Insuring your collection? You’ll need the Bluebook of Gun Values

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Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a series I’ve entitled “At Home and on the Range”. These pieces entail products and services that I think will be of particular interest to On Target readers in the coming year.



Everyone is familiar with that old maxim “there’s nothing certain except death and taxes”. Well, I might add insurance premiums to the list.

If you’re like a lot of folks who have a “collection” of firearms, the value can run into a considerable sum. Being the thoughtful person that you are, you’re going to have it insured.

How exactly does one determine the value for insurance purposes or if you’re going to trade or sell an item?

The answer is the Bluebook of Gun Values which is available as an old fashioned “analogue” book or, online.

Why do I think it’s worthwhile?  

First off, it’s quite comprehensive, even encyclopedic. The Blue Book of Gun Values includes around 1,900 manufacturers and approximately 30,000 gun model descriptions which comes to about 180,000 values.

The newest edition, published last year, includes includes all the new 2021 makes and models, along with pricing updates on many current and discontinued models.

How does it work?

Essentially you look up whatever model you have and the book provides a table with ascribed values according to condition or grade, which ranges from New in Box (NIB) to 50%. Your job is to ascertain what condition the firearm is really in.

How do you do this? After all you’re not a museum curator.  

The Blue Book of Gun Values offers both an encyclopedic data base and grading criteria to value your collection

The Blue Book of Gun Values provides a very complete photo database that includes every manner of rifle and handgun with comprehensive descriptions germane to the model, so that you can assess the value. For example, is your Smith & Wesson revolver pinned? Does it have a stainless or blued finish? Does yourModel 5906 Stainless (see below) have a tritium sight? If so, add another $115 to the value. All of these factors, including the grade, will impact the value.

There’s even a a serialization index that enables finding serial number information easy.

In essence, The Blue Book has the resources to allow you to go very deep into this subject and come up with an accurate valuation.

In addition to the photo database there are a number of detail-packed essays ranging from grading criteria to serialization that add great value to this book.

Of course, like anything, this publication has some limitations.

It’s not going go have every gun every manufactured, but it will cover some obscure stuff. For example, I acquired a Baby Nambu, a rare Japanese military pistol. To my surprise it was listed in the book.

There was an instance where the Blue Book did not cover the features of a particular Smith revolver that I owned. However, I emailed the publisher and they were able to set me straight.

Of course, there’s always the odd apocalyptic event that may impact the value of firearms.

It’s hard to value guns in the midst of a gun buying craze but the Blue Book of Gun Values offers a foundation.

If you’re in the midst of a firearms buying craze, triggered by a pandemic or politics (or both), the prices listed in the Blue Book of Gun Values may not reflect the up-to-the-minute trends in the marketplace. If you want to sell your Russian AK during a gun buying craze, the book is not going to provide the latest price. However, it’s not really meant to do that. (Better to check prices on Gunbroker in that instance).

To the publisher’s credit, Zachary R. Fjestad put together an excellent essay, “A year in review, what happened?”, which did a good job of surveying the climate, racked by divisive politics and plague, into perspective.

In fairness, “buying craze” scenarios usually don’t impact valuing collections for insurance purposes.

The only nitpicking comment I have is that the website could be better structured. The content is there but it’s not always obvious where it’s found.

That said, this doesn’t impact the inherent quality of the resource.

If you’re planning to purchase or sell a firearm or, appraise the value of your collection, the Blue Book of Gun Values is a must have.




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