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Friday, March 31, 2017

Nimschke Engraved Colt Cloverleaf Revolvers


Colt House Pistols, more commonly referred to as a "Cloverleaf," were not the manufacturer's most popular pistol. Produced only from 1871 - 1876, their total run was 9,952 revolvers. However, despite their lack of widespread success, these little self-protection guns incorporated several then recently-developed design features and even found some notoriety in their short lifespan.

Lot 2148: Documented L.D. Nimschke Engraved Colt Cloverleaf House Model Revolver with Extremely Rare Short Octagonal Barrel and Pearl Grips

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Blunderbuss of General Thomas Graham


One of the most fascinating aspects of working at Rock Island Auction Company and studying firearms, especially antique firearms, is uncovering their historical connections. All are tangible artifacts from varying eras, and some have complicated and lengthy periods of use that included multiple conflicts, sometimes on multiple continents.  Such was the case with this brass barrel blunderbuss when it first came through the door. It seems that every one of Rock Island Auction Company’s Premiere Firearms Auctions has one or more truly historic firearms and collectibles connected to an influential cultural, political, or military figure, and many of these guns are tied to well-known individuals readily recognizable to the public at large. This is clearly the case with the Elvis revolvers and badges and Porfirio Diaz Mauser pistol in our May 2017 Premiere Firearms Auction, but for most firearms few specifics about their individual pasts have been recorded.

Lot 2171: Historic Durs Egg London Brass Barreled Flintlock Blunderbuss Inscribed for General Thomas Graham, Baron of Lynedoch, with Folding Bayonet

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Elvis Presley’s Revolvers


Revolvers of “The King” Elvis Presley

One of the people in American history least likely in need of an introduction is Elvis Aaron Presley. His life is one of constant dichotomy: down-home country boy and provocative rock-n-roll superstar. The dusty roads of Tupelo, Mississippi, contrasted with the neon and rhinestones of Las Vegas. Military fatigues to pink Cadillacs. He also blurred lines with his style combining country, blues, gospel, and R&B into a rock and roll style that made him The King.

It resulted in an unmatchable career. 150 albums that reached gold, platinum, or multiplatinum status, 114 Top 40 hits, 31 feature films, 14 Grammy nominations, three TV specials, and numerous performances in Las Vegas. But even numbers as lofty as these fail to capture the man's musical influence, charisma, charitable nature, sensuality, good looks, or kindness. Nor do they come anywhere close to indicating his social significance in the realms of modesty, race, and sheer pop stardom. It is perhaps ironic then, that a man so difficult to categorize is readily identified by first name alone.

It is with this immense significance that Rock Island Auction Company is proud to present items of Elvis Presley in their May 2017 Premiere Firearms Auction.

Elvis revolvers and badge

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Wartime Japanese Rifles


From the perspective of the modern wartime Japanese sword collector of vintage Japanese swords, the words “very fine” don’t often belong in the same sentence as “wartime Japanese swords.” This is not just opinion or snobbery, but a hard-coded element of Japanese law, as established during the Occupation era. According to legend, General MacArthur was prepared to ban all ownership of Japanese swords, traditional or otherwise, as part of the post-War disarmament before a group of leading experts convinced him that with proper training and preparation, an inspector could tell the difference between traditional and non-traditional swords; in essence, that a line separated “art” from “weapon” when it came to swords. Anything above that line was a treasure worthy of preservation (language still seen on certification paperwork even today), and anything below was a mistake to be forgotten.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Confederate Iron Frame Henry Rifle


Not to be confused with their modern counterparts, Henry rifles have long been an indispensable part of firearms development and, therefore, America itself. Their Winchester lineage is well-known, but there's more to these iconic lever actions than serving as some firearms patriarch. They have seen the best and worst of times, as both an ornate presentation to Abraham Lincoln and in their limited service during that terrible war which threatened to tear our country asunder. In Rock Island Auction Company's 2017 May Premiere Firearms Auction is a supremely rare Henry rifle whose provenance can be traced back to that very conflict.

At first glance, you may notice something strange about this Henry rifle. Aren’t Henry rifles usually yellow in color courtesy of their brass receivers? You are correct, but the key word is “usually.”

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Rifle from "The Battle of Saipan"

Lot 516: Japanese Type 99 Bolt Action Rifle with Inscribed Presentation Plaque

"If this gun could talk," is the frequent lament of those of us who have collected an old gun or two. The mind races at the historical prospects and wonders about the tired hands that once bore these fascinating machines. What was their name? Were their hands soiled with honest labor or with the blood of innocent men? What places did they see? Such questions especially plague the collectors of military surplus ("milsurp") firearms. Whether long arms or handguns, these weapons of nations from around the world are more likely to have seen the cruelest of all settings: war.

Numerous milsurp arms appear in any given auction at Rock Island Auction Company, but it is a rare one indeed that is accompanied by its own verifiable history. One such gun appears in our 2017 February Regional Auction, and it was involved in one of the most strategically important battles in World War II's Pacific Theater: The Battle of Saipan.

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Friday, February 3, 2017

The Electric Walther FP

Last week when writing about the match grade target pistols, I came across one that absolutely fascinated me. While still maintaining the quintessential qualities of nearly every handgun every created, there are enough foreign characteristics about it to pique the curiosity of any firearms enthusiast while maintaining more than ample practicality to earn their admiration. As promised in last week's article, this week we will delve into the Walther FP pistol.

Lot 6962: Walther Model FP Single Shot Target Pistol

Looking at the pistol from the left side, there are a few small cues to indicate this isn't an ordinary pistol, but nothing that would earn your attention from across the room. However, upon a closer look, things become unique pretty quickly.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Olympic-Grade Arms at Surprising Prices

There's a saying in the automotive world that goes, "Fast, reliable, and cheap. You can pick two." If firearms had a similar three simultaneously unachievable characteristics, they might be "accurate, reliable, and cheap." The point is, it's a rare gun that achieves all three cherished qualities, and those that do are rightfully given a lofty status by the sportsman and the collector alike. In this writer's opinion, there is a genre of firearms that readily satisfies all three, but remains largely unnoticed and often undervalued. These are the guns of competitive target shooting.

These firearms, worthy of Olympic events or other elite levels of competition, are often unheralded and unfamiliar to many who are quite familiar with firearms. Yet these guns by their very nature must serve as the epitome of accuracy and reliability. Luckily for collectors today, they remain under-appreciated and are available at fantastic price points, thereby satisfying all three difficult-if-not-impossible qualities.

Get ready to meet match grade target weapons.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Fantastic Flops: Smith & Wesson Model 320

Lot 6224: Rare and Desirable Smith & Wesson Model 320 Revolving Rifle with 18" Barrel and Stock

In the 1800s, any idea for how to improve firearms was fair game, and it resulted in some inventions and innovations that are still in use today, virtually unchanged from their birth roughly 200 years ago. We have this golden age of firearm invention to thank for percussion firing systems, the pepperbox and revolver, cased, rimfire, and centerfire ammunition, the lever action, the bolt action, and even the earliest semi-automatic firearms. Obviously, these are the success stories the likes of which have changed firearms and even the fates of nations forever. However, for every success story there are dozens of ideas that didn't make it. Some didn't get the military contracts they needed, others were eclipsed by more popular designs, many were impractical, and then there were those that were just goofy or downright dangerous. Even the vaunted Smith & Wesson was not immune from the pitfalls of 19th Century firearms design. Case in point: the Model 320 revolving rifle.

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