Firearm owners often bequeath their firearms to family members or close friends. When you inherit a firearm, there are some critical considerations—particularly if you are unfamiliar with firearms—to keep in mind before deciding the heirloom’s fate. There is a slight chance it could be worth thousands of dollars due to historical significance. However, not all inherited firearms are safe to shoot and looks don’t always reflect proper maintenance. Combine sentimental value with personal situations and deciding the firearm’s future can become complicated. Here are some things to act on and weigh before making a final decision.
Safety First and Foremost
If you are unfamiliar with firearms, do not touch the inherited firearm. To ensure your safety and the safety of those around you, ask someone with firearms experience to come to your location and help you.
If that’s not an option, please contact Triangle Shooting Academy immediately and let us know your situation. You can schedule an appointment to have the firearm inspected by one of our experts. In the meantime, keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and do not let anything touch the firearm’s trigger. Transport the firearm to your vehicle only for the Triangle Shooting Academy appointment, keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and the trigger clear of any objects. ONCE YOU ARRIVE, DO NOT BRING THE FIREARM INSIDE. Leave it in your vehicle and come inside for your appointment. One of our experts will inspect the firearm in your vehicle to determine if it’s loaded. This is for everyone’s safety.
For knowledgeable firearm owners, this goes without saying. However, if you’re in possession of a newly inherited firearm, check and double check that it is unloaded. People can become forgetful as they age or deal with medical conditions, and survivors passing that firearm on to you—some of them totally unfamiliar with safety procedures—can be under stress when handling an estate.
Maintenance Check, Safety Again
Odds are good that you don’t know much of the firearm’s history, even if you shared a mutual enthusiasm for firearms with the previous owner. Model and serial numbers provide date of manufacture with enough digging, but that doesn’t reflect subsequent use and abuse.
All inherited firearms should be inspected by a certified gunsmith. Just like any other machine, firearms can break. Oftentimes, a break is not detectable by even seasoned owners. Ask a certified gunsmith to determine if the firearm is in sound condition and functions safely. This small investment provides peace of mind and can increase asking price if you intend to sell. Also, request a good cleaning. Experienced owners can handle the process, but if you’re having an expert field strip and inspect, you might as well ask them to give everything a good scrub, followed by oil and protectant.
For many people, the most important factor in determining the firearm’s future is the legacy. Weigh friendly and expert advice, but the people dispensing that wisdom probably didn’t know the original owner as well as you. It’s a mistake to underestimate the heritage, time spent together afield or at the range, and memories rekindled whenever that longarm is shouldered or handgun holstered.
Even those firearms no longer safe to shoot can be priceless heirlooms. Your father’s first shotgun may spend most of its time collecting dust, but break it out for a grandson or granddaughter brushing up before a firearm safety or hunter education course and the dividends are priceless.
You may have never touched a firearm before and are now officially one of America’s millions of owners. If you’re going to keep it, enroll in a basic firearm safety course as soon as possible. The internet, magazines and books do not teach the responsible habits instilled by handling under the trained eye of a qualified instructor. We offer classes at Triangle Shooting Academy throughout the year, many scheduled on days and hours ideal to fit into busy schedules.
Spend time getting to know that firearm at the range—at your own pace—and enjoy the experience. Odds are good the previous owner understood you’d appreciate the pleasure of marksmanship and firing line camaraderie.
Know the Value
If the heirloom will not stay in your possession, the search for an appropriate home can begin. It’s usually wise to consider family members and friends first, rather than risk anger and heated discussion later.
If that’s not an option, visit a reputable firearm dealer for an appraisal of value. Do not rely on the well-meaning advice of fellow owners because 90 percent of them have no idea how to properly evaluate a firearm. Reliable estimates are made by people who have years of industry experience dealing with used and vintage firearms. Firearm dealers also monitor market trends that affect value, whether antique or brand new.
If you visit some of the internet auction/sales sites and search for listings of identical models, keep in mind that prices on these websites don’t necessarily reflect true value. For example, asking prices are often inflated by the seller to provide “haggle room.” The firearm’s condition also plays a critical role, along with history, original box and other factors best identified by a qualified firearms expert.
Transferring the Firearm
The odds are good there’s a firearm dealer near you willing to make an offer or take it on consignment. However, if you decide to make a private sale or gift the firearm to another family member or friend, always write a bill of sale or transfer document between yourself and the recipient. While Triangle Shooting Academy does not provide this paperwork, you can find a variety of templates online. Make sure it’s dated and signed by both parties.
There are advantages to conducting the transfer through a licensed firearm dealer. Person-to-person transfer of a firearm conducted through an FFL ensures the recipient has undergone a background check, and a record of the exchange is entered into that dealer’s permanent ATF records. This service is available at Triangle Shooting Academy, although owners selling a firearm must bring their own bill-of-sale document for personal record keeping. Please note that Triangle Shooting Academy does not provide copies of ATF forms after the exchange.
Let Us Help
Our team of firearms experts has years of experience dealing with inherited and heirloom firearms. Stop by Triangle Shooting Academy today to let us answer your questions and determine the best plan for your firearm.