How long guns firearms stay in circulation...


October 30, 2012, 03:16 PM
...and how do they just disappear over time? Per the thread title, I recently started wondering how long firearms stay in circulation, and how and why they bite the dust. I obtained a Marlin Camp 45 from 1990 or so. No papers or provenance, but it was in excellent condition, no cracked stock, disintegrating buffer and original/weak recoil spring (both since replaced). I wonder how many owners it had, how many times it has been shot, etc.

I suppose former military rifles get rebored, refitted, sold to foreign governments and LE orgs, civilians, and then just get destroyed/tossed when totally spent. But who actually throws away a gun, and why? At what point is it so crapped-out that a firearm becomes truly garbage? Conversely, what percentage of firearms are dust-gathering safe queens. Does it vary by firearm type in general? Of course, more expensive firearms tend to be collected. But for example, what happened to all those 22 bolt action rifles made in the 40s and 50s? How many are still being used today? Etc. Just some post-Sandy food for thought...

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October 30, 2012, 03:25 PM
Usually I imagine guns will finally go to the scrap heap when they become simply too expensive to repair vs. just buying a new one. For instance how many old single shot .22s or beat up shotguns do you really see being used as much as say a new 12ga. 870. I think most folks don't scrap them per se. I think they get turned into wall hangers.

Halal Pork
October 30, 2012, 03:34 PM
It doesn't answer the questions but I'm impressed to see how many rifles are built on Mauser actions as well as Winchester Model 54 actions. The only thing original might be the action, but it was still worth it to someone to swap out a bunch of parts, add a new barrel, and drop it into a new stock. I'm glad there are people who appreciate their beaters enough to keep making use of them long after their "shelf life" has expired, even when the updates turn out to be more expensive than purchasing a new rifle in some cases.

October 30, 2012, 03:56 PM
Well one I know for sure.. Back in 1847 1100 Colt Walkers were produced. 168 are known to exist today. Plenty of other guns have soldiered on for a century or so...

Lost/stolen/ditched who knows? I know I personally threw a .25acp Jennings in the middle of Lemmon Dam in SW Colorado. FWIW It made a better anchor than gun... I also had a S&W 645 stolen and used in a murder and was never returned to me.. Guessing it was made into a bumper or such?

Well taken care of steal gun should outlast humans.

October 30, 2012, 04:53 PM
Some of 'em end up in my safe. :p

October 30, 2012, 05:15 PM
Lost/stolen/ditched who knows? I know I personally threw a .25acp Jennings in the middle of Lemmon Dam in SW Colorado. FWIW It made a better anchor than gun...

Haha..I had a Army buddy about 14 years ago who's wife was pissed off because he purchased a Glock against her wishes. They were traveling back to AL from TX on I-10 when she told him she had to stop. Well, she got out and stretched, and as he got out, to see if she was alright, he thought he saw her fling something.

Yep, there went the Glock into the Atchafalaya Swamp. Probably still there ready to fire with some new ammo.

He's got a new wife now, and he says the biggest regret he has from back then was not going back to find the

October 30, 2012, 05:33 PM
The idea of guns "in circulation" is something that's promoted by the anti-gun crowd, as if guns, like money, change hands often and promiscuously. The truth is that the vast majority of guns don't change hands very often. We should avoid this terminology if we don't want to buy into anti-gun memes.

October 30, 2012, 05:50 PM
Well I am going out one of these fall days and shooting my Eli Whitney musket . It is a model 1812 with original flintlock. So I guess I would call that still in service .

Some go to parts guns, some get collected, and some are still in use.

Oh - I forgot, then some are distroyed by folks who have no sense. (or thown into the swamp)

Owen Sparks
October 30, 2012, 05:55 PM
Most older firearms probably sit unused for decades in the back of a closet.

October 30, 2012, 07:07 PM
Hello, Batty67. When the black powder silhouette game took off, you would see an awful lot of original Ballards, Remington rolling blocks, Remington Hepburns, 1874 Sharps, and Winchester High Walls being used as is, or rebarreled. The same thing with the Cowboy Action..some guys are using original guns.
And don't forget, long before this, back in the 1930's and 40's, when these original single shots were unwanted and nearly valueless..the actions were being rebarreled to
.22 varmint calibers.
So in some cases the orignal guns..or actions at least never really go out of circulation.

October 30, 2012, 07:17 PM
My guns aren't in circulation. They're in operation.

October 30, 2012, 07:57 PM
I've got a French Mle 1873 Ordnance Revolver made in 1874...still solid and quite accurate. A quality firearm will last centuries if taken proper care of.

