Author Archives: tranter54bore

Media nonsense

The Evening Standard has printed a very inaccurate and misleading report on antique firearms.

It follows on from an arrest in London a few days ago.  I am not going to comment on that case because it sub judice but I am going to comment on the misleading statements in the report, which give a completely false impression of the law surrounding antique firearms.

The author implies that Tommy guns and Browning HiPower pistols may be owned as antiques.  This far fetched nonsense.  These remain section 5 prohibited firearms and absolutely nothing in the antiques exemption changes that situation.  There is no “loop hole” in the law.

The head of Nablis is quoted as saying “Our concern is that at the moment you are entitled to walk down the street with an antique firearm capable of firing real bullets”, a statement which is seriously disingenuous and misleading.  If someone were to be found with an antique revolver in a shoulder holster in a public place, then the “curio or ornament” exemption would be void and the person carrying the gun could be prosecuted, regardless of whether it was loaded.

He goes on to say “We are finding criminals with a knowledge of the law. They recognise that they can carry these weapons with little or no risk of jail.”.  If that is the case then that is down to the incompetence of prosecutors who have the legal tools at their disposal to deal with criminals who carry antique firearms to threaten and intimidate.  I suggest that Clive Robinson acquaints himself with them.

The article is correct that antique firearms can be bought at arms and militaria fairs on the continent.  They can also be bought at arms and militaria fairs in the UK.  The photograph in the article implies that Thompsons, Uzis, sawn off shotguns, Browning HiPower pistols and the like can be bought freely on the continent.  This is seriously misleading and untrue.  They cannot.

The law on antique firearms has stood since the Pistols Act of 1903 and is robust and protects public safety.  It has stood the test of time. The only case we know of where an antique firearm has been used in crime was in the murder of bandsman Lee Rigby, where one of the terrorists was armed with an antique KNIL Dutch service revolver.  When he attempted to use the gun, it blew up taking half his hand with it.  Which rather proves the point that antique firearms are no threat to public safety but may be a threat to criminally inclined morons who try to make them work.

There has been a rush of these fear mongering articles about antique firearms and we wonder whether someone in ACPO has found a new hobby horse to ride after the demise of compulsory identity cards?

Lugers can shoot


Luger cap pistol (c)

I’ve always loved Lugers, ever since I was given a toy Luger cap pistol as a child.  Unfortunately it was played to destruction but I would dearly like to get another in its original yellow box.  The nearest I have come is this photo I found on .

I now own three Lugers, all old ones made by DWM (Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken).  Two are Swiss Lugers in 7.65 but my favourite is this 9mm 1915 dated pistol, shown in photographs below.


Luger 1915

Luger 1915 disassembled


What one first notices when handling a Luger is how precisely it is made.  All the parts fit together with the precision of a watch.  The second thing you notice is how comfortable it is to hold.  It is extremely well balanced and naturally points in the direction that one wants to shoot.



What I wasn’t expecting was how fine its trigger would be.  This is a military pistol.  Its official name was not Luger but Pistole Parabellum, which means “pistol for war”.  One has no right to expect an excellent trigger from a service pistol.  But once in a while it happens, I suppose.  The trigger on my 1915 Luger breaks very precisely and consistently allowing very good groups to be got from it.  I’ve taken it apart and I am convinced that no gunsmith has ever attempted to improve upon it, which makes it all the more remarkable.










1915 was early in war production.  The quality of its rust blue finish is superb.  The pistol was clearly very well looked after during its life.  Before I acquired it, it had led a rather inactive life locked in the section 5 armoury at Bisley Camp in Surrey for the past 18 years.  But it is now the centre piece of my collection of early semi-automatic pistols and is also an opportunity for me to test how accurate and effective these pistols were.

I am not sure how well it would behave if I were to plunge it into a bucket of mud but on the range, firing factory 9mm ammunition, it performs flawlessly with no jams or misfires.  But don’t worry about the mud, I have no intention of simulating conditions on the Western Front to that degree of verisimilitude!

Home Office Guidance – CAUTION

The Home Office publishes a guide to what may constitute an antique firearm.

This guidance has no statutory foundation and is, in effect, simply a gentleman’s agreement not to prosecute should an old gun meet the conditions set out in the guidance.  However it is not definitive and there are cases where guns not covered by the guidance may be accepted as antique.

For example, the obsolete centre fire cartridge 41 Colt is not covered by the guidance.  However I have successfully argued with my licensing authority that revolvers chambered for 41 Colt should be considered antique and several such firearms were removed from my certificate as a result.

BUT very strong caution needs to be advised should  anyone choose to step outside the Home Office guidance.  At the very least, an accredited expert’s opinion should be sought, but this is not a magic talisman against the authorities arresting and prosecuting a gun collector.

For anyone thinking of acquiring an old gun not on the Home Office list, I would strongly advise either lodging the guns in question with an RFD (Registered Firearms Dealer) or keeping them on a personal firearms certificate until they have received confirmation of the gun’s antique status from their local firearms department.

A collector might prevail in court, but possibly at a considerable cost to his health and wealth.  The authorities are ruthless and uncompromising when it comes to prosecuting suspected breaches of firearms law.  Being proved right by a jury may be very little recompense for the humiliation of being arrested and thousands spent on defence lawyer’s fees.

Here endeth the sermon

44 Russian!

44 Russian is a gift to all of us who like to collect guns of the Old West.  Never mind that the “Old West” is a mythic reinvention of the history of the west by the dime magazine purveyors of the late Nineteenth century, it still holds a powerful influence over many of us.

