View Full Version : Safe to shoot?

August 20, 2008, 02:59 PM
Just curious - not really into C&R, (YET) ;). Do all of you actually shoot the firearms in your collections? And how do you know if they are safe to fire? I would guess one way is if they blow up with the first shot they weren't safe. :rolleyes: Seems like it would be a waste of some well made arms to just let them sit around. Just wondering...

August 20, 2008, 03:11 PM
my oldest gun was made in 1884, and I shoot it all the time. I only own one gun I dont shoot (due to the fact I suspect it may be unsafe), and only own it becasue it was handed down thorugh the family. I would not personally pay for a gun that I cant fire for some reason.

As far as how to tell what is or isnt safe, headspace gauges, inspecting for any deep pitting, cracks, poor lockup of cylinders on revolvers, things that are generally "loose" or "sloppy", etc are easy indicators they may be unsafe.Also lots of info on just about ANY gun on how to, and what, to do safety checks on.

The best way, however, is if there is ANY doubt, no matter how small,to have it checked by a good gunsmith who is familiar with that gun. Inspections are pretty cheap, and definitely way cheaper than a destroyed gun, eye damage, missing fingers, etc.

Also, the C&R/milsurp "community" is MASSIVE, and there are tons of books, and an endless supply of forums, webpages, etc dedicated to it all, and info on what to check, look for, stay away from, etc is pretty readily available.

James K
August 20, 2008, 05:17 PM
Most collectors don't shoot their collectible guns not because of safety concerns but because firing them reduces the value and risks breaking unobtainable parts. Plus there is always the possibility of a catastropic failure that will reduce the value of an antique from $10000 to $0 in a millisecond.

Milsurps are less problematic for three reasons. The first is that they were usually in the national arsenals before sale and were in serviceable condition ready for issue in an emergency. The second is that military guns are noted for being rugged, so parts breakage or failure is not common. The third is that they are usually available in large quantities so that parts are readily available, either from spares or from cannibalized guns.


August 21, 2008, 06:48 AM
The only guns I own that I won't fire are those that I can't fire, like my Vetterli. (And I'd fire it, too, if I could find some .41 Swiss rimfire that was less than 67 years old...)

August 21, 2008, 10:19 AM
This is a wonderful article on that nice Swiss rifle and how someone was able to turn it into a shooter.

August 21, 2008, 10:41 AM
I shoot mine. I don't see the point in buying guns I can't shoot. If I had something truly valuable I might lay off it (especially if it has sentimental value, like some family heirlooms I will eventually inherit).

If you are wondering about safety, then do your research first. Don't just buy it and then go popping off shots. Some guns were made in chamberings that have since picked up a good deal of power, and firing new full house loads in them will cause grief (the Swiss 1911 rifle comes to mind). Others have peculiar needs, and while it will fire one ammo, others that can be chambered need to be abstained from (like how 7.62 NATO is fine in an Ishapore Enfield, but .308 Winchester is a no-no).

Finding that information is usually pretty simple.

August 21, 2008, 01:27 PM
I fire all mine.

Shooting a properly maintained and cared for gun, regardless of when it was made is about the least harmful thing you can do to it.:)

August 21, 2008, 08:47 PM
I shoot all of mine. My oldest shooter was made in 1907. I have a Gew88 I would like to shoot, but it's missing parts. I have fired ammo as old at 1916 in a Lee-Enfield with no problems.


August 22, 2008, 12:03 AM
My one and only C + R is a 1942 M1. It fires every time its loaded and I pull the trigger. I love it.

August 22, 2008, 04:29 AM
I only have one oldie and it's only from 1953. I had it professionally disassembled, cleaned and checked before firing. I wouldn't have fired it otherwise. If your counting on a small piece of equipment to direct an explosion and shrapnel away from you, I would seek the advice of a professional before detonating...at least that is how I look at it.

I fire it regularly, for me at least, that is the point of a firearm. I can see not firing a real antique, but I don't have too much of an interest in owning a look-but-don't-touch item.

Conceptually, I don't really understand the difference between (1) a firearm that is "working" in theory only, but which you can't fire because, as stated above, you risk breaking it and rendering it unable to fire, and (2) a firearm that is already broken. You can't fire either one.

I'm not knocking collectors of antiques...it's just not for me. I just got enough "collectibles" laying around the house, I don't need any more.

August 22, 2008, 11:08 AM
I should actually correct my statement that I wouldnt pay for a gun I couldnt fire. I do plan to get an old pin-fire handgun someday, just to have as an example of another "step" in firearms evolution/innovation and while there is some old ammo out there you could buy to fire it, the ammo is priced as a collectable itself, so using it for plinking would be out of the realm of possibility for us average Joe's, and while it may be possible to make your own, I think that task is beyond my abilities personally, so that would be one I would buy, but not be able to fire.

But, the guns can be found for about $100, and sometimes less, so that wouldnt be too bad for something as a display/curiosity only.

