Philadelphia derringer
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Reader BLoving writes:

Robert got me thinking with his question of the day on Wednesday asking how much ammo is enough. Sure it’s easy to say a gun owner should always have plenty of ammunition on hand for their firearms – however you define “plenty.”

But it made me wonder: what about the guns I own that I rarely shoot? Of all the guns I own, the one least frequently shot would undoubtedly be my replica Philidelphia Derringer.

How much ammo do I have stockpiled for it? You’re looking at it. The age of that blister pack of 16 Hornady lead balls is unknown…probably somewhere between twenty-five and thirty years old. I had to dig pretty deep into the ammo cabinet to find it, but I knew it was in there somewhere. And I’m confident that if I loaded twenty grains of Pyrodex in that barrel and stuffed a greased patch and ball down the bore that the gun would shoot just fine.

So here’s the question: what is the oldest/most obscure/least fired gun that you bother to keep ammo around for? You know…just in case you feel like shooting it again some day?


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    • I have a Stevens 1915 in .25 Stevens on my bench just now. After I did some legwork on the ammo situation for my customer, I had to tell him:

      “I have some good news, and I have some sorta-bad-sorta-good news.”

      “OK, give me the good news first. It’s been a long day…”

      “Well, that Stevens 1915 you wanted me to look at? I have the parts in, they didn’t cost that much, and I’ll have them fit to your gun pretty quickly here. Also, your rifle isn’t a .22LR as you suspected, it’s actually chambered in .25 Stevens, which makes your rifle much more valuable….”

      “That’s great… so… what’s the bad news?”

      “Any ammo you can find for this rifle will cost $2 to $3+ per round…maybe more, maybe a lot more..”

      “Huh, OK, what should I do?”

      “Do not burn up any antique factory ammo you have, especially if you have a complete box of it. It’s worth a great deal to ammo collectors.”

      “I think there are a couple boxes of original ammo… so what should I do with that?”

      “Same thing I suspect you’ll end up doing with this rifle: Put it somewhere safe and dry. There’s lots of cheaper ways to kill squirrels in the garden than this rifle.”

  1. Nothing terribly old or obscure. The oldest I have is an early Italian clone of the 1851 Colt Navy, a “Sheriff’s” model (i.e., with a five inch barrel) imported by a long gone company named Hawes. I suspect it was made in the late ’60s or early ’70s. Compared to today’s clones, it is quite heavy–but shoots quite reliably and accurately.

  2. I have neither obscure or very old guns. What I do own are a Winchester 24 (.22), with a broken stock and a 70’s-ish S&W 15-2 .38. Both are family heirlooms that I can’t part with.

  3. My oldest gun is a Mossberg Brownie (I think from the early 1920’s) but it’s not in firing condition. That’s in a display case on the shelf…

    The oldest gun I shoot is a High Standard SK-100 from the 50’s.

    Both were my dad’s that I inherited last year.

  4. 12ga Mossberg 500, 18″ “tactical” version. Still un-shot after almost a decade. Got it before I knew anything about guns. Haven’t sold it because no one wants it.

    And, yes, I’m aware the M500 isn’t obscure.

  5. Obscure? I have some weird .22 that is billed as a bolt action AND semi auto, I’m not sure what exactly it is.

    Oldest is my 1927 Mosin Nagant, followed by my Winchester 68. I’m not sure how old it is but it doesn’t have a serial number on it so I’m guessing pre 1934.

    • The Beretta Olimpia Super Sport was designed to be used either semi-auto or as a bolt-action. Your rifle could be a copy- do you see any markings on it?

    • Model 68s were manufactured from 1934 to 1945. Lots of pre-1968 guns (mostly the cheaper ones) don’t have serial numbers.

  6. a hi standard sentinel r-101 i got for a hundred bucks in a pawn shop, so, not very old or obscure.

  7. I donated my oldest guns to the local museum and the oldest I have now is only 70 years old. It is a J. C. Higgins model 20 pump 12 gauge that was made the year I was born. It still looks and shoots good and I shoot it several times per year.

  8. Oldest is a 1928 Mosin Nagant.
    Most obscure is kinda tough. Maybe my Mini-30; not many people have even heard of them. (Although I’m sure many here have.)

    • I have a Mini-30 Ranch with a Leupold 1×4, not too accurate, but I like it. It misfires military type (Wolf) hard primered ammo sometimes. I reload using 150gr., .30cal bullets, which work quite well. My obscure piece is a Swiss made 1891 Moison-Nagant, who made them for the Czar before Russian factories were tooled up to make them. It has it’s Russian markings struck out, and new markings and serial # stamped on the receiver. I’m told that they are Finnish, and this rifle was captured in the ’39 Winter War. I bought it at a show for $60, 15-20 years ago. It is still a part of my range rotation.