44 Russian

44 Russian compared to 44/100

44 Russian was a cartridge invented by Smith & Wesson in 1872.  It was designed at the behest of the Russian government, that was looking to adopt Smith & Wesson revolvers for its army but disliked the 44/100 cartridge that was used in those revolvers.  The 44/100 used a “heel based” bullet, rather like a modern 22 rimfire and was smeared with lubricating grease, again like a modern 22 rinfire!  The heel of the bullet rests on top of the cartridge case.  The Russians realised that this was completely unsuitable for service use as the grease was a magnet for dust and detritus that might damage the gun’s bore.

Smith & Wesson came up with the 44 Russian, the first modern cartridge.  The bullet’s base was enclosed by the brass cartridge case and its lubrication was enclosed.

Thus the Tsarist army adopted the Smith & Wesson revolver chambered for the 44 Russian.  It had a long service life.  In the 1940s, NKVD units were using 44 Russian revolvers during the “Great Patriotic War”.

In 2001, the Home Office published a new list of obsolete cartridges, which nominated 44 Russian as obsolete, which has opened up Western revolver collecting to British antique collectors.  Most Western revolvers were chambered for 44 Russian, even if it is a rare chambering for some brands, such as the Colt Single Action Army, for example.

DA Blue 2

S&W Model of 1881 in its original sales carton

Here are some examples of old western guns chambered for 44 Russian, all of which may be held as a antiques in the UK.

The S&W Model of 1881 was a fairly popular model that sold well out west.  The notorious gun slinger John Wesley Hardin had one in his pocket when he was shot in the back at the Acme Saloon in El Paso in 1895


Colt Model of 1878 in 44 Russian

It was S&W’s answer to the Colt self cocking revolver, the model of 1878, which is shown here.  The 1878 was produced in 44 Russian, mostly for the German market.  This particular gun was shipped in 1887 to Paul Reuss, a gun dealer in Stuttgart, who was trying to interst German officers in the gun.


Very few examples of this model in this calibre survive, as all privately owned pistols were confiscated and destroyed after the Versailles Treaty.


Colt Single Action Army in 44 Russian

The iconic Single Action Army was chambered in 44 Russian but only about 150 were made, out of a total production run of over 300,000, so must certainly be counted a rarity today.  Mostly, these guns were made for the target shooting community in the 1890s and early twentieth century.  The gun portrayed here is unusual as it is a standard frame “self defence” revolver in 44 Russian, which is most unusual.

Model 3 target

S&W target revolver

The 44 Russian was discovered to be a very accurate target round and many manufacturers starting making high quality target variations of their standard revolvers.  here is an early 20th Century New Model 3 target revolver made by Smith & Wesson.


Guns like these were very popular with the British shooting community and were shot at the national shooting centre at Bisley Camp.

Buying that first gun

It can be a daunting process buying that first antique gun.  My advice is to go to lots of gun shows, and view and handle lots of guns, and meet lots of dealers, before buying.  I would always advise a beginner to buy from a reputable dealer rather than buying in a general antique shop or from a classified advert.  There are just too many ways to be stiffed.  You may pay more from a reputable dealer in the area you have chosen to collect it, you have much more chance of getting something pukka for your money.  As a baby collector you are quite vulnerable to shysters so don’t make it too easy for them.

I have written more in the article Buying a gun, available from the menu under “Antique Firearms”




What is an antique firearm


Cased Tranter 80 bore revolver

I have posted an article about the conditions that an old gun must satisfy to be considered an antique in the UK.

The law doesn’t define it but there is guidance that does.  Ultimately it is up to a court to decide whether or not, taking all the facts of the case into consideration, whether a particular gun is antique.

However if a collector sticks to the Home Office guidance then he or she will never be prosecuted.

Some police licensing departments have accepted guns as antique that are not covered by the guidance.  But’s that an advanced topic for another time!


This is a site for collectors of antique and vintage firearms, those who are interested in old guns and those who might be interested in collecting if they knew more about it.  15 years ago, I bought my first my first gun, an antique percussion revolver.  It was an impulse buy while browsing through an antique shop.  “Does it need a licence”, I enquired?  No is doesn’t, I was assured.  It is an antique.  And there’s the thing.  if you live in Britain you might think that “guns are banned”.  Not a bit of it.  From the 1968 Firearms Act:

Nothing in this Act relating to firearms shall apply to an antique firearm which is sold, transferred, purchased, acquired or possessed as a curiosity or ornament

Over the years I acquired quite legally many guns under the authority of that “antique exemption”.  But what is an antique and what does kept as a “curio or ornament” mean?  The second part is the easiest to answer.  “Curio or ornament” means the gun is kept as a decorative item and not for its original purpose.  If the gun is owned with the intention of being fired, even occasionally, then the full rigours of certificate control apply.  What’s an antique?  Well that’s something I hope to cover on this blog.

I am hoping that this site can be a repository of advice about old guns.  How to spot a fake?  How to spot a refinished gun?  The legal aspects of collecting and what you need to do should you want to shoot any of your old guns.  I’ll be putting up pages illustrated with my own collection but I am hoping I can persuade other collectors to share photographs of their collectables.

My own collection centres on pistols from 1850 to 1920, but I have some that date before that and some vintage pistols that date from the 1940s.  Most are antiques but some require a firearms certificate to authorize their possession.

That’s probably enough of an introduction to start with.  If you have any questions, please ask.