I guess I was thinking more along the lines of collectors that buy $10,000 antiques, limited editions, John Wayne's gun, etc, but dont fire them due to it's effect on value. That I wouldnt do, even if I had $10,000 to spend. I'd either have to be able to shoot it, and eat the money I lose from firing it (and possibly wearing down a piece of history depending on the gun), or just not get it.Big difference between $100 gun that I dont fire because ammo is not available, and a $10,000 gun I dont fire because I'm afraid of affecting it's re-sale value.

I buy guns to shoot, or at least, to have as a curiosity or example of a certain point in history/firearms history, not to jsut say "I own John Wayne's gun", or to resell it to make money in the future. To each his own though, how other people spend thier money, and what they do or dont do with thier property is ceratinly none of my business, so I certainly dont "look down" on people who do things I wouldnt.

T. O'Heir
August 22, 2008, 11:53 PM
"...how do you know if they are safe to fire?..." Talon, that is truly a fabulous question. The C&R isn't absolutely necessary. Unless you like doing paperwork. You can own and shoot milsurps without it. Research about the particular rifle is essential. Either on-line or through books. Look in your local public library first.
Anyway, most milsurps are safe to shoot without much fear. They're solidly made to be issued to troopies without any shooting experience. The only exception is any Lee-Enfield. Made anywhere or sold by anybody. Thousands of 'em have been assembled out of parts bins wit hzero QC. The bolt head on them sets the headspace and you have no idea if the bolt head has been changed in 60 plus years. Even if the S/N on the back of the bolt handle matches that of the rifle. The ease and cost fixing bad headspace on one depends on the model. Great rifles, but they do have that headspace caveat. A No. 4 Mk. I* is easier to fix.
All that aside, the one milsurp rifle that has something about it that absoluttely no other rifle has is the M1 Garand. I've shot a whole bunch of military rifles and not one even comes close to an M1 rifle. I think it's the near perfect balance, light felt recoil with a cartridge that will kill any game you care to hunt and shoots well for target shooting. And it's really not because the inventor was a Canadian. Your CMP sells them at a reasonable cost, after ensuring they're safe to shoot. No C&R or FFL middleman required either. There are hoops to jump and shoot the matches even if you don't have to and buy one. Trust me. There really isn't a rifle that's quite like an M1.
Go here. http://www.thecmp.org/

August 23, 2008, 07:53 AM
With collector pieces and assuming the gun appears safe, it depends on the condition as to whether or not you might shoot them. Generally if a gun has been shot and there is some visible wear, you will NOT reduce the value of a collector piece by shooting it. Of course, you still have to take care of them.

After you buy guns a while, you essentially have too many to shoot. So, on a given day, why choose an old handgun or rifle to shoot when you might have a newer one in the same caliber that you see little collector value in the reasonable future? Owner's choice. I choose not to in most cases.

Guns are made to shoot, so it is the owner's choice as to how they are preserved (fired or unfired). How you take care of them is your business also. Some might stand a $10,000 gun in a closet and others will have it in a climate controlled safe.

August 23, 2008, 08:27 AM
Thanks to everyone for their contributions! Some very good points made and good information! :)

David the Gnome
August 24, 2008, 08:20 AM
I only own a few C&R's that I don't shoot and that's just because ammunition is either too difficult to find, too expensive, or they just don't make it anymore. I have a number of guns I have never fired for this reason.

T. R. Allen
October 18, 2008, 01:46 PM
I didn't used to have any c&r guns, but the years have passed and now I have many.

November 7, 2008, 01:16 PM
guns are safe its the nut behind them like me.I started with a 1909 made mauser and hand loaded dupont bulk shotgun[thats a powder.]in 8 mm cases
with lead bullet I cast in a plaster of paris mold[thats another story]had to hammer bolt open.bullet melted as it left.how do I know the holes in the sheet I used as target.many of them.amazing what guns would take.I have a 88 comision I shoot but I am much older and not as brave.I have one of the no 4s had bad head space,had 0 bolthead it has a no 3 now.got a 98 WW1 sporter.sites are ff to right and has head space problem.can fix head space by moving shoulder but cant change the sights.:rolleyes::confused:;)

James K
November 7, 2008, 01:36 PM
I don't worry a lot about a gun's age, only its condition. A couple of months ago I took three Model 1842 pistols out to the range and had a blast. Lots of interest from other shooters. Those were very good guns, and I can see why they were liked. I also shoot Civil War era guns and my Model 1816 musket. As the old joke goes, "that's what they made 'em fur!"


November 7, 2008, 03:09 PM
I shot the ones I can get ammunition for.

8mm Siamese Mauser I can’t.

8mm Portuguese Kropatchek I can’t, I do have ammunition for that one those. I found two boxes made in 1908 and most of the cases split.

