Mark Twain once famously noted that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. And in modern day Illinois, one can add increasing violent crime. 

While a few of us might escape becoming the victims of violent crime, we’re all going to die someday – some of us sooner than others.  Do your loved ones a big favor: help your loved ones identify and value your firearms collection before you die.

Sadly, many people don’t know how to make guns safe, much less how to competently appraise values.

Need an example of this?  Each day, non-gun people “turn in” unwanted estate guns at police stations across America. Others will take a thousand-dollar gun to a gun “buyback” and get a $50 gas card or a $100 debit card for it.

Despite what woke idiots will tell people, ignorance of gun values is not power.  It’s just ignorance.

In some states like Illinois, there is an additional urgency.  Without a Firearms Owners ID card, those handling the estate have just sixty (60) days to either get a FOID card or dispose of all firearms and ammunition in order to comply with the law.

A widow recently called me worried sick about her husband’s gun collection. He had amassed about as many guns as SCHEELS and Bass Pro have on display, combined. He had close to a thousand firearms, most new or almost new. Few were “affordable” guns. And he had probably two tons of ammunition and a UPS truckload of spare parts on top of all that.

This seventy-something woman was in real danger of getting robbed and killed when news of her husband’s death went public.

The family ultimately took possession of many of the guns, while a bunch went to auction and she sold some to trusted friends. Thank heavens. But her husband didn’t do her any favors by putting her at great risk like that.


Courtesy SIG

Make a list.
First and foremost, make a list. And just like Santa, check it twice…

Include the make, model, serial number, approximate resale value, and any accessories that go with said firearm and their respective value as a package. Take pictures too. This also serves as your opportunity to earmark firearms to go to certain individuals as appropriate.

For those with just a few guns, it will be simple affair.  For example:

Glock 19, Gen 3 with Trijicon night sights installed in 2018. 9mm. Ser. 046FJB. With about five spare Glock mags. Estimated value $400-$500 with the magazines. I’d like this to go to my son Mark.

For others, it may be more complex.

Ruger Precision Rifle. 6.5 Creedmoor caliber. Serial No. 12345A. Estimated value about $1000. With Vortex Razor 5-20×50 scope (attached and sighted in). Scope serial No. 6789X. Paid $1700 for scope. Estimated value at least $1000ish. Rifle with scope, scope mount ($100), Harris bipod ($100), Timney trigger upgrade ($200), three spare magazines and misc. accessories, as is, should bring at least $2500 with the couple of hundred custom precision hand-loaded rounds of ammunition nearby in ammo cans. Don’t recommend parting it out as you’ll never sell the small stuff.  

You could take five minutes to compile the above information for each gun now for your wife or kids.  Or you could get hit by a bus before getting around to it. 

This will protect your loves ones from some unscrupulous person telling them how that custom Ruger Precision rifle is nothing special. Or if the executor of the estate would struggle to know a custom-tuned 6.5 Creedmoor 1200-yard rifle from a Red Rider BB gun, you could be cheating your beneficiaries out of hundreds if not thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars.

Which scenario would you prefer?

Protect your family from theft and robbery-homicides. 
Do you have any black sheep of the family living nearby? Or even worse, drug addicts or bad neighbors who know you have a bunch of guns? Remember, for some sheeple, a half-dozen guns is an “arsenal” – and that desperate people do desperate, stupid things.

If anyone who is anything close to a prolific gun owner and they die, consider the security implications before you post that obituary. If you have theft concerns, get the majority of the guns out of the house to someplace safe and secure ASAP.

Make doubly sure to have one or more trusted friends, armed, at the residence to watch things during the visitation / funeral. Because bad guys, knowing that NRA Joe has a bunch of guns, would never target the house while his wife Jane attended funeral services, right?   Actually, it’s so common that cops have a name for it:  obituary burglars.

Also, having strangers come into the home to look over guns for potential purchase stands as a recipe for a robbery-homicide. Heck, people can’t buy an iPhone these days without facing the risk of robbery. 

Selling guns individually should be a no-go for safety unless potential buyers are well-known and vetted. Especially for collections of more than a few guns.

Ideally, you’ll have family to which you can pass down heirloom firearms and other pieces with sentimental value along with ammo and accessories. If you still have guns to liquidate, you have options.


Patience in selling a collection will net the most money
Disposing of larger collections.

Have guns to liquidate? You have options…

One easy way to dispose of smaller collections is to work with a local gun shop to put them on consignment, locally and/or through on online auction service like GunBroker.

Yes, the gun shop will charge maybe 10-20% of the purchase price for the service, but you get the guns out of your house into a secure location right away.  Not only that, but the gun shop will handle the paperwork. 

The down side is that it may take time to sell them if they aren’t priced competitively – and most people think their guns are worth a lot more than they really are.   Another downside here is that most stores will want little to do with buying “used” ammunition, primers or powder, even in pristine condition in boxes, or well-labelled by competent hand loaders. Thank the liability lawyers for that.

Another option available for immediate transfer of the guns out of the house are large firearms auctions.  For example, in Central Illinois, Bauer Auctions in Mattoon has massive, hybrid online/in-person gun auctions four or five times each year.  [John Boch recommends them…]

They will have experience at handling multi-hundred gun estates, so you won’t overwhelm them with 100 or even 500 guns.  They can also sell ammo, powder, reloading gear, accessories and so forth, too. They typically charge a sliding scale fee depending on the sale price of the items, but it’s relatively low.

Depending on when you get the guns to them (or they come get them for larger collections of 25+), it may take a few months before there’s a sale. Then about two to four weeks later, you’ll receive a check for the net proceeds from the sale. Remember, they can and will sell stuff like ammo, powder, gun safes, parts, reloading gear and collectibles at those auctions.

This will net you the most dollars for your guns with a minimal amount of work on your end.

For high-end collections of collectibles, including guns that sell for mid- to high-four figures and beyond, I’d recommend the world-famous Rock Island Auction.

In a hurry? Yes, there’s a way to do that as well. Call nearby gun shops and ask if they’ll come out and make an offer for the entire collection. Expect to receive about 50% of the wholesale price for guns in good shape, and less for poorer quality specimens and next to nothing for accessories, parts, and so forth. That will translate to about 33% of current retail prices. You get the money almost instantly, but you’ll pay (dearly) for the urgency.

Lastly, you can always advertise them for sale to private parties in publications, if you can find such an animal in today’s day and age.  For a handful of guns, that’s no big deal. Trying to sell a hundred guns? It would become a full-time job dealing with tire-kickers and low-ball artists. And then there’s the risk of word getting out and robbers showing up to take the collection off your hands.

In short, before you get hit by a bus, do your loved ones a big favor:  inventory your guns and accessories, and include pricing information and recommendations on how to dispose of guns that aren’t family heirlooms or sentimental. 


2 thoughts on “Disposing of Estate Gun Collections”
  1. If you have a large collection of firearms, accessories, ammo and reloading equipment, I highly recommend a program called Your Second Amendment Firearms Database. Loaded with features to keep track of all of your guns, magazines, manuals, and everything firearms related. You can even do range reports on all of your guns to keep track of your shooting, modifications, etc. Very reasonable pricing.

  2. Making an inventory like this is something I know I should do but I always think I will do it some other time.

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