While I love looking at and studying old guns, my interest in “antique” firearms is almost purely from the shooter’s perspective. I don’t own any firearm I can’t shoot. No high dollar collectible wall hangers for me!
When I started working on The Handbook of Modern Percussion Revolvers, I decided to focus on replica revolvers of modern manufacture, and to write a book for people who enjoy shooting their guns rather than a book for collectors of antique weaponry. With that goal in mind I assembled a collection of pistols that included two specimens of the Ruger Old Army revolver.
The Old Army produced by Sturm, Ruger & Co. is not a copy of any historical revolver. It is a completely modern percussion revolver based on their Blackhawk single action revolver originally introduced in the 1950s. The Old Army is a robust pistol that captured a significant share of the market for black powder target shooters, but it never really achieved much popularity among the general shooting community. The usual retail price for an Old Army hovered around $350 depending mostly on whether the finish was blued steel or stainless.
The growth of the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting created a new demand for the Old Army. This lead to Ruger offering an expended selection of features and barrel lengths. These new models further depressed the prices of the “standard” models. I picked up a brand new blued Old Army for $250 in 2008, and a used stainless pistol with “Made in the 200th Year of American Liberty” factory stamped on the barrel for $310 in 2010.
In 2012 events altered my fortunes.
Strum Ruger & Co. announced they were ceasing production of all models of the Old Army, and shortly after that my home was burglarized. Losses included the two Old Army revolvers that I had been photographing for my book.
Suddenly I was faced with the necessity of acquiring an Old Army before I could complete my book. Thinking I could just hop online and snap up a replacement, I was stunned because the standard model Old Army was suddenly going for $500+!
Almost overnight a common everyday item that had never commanded much respect or interest had become a “collectible” and doubled in value. Now that I have another Old Army, I don’t know if I want to shoot it because shooting a gun lowers its collector value, but I don’t own guns I can’t shoot, but it’s a collectible…decisions, decisions.