  9. Remington 16 gauge side by side, my gunsmith told me that if it was 18months older that the barrels would be Damascus twist. I bought it for 50 $ at a yard sale outside of Pineville Oregon about 1990 or so.

  10. SAFN49 venezuelan in 7mm mauser. I can still get the 7×57 for about $30/20 and have a thousand or so rounds from Samco int before they ran out of them a few years ago. The samco rounds are not shoot worth as they have a lot of hang fires and duds (I have even found some stamped for the early 1900’s), but will make reloading easy someday when I run out of my current stock.

    • Might check if the brass is berdan or boxer primed, I have some surplus Chilean military 7mm Mauser but its all Berdan primed. Also a lot of duds.

      • Its all Berdan primed and labeled as corrosive. Pretty cool that it is the ammo that was made specifically for this rifle (atleast some of it was), but it is in some really poor condition.

        • if you want a good way to get the berdan primers out without fiddling too much reply and i will give you my email and send pics of what i have done for a similar cartridge that is also hard to get. would work well for any caliber just needs to be made for the cartridge. a competent machinist could do it for you. very simple and uses water pressure to push the primer out

  11. Neither are ‘obscure’, but I do have a ’51 Colt Navy (mfgr’d in ’51) and an original box with a few lead balls. No powder tho.

    The other is one I want to fire someday — a Sharps New Model 1863 carbine that was converted to cartridge fire .50-70. I bought a box of (20) cartridges for about $80, so I will not get range happy with this one.

  12. An Essex 20 ga double barrel. It belonged to grandfather (born 1901) Rumor has it that when he married my grandmother her father gave it to him to protect them and put food on the table. Supposedly the butt stock was broken, and my grandfather whittled one out of a piece of oak. If that’s true he did an excellent job because the inletting is flawless.

    Grandpa had a tie mill, and when I was a child he would take me with him in the morning and I would hunt squirrels and rabbits with it until noon, when grandma would bring us lunch. Then she and I would go home, clean the game, and go fishing in the local stock ponds.

    My dad always said it might have a damascus twist steel barrel, but evidence does not bear that out. Nevertheless, I do not use high-brass ammunition with it. An internet search reveals that the Essex trade name was used by Belknap Hardware of Louisville, KY, and the double barrel was made by Crescent Fire Arms Company, Norwich, CT. It looks like their Double Barrel Hammer Gun No. 2, and the serial number places its manufacture date as 1919.

    These days it hangs over the fireplace looking proud, and I only use it for training.

  13. 1847 Springfield Artillery Musketoon. I haven’t fired it since before I got married, and I’ve been married for fifty years.

  14. Oldest, but not too obscure is an 1873 Trapdoor Springfield chambered in 45-70 and manufactured in 1886.

    I can still fire it today safely with black-powder pressure-level 45-70 loads.

    I also have a 38-40 revolver, but it’s modern. Ruger Super Blackhawk Buckeye Convertible 10mm Auto/38-40.

    I’ve got about 50rds of 38-40 I’ve loaded up but haven’t ever shot. I bought it for the 10mm cylinder.

    • I have one of those in my safe, certainly my oldest and probably oddest as well. Also have an 1894 Remington double barrel shotty with a build date of 1901.

  15. My oldest guns are not exactly obscure. They’re a pair of .38’s used by my NYPD father. A Model 10 and a Chief’s Special. They don’t get shot much but when I do, they really bring back memories of the old man, my brother and I at the range. True bonding moments.

  16. An Argentine Remington rolling block M1879 rifle in .43 Spanish that I picked up at a gun show some years ago. I got smokeless ammo for it from Aardvark Labs in Florida. I’m still looking for a bayonet for it. I also have a nickle-plate break-top (forget the maker’s name) 5-shot break-top pocket revolver in .32 S&W. It was my maternal grandfather’s gun that he used to take to town with him on Saturday night (or so I’ve been told). I’ve shot it, but it wasn’t very accurate and keyholed a lot. I’ve also got a couple of 12-ga shotguns that he owned, but their bores are so pitted that I won’t shoot them.

  17. Mid 1800’s Belgium double barrel side by side pin fire with hidden triggers that fall down when the hammers are cocked. No ammo. Not sure of the Caliber. The barrels look to be about 10mm or so around. A guy I work with brought it in one day and asked me if I wanted it. I said sure! Neat little pistol. Can’t find much more information on it than what I have.

