There is some bad news from the halls of the U.S. Congress: H.R. 8 has been introduced by Representative Mike Thompson–Democrat of California. Dubbed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, this is horrible piece of legislation that is likely to become law! The word from the District of Criminals is that this Private Gun Transfer Ban bill is on the fast-track through committee, for passage. Ominously, it quickly gained 225 co-sponsors. And President Trump has given mixed messages about whether or not he would sign such a bill. Uh-oh!
A Private Transfer Ban, But it Sounds So Reasonable
The mass media is using soft-sounding phrases like “Universal Background Checks”, “Reasonable Step”, and “Closing the Gun Show Loophole”. But with H.R. 8 what we’d get is a Private Gun Transfer Ban with the tyranny of bureaucracy poking its nose into our gun closets. It would make it illegal to sell, give, or even lend a gun to a neighbor without Federal paperwork. And it would make gun shows as we now know them and newspaper ads for used guns quaint things of the past.
Most Americans have not considered the full implications of a nationwide private transfer ban. This would essentially end the privacy of firearms ownership. Nearly all transfers would have to go through an FFL, (for a fee) with an FBI background check. Whether it is a sale, a gift, a trade, or a loan, all gun transfers would have to be “papered” on a ATF Form 4473. The only exceptions would be gifts (not sales) within an immediate family, and transfers of antique (pre-1899 manufactured) guns. All other transfers would require a background check and completion of a dreaded Form 4473!
The Coming Pre-1899 Boom
Since 1992, I have extolled investing in Federally-exempt pre-1899 guns. I wrote a FAQ on the subject that has been updated several times and that is widely cited and cross-posted. You should take the time to read it, but here is the most pertinent point: A December 31, 1898 threshold was set in stone, with passage of the U.S. Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA-68). Per the Federal law, any guns made on or before December 31, 1898 are legally exempt “antiques”, but those made on or after January 1, 1899 are controlled “firearms.” While state and local laws often differ, under Federal law any antiques can be freely transferred across state lines with no paperwork required. But less than 1/2 of 1% of the guns in the United States are pre-1899 antiques.
I predict that if a nationwide private transfer ban is enacted, suddenly everyone would wake up to the significance of the scarce pre-1899 cartridge guns. There would then be a huge rush to by them. However, since there is such a tiny supply, prices will double with two years. And within five years, their prices will triple. I’m not kidding: I mean a genuine 300% gain. The law of supply and demand is inescapable. Those wishing privacy for cartridge gun purchases will only have one really viable option: Pre-1899 antiques. Buying anything else would require paperwork and an FBI background check.
Start Looking for Pre-1899 Cartridge Guns!
I recommend that you attend a lot of gun shows this winter and spring, before enactment of the Private Gun Transfer Ban. Also watch GunBroker.com and GunAuction.com like a hawk. There, watch for auctions for any of following cartridge guns that are being sold as “No FFL antique” (Federally exempt) guns:
Colt Lightning Rifles, all large frame are pre-1899; Medium frame:
serial numbers below 84,000; Small frame: serial numbers below 35,334
Colt Single Action Army (SAA) and Bisley revolvers with serial numbers under 182,000. I consider SAAs with serials between 165,000 and 182,000 (1896 to 1898 production) the most desirable, since they have steel frames (and are thus safe to shoot most modern smokeless loads), yet they are Federally exempt.
Colt Model 1878 Double Action Frontier revolvers (serial numbers below 41,000)
Colt Model 1889 Navy .38, all are pre-1899
Colt “New Army” or “New Navy” .38 and .41 (serial # below 115,000)
Colt New Service, first year of production (1898) only. (Serial # below 250)
Fox (A.H. Fox) shotguns – all are modern
Hopkins and Allen Mfg. marked guns are ALL pre-1899 because the company changed its name (and rollmark) to Hopkins and Allen Arms in 1898.
Ithaca Baker Model shotguns – all are pre-1899
Ithaca Crass Model shotguns (serial # below 38,399)
Ithaca Hammer shotguns – other – (serial # below 33,011)
Ithaca Hammerless shotguns – other – (serial # below 32,988)
Marlin rifles–serial number groups not consecutive! The only models that ended production before 1899 are the Model 1881, 1888, Model 1889, and 1891. All others must have a serial number under 161,200. (Note: Marlin did not start a new block of serial numbers staring at 1, like most makers. Instead, their number were mixed. But the approximate # for those Marlins produced before the end of 1898 is 161,200.)
