The 4 Biggest Threats To Your Antique Gun Collection - And What To Do About Them

Posted on: 13 July 2015

Antique guns are often worth hundreds of dollars, so it's unsurprising that these firearms are an increasingly popular investment. These beautiful collectibles make a handsome addition to any home, but, like any other antique, it's important to protect your collection from anything that could cause damage or wear. Find out about the four biggest threats to your antique gun collection, and learn more about the steps you can take to protect these precious heirlooms.


Relative humidity is a measure (expressed as a percentage) that scientists use to describe the amount of water in the air. If the amount of water vapor increases, relative humidity will also go up. Even if the amount of water stays the same, relative humidity can still increase if the temperature goes up. As such, relative humidity can vary throughout the average home.

Unfortunately, humidity can damage your antique gun collection. The wood in your firearms is susceptible to a property called anisotropy, where the wood cells can expand or contract as the relative humidity changes. Over time, this can lead to cracks in the wood.

As such, it's important to keep the humidity constant in any room where you store antique firearms. An electric dehumidifier can help keep moisture under control, but you should try to avoid any rooms where the temperature often changes, such as basements or attics.


A lot of people collect antique firearms because of the beautiful types of wood that manufacturers once used. Gun makers once commonly used Black Walnut and Curly Maple to create gun stocks. Curly Maple has a distinctive flame pattern that looks particularly attractive, so it's natural for a collector to want to show off such beautiful designs.

Unfortunately, antique firearms on display can quickly gather dust. A lot of dust will trap moisture, which can increase the risk of corrosion on metal parts. If you use a commercial dust cloth, you may leave an oily film on the gun that just traps more dust. As such, you should always aim to use a slightly damp soft cotton cloth, as this will pick up and remove the dust for you without harming the gun's surface.

Your skin

Antique firearms are not just attractive ornaments, and many collectors love to handle a gun that has historic importance. Unfortunately, manual handling can quickly damage and devalue your antique collection. When you touch an antique firearm without protection, the National Firearms Museum says you are "loving it to a slow death".

You should never handle a classic firearm with bare skin. Oils and secretions in your sweat can quickly erode the surface of any classic gun. Of course, ideally you would never handle an antique firearm at all, but if you do, you should always wear clean white cotton gloves.

Harsh cleaning products

As antique guns age, a coating called patina slowly develops on the surface of the firearm. This coating can appear on metallic or wooden surfaces. Patina is important to any collector. This layer takes a long time to develop, so antique dealers often use this coating to accurately age firearms and other collectibles.

Overzealous cleaning can damage and remove the patina that has taken so long to develop on antique firearms. Without the patina, the value of a collectible gun can decrease, so it's vital that you don't do anything to harm this layer

When cleaning wood stocks, you should avoid all alcohol-based cleaning products, as well as any household liquid or spray dusting products. In fact, unless necessary, you should avoid cleaning this part of the gun completely. If you must clean the gun, use distilled water with a mild detergent, rinsing and drying immediately with clean cloths.

Antique firearms are an increasingly popular with American investors, but you must carefully look after your collection. For further advice, talk to an experienced dealer in your area.