  18. Obscure?
    A 1950’s vz52 from the check republic. It’s in 7.62 x 45.
    Ammo is really hard to find. I’m down to 100 rounds.
    I think I may be able to firm my own brass tho.
    Another one of those projects.
    The rifle is really cool and in mint condition.

  19. Probably my styr-mannlicher that, as far as I can tell from research, is a WW1 era model. Its pretty beat up, as if it was actually used in the war. Possibly was in both world wars. The straight pull bolt makes it obscure to me, at least.

  20. With the exception of a Jennings J25 pot metal POS and a 1981 Mossberg 500 ADP 12 gauge, everything else I have is no older than 4 years. Most are in 2 years or younger.

  21. Oldest would have been a Chilean Mauser 1895 in 7×57. I remember my dad having it mailed straight to the door sometime in the 90’s since it was pre 1898. Stock was really chewed up, but metal was excellent. Was pretty clean but cosmoline would boil out of the stock every time we shot it! Took it deer hunting a few times. Foolishly sold it after my dad died. Currently my oldest would be a 1943 Springfield 1903A3, or possibly the Brazilian Contract S&W m1917 I have. Fortunately neither of them shoot “obscure” calibers.

  22. I’ve got a commercial contract Steyr Hahn M1912 with a 1913 mfr date that I snagged at a gun show for $175 a couple years back. Still shoots great. Also have a Astra Cub in .22 short.

  23. Oldest are a couple of S&W M&P Hand Ejectors made in 1905 or so. Plenty of ammo for them since i reload 38 special.

    Most obscure are M&P lend lease guns in 38 S&W. One is an Australian and the other is an RAF gun with remnant of a bright blue finish. I keep 100 rounds loaded and a couple hundred brass. Also have 1950s Terrier in 38S&W.

    Got rid of my Walther PP Ultra cause i didnt like not having ammo for it.

  24. Oldest is a tossup. I have pre and post Revolution Nagant revolvers allong with a US Army marked Colt 1911 from the same period. Most of my C&R rifles are interwar production or early war Finnish refurbs of Winter War guns. I do have a Swedish Mauser that I haven’t been able to date reliably… May be pre-WWI, but that’s unlikely.

  25. Remington Model 14 in .30 Remington. Ammo costs $2 each, or you can get empty shells for $1 each. It was my great-grandfather’s horse-back hunting rifle.

  26. Oldest would be my mosin nagant from the 40s and a pair of 1895 nagant revolvers from the 50-60s. I’ve got a little of the military surplus ammo for both though I usually shoot .32 S&W long out of the revolvers because I generally find it cheaper than the 7.62x38R that they are supposed to use. Then there is a Singapore PD Webley in .38 S&W from around the same period as the nagant revolvers as far as I can tell.

    As far as a more modern oddball guns go I’ve got a COP 357 or my stainless Luger from the 90s. I don’t shoot either too often but have carried the COP in a jacket pocket on occasion.

    Nothing too extremely rare or strange but unusual enough that you won’t see them everyday at the range.

  27. Bonehill side by side external hammer 12 gauge shotgun made in England 1872. Originally my great grandfathers. It is black powder proof only.

    My father used it to hunt ducks in the 1930 depression when you could still get black powder rounds.

  28. Brown Bess with about 40% original GR Tower parts, 40% arsenal refit parts from mid-19th century, 1970’s replacement barrel and screws from a Japanese company and some 21st Century color-matched epoxy keeping the wood together. Not original, but I can shoot it with a clear conscience.

    Oldest all original firearm would be a 1944 Aussie SMLE or 1944 Enfield revolver in 38 S&W.

  29. Manufactured in 1913 by Savage Arms, I have a Savage Model 1899 in 22 HP……used to be my grandfathers rifle and the first real firearm I actually held in my hands when I was a small lad of about 5 years old….do not know any family history of the gun ie. when it was last fired etc… ended up with it and it languished in a basement closet until he decided to give it to me….to say the least I was honored to have such a fine rifle as a family heirloom, but finding ammo was another story so it languished in my possession for many years as I could not find any one who knew anything about a Savage 22 HP…..then along came the internet and its vast wealth of information…..ammo that was manufactured just for that gun became obsolete in 1930 was now being made in Europe by Sellier&Bellot and is now imported to the USA in limited quantities and could be found online…..with a renewed interest in the gun I took it to a fine gunsmith and had it refurbished and he said everything was in good working order……..found the ammo I needed and took the gun out to the firing range and did some shooting……probably been 80+ years since it was last fired….totally awesome.

  30. My oldest and probably one of them ore obscure is an 1860’s made Snider “Carbine” (Started life as a rifle). I have brass and minie balls to load, but haven’t done it yet.