Marlin-Ballard rifles, all are pre-1899
Martini-Henry Rifles, all are pre-1899
Mauser M1896 “Broomhandle” pistols (serial # below 15,000–these were mostly made with “cone” (pyramidically step-sided) hammers or large ring hammers–are pre-1899.
Pre-1899 Mauser Bolt Action Rifles:
See the following listings by model year/country. Note that any Mauser marked “Ludwig Loewe” or “Loewe, Berlin” is pre-1899, because Loewe was merged into DWM in 1897):
M1889 Belgian, most rifles are pre-1899. However, most carbines made with Yatagan bayonet mounts are post 1899 and thus legally modern.
M1890 Turkish contract, all are pre-1899
M1891 Argentine contract rifles and carbines, all are pre-1899
M1891 Columbian contract (Argentine Pattern) most are pre-1899
M1891 Ecuadoran contract (Argentine Pattern) most are pre-1899
M1891 Peruvian contract, all are pre-1899
M1891/1892/1893 Spanish rifles, all are pre-1899
M1893/M1895 Spanish *carbines* –see date on receiver ring.
M1893 Turkish contract rifles, all are pre-1899 (Note: Many of there were re-barreled to 8 x57 Mauser at Ankara in the 1930s (and re-stamped on the receiver ring with their re-arsenalization year, but they are still legally “pre-1899” antiques.)
M1894 Brazilian contract, all are pre-1899
M1894 Swedish carbines–see date on receiver ring–Less than 40% are pre-1899
M1895 Bolivian contract (M1891 Argentine pattern) all are pre-1899
M1895 Chilean contract by Ludwig Loewe –all are pre-1899
M1895 Chilean contract by DWM–Many later examples are post-1899, However, it has been determined with certainty that early DWMs with A through K prefix serial numbers are
pre-1899. Special thanks to The Dutchman in Indiana for the first “in captivity” report on a K-prefix M1895 DWM that is cartouched 1898. Also thanks to Ed Albers, who spotted another, with serial number K7023. Since then, I found three others that were cartouched 1898, also with a K prefixes.
M1895 Chinese contract (Chilean Pattern)–all are 1899.
M1895 Costa Rican contract (Chilean Pattern) by Ludwig Loewe are
pre-1899 (DWMs with “L” or higher serial # prefix are not!)
M1895 El Salvadoran contract (Chilean pattern) by DWM. Most are
post-1899 except early production guns with three digit serial numbers.
M1895/96/97 Orange Free State contracts (Marked “O.V.S.” Some also have Chilean crests. These are original Boer war contract guns and quite sought after by collectors!) All are pre-1899.
M1895 Paraguayan contract (Chilean pattern) by DWM. Most are post-1899
M1895 Persian contract (Chilean Pattern) by Ludwig Loewe are pre-1899 (DWMs with “L” or higher serial # prefix are not!)
M1895 Peruvian contract (Chilean Pattern) by Ludwig Loewe are pre-1899 (DWMs with “L” or higher serial # prefix are not!)
M1895 Uruguayan contract (Chilean Pattern) by Ludwig Loewe are pre-1899 (DWMs with “L” or higher serial # prefix are not!)
M1896 Swedish rifles –see date on receiver ring–only about 1% are pre-1899, since 1899 was the first year of full production on this model Mauser, Oberndorf, and 1898 was the first production year at Carl Gustafs Stads Gevarsfaktori.
Merwin Hulbert revolvers, all are pre-1899
Mosin-Nagant rifles–see date marked UNDER the rear tang, near the action screw. You have to take off the wood to see it. The date that one first sees on top is actually on the rear of the BARREL, not on the receiver itself. Many of these receivers were made pre-1899. Even a lot of the “later” Finnish M-91/30s and Model 39s (with barrel dates in the 1940s) have receiver tangs dated in the 1890s! Note: Some of the tang dates are two digits, such as 95 (for 1895) or 9^6 for 1896–with a vertical arrow between the digits.) Thanks to Dennis Kroh of Empire Arms for this information!
Nagant revolvers: Those produced at Liege, Belgium (serial number under 20,000) are pre-1899. But virtually all of those produced at the Tula arsenal are legally modern.
Parker shotguns (serial # below 89,350)
Remington Model 1875 revolvers, all are pre-1899
Remington Model 1890 revolvers, all are pre-1899
Remington Model 1889 Shotguns (serial # below 89,124)
Savage Model 1895. See: Savage99.com for details
Schmidt Rubin (Swiss) Rifles. Model 1889 – all are pre-1899
Schmidt Rubin (Swiss) Model 1893 Carbines (serial # below 5,000)
Schmidt Rubin (Swiss) Rifles. Model 1889/96 or 96/11 (which were built on pre-existing 89/96 receivers) are pre-1899 if they have a serial number less than 236,500. Note: ONLY the 96/11 (and later models) are safe to use the high pressure M11 cartridge!
