Collecting Rugers - Part 2


by Bill Hamm


I discussed some general pointers in Part 1 that I hope helped the beginning Ruger collector. In this segment I will try to give you some additional pointers about the guns themselves.

1.  Condition - I really believe that you are better in the long run to spend more money up front to obtain top condition guns for your collection than the less expensive junker stuff.  In future trading or selling this will pay off immensely.  Of course, that is not to say that in order to fill a particular rare open slot in an almost complete collection that I would not buy a lesser condition very hard to find gun and then try to upgrade.

2.  Originality - I am a purist when it comes to the guns for my collection.  Factory original is a must - I have found that non-original guns normally do not enhance your collection. This is where your study and reading really pays off.  You will know what is original and what is not.

3.  Guns, Guns, Guns - Nothing helps you determine the originality and spot rare variations like looking at and handling actual guns.  The more the better.  The more you examine the more familiar you become with what a “right” gun is and what it should look like.

3.  Examination - Take your time when examining a gun that will go into your collection.  Look at it very closely, study every feature.  Sometimes this is one of the hardest things to do - excitement over finding that rare gun takes over and blinds you to true condition and problems you should have noticed before you get it home.  Everyone will experience this no matter how hard you try.  Do not dismay; you are paying for your education.  Learn from these mistakes.

4.  Checklist - One way that I try to ensure I give the gun a thorough examination before purchase is to have my mental check list ready.   Examples are:

- Has the gun been refinished?  Look for signs of blue in previous rust pits, sharp edges buffed away, lettering not sharp, waves from excess buffing, etc.  Look at the color of the bluing.  Scratches, scuffs, dings - notice them !

- Screw heads buggered - has the gun been messed with? 

- Are the grips right? Are the medallions right for the period of the gun, grip finish correct?

- Is the Barrel length correct? Is the barrel address correct for the period of manufacture of the gun, front sight correct, rear sight correct? Is the ejector rod button correct, ejector rod housing aluminum or steel - which is correct?

- Safety Kit installed in old model guns?  If so, are the original parts with the gun? Old model guns without the original parts lose a considerable part of their collector appeal and value.

5.  Boxes - The original box and paper work add desirability and value to any gun, especially a collectible gun.  Always ask if the box is with the gun.  Sometimes the box may be “under the table” or not visible with the gun.  Unless you ask it may not be furnished with the gun.  Older Ruger boxes often bring a good price, some of the rare ones a hefty price, so it is added gravy for the seller if you overlook the box; he will sell it to another collector.

6.  Box Configuration - Again, this is where your study and observation will pay off.  Is the box right for the gun?  Is the instruction manual included and is it correct?  Warranty card right?  Ruger boxes and shipping cartons if applicable are numbered to the original gun.  Lead pencils and grease pencils were used to number the older boxes on the ends and sides of the boxes before computerized end labels on the later “new models.”

7.  Buyer Beware - On the rare and especially more expensive guns always inquire about the existence of a validating “factory letter.”  There are unscrupulous dealers and individuals who will tell you anything to make a sale.  Again, this is where your study and education can really pay off, you can spot what is not right about a particular gun.  Be wary but not so cautious that you never take that chance to get a rare gun.  Sometimes you have to listen to your gut and just jump in or you will miss a good gun.

8.  Unscrupulous Dealers and Individuals - Again, where there is money to be made there are cheats and crooks--just a way of life!  Look for dealers and individuals with good reputations.  Keep your ears open regarding others who got “burned or ripped off.”  There are many good deals to be found but as my wise old grandma used to say,  “Sonny boy, if it’s looks too good to be true it usually ain’t true”!!

Now get out there and get your feet wet.  You may be burned a time or two, but it’s all part of our education. 

Happy collecting!

Bill Hamm

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Author Bill Hamm with one of his prized rare Rugers, an unfired .44 Flattop, serial #10. Click picture for a larger version.

Read more about Bill on the "About Us" page.