8 tips to better understand U.S. Army guns and other cool military stuff
By Corey Graff, Online Editor
It seems everyone these days wants to get their hands on the ubiquitous AR-15 rifle, but interest is also surging in antique militaria and army surplus guns. Here are 8 tips to learn more about U.S. Army guns or Army surplus weapons.
Mausers are popular military rifles among collectors. This is the VZ 24 Service Rifle, made under contract for Bolivia.
U.S. Army Weapons: Tips & Tricks
- Build a library of military gun books. The gold standard is Phillip Peterson’s Standard Catalog of Military Firearms: The Collector’s Price and Reference Guide, 6th Edition. This comprehensive book covers military guns by country, with insights on how to judge gun condition and grade, and how to value or price surplus firearms. It’s invaluable when it comes time to study, buy, sell, collect or insure military guns.
- Pick a subject. Concentrate on guns by era—World War II guns, for instance—and research all you can. Think about military guns by type: sniper rifles, semi-automatic rifles, handguns, pre-cartridge era firearms, accessories. Some gun collectors like to specialize in one manufacturer and type, choosing to build an M1 Garand or Colt 1911 collection, for instance.
- Study army weapons of foreign countries. British, Russian, Canadian, Australian, Israeli and Chinese army weapons all make desirable subjects, whether you’re into rifles or handguns.
- Watch market trends. Legislation designed to block or impede importation of foreign military guns can send prices surging. While changes in law redefining imported guns can flood the market with affordable and very desirable guns (currently the case with Mosin Nagants).
- Scour online auction sites. Search for guns of interest in places like Rock Island Auction, GunBroker.com and Guns Internationaland use the “Watch this Auction” feature to see final prices realized. And ask questions of sellers—especially about matching serial numbers (which can tell you a lot about a gun’s condition, origin and history) and any import markings.
The Standard Catalog of Military Firearms, 6th Edition, is arranged by country—allowing you to easily identify and research your favorite military surplus guns.
- Attend a gun show. There’s nothing like getting your hands on a gun and being able to ask the experts a question or two. Inquire about bore condition and whether the military gun is safe to shoot or is just a hangar queen. At any gun show you’ll meet plenty of people willing to share their knowledge.
- Learn about military ammunition. The definitive source isCartridges of the World, 13th Edition. You’ll learn about cartridge nomenclature, military rifles cartridges, AR-15 cartridges and U.S. military ammunition in 5.56 to 20mm.
- Shoot your military guns! Have a competent gunsmith check the condition of your action and bore to make sure your firearm is safe to fire with modern ammunition. And then shoot your new (old) gun. You might be amazed at the accuracy and reliability of your surplus weapon.
For more expert tips and in-depth coverage of military guns I highly recommend you check out Mauser: Military Rifles of the World, 5th Edition, by Bob Ball … 1911: The First 100 Years, by Patrick Sweeney, and Flayderman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms and Their Values, by Norm Flayderman.
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