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Gun engraving is an art. Gustav Young was its master. From 1869 into the 1890’s, the German immigrant worked for Smith & Wesson creating some of the finest filigree to ever grace a gun. This in his “spare time” (Young and his peers spent most of their work day creating the dies to produce firearms). Even so, for me, meh. I appreciate the skill but . . . the Brits call it “gilding the lily.” Hunting scenes on fine hunting guns, maybe. But a handgun is a work of art in and of itself, IMHO. Which is not a view shared by some extremely wealthy people, who continue to order engraved guns, keeping the engraver’s art alive and well and living in New Hampshire. Amongst other places.

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    • Both.

      I’ve explained the purpose behind these guns several times before. I’ve also explained how provenance is what really increases the value of a rare piece, especially that revolver carried by the sheriff of Goldfield. It is rare that any piece comes with that sort of paper trail, rarer yet that it was a presentation gun or highly embellished.

      It apparently has made no impression whatsoever.

      • I’m more of a shotgun guy myself when it comes to high grade daydreaming. Having said that, I understand completely why the piece is so important as part of a public auction. These guns are most often traded/sold to a select group of knowledgeable and very well heeled individuals.

        The combination of famous names involved with this revolver is very, very rare indeed. The names of individual craftsmen just don’t live as long as designers, promoters or shooters. Gustav Young, RG Owen, AO Niedner and some few others have lived in shooting lore and deserve proper respect.

      • Perhaps it’s old hat, Dyspeptic, but I find a good place to appreciate the scale of the fine gun trade, the remarkable pieces available, is Julia’s. Not a year has gone by that fails to reveal some truly remarkable pieces. Owning such guns requires a lot of personal infrastructure (climate controlled vault, security systems, insurance). Looking at them, however, costs only some time. and scroll down.

        I was actually shocked in the posted video above to see the guns handled without gloves. Is it just me?

        • It depends.

          I’m one of “those guys” who can corrode firearms with my touch.

          To counter this, I either wear gloves, or I wipe down my hands with a little bit of Ballistol before I start handling things. For some people, their fingerprints aren’t that corrosive.

          As long as one wipes down a firearm with a lightly oiled cloth after handling, (which I’m sure they do quite frequently), they’ll be OK. Here again, I use Ballistol. While Ballistol might not be the best operating lube going, it is slightly alkaline, and helps counter the corrosive effects of acids in fingerprints.

          Museum curators handle everything with gloves because for them, gloves are like my eye pro and hard-toed boots in the shop: they’re just part of what you wear at work, every day.

        • Oh, and as to “why would I handle a high-end gun without gloves on?”

          There are times when having one’s bare hands on a gun are very important as a gunsmith. When someone hands me a gun, by running my fingers over it, I can tell very quickly if the gun has ever been in the hands of a destructive person. Screwheads mangled, edges burred, wood chipped, grain raised, checkering points gone, etc. You can see these things if you have reading glasses or an Optivisor on, or you can run your hands over it. Things like dents in shotgun tubes are easier to find with your fingers than your eyes. Same for bulges in rifle or handgun barrels.

          There’s actually quite a lot a trained gunsmith can tell you about a gun with their eyes closed and their hands running over it.

  1. “But a handgun is a work of art in and of itself, IMHO.”

    Couldn’t agree more!

    Almost don’t want to make them dirty, but can’t resist.

  2. That guy’s personality really shines through in this video.

    I will say that there are a few engraved guns at the NRA’s Nat’l Firearm Museum that are so beautiful they make me ache.

  3. Y’all are forgetting about a fine old Texas tradition: the BBQ Gun!

    Quoting from The Lawdog Files (
    “Now, a BBQ gun is a whole different animal. A BBQ gun is what you wear to barbeques, baby christenings, formal balls, and any other place where a fancy jacket or outfit would be worn. … For some of the best examples of court and BBQ guns around, I strongly recommend visiting the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, Texas.” The description gets a bit gaudy, but hey, this is for TEXAS!

  4. I spoke with my engraver at length on the artisan craft that it compared to this age of rotary tips digging at one angle and fancy laser etching on the other.

    His shop is composed of the latter and he has two firearms engraved by hand attributing to the beauty of the former. It is like comparing a poster or print painting to macro photography or a hand painted portrait only hundreds of times more tedious and rare nowadays.

    He was remorseful that it was a skill he didn’t learn when he had the chance and it saddens him that it falls by tge wayside more with each generation.

    • There are places to go learn engraving, and they get more than a few students every year.

      Most of the guns that will be engraved won’t be seen here at TTAG or any other gun blog, for that matter.

      If people want to see high-end guns, they should look at going to the American Custom Gunmakers Guild show, which adjoins the Dallas SCI show (it used to be at the Reno SCI show):

      There’s also the Firearm Engravers Guild of America:

      You have to seek this level of gun out, but I assure you, they do exist and it is a very lively market in today’s age. It is my observation that the best firearms engravers are artists first, many of them having classic arts training (and holding MFA’s and the like) and they just happen to practice their artistry on guns. Most people who are skilled in making guns and/or stocks aren’t classic artists, and don’t pull off much more than rudimentary engraving.

  5. Never had the slightest interest in engraved guns. To me guns are made to be fired, and if you do that, you ruin the value of the gun. If I ever was won, was given or inherited an engraved gun, I would sell it so I could buy some guns to shoot.

    Of course I realize I am almost certainly in a minority. To each his or her own.

    • There are plenty of bespoke, artisan-quality guns that go back to their original engraver to be freshened up because the owner appreciates the art and functionality of his gun.

  6. “To each his or her own.” exactly. It’s like any other art. One person may like landscapes, another likes portraits.
    I really like engraving.
    I got my daughter a fully engraved Al Mar SERE knife for her graduation from USMC boot camp (then again, she’s worth it).
    My only engraved shootin iron is my Beretta O/U, and it’s my every day bird gun.
    The pistol in the video is gorgeous.

  7. Put a full load of ammo in my guns and you double their value. I have no art in me. Can’t carry a tune in a bucket either. Prior to marrying my keeper wife I lived in an apartment for 10 years. Not a single picture on the walls. They were as bare as the day I moved in. No decorations of any kind.

    • Wow. We are different people, you and I.

      A kinetic wall sculpture I made on the Ice hangs in the Prime Minister’s residence in New Zealand.

      ‘Course, there’s a certain functional beauty to Commie iron.

        • Ha! Made me laugh.

          BTW, I think you’r selling your iron a little short. After all, Commie milsurp ain’t exactly pricy.

        • True. But not all my guns are commie or use milsurp ammo. And the milsurp stuff is creeping up since the draught began.

        • Unfortunately true.

          Someone realizedt hat the 2nd American Revolution — should it occur — might be one with weapons of 7.62mm bore…

  8. Owning a very fine engraved gun with a pedigree or back story is on my bucket list of guns. I personally like to paint and sketch and can appreciate the time and skill that goes into such a piece. It will be either a 1911 or a SAA and I will dang sure find some ivory to put on it.

    • EDIT: Well, first working revolving handgun, I should say.

      Several shoulder-fired and tripod-mounted revolving arms — including one hand-cranked 32mm 11-shooting cannon with 5 spare quick-chnge cylinders in 1718 — predate this, but this little handgun was far more refined.

      Just imagine that single-barreled 66-shot crank-cannon. That’d not have been out of place even into WWI.


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