Most American gun owners use firearms for three specific purposes. A recent Gallup survey found that well over half of all gun owners in the U.S. have a firearm for one or more of the following reasons: protection against crime, target shooting, and hunting. And for only a few hundred dollars, most Americans can purchase a gun well suited to any one of those tasks.
A small subset of gun owners who have both the interest and the financial means, however, buy firearms for different reasons altogether. Firearms that are notable for their historical significance, artistic merit, or both, go up for auction every year, and buyers shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to claim them. In the past five years alone, more than a dozen firearms have sold at auction for anywhere from $750,000 to over $6 million.
Not available at your local gun store, these firearms are often decades or even centuries old and have passed through the hands of many previous owners. Despite their age, some of the most sought-after pieces have been preserved in near perfect condition, and though by no means state-of-the-art, they can still function reliably – should the need arise.
Using data from a number of antique firearm auction houses, including Rock Island Auction Company, Christie’s, and James D. Julia, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most expensive firearms sold at auction since 2000. Firearms are ranked based on their inflation-adjusted sale price.
The high price paid for many guns on this list can be justified by their role in history. These firearms include flintlock pistols carried by founding fathers such as Alexander Hamilton and Gen. George Washington during key battles of the American Revolution. This list also includes revolvers once owned by former U.S. presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Theordore Roosevelt, which may have been used in the Civil and Spanish-American Wars. (Here is a look at 22 guns that helped fight the Civil War.)
A smaller selection of these six- and seven-figure firearms were owned by influential foreign leaders, like Napoleon Bonaparte and Simon Bolivar, whose own revolutionary movements helped shape the world as we know it.
But the vast majority of guns on this list are American icons, associated with their role in Westward expansion. Rather than an affiliation with political leaders, these guns are notable for their rarity, craftsmanship, artistry, or period law and military officers who carried them. These guns include several revolvers and lever-action repeaters made by Colt and Winchester. (Here is a look at the guns that won the old West.)
Click here to see the most expensive firearms ever sold at auction.
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