June 4, 2021
By Joe Engesser
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Over 5,500 guns are up for bid during Rock Island Auction Company’s June 10th – 12th Sporting & Collector Firearms Auction, including a surplus of unique, unusual, and just plain awesome collectible handguns that can be owned at an attainable price. Summer’s still a few weeks away, but our auction hall is already sizzling!
Rock Island Auction Company’s gun auctions are always a jackpot for firearms enthusiasts of every stripe, featuring a bounty of rare and historic weapons for sale. The vast June catalog includes some standout vintage pistols, revolvers, and small arms from every era, so let’s dive in and highlight the top 10 hottest handguns you can own this summer.
The space-aged pistol. The Lighting Model. The Whitney Wolverine was designed and marketed as an advanced firearm for the Atomic Age. With a sleek design and an aluminum frame almost as sturdy and lightweight as Adamantium, this uncanny handgun brings a futuristic X-factor to any gun collection.
Puns and marketing aside, the Whitney Wolverine is a gorgeous piece of engineering, and by all accounts a fine handgun to fire. You can learn more about its unusual development history here, but with only about 13,000 of them produced, the Wolverine has become a popular and desirable collector pistol and a top handgun candidate on any list.
One of the coolest handguns around, the iconic "Zig-Zag" revolver is a rare and collectible early production Mauser firearm with a distinct silhouette. The zig-zag grooves, which give the weapon its famous namesake, were designed to rotate the cylinder. The gun also includes a unique break open hinge frame for quick and easy reload.
A competitor to the more traditional 1879 "Reichsrevolver" for Germany's first military cartridge handgun, Zig-Zags are highly scarce today as they were only produced for a short time before being replaced by the Model 1896 semi-automatic Broomhandle pistol. Zig-Zag’s engraved in silver and gold are even harder to find, which makes this vintage revolver a top collectible handgun in June’s Sporting & Collector Auction.
A rare Civil War gun, and one of the most unconventional revolver designs ever conceived, the LeMat revolver stands high on any list of extraordinary firearms. Serving as a Confederate cavalry weapon, the LeMat stored nine black powder pistol rounds in a revolver setup, with an additional shotgun barrel below that offered the weapon two distinct firing modes that could be alternated by toggling a movable firing pin on the hammer.
The LeMat has been recently featured In HBO's Westworld, carried by Ed Harris’s mysterious "Man in Black”, and the unique revolver has also become one of the most popular guns in Red Dead Online. Despite its heavy weight and slow reload time, the LeMat was favored by Southern officers in the Civil War, including General J.E.B. Stuart, who carried a LeMat revolver when he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern in 1864. Surviving LeMats are comparatively scarce due to their limited production run and heavy use during combat, making this memorable revolver a must-have collector’s gun.
Gun auctions are great places to find fascinating antique rarities like this flintlock “trap gun” musket, the high tech security system of its day. Often called “chicken thief” guns, these rare historic pistols were typically mounted on a base and camouflaged from plain view, then rigged with tripwire. The intruders would hit the tripwire, swinging the pistol toward them and touching off a charge of buckshot or a blank intended to scare them off and alert anyone nearby.
Legal through the mid-1800s in much of the United States, trap guns were also used with bait as a hunting tool, but probably the most infamous example of their deployment was in fending off grave robbers. Cemetery guns, as some trap gun variations came to be known, were one of many creative solutions used against the rising threat of corpse thieves seeking to exhume newly buried bodies and sell them to doctors and universities for medical research. A unique line of weapons with a peculiar history, it’s no wonder the trap gun musket makes the list of interesting firearms in June’s gun auction.
Another rare gun design, the Webley-Fosbery was the first commercial automatic revolver. Blending tried-and-true revolver tech with a complex upper assembly that used the gun’s recoil to rotate the cylinder and cock the hammer, the Webley-Fosbery was a marvel of late 19th-century engineering. British inventor George Vincent Fosbery took his revolver to gun maker Webley & Scott for assistance with production, and thus the final product took on a similar look to the standard top-break British service revolvers of the day.
Testing by the British War Department concluded that the complex Webley-Fosbery had issues in the trenches and was viewed as a slow-loading alternative to the new semi-automatic pistols exploding in popularity, but the Webley-Fosbery revolver was purchased privately by a number of officers and was also a hit with the press and the public in venues like the Bisley Shooting Ground and the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. That wasn’t enough to overcome the lack of military contract though, and only 4,200 revolvers were produced during the Webley-Fosbery’s entire production run.
Colt semi-automatic pistols are the definitive collectible handguns, and the Colt Sight Safety was where it all started. The pinnacle of firearms technology in 1900, the Colt Sight Safety was Colt's first production semi-automatic pistol and John M. Browning's first successful semi-automatic pistol design. The gun’s Colt 1911 lineage is readily apparent, and the Sight Safety also influenced the development of European semi-auto pistols like the Steyer Hahn.