October 30, 2012, 08:09 PM
I have a few guns stored safely in the creek behind my parents house. All cheapo guns that were more dangerous behind the barrel than out front. One was a stallard 9 (now stallard goes by hipoint) that shot bullets sideways out of the barrel...literally rifling on nose and tail...that went full auto a couple times. These go away. Many guns are destroyed by govt(illinois and california) sponsored buyback programs to keep them out of the wrong hands...aka eliminate cheap guns and make it more expensive and harder to own guns in these areas.

October 30, 2012, 08:21 PM
About 10,000 are destroyed EACH year by the Chicago Police Department, add up all the major police departments and that would be quite a number.


October 30, 2012, 08:32 PM
I have never tossed a gun. Have most of you decommissioned one or more?

October 30, 2012, 08:32 PM
Guns tend to go out of circulation when they get to my house. Cash?... That's another story.

October 30, 2012, 08:37 PM
That's a very interesting question. I'm not aware of any serious research on it. From my own observations, there do seem to be "repository" points for firearms where they rest with a single owner until that owner dies. I actually have found some of my old firearms in such collections! On the other hand dealers and many non-dealer gun owners constantly buy and sell.

Someone could build a computer model for this, but you basically have a sliding scale of firearm retention during the lifespan of the collector. Some are total gun hogs (bless 'em) and never part with iron--EVER. Others are like me and have a one-in, one-out policy due to space or money limits. When a firearm lands in the hands of the former, there it sits until his death. But on death, those estates are usually sold off. So the guns go back into circulation. In the end I would suspect that even lifetime collectors who sell nothing don't impede the flow of commerce for long. And since firearms are the most durable of durable goods, they can stay in active circulation for 100, 150 or even 200 years.

Vern Humphrey
October 30, 2012, 08:40 PM
Last week, during Arkansas Special Doe Season, I was coming back from picking up the mail (a 3/4 mile walk through the woods.) As I approached my house, there were three does in the "back yard" and I was wearing my 1906 Colt New Service . . .

October 31, 2012, 11:41 AM
I had some Charter Arms five shot long barreled 38 that I could pocket. When it got loose I used it to experiment with for doing Duracoating refinishing. It's decommission I guess you could say at it sits in pieces in a bag, covered in axle grease waiting for when I retest my refinishing skills. I also have a Polish Makarov that went that way as well.

I know guys with guns at least a hundred years old, passed down from generation to generation because the sale of them wasn't enough to make them part with them. I've got a Taurus PT99 that's gone fugly from carry and is starting to shoot inaccurately. I'll like contact Taurus and ask them how much it will cost me to have the gun refinished, and when I get it back it'll be converted to a .22lr and stay that way till my end. Or I'll just convert it to .22lr and let it stay that way till my end.

Otherwise, unless my financial situation demands it, I won't be selling any of my guns till my kids (who I don't have yet) get ready to go to college and then the S&W Model 19s I have will get sold and some other goodies. My Norinco Tokarev in 7.62x25 will probably get a new barrel soon, and I'll have to replace the rear sight as it slips during shooting but otherwise the gun will keep chugging along till my end (still want a Yugo Tok).

I have two Tokarevs in 9mm (one converted to 9x23 Winchester) and they will likely stay in the collection till my end (if I can't afford to buy my kids better guns I'll give them to them but otherwise they can figure out what to do with them when I'm gone). They get cleaned and oiled every six months (I have it in my Microsoft Outlook). When my 15-3 gets fugly (because it will one day) but still shoots good, I'll have it black chromed and put back into its duty as my nightstand gun.

Guns are one of those few unique pieces of property that with modern engineering can be maintained for hundreds of years when regularly maintain and cleaned up. I know a guy with a bubba'ed 3rd Gen .44 Hand Ejector. He had it black chromed, bought a new barrel for it and had the barrel shortened to five inches, and got after market grips for it. It wasn't bought in collector grade and looked like hell when he got it. Now it's his favorite shooter with cowboy loads with their low pressures (he's scarey good with it). I'll have to bother him for a pic. It looks cool but classic.

My Glock 23 is fugly but it'll just die a long slow death unless the frame cracks as I can't see investing in its aesethics. I don't even know if the factory will refinish the slide. But I can always order a new barrel (hopefully unless the specs really change).

So in summation Guns can be kept running a long long time.

November 1, 2012, 07:43 PM
The only thing that will keep the popular polymers going forever is new barrels. They all move a lot and wear down at the friction points. Look around though...especially the glocks...they are making conversion barrels to do nearly anything with these puppies now. Lone wolf distribution seems like one of these companies.

November 1, 2012, 07:55 PM
...and how do they just disappear over time? P...

To me you could replace "guns" in your sentence with any commodity and the answer would be the same. No absolutes and it all varies across the board.

