Tomorrow’s Collectors

I attended the memorial service for Uncle Bob Faris on Wednesday, and it really highlighted to me why I (and my collaborators) devote so much of our time to building this web site, and made me reflect on why and how I collect guns myself.

7mm Vickers
Photo courtesy of Tom Mayer and R&R Exotic Machines

At the reception/wake after the service, there was a selection of machine guns out on display. Great guns – Maxims, Vickers, Brens, Lewises, Brownings and more. They set the tone of the gathering perfectly, and whoever thought to arrange the display is to be commended. But I couldn’t help thinking as I looked at them that there is no way I can hope to accumulate a collection like Bob had. For him and the other fine gentlemen of his generation, these guns were available to those who had the interest and were willing to do the legwork to find them. A smaller market and less available information worked to their benefit, because demand was much less than it is today and the guns were available. It was a matter of being able to appreciate the rarity and seek it out.In gunsmithing school, Bob bought his Mondragon rifle from none other than P.O. Ackley for all of $35. Sure, that would be a lot more in today’s dollars, but the gun was there to be had and you could only market it by word of mouth or paid print ad in a periodical.

Today, thanks to the internet and passing decades, that rifle is priced out of reach of any young beginning collector. Someone looking to sell such a gun can make it available to anyone with an internet connection at the touch of a key. Thanks to the explosion of knowledge that the internet has brought about, far more people know what the Mondragon was, and want to have one. You can’t just find one just by luck and perseverance now, you have to be able to compete directly with everyone else who has the disposable income to throw after it.

Is that a bad thing? No, not really. Because it does mean that people like me do have the opportunity to buy one, if we are willing to make it enough of a financial priority. And more importantly, I can find out more about the Mondragon today in an hour online than I could get from a week in the library fifty years ago. That’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make, even if it’s always depressing to see guns that sold for a few hundred dollars 30 years ago bring tens of thousands today. Yeah, I’m talking about you, Bren gun.

And that’s why we put the work into this site. I can’t earn enough money in my whole lifetime to buy all the interesting guns I would like to have – but I do have some connections to folks who bought them back when 08 Maxims were being thrown away as scrap metal. If we’re going to suffer the prices that the information age (and the ’86 ban) has brought, we should certainly exploit the information flow to learn about the rare pieces. Yesterday, a student would have to travel across the country to find someone with a rare gun if they wanted to learn about it. Today we can discuss that gun with them as if they were right next to us, with photos and videos and forums. We won’t have the barrels of Trapdoor Springfields that the last generation was able to pick through, but we can share our knowledge so much more easily – and that is ultimately a more valuable resource. I think we can make ours a the most broadly knowledgeable one yet, and I want to help ensure that with this web site. We will continue to grow the archive here, and keep it freely accessible to anyone interested. We do not want to be an exclusive club, but rather a inviting source to all – hobbyists, collectors, and the curious young folks who will go on to be tomorrow’s Robert Faris’.



  1. One of the nicest things about the internet for my generation of gun lovers (I hesitate to say collectors, because at my age in my early 20’s “collecting” mainly consists of former Soviet firearms and old .22s) is that in this modern not-particularly-gun-friendly world we are able to find like souls. I grew up in a suburb of Portland, Oregon in which the only gun an average kid there would ever see outside of the movies was on the hip of a police officer. If you mentioned firearms, even in regards to shooting them in Boy Scouts, people gave you a look like you were a serial killer in the making.

    However, with the internet, I’ve been able to find a whole community of people worldwide that share my love for old guns. I get to see reviews of guns that I will likely own in a short time (Such as my favorite bolt rifle, the M1917 Enfield), or guns that there’s no way in hell I’ll ever have the money to afford, such as that beautiful Hino-Komuro. But either way, the modern day is quite a lot of fun to be a gun lover in. Information is everywhere and no matter what the subject, someone else seems to be interested in talking about it.

  2. Some gunnuts like me live in countries with very tough gun control laws…so being a true firearm enthusiast we can hardly own a shotgun paying at least double price compared to US prices… you must be veeery lucky to get a rifled gun license and you NEVER can own a handgun …not even talking about MGs. Internet is the only way to learn about guns , to share opinions with folks from all over world, to be up to date about gun news. Many thanks to all guys who make quality gun websites/blogs, and particularly thanks to . Ian, you are doing GREAT work , keep it up always !

  3. If we of the older and almost older generation do not do something to install a desire for the next generation and the one after that then we will lose our gun rights long before we die. This site does that. It allows people to study firearms that will never own. The cost involved with massing the collections that I have had the opportunity to exam and study is far out of the reach of most beginning and even advance collectors. This site allows people to study small arms. Collecting is and has always been fun. In this day and age collecting every variation of Lugers is not a possibility for most of us, however you can still collect makarov’s or tokarev’s. The next generation will look in awe at you collection some day as we look at the impressive luger collection today.

  4. As much as I curse Maxim magazine for crapping up every internet search I ever hope to do on the Maxim gun, the internet has become a spectacular resource for research and this website is developing into a first-class repository for serious researchers.

    To the future and especially to newer devotees…We all started with with a first gun and not much knowledge. I think the best thing I ever did in this hobby was to start travelling to big shows and meeting up with others. It’s been amazingly rewarding and inspirational. For the MG crowd, attend Knob Creek and especially try to attend SAR. Attend the bigger shoots. You’ll be stunned at who you will meet, what you will see and maybe even get to shoot something cool.

    Sadly, this new data age did not coincide with the lifetimes of some of the great data collectors. Look at the source of data in just about every Collector Grade book and you’ll start to see a list of contributors that’s fairly steady. Many of these guys have ROOMS full of paper and staggering accumulations of knowledge in their HEAD. Bob Faris was one of these guys and with every similar passing another Library at Alexandria leaves the world. Learn to manage your data digitally and help it live beyond your lifetime.

    For the admins here. You need to develop an infrastructure for others to directly contribute. I’ll hassle you more about this on my next visit.

    Now back to collecting….

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