This early Colt semi-automatic pistol got its name from the safety, which functioned as the rear sight. Pushing the sight up disengaged the safety and put the sights in line, while lowering it blocked the firing pin. The Colt Model 1900 Sight Safety also marked the introduction of .38 ACP, the round for which it’s chambered (not to be confused with the shorter-cased .380 ACP), and was the first handgun to utilize short-recoil operation. Colt Manufacturing Company only produced about 3,500 of these pistols, ranking this classic sidearm high on the list of hottest handguns up for bid in Rock Island Auction Company’s June Sporting & Collector Auction.
Speaking of hot summer handguns, how about the first pistol designed for the famous Volcanic cartridge? The Smith & Wesson No. 2 lever action pistol is the predecessor to the legendary Volcanic Firearms handguns that pushed the self-contained cartridge technology of the era. The Volcanic No. 1 pistol ammunition was a .31 caliber cone-shaped cartridge that utilized a primed version of Walter Hunt’s “Rocket Ball,” as well as an iron frame.
A classic design that’s well-known in the world of gun collecting, the Volcanic ammo family of firearms are highly valued for their role in the evolution of lever action weaponry, and the Smith & Wesson No. 2 is where the story of Volcanic ammunition began. This example has an attractive factory scroll engraving on the frame, the Smith & Wesson address and cast steel markings on the barrel, and the number “214” engraved under the grip, making it one of only about 1,200 of these extraordinary handguns ever produced. A rare summer find indeed!
Talk about a literal handgun. Palm guns, or “squeeze pistols” were a type of firearm introduced in the late 19th-century, like this Chicago Firearms Company Protector Palm Pistol from the 1890s. Firing these pistols required tucking the barrel between the second and third fingers and using the palm to press against a sliding wedge which acted as a trigger.
Most palm guns were repeating weapons with more shots than a typical derringer, so one can imagine their role as a concealed self-defense option, and that’s exactly how they were marketed. While quite popular for a time, these vintage handguns started to fall out of favor in the 1910s due to the introduction of semi-automatic pistols, some of which were even smaller and more compact than the palm guns they replaced. Today, palm guns are scarce enough to be desirable pieces for firearm collectors and a great find for any history buff.
Why bring a knife to a gunfight when you can bring both? Bladed sidearms have been a pop culture staple in video games and anime since the 90s, but their real-life counterparts were even more fascinating. Though the Dolne Apache revolver is likely the most famous, French gunsmith Joseph-Celestin Dumouthier created some of the most unique bladed handguns around.
This gorgeous hybrid handgun was designed in the mid-19th-century, in an era where bladed pistols had already been manufactured for centuries as hunting sidearms used to finish off wounded game. In the case of this antique Dumouthier double-barrel knife pistol, the right hammer of the weapon is pulled back and the folding trigger extends. Pulling the trigger first engages the right hammer, and once the trigger is reset it can be pulled a second time to engage the left hammer. The intimidation factor alone earns the Dumouthier knife pistol a top spot on any list of awesome collectible handguns.
Last but not least, a classic dose of heavy firepower from this super-custom Smith & Wesson Model 29-2 revolver chambered in .44 Magnum. The first variation of the Model 29 was famously carried by “Dirty Harry” Callahan, who declared the revolver “the most powerful handgun in the world”, and for a time, it was.
Manufactured in the early 80s, this ultra-rare Smith & Wesson Model 29-2 target .44 was crafted by a custom handgun moding pro for a handgun shooting champion. Over 100 hours of labor went into the modification to achieve peak accuracy, from a precision fitting of the barrel to the frame, to lathe-cutting the forcing cone and the crown. The revolver for sale in June’s gun auction is only one of three modified in this unique “pin-puncher” style that was featured on the cover of the February 1982 issue of Gun World Magazine. One of three! You can’t get more collectible than that.
With so many fantastic sidearms to choose from in Rock Island Auction Company’s June 10th – 12th Sporting & Collector Firearms Auction, any single top ten guns list isn’t going to come close to scratching the surface of what this gun auction has to offer. From modern revolvers like this Colt Ten-Pointer Python scoped DA to vintage rarities like a Japanese Tokyo Arsenal 1902 Type A "Grandpa" Nambu and the Pre-World War II Luftwaffe Contract Krieghoff "1937" Luger, June’s gun auction is absolutely smoking with selection.
RIAC’s Sporting & Collector Firearms Auctions are known for offering an abundance of historic firearms, vintage militaria, and a jackpot of top-tier wish list weapons, so even if cool handguns aren’t your style, June’s gun auction includes thousands of rifles and shotguns and heavy firepower like the PIAT. There are featured firearms for every level of gun collecting, and everything can be examined firsthand when the Rock Island Auction Company Preview Hall opens for exhibition on Wednesday, June 9th at 10 a.m. See you there!
As always, if there are any questions regarding consignment, registration, or future auctions, please contact Rock Island Auction Company today. Our upcoming auction schedule is updated frequently on our website, so be sure to go through the listing and start making your plans to visit. All our events adhere to the latest COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions. We can’t wait to see you here!
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