November 7, 2008, 07:48 PM
I completely disassemble all my C&R rifles, carbines, pistols and revolvers and inspect, clean and reassemble them. This is not simply a "field strip". I replace any damaged or broken parts. Since I collect primarily U.S. martial arms, I try to locate the appropriate Field Manual and follow their guidance. I have fired most of them and likely will fire the rest at some point.

Even with U.S. military arms, ammunition errors can cause severe problems, especially with pre-1899 arms. Think cowboy action loads and understand the difference between types within caliber, such as .38Colt v. .38spl and .45LC v. .45acp.

November 8, 2008, 07:40 AM
Some guns were made in chamberings that have since picked up a good deal of power, and firing new full house loads in them will cause grief (the Swiss 1911 rifle comes to mind).

A Gew. 1911 should be perfectly safe with commercial 7.5 Swiss or GP11 surplus ball. That's what I use in my 96/11.

8mm Siamese Mauser I can’t.

I got some OWS ammo for mine. I think Buffalo Arms may load it also.

November 8, 2008, 10:36 AM
I have a small collection of export mausers (i.e. 3x'09s, 1x08, '93, '95, '98), and would not hesitate to fire them, given their excellent condition--but I don't for the sake of wear and tear, and need to obsessively clean every part.

I own ammo and dies for every rifle that I have. As for the mausers, I would only buy them for shooting if the bolt matches the action. The DWM gunsmiths were the best in the history of the world and as long as the rifles are in original configuration, you'll never see a better fit in those rifles: not to mention the weight, strength, and quality of the steel put into the actions during that time period is unmatched to this day. You can tell from across the table if a bolt is mismatched, because it just will not have that "ahhh" slide, fit and lock that you want, and which is why I'm addicted to these rifles.

As for wartime rifles, I've been warned to avoid late war productions, as the quality control slipped as Germany began to lose the war.

November 8, 2008, 02:55 PM
grafs sell swiss 7.5 check out their site

November 8, 2008, 03:02 PM
45/70 base is .505 same as siamese Load from a disk is great to compare cases.

November 10, 2008, 09:17 AM
I got some OWS ammo for mine. I think Buffalo Arms may load it also.

8x50Rmm or 8x52Rmm?

Mine is 8x52R.

Years ago I went to the Greensburg PA gun show when it was in the old mall. There is a guy there that made 8x52Rs. It was something like a 10 step process. He would use 45-70 and had to turn the rims down, trim twice, etc…

November 10, 2008, 10:03 AM
Ah. Mine's still in 8x50R.

November 10, 2008, 06:36 PM
At a recent Gun Show I picked up a 6.5 Swiss bolt action made in 1902. Absolut Beut! Still ammo around in bulk packs and that rifle built like a Swiss watch still groups < 2" at 100 yards with the non standard peep site somebody put on it last century for competion shooting. Most of the older last century guns put modern ones to shame. :)

Still on the down side most of the old original ammo is corrosive and cleaning them is a real problem. Add to this that most of the sellers of the old ammo don't know if its corrosive primed or not but tend to tell you its not...

November 10, 2008, 08:30 PM
If it's got a black primer its corrosive or so I've been told.
The orders for the old smellys (kiwi colloquillism for SMLE-Short Magazine, Lee-Enfield) were two quarts (or maybe pints? Whichever's bigger) of boiling water down the barrel after action. I know my mates old man works for DOC (Dept of Conservation) and was using an SMLE to euthanise beached whales after efforts to free them failed. Old ex-military corrosively primed AP or Ball in a saltwater environ. Great for the rifle.

Slightly off topic but are Lee Enfields regarded as collectables in the US?

November 10, 2008, 09:57 PM
Slightly off topic but are Lee Enfields regarded as collectables in the US?

Absolutely!!! :)

November 10, 2008, 10:01 PM
Slightly off topic but are Lee Enfields regarded as collectables in the US?

Yes, to a greater or lesser extent.

Scarcity and value-wise, Ishapores and Lithgows and No.4 Mk.I's of the Long Branch persuasion are at the lower end of the totem pole here, rising up through other No.4's, then Mk.III* SMLE's, then pre-Great War rifles and No.1 Mk.V's, and reaching a pinnacle with the various sniper variants.

You could pick up a .308 Ishy for ~$150 USD, up to a few grand for a nice No.4 Mk.I (T).

I have a 1918 BSA "Smelly" and a '53 Faz No.4 Mk.II, myself.

November 11, 2008, 03:37 PM
SMLE's are a dime a dozen for a sporterised ones here. We had/have a real deer problem here so we employed people as "cullers" to shoot them. Parts of maps with "UNCHARTED" stamped on them were guaranteed to have .303 casings in them. Even a fully wooded one is only about NZ$550. They are regarded as good cheap first rifles. We even modified them to launch nets to live capture deer.

November 15, 2008, 12:18 PM
I have a Swedish Mauser made in 1898. I fire it all the time.
Probably the best-built and most accurate military rifle ever made.