  31. My oldest is my italian 1870/87/15 Vetterli Vitali made in the 1870’s. Crudely retrofitted for use in World War 1 and continued on seeing use in World War 2

  32. 1893 Chilean Mauser still in 7mm. Got it as a gift from my father in law. It doesn’t shoot anymore, broken firepin I think. Was sporterized in the ’60 I think. I want to learn how to fix it and keep it pretty, then hang it over the mantel. But I am not sure how to hang it so it doesn’t come crashing down. I am real afraid if it hits the floor at all, it might bend the barrel.

  33. A pair of .41 caliber deringers, belonged to a long-gone relative who reportedly was a gambler and wore them in his vest pockets. I have no ammo but hear it can be found. I believe they are rimfire.

  34. A pepperbox from around 1840. Came from about 5 generations back.
    Ancestor was a Doctor and I also inherited his wicked looking device called a Scarificator.
    It has a level that you pull to prime it. Then you set it against the skin and press the release.
    It swings 12 little razor sharp blades through your flesh so they could apply a bleeding flask.

  35. Oldest is Colt Detective 38 Special (black finish) 1971
    Bought it because guy came into my favorite gun store and wanted to sell it, owner of shop was not interested but told him that lady next to you might be interested.
    Paid $200.00 cash for it because it reminded me of my dad. One of his favorite shows was The Untouchables. One of the actors carried this revolver.
    Has sentimental appeal for me. And has kind of a groovy appeal as coming of age in the 1960’s

  36. Vintage 1911 Savage 22 short bolt action kids rifle. It s tiny. I’ve shot CB caps through it and it worked just fine.

  37. I have a couple oddballs. Manton Percussion shotgun, from the 1830s. Never fired it, but might at some point. An 1871/94 Uruguayan Mauser, the Douditis Mauser, needs a firing pin, was clipped. 1894 made S&W safety hammerless in 32 S&W. Shoot that at least once a year. Last an 1898 Mosin. I have ammo, but have not shot it yet,

  38. Mauser Hahn Selbtspanner Pistole (HSc) in 7.65 mm with Waffenampt mark brought back from France after WW2. Heavy, but a nice little pocket pistol.

  39. Oldest is a Winchester 94 32 Special made in the early twenties, but it’s not terribly rare.

    As far as obscurity, my C.O.P. Derringer is by far the strangest gun I own, but .357 Magnum is very common.

    So, I guess the one that most fits the tenor of the question would be my Type 99 Arisaka in 7.7 Japanese. I have twenty brass cases that cost nearly fifty dollars and 80 .311 cal bullets from Speer that I found in a pawn shop and appear to be about 30 years old. I know i can get some more, but once those are gone that’s that.

    • There’s a guy in Wisconsin who loads 7.7 JAP and sells it on GunBroker. You can get rounds from him for somewhere around $1.75/rd. Not cheap, but allows you to use your Arisaka if you still want to…

  40. A Remington Model 11 in 20 gauge. My dad bought it the year I was born (1942) Verified the Serial number. Will go to one of my Grandsons.

  41. Oldest is a Riverside Arms (Stevens) side by side 12 gauge with exposed hammers. I’m thinking about 1920 vintage. It has steel barrels that are in remarkably good shape, but the wood is pretty beat up. I shoot it on occasion with low brass loads and it still does the job.

    One of my obscure firearms is a 1940 vintage Swiss K31. People that know surplus military rifles recognize the K31, but casual shooters are intrigued by the straight pull design and obvious quality of the rifle. Ammo can be hard to find and I really need to buy some 7.5 Swiss reloading dies. No I didn’t find an owner’s card under the butt plate.

    Another kind of interesting old rifle – if only for the scorn that’s been heaped on it – is my mid 60s Winchester model 250 .22 lever action. These rifles were some of the first built after Winchester’s reorganization or whatever you want to call around 1964 and I understand that Winchester couldn’t give them away. So you don’t see many of them. I worked for a guy who sold me the rifle for $50 about 25 years ago. He said that he won it in a bar raffle back in 1966 or 67. The rifle actually handles well and is very accurate and fun plinker.

    • The K31 is one of my favorites to shoot. I have one made in ’53 with a birch stock and one made in ’34 with a walnut stock. The ’53 I have a diopter sight on and shoot several times a year. The ’34 has a troop tag and hasn’t been fired since I got it a few years ago.

      Ammo isn’t that hard to find. Classicfirearms and Sportsmansguide usually have surplus Swiss available, which is really good stuff. There are some hunting loads out there as well. Gamaliel shooting supply I think is where I got some.