It's an interesting topic though as I have a real appreciation for the history of firearms or antiques of all types in general.

Conversely, what percentage of firearms are dust-gathering safe queens...

I take offense with this as there is absolutely no "dust" on any of my "safe-queens." ;)

November 3, 2012, 06:54 PM
I suppose you would have to clearly define 'circulation' as it can be an abused term. I will assume you mean functional/safe for use.

Any firearm I have seen retired (often sold for a fraction of original cost) was a result of someone's neglect to properly care for the gun.

I have a shotgun that I do not feel is safe to shoot as the action is loose and pushin 80yrs, but I will still clean and store it until I pass it to my son. Meanwhile, I have seen someone sell a house without realizing they left behind an old (and rusted) rifle in the hallway closet.

Jim K
November 3, 2012, 07:13 PM
Guns are durable goods. Not used, or seldom used, they will last about as long as anything made of metal and wood. There are a few guns in collections and museums today that were made in the 14th century that are perfectly functional. Add another century and there are hundreds, maybe thousands of functional guns still around.

Guns can be destroyed in many way. Military arms are routinely destroyed in combat, or destroyed after the army owning them surrenders. Millions more are destroyed by governments when they become obsolete. The usual "reason" is to keep them out of the "wrong hands"; the "wrong hands" being the hands of those who might, if they were armed, oppose that government.

Then there is the practice of police of destroying guns seized from criminals, which often means the same thing as the "wrong hands" (see above).

Then there are the civilian arms and collector guns seized and destroyed when there is a change of law, as in the U.K. and Australia. After long campaigns against guns, there were few to resist, and they were told that anyone refusing to "cooperate" would be subject to summary execution.


November 11, 2012, 11:35 PM
I have never tossed a gun. Have most of you decommissioned one or more?
Only one. Absolute POS Rossi .38 Spl "single-shot" revolver, about 30 years ago.
Beat the tar out of it with a sledge hammer, then sent it to the bottom of a lake at an undisclosed location in CA. Probably violated a few EPA regs :rolleyes:
However, I am trusting that the statute of limitations has expired.

November 12, 2012, 09:36 AM
Given proper cleaning and proper storage anything made over the 100 years or so should continue to last several more lifetimes.

Guns that are shot a lot can usually be repaired and put back into service. Shot out rifle barrels can be easily replaced, out of time revolvers parts repaired or replaced, exactors and firing pins for semi-autos, etc...

What we see happening is when various shooting sports and/or types of firearms catch the imagination then older guns become safe queens or forgotten about in the closet just waiting to be rediscovered again and become a new topic on THR.:D

Vern Humphrey
November 12, 2012, 09:40 AM
I have and shoot several guns over a hundred years old, including an original Kentuckey made Berks County, PA in the 1840s, a Colt New Service made in 1906 and a sporterized Krag made in 1898.

November 12, 2012, 10:04 AM
I own a Colt New Service made in 1917. It shoots great but has only 1% of the bluing left. Looks rough but the look is awesome plus its my only handgun in 44-40.

My Trap gun is a 40 year old Remington 1100 I picked up for $275 at a pawn shop. In the rifle category I have an old Enfield, a K31 and a Carcano in 7.5x35. My USPSA revolver is a S&W Model 25-2.

November 12, 2012, 10:17 AM
I have a few IMA M-Hs and Snider Enfields that have traveled a bit. I am just the current custodian.

November 12, 2012, 11:05 AM
I think once the cost to repair them exceeds the value some people scrap them. Others are used for spare parts.

November 12, 2012, 01:31 PM
When I buy a Firearm it is out of circulation..............

November 12, 2012, 07:29 PM
I've deliberately destroyed a few over the years. When the gun was very cheap and parts difficult to find and they didn't function I've sometimes decided to cut my losses.
Jennings J22-Broken and an irredeemable POS
High Standard Sentinel-multiple functioning problems and ugly to boot
Stevens pump-turned it into a PG riot. Some obscure part broke and I broke it up
Noble pump 22-guide/extractor spring broke. Good luck ever finding one of those.

November 12, 2012, 08:13 PM
When a gun is ready to give up the ghost it goes to Chicago:

November 12, 2012, 08:37 PM
I always wonder what happened to the millions of suplus weapons imported and sold in the 50s and 60s for what is a mere pittance today.

Find a Klein or Interarms advertisement from the 60s. Ads for 19.99 mausers and 1917 enfields will make you weep. I bought a DWM Luger for 29.99 and a 1903A3 unissued for 29.99.

November 13, 2012, 12:11 AM
I stand to inherit several old firearms. If they are still operational, they will make it out to the range every once in awhile. If not, they go up on the wall. I see no reason to destroy a firearm, even one that doesn't work.

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