RIA Premier Auction (Part I)

There is another Rock Island Premier Auction coming up in a couple weeks (September 13-15, to be specific), and as usual there is some really cool stuff going on the block. Unlike the regional auctions, the items up for sale this time are pretty much all individual guns, and none of it is low-dollar stuff. Let’s take a look through some of the thing that jumped out at me from the catalog…

As usual, there are a boatload of Lugers and P38s – way too many for me to cover in any reasonable way. There are also a bunch of 1911s – which is not surprising – but what did catch my eye was the significant number of 1902 and 1905 Colt pistols, the developmental predecessors to the 1911. In fact, they even have a pair of Colt 1900 models. One of them (Lot 3588) is one of 250 guns made for testing by the US Navy, and the other (Lot 1775) is a gun personally modified by Browning as a testbed for the slide stop control that would become standard on later models. The 1900 model is chambered for the .38 Colt Auto cartridge (which was also used in some Webley-Fosbery auto-revolvers, as a side note) and is commonly called the “sight safety” model. The rear sight was mounted on a pivot, and could be snapped down to block the hammer from hitting the firing pin, thus acting as a manual safety. An interesting idea, which didn’t last…

Colt 1900 "Sight Safety" Pistol
Colt 1900 “Sight Safety” Pistol at RIA
Colt 1900 "Sight Safety"
Click to enlarge – details of Colt 1900 sight safety (not RIA’s specific pistol)

In the realm of US martial pistols, there are also a total of three, count ’em, three original Liberators being sold (Lot 1825, Lot 1882, and Lot 3684). Slightly less practical than the Model 1900, but a lot less expensive – and with a really cool anti-authoritarian angle, if you like that sort of thing.

Looking for something even less practical but more historically notable? How about a 1907 Colt automatic pistol factory prototype that succumbed to serious stress testing? The 1907 was another military trials pistol, and this one (Lot 3546) had its slide pretty well kaboomed. The perfect piece for someone who “has everything” – I bet they don’t have one of these!

Colt 1907 destroyed factory prototype
Colt 1907 kaBoom!

At roughly the same time that Colt was perfecting the 1911 model, the Mauser company was working on a plan to capture a big military market with a pistol in the 9mm Parabellum cartridge. Their gun followed the general lines of the 1910 pocket pistol, but with a new delayed-blowback action. Only a few hundred were made before WWI began and the development program was dropped to accommodate large military contracts for wartime needs. Still a few of those made are still floating around, and are known as the Mauser 1912/14. Lot 3356 is a particularly nice example:

Mauser Model 1912/14
Mauser Model 1912/14

In the way of more modern pistols, we have Lot 896, an HK P7M13 (which some would consider the ultimate carry gun) and Lot 912, an original LM-4 Semmerling (in case you saw our video on the American Derringer production version and still really want one).

Last but not least, how about Lot 1508, a 1903 Bergmann-Mars (no relation to the Gabbett-Fairfax Mars)? This was a predecessor to the fairly successful 1910 model Bergmann, which is a pistol I have been lusting after for a while now for my own personal collection.

Model 1903 Bergmann-Mars pistol
Model 1903 Bergmann-Mars pistol

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at some long guns up for sale at the auction…


  1. I’ve always enjoyed the lines of the Colt 1900/1902/1905 pistols. Also, forward slide serrations, regarded as a relatively recent development in tactical pistol design, were actually present on some of the 1900s (as well as the Dreyse 1907 and others), once again showing that few ideas are truly new.

  2. A word to the wise on pre World War II Colt automatics: replace the recoil spring before you fire them. Colt’s pre WW II spring steel had a high phosphorous content and these original recoil springs have usually taken a ‘set’ (i.e. shortened); not providing enough resistance to recoil. I have seen several Model 1911s, one Model 1905, and two Model 1902s which have been damaged by firing them with the original recoil springs. The Model 1900 – 1905 trapezoidal linkage guns usually crack their takedown wedges when they are fired with their original springs. The Model 1911s crack their slide at the dust cover.

    Postwar Colt springs are usually good, but you should check them against new springs on a regular basis. When they get one coil shorter than a new spring, replace them. Full length spring guides really help extend the life of Model 1911 recoil springs. I have fired my Model 1902 Sporting and Military, and my Model 1903 Pocket Hammer without any problems after fitting them with modern springs. The Model 1902s are the original ‘long slide’ automatic and are a lot of fun to shoot.

    An Ohio dealer had a Mauser 1912/14 early this spring which I had a good look at. It had been refinished, but a really professional job was done many years ago. The dealer said The highest serial number Model 1912/14 he had seen was 199, but he didn’t think that Mauser made all the serial numbers to 199, rather they made them in four blocks of 25 numbers each with gaps between blocks. These pistols looked to be a lot more difficult to manufacture than a C96 or a Pistole 08, which is probably why they never entered production. The Ohio dealer was asking $ 60,000 for the pistol, which was way beyond my budget.

  3. I think the name Mars was chosen for the Bergmann and the Gabbett-Fairfax pistols to emphasize their intended role as military handguns, like the name Parabellum to the P/08.

  4. This is going to be a fantastic auction, I’ve been drooling over the catalogs since they came out a few weeks ago.

    If you guys are interested in this genre of firearms, you should check out:


    They regularly list antique and collector firearms, as well as militaria and military collectibles. They’ve got a good selection of pre-64 Winchesters, a bunch of Trapdoor Springfields, etc.

    I check in with them at least once a week to see what they’ve added.

    They have a good variety of items and they price them to sell.

    I know the guys that run the shop, and they do business with RIA as well, so you may even see some former RIA lots on there at times.

    Happy hunting!

    – Jeff

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