  42. Not old but definitely obscure. M10B. The repro No4 Lee-Enfields made in Vietnam in .308 (or 7.62×39). Mine is the 2nd series that will take a standard No4 Singer type back sight but still has the awful surplus mini-gun barrel. The only ammunition that shoots consistently is the old “green-box” Norinco steel-cased .308.

    Once I’m done with the cheap Chinese ammunition I’m replacing the barrel.

  43. Not old but obscure. 2 Heym 26B O/U double rifles, 7x65R and 7x57R,

    Kind of old-ish (1970s) Simson Drilling, 2x16GA over 7x75R with a .22 Hornet insert in one of the Shotgun barrels.

    Obscure (1 of a kind) Heym Drilling .22 Hornet, 7x65R with one 16GA Shotgun barrel and a custom O/U 16GA set fitted for the drilling as well.

  44. i have 2 one is a getting harder to find Bruno model 2 .22 which is accurate as all get up, and the other is a Styer M95 straight pull as made for the Austrians. the earlier ones were chambered for 8x50R and the later ones for 8x56R. ammo is rare especially as these guns made for the Austrian army are the only rifle that was ever chambered for that cartridge. the original ammo is berdan primed and corrosive though there are a couple companies now that make brass in limited runs for this rifle (boxer primed). jacketed projectiles for it are hard to find as a standard 8mm is about .323 where these were somewhat oversize 8mm being .329 so cast lead is usually the way to go and from memory lyman are the only manufacturer of bullet moulds for these

  45. My oldest firearm is an extremely rare hand cannon that was made in the 1360-70’s and was used in the Battle of Aljubarrota on August 14, 1385. This archaic firearm is historically important, as it’s one of the world’s oldest surviving firearms (about 650 years old!!!). It came from a very well known collection and there are a few pics of it floating around the internet. I also have a few other firearms/hand cannons from the 1400 and 1500’s. Maybe I can send them to TTAG for a review/range report? 😉

    I have quite a few rare and obscure firearms in my collection, but I’m most proud of my original Vietnam war used Remington M40 sniper rifle (224xxx serial number) and my original Iraq War used Iron Brigade Armory XM3 (both of these are USMC rifles).

  46. Oldest, and most obscure firearm, that I keep ammo for, narrows it down to a circa 1920s Japan Type-26 9mm breaktop revolver.
    It was Japan’s first modern, domestically produced, military handgun – manufactured from 1893 to about 1926.
    I bought it cheap over 30 years ago. Then last year I made replacements for the original missing/damaged wood grips.
    The original vintage 9mm revolver ammo costs about $10 per-round. While repro 9mm ammo can sometimes be found for about $100/box.
    But fortunately, thanks to the internet, I recently discovered mine will perfectly chamber and fire the Remington 38 S&W ammo I keep around for a couple old H&R and IJ breaktop revolvers.
    I’ve fired about 3-dozen rounds with it at the range and it’s a most enjoyable shooter!

    Happy Motoring, Mark

    e internet

  47. Not obscure, but definately old. Browning A5 built in 1940’s, and a SMLE rifle with 3 *s manufactured in 1906

  48. C 96 – Fed Ord rework
    DWM Luger – postwar refurb
    Spanish Mauser –
    US Enfield – 3/’17
    High Standard Field King – mid ’50s
    1885 Low Wall .32-20 -1905
    1910/34 Mauser .32 ACP
    RockOla M1 Carbine -1944

  49. The one that puts the “just farted in church” look on people’s faces is my Colt National Match Mid-Range in .38 Special. Only consumes 148gr. Wadcutters and I can’t find magazines for it. It came from the factory in .38spl. Very obscure part of 20th century Colt

  50. Intratec CAT45. I found it at a local shop and use it to test experimental 45 ACP handloads when I don’t want to risk any of my other 45s.

    1916 Spanish Mauser

  51. My “oldie” safe-queens are two S&W 1 1/2’s, both nickel plated, both with the 2 1/2″ barrel, one from 1870-something, one from 1880-something (I don’t have them in front of me to check) – I have a grand total of 4 of the .32 rimfire rounds they use. They both look “rough”, maybe 60% at best, although mechanically they both hold timing quite well. I always keep my peepers peeled, but it’s seriously difficult to find any .32 rimfire, for some reason…

  52. Oldest, my 91 Argentinean mauser. Most obscure would be my Bsa martini 12/15 in 22lr. Or maybe my anschutz 1423 stutzen.

  53. Oldest gun: F&N Model 1906 (.25 ACP) manufactured in (roughly) 1918.
    Hardest to find ammo: Arisaka Type 99 (7.7 JAP). Ammo isn’t impossible to find, but very few places have it for sale…

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