Where Will Your Guns Go
When You Die?

Five Things You Need To Do Today
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No one lives forever but unfortunately, too many gun owners never consider what happens to their firearms after they pass.

Do you plan on dying today?

Heck of a question to start a story, eh? But the overly dramatic opener was meant to catch your attention because the following material falls into the category of “Stuff most folks know but never get around to doing.”

Obviously, only a tiny, minuscule fraction of the audience could answer my question in the affirmative. If you’re one of those, I’m sorry. However, the rest of us are walking merrily along, whistling past the graveyard, knowing someday we’ll be there, but probably not today. This is why we put things off, like losing 10 pounds — or making plans for your gun collection when you’re gone.


Time is Ticking

The topic is — unfortunately — very relevant because two of our friends and staff writers, Mike “Duke” Venturino and Mark Hampton, recently passed away within two weeks of each other.

Duke knew his time was short and had the wherewithal to reach out to friends to tell them what they meant to him. Such a classy guy. Mark Hampton died in the opposite circumstance — on day 2 of a safari in Africa of an apparent heart attack (at least this is the information we’re getting. News travels slowly from the bush).

Regardless, both guys leave behind a tremendous legacy, family, friends — and a sizable firearms collection. While it might seem a trivial matter when locked in the throes of grief, the proper disposition of a gun collection is actually an important task which will dramatically help the survivors in the long run. However, meticulously liquidating a collection to get maximum value requires some planning and forethought, which is where we all stumble.

Another sad fact is many of our families aren’t interested in our guns. Despite their intrinsic and sentimental value, to some family members, guns are considered no more valuable than old kitchen appliances and are generally handled the same when it comes time to liquidate an estate.

Here are five steps that can help solve what will be an eventual problem for nearly every shooting enthusiast. Don’t put these important tasks off because you never know when the final bell will ring! I could give you a couple of recent examples …

Even a modest collection such as this would bring a couple of thousand dollars if sold at fair market value.
Imagine what the money could do for a grieving family trying to pay for a funeral.
Some collections would provide a nice nest egg for survivors if handled intelligently.

1. Document your collection

Every single firearm in your collection should be documented, including serial numbers, sales receipts, work orders and any interesting stories or information about the gun (where you got it, who previously owned it, and other noteworthy tidbits). Aside from being useful for insurance purposes, documentation makes it easier for someone liquidating the collection to value it appropriately.

In my case, I keep a file on former GUNS cover guns I own because those, along with a letter attesting their “provenance” and a copy of the magazine issue they appeared in, will bring a higher price than a similar run-of-the-mill gun. Same with custom firearms, which might just appear to be a “nice” gun to the casual observer when, in fact, it’s extremely valuable. Even if you don’t own any such “special” shooters, future generations would love to know the story behind “great-grandpa’s shotgun” in the closet.

2. State your wishes

This can be as informal as writing out a statement and sticking it in your gun safe noting “Gun A goes to my son; Gun B goes to my nephew …” etc. A better way, especially if you have a large or valuable collection, is to include the information in your will or some type of legal estate-planning document. This also avoids the ugly scenes of families fighting over property after the funeral. We’ve all seen it and the hard feelings can be avoided with detailed notes of what you intend to happen.

3. Tell somebody

Make sure somebody knows where your guns are stored, how to access them (“Anybody here know the combination?!?”) and where the information regarding disposition is stored. In my case, I’ve given both my spouse and a trusted friend the basic info on how to start the process. If I were to suddenly depart, my wife would likely be overwhelmed with emotion and responsibilities, so guns would be one of the last things on her list. In this case, my trusted friend would be able to handle the chore. And, if Mrs. and I both happen to go together, somebody else has an idea of what to do, relieving my family of the chore.


4. Consider outside help beforehand

If your gun collection is comprised of more than just a couple of guns, processing, appraising and selling them is a huge task. The most common scenario is a well-meaning friend or family member taking an armload of firearms (usually wrapped in a quilt) down to the local gun store where the guns bring bottom-dollar. Instead, while you’re of sound mind, find and talk to a firearms expert who is trained to do proper evaluations and selling of firearms collections. There are also other problems non-experts wouldn’t know how to handle, such as disposing of large amounts of ammo or disposition of legally-questionable items such as war prizes or large-capacity magazines.

5. Just get rid of it today

I know; this is Heresy!! Blasphemy!! Double-Blasphemy!! I know gun collectors are wholly skeptical about this idea, but hear me out. Most firearms enthusiasts have far more guns than they’ll ever realistically shoot and we all know it. Thus, a good friend of mine, who is very healthy but approaching his great-grandparent years, has started liquidating his least-favorite guns by selling some and giving others as gifts. The process has been wonderful because A) when giving a gun away, he gets to see the joy it brings or B) the gun turns into cash he can apply to other things, even other guns he’s “always wanted.”


I won’t say I’m perfect on all these points, especially #5, but perfection isn’t the goal. As our gun collections shrink and expand, we need to continually update our planning so this subject is actually a process rather than a one-time chore. In any case, I urge you to start handling this matter today if you haven’t already. It’s not a pleasant task initially but once you realize your guns and family are taken care of, it brings a sense of peace you can’t buy at any price.

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