Shoot ‘Em or Collect ‘Em?

Posted by Bruce Canfield

For some reason, there has long been something of a running feud between collectors of U.S. military weapons and those who enjoy shooting same. Opinions on both sides are often posted on various Internet discussion sites, gun shows and other venues and sometimes the opinions expressed are less than civil. I’ve never really understood this disagreement and see no reason why it has to be an “Either/Or” scenario. While I consider myself much more of a collector than a shooter, I have no qualms about taking out some of my pieces and cranking off a few rounds from time to time. The Class III stuff is really a blast, literally and figuratively, to shoot! I don’t go to the range a great deal because:

  1. I don’t always have the time.
  2. Have you priced ammunition lately?
  3. I hate cleaning guns.

Now this having been said, there are guns that, in my opinion, should never be fired. Guns in this category are those in pristine condition and those that are old, rare and/or valuable (age, value and rarity do not always equate but this is another discussion for another time). For example, if someone owns a weapon that is in unfired condition, I think it would be a travesty to shoot it. Yea, I know all military weapons were test-fired and proof-fired at the factory, thus there is technically no such thing as an “unfired” gun, but you know what I mean. Likewise, a weapon that is ultra-rare and/or very valuable should not be fired, even if it may not be in pristine condition. While the odds may not be very high that it will happen, a ruptured cartridge case, blown primer, etc. could damage the weapon and substantially reduce, if not destroy, its value. Who would risk firing an original .30-03 Rod Bayonet ’03 or a genuine Officer’s Model Trapdoor Springfield?

On the flip side of the coin, I’ve heard many shooters disdainfully refer to collectors, sometimes in NSFW language, because of their reluctance to fire their cherished collectibles. Mint conditioned guns are derisively categorized as “Closet Queens” (it may be no coincidence that most of these critics don’t own any guns of that type). While I may not share their hard-line attitude that “all guns must be fired,” I understand where they’re coming from. Everyone is entitled to engage in whatever activities they enjoy as long as no laws are violated and nobody is harmed. However, it should be remembered that this works both ways. If a guy wants to shoot all of his guns…fine and dandy, but don’t criticize a collector who chooses not to do the same.

In closing, I remember having a friendly debate with a “hard core” shooter who also considered himself a collector. He was adamant when he said he “…would never own a collectible that couldn’t be used for the purpose it was made.” My response was that it was a good thing he didn’t collect stamps!

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