There is a lot of debate about how to properly care for antique items, especially ones that used to be functional— like historical firearms. In the case of antique firearms, many people think there are methods of care that will keep the item in good condition without lessening its value. However, collectors and sellers alike suggest leaving an antique firearm alone; attempting to clean or restore it has more of a chance of compromising its quality than actually restoring it.
Antique Firearm Care Tips
1. Never Recoat the Metal or the Stock
If you want to maintain the integrity and authenticity of the materials, avoid messing with the protective finish of the antique firearm. Using any oils in an attempt to restore the protective coating can trap dust and dirt, marking the item permanently unclean and putting at risk of corrosion. It would be wise to stay away from any modern finishes, too. Antique firearms are usually already covered by a finish that would be difficult to duplicate today. Using a modern coat on an antique firearm stock, even for restoration, will make proving the authenticity next to impossible.
Now, people will claim that paste wax is the best material to use when restoring the look of the stock for an antique firearm. However, clear paste wax can turn white when it dries, leaving obvious specks all over the stock where the wax is imprinted. Paste wax is incredibly difficult to remove, and applying too much pigmented wax can change the shade of the stock completely.
2. Always Use Gloves
Wearing gloves when handling your antique firearm will keep the protective coating intact by preventing oils from your skin from making contact with the delicate materials. Remember that oil of any kind can cause wear and tear that would decrease the value of any antique firearm.
3. Dust with a Damp Cloth Only When Needed
The tricky thing about antique firearms is that dust can cause damage just as much as any high-risk restoration materials. Dust traps moisture and can increase the likelihood of corrosion, so while restorative treatments are not recommended, it is still especially important to keep your antique firearms dust-free. However, you must:
- never use commercial dust cloths to do this; these can leave behind a thin oil film that traps dust and water vapor from the air
- never use alcohol to clean an antique firearm; it can strip the historic finish off of the stock
- never use spray bottle cleaning products; these tend to leave a fine layer of mineral oil behind, which collects dust and can cause corrosion
The best method of dusting an antique firearm is to use a very lightly damp cotton cloth. Without the smallest amount of moisture, dust gets pushed around and won’t actually be picked up. Once you’ve successfully removed dust, be sure to dry any moisture left behind with a clean, very fine cloth. This is the absolute most you should ever do to clean your antique firearm.
4. When Preparing for Auction
The use of restorative methods like the ones mentioned at the start of this list is unwise. As the seller of the antique firearm, be sure that the cleaning methods you employ are extremely minimal— just enough to keep dust off of the antique. Risking damage to the piece by trying and failing to restore it will only ruin it and its value.
5. The Best Way to Maintain the Quality of Your Antique Firearm
Surprisingly enough, the best care you can give your antiques is displaying or storing them in a space that does not fluctuate in humidity. When humidity is constant, both the metal and wood of your antique firearm will remain unaffected by changes in temperature. A sudden drop in RH and rise in temperature, though, can jeopardize the quality of the antique and heighten the risks of cracking or splitting. Be sure to monitor the levels of humidity in your display or storage space.
Consigning an Antique Firearm at Four Seasons Auction Gallery
Four Seasons Auction Gallery has dealt in the consignment of antiques for over twenty years, including historic firearms. We promise to handle your items with the utmost care and deliver you a profit worthy of their quality and distinction. For more information about the consignment of antique firearms, call Four Seasons Auction Gallery today at 470-589-1653.