Schmidt Rubin (Swiss) Model 1897 “Cadet” short rifles (serial # below 2,100)
S&W DA .38 top break revolvers with hammer (serial # below 382,022)
S&W DA .38 top break hammerless (“lemon squeezer”) revolvers (serial # below 119,900)
S&W DA First Model revolver, all are pre-1899
S&W DA “Frontier” revolvers, all are pre-1899
S&W DA “Favorite” revolvers, all are pre-1899
Important Note: An article by Roy Jinks (S&W factory historian), some years ago reported that all of the *frames* for the large frame top-break S&Ws were made prior to 1899, and hence all New Model #3’s, .44 DA 1st Models, DA Frontiers, and related models are considered “antique” by the BATFE, even though they may have been cataloged and even assembled well into the early 20th century. Special thanks to Roy Jinks and the S&W Collector’s Association for this information.
Swift revolver (Made by Iver Johnson), all are pre-1895
U.S. (“Trapdoor”) Springfield .45-70, all are pre-1899
U.S. .30-40 Krag bolt actions (serial # below 152,670)
Webley Mk. I and Mk. II .455 Revolvers. All Mark I and Mark II revolvers are antique. (The Mark II was adopted in 1894, production ceased entirely in 1897 in favor of the Mark III which replaced it. Most Mark IIIs and all subsequent Marks are post-1898.)
Winchester Model 1873 (serial # below 525,923)
Winchester Model 1876, all are pre-1899
Winchester Model 1885 (serial # below 84,701)
Winchester Model 1886 (serial # below 119,193)
Winchester Model 1887 (all were produced before 1899).
Winchester Model 1890 (serial # below 64,521)
Winchester Model 1892 (serial # below 165,432)
Winchester Model 1893 (serial # below 34,204)
Winchester Model 1894 (serial # below 147,685)
Winchester Model 1895 (serial # below 19,872)
Winchester Model 1897 Shotgun (serial # below 63,633 — some sources say 64,668, but better to use the lower number as your guide). That is a just a small fraction of the total of 1,024,700 M1897s produced! A TAKEDOWN Model 1897 that is pre-1899 is VERY rare, since they were a factory special order item. They already command a big premium in price.
Important Note: It is not just the model number that determines whether or not a gun is antique. You will need to do some research for most models, to determine the antique threshold serial number. For example, just a very few Winchester lever actions were made in or before 1898. See my FAQ on pre-1899 antiques for details on other models and the serial number ranges that qualify as pre-1899 federally exempt antiques.
Again, I recommend that you look for your pre-1899 guns soon, before the anticipated rush that will soon follow enactment of the Private Gun Transfer Ban!
The Devious Wording of H.R. 8
The Private Gun Transfer Ban bill is cleverly worded. The key portions of the H.R. 8’s wording are as follows:
SEC. 3. Firearms transfers.
Section 922 of title 18, United States Code, is amended—
(1) by striking subsection (s);
(2) by redesignating subsection (t) as subsection (s); and
“(t) (1) (A) It shall be unlawful for any person who is not a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer to transfer a firearm to any other person who is not so licensed, unless a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer has first taken possession of the firearm for the purpose of complying with subsection (s).
“(B) Upon taking possession of a firearm under subparagraph (A), a licensee shall comply with all requirements of this chapter as if the licensee were transferring the firearm from the inventory of the licensee to the unlicensed transferee.
“(C) If a transfer of a firearm described in subparagraph (A) will not be completed for any reason after a licensee takes possession of the firearm (including because the transfer of the firearm to, or receipt of the firearm by, the transferee would violate this chapter), the return of the firearm to the transferor by the licensee shall not constitute the transfer of a firearm for purposes of this chapter.
