Most shooters and gun fanciers purchase a specific firearm because they want to shoot it and use it, either for personal protection, fun at the range or hunting. If it increases in monetary value over the years, that's icing on the cake.
In recent years, the sale of guns owned by specific persons at auction has become increasingly popular, and it has nothing to do with shooting—it's about collecting as an investment.
On June 22, a 1929 .38-caliber "Police Positive" Colt revolver belonging to the notorious Chicago gangster Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone (1899 –1947), is heading to the auction block at Christie's, where it is expected to fetch as much as $115,000. Also being auctioned is a .44-40 Win. Model 1873 Single Action Army Colt belonging to Thomas Coleman "Cole" Younger, Confederate bushwhacker and Missouri bank robber.
When it comes to historic firearms, there's no doubt notoriety sells.
In the summer of 2009, soon after the release of the hit movie "Public Enemies," the Remington .41-caliber rimfire double derringer found hidden in gangster John Dillinger's sock at the time of his January 1934 arrest in Tucson, AZ, headed to the auction block, expecting to bring between $35,000 and $45,000, according to the auction company.
It fetched $95,600.
The lesson? Timing plus notoriety is even better.
But, just because a gun is linked to an infamous person doesn't guarantee a high return. In 2007, a Texas sale of three firearms belonging to outlaw and Mexican revolutionary hero Pancho Villa failed to live up to the auctioneer's expectations—fetching a disappointing total return of around $29,000.
On the other hand, owner notoriety isn't always necessary to bring in the big money, either.
In 2008 a pristine, corrosion-free Colt Whitney-Walker .44-caliber black powder revolver sold at auction in Maine to an unknown bidder for $800,000 (plus 17 percent commission), a record amount for the model and for all Colts. It came with the original flask, issued at Vera Cruz to (an unknown and unheralded) Private Sam Wilson in 1847.