection between me and who the dealer has subsequently sold the rifles to.

You'd have to sell the dealer on looking at his books from a decade back and then hoping he'd be willing to contact the buyers who may or may not have sold the guns in the interim.

As you know you're asking for a miracle, but if you don't ask, you won't know.

Alternately, you could simply let it go and focus on the ones that are accessible and building your own inheritance for your future family.

CZguy
May 9, 2011, 05:14 PM
Alternately, you could simply let it go and focus on the ones that are accessible and building your own inheritance for your future family.


Sort of turning a negative into a postitive..........good idea.

MtnSpur
May 10, 2011, 09:10 AM
Alternately, you could simply let it go and focus on the ones that are accessible and building your own inheritance for your future family.

Growing up in a "gun free" home there were no weapons to inherit. My step-sister (from Dad's first marriage) literally laid claim on all my dad's possessions anyway and haven't talked to her since his passing 23 years ago. That aside I made it my "quest" to start my own gun collection that my children will have after I'm gone. A rifle here, a handgun there and pretty soon you have something you'd be proud to have them inherit. Every weapon I own I treat like it's a prize, whether I paid $100 at a garage sale or full retail when I just HAD to have it :eek: . Look forward.

Sav .250
May 10, 2011, 10:36 AM
Different strokes for different folks..........

Some folks see.....money. Some folks see family history.

matt_borror
May 11, 2011, 11:50 PM
dont know if they'd be able to release the records...

JTHunter
May 12, 2011, 01:00 AM
My father had a collection of flintlock and percussion-cap rifles, a SxS double-trigger exposed hammers shotty, at least 4 cavalry sabers with filigree bells as handguards, :eek: 2 short, heavy swords that look straight out of a gladiator's hand, the pump action .22 LR that I learned on as a kid, his M-1 and 1911 from his Natl. Guard days. Somewhere around the time he and wife #2 were getting divorced, she claims they (along with other items) were "stolen". :fire: :cuss:

HD Fboy
May 12, 2011, 08:03 AM
My dad got none of my grandfathers guns. I got some of my fathers guns. I haven't sold any of them. None of them are very valuable, certainly noting like a pre WWII 1911. My son has no interest in any of these guns. I continue to purchase guns that I like. I have sold some guns along the way. Guns are things. I understand emotional attachments to things. I would talk to your uncle. Connect on the guns, not the guns sold. you could mention it, would advise against making it the focus of the conversation. See where it leads.

Many of the guns I have purchased are guns that I wanted as a child or young man. Few have collectable value.

This can likely be a disappointment. Or a quest of doom. Do everything you can to not let that happen. Thats why I advise you to connect on guns in general. You may develop a friendship there. That friendship can turn into something worth more to you than the guns themselves and over time lead to ownership of family firearms. BE PATIENT. Good Luck.

CZguy
May 12, 2011, 09:09 PM
This can likely be a disappointment. Or a quest of doom. Do everything you can to not let that happen. Thats why I advise you to connect on guns in general. You may develop a friendship there. That friendship can turn into something worth more to you than the guns themselves and over time lead to ownership of family firearms. BE PATIENT. Good Luck.

Well said. I agree.

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