“(A) a law enforcement agency or any law enforcement officer, armed private security professional, or member of the armed forces, to the extent the officer, professional, or member is acting within the course and scope of employment and official duties;
“(B) a transfer that is a loan or bona fide gift between spouses, between domestic partners, between parents and their children, between siblings, between aunts or uncles and their nieces or nephews, or between grandparents and their grandchildren; [Emphasis Added]
“(C) a transfer to an executor, administrator, trustee, or personal representative of an estate or a trust that occurs by operation of law upon the death of another person;
“(D) a temporary transfer that is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm, if the possession by the transferee lasts only as long as immediately necessary to prevent the imminent death or great bodily harm;
“(E) a transfer that is approved by the Attorney General under section 5812 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986; or
“(F) a temporary transfer if the transferor has no reason to believe that the transferee will use or intends to use the firearm in a crime or is prohibited from possessing firearms under State or Federal law, and the transfer takes place and the transferee’s possession of the firearm is exclusively—
“(i) at a shooting range or in a shooting gallery or other area designated for the purpose of target shooting;
“(I) has no reason to believe that the transferee intends to use the firearm in a place where it is illegal; and
“(II) has reason to believe that the transferee will comply with all licensing and permit requirements for such hunting, trapping, or fishing; or
“(iii) while in the presence of the transferor. [Emphasis Added]
“(B) Regulations promulgated under this paragraph may not include any provision requiring licensees to facilitate transfers in accordance with paragraph (1).
“(C) Regulations promulgated under this paragraph may not include any provision requiring persons not licensed under this chapter to keep records of background checks or firearms transfers.
“(D) Regulations promulgated under this paragraph may not include any provision placing a cap on the fee licensees may charge to facilitate transfers in accordance with paragraph (1).
“(4) It shall be unlawful for a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer to transfer possession of, or title to, a firearm to another person who is not so licensed unless the importer, manufacturer, or dealer has provided such other person with a notice of the prohibition under paragraph (1), and such other person has certified that such other person has been provided with this notice on a form prescribed by the Attorney General.”.
Each violation of this law would be a felony that could be punishable by 5 to 10 years in federal prison. And along with that, of course the loss of voting rights and the loss of the right to possess any modern firearm or ammunition.
In Case of Disaster
As a prepper, I am particularly concerned about H.R. 8 requiring an FFL in the loop for 99% of gun sales. This means a phoned-in FBI National Instant Check System (NICS) background check for all sales of post-1898 guns. If there is ever a natural or man-made disaster that takes down either the power grid or the phone networks, then there will be no sales of modern guns until those systems are restored! And even a government shutdown or a localized emergency that affects FBI administrative functions could bring gun sales to a halt, nationwide.
Lastly, this law would essentially ruin gun shows as we currently know them–reducing them to flea markets where you can buy ammo, jerky, and pepper spray, but not much else. (You know, like gun shows these days in California or New Jersey…) Presently, the majority of gun show tables are operated by private parties, rather than Federally-licensed dealers. But if a Private Gun Transfer Ban becomes law then many of those vendors will likely quit renting tables.
This Legislation Must Be Stopped!
Note! When I last checked, H.R. 8 had 225 co-sponsors, including its 9 original sponsors.
Please, contact your congressman and senator, and do so often, and politely. Don’t just tell them that you dislike H.R. 8. Instead, explain to them how and why it is 100% unconstitutional:
The H.R. 8 Private Gun Transfer Ban relies on the Interstate Commerce Clause. But a ban on inherently intrastate commerce (sales of used merchandise between private party residents of the same state) by stretching the meaning of the Interstate Commerce Clause. Clearly, there is no INTERstate commerce involved, since an INTRAstate sale of a used gun is beyond and past any interstate commerce! No federal nexus means no federal jurisdiction!
When you contact your congressman and senators, make it clear that they will not be-re-elected if they vote for any anti-gun legislation, including the H.R. 8 (or its inevitable but not yet named Senate equivalent). I recommend that you mark your calendar to make contacts once every two weeks for the foreseeable future. I suggest that you alternate between phone calls, snail mail, faxes, and e-mails. When you make your calls, pay attention to when your representatives are back in their districts, on legislative breaks. Make your calls to their in-state offices during those breaks.
Again, please do your best to stop this horrible legislation. But… it is wise to hedge your bets and buy few pre-1899 guns.
Addenda: I’m adding this in response to some of the first comments posted. Please don’t misconstrue my advice on pre-1899s. I’m recommending them as a supplementary investment, not as a primary firearms assortment for your family. By all means, continue to stock up on modern guns, magazines and ammunition. But for those of you that already have a capable battery of modern guns, please see the wisdom of also finding a few pre-1899 antiques. If not for your own use, then as guns that you will legally be able to freely buy/sell/trade if the private transfer ban becomes law. Paperless sales of everything else will become a felony. The time may come when your Johnny-Come-Lately neighbor comes begging to buy a gun.
Also, consider that concealed carry and vehicular carry laws may change for the worse, even at the Federal level. Owning a gun that is not a “firearm” per Title 18 of the U.S. Code could become an advantage. In the coming age of “Universal Background Checks”, you will be able to have access to the parallel unregulated universe of pre-1899 guns. – JWR