NRA ANTIQUE FIREARM CONDITIONS STANDARDS:
FACTORY NEW: All original parts; 100% original finish; in perfect condition in every respect, inside and out.
EXCELLENT: All original parts; over 80% original finish; sharp lettering, numerals and design on metal and wood; unmarred wood; fine bore.
FINE: All original parts; over 30% original finish; sharp lettering, numerals and design on metal and wood; minor marks in wood; good bore.
VERY GOOD: All original parts; none to 30% original finish; original metal surfaces smooth with all edges sharp; clear lettering, numerals and design on metal; wood slightly scratched or bruised; bore disregarded for collectors firearms.
GOOD: Some minor replacement parts; metal smoothly rusted or lightly pitted in places, cleaned or re-blued; principal letters, numerals and design on metal legible; wood refinished, scratched bruised or minor cracks repaired; in good working order.
FAIR: Some major parts replaced; minor replacement parts may be required; metal rusted, may be lightly pitted all over, vigorously cleaned or re-blued; rounded edges of metal and wood; principal lettering, numerals and design on metal partly obliterated; wood scratched, bruised, cracked or repaired where broken; in fair working order or can be easily repaired and placed in working order.
POOR: Major and minor parts replaced; major replacement parts required and extensive restoration needed; metal deeply pitted; principal lettering, numerals and design obliterated, wood badly scratched, bruised, cracked or broken; mechanically inoperative; generally undesirable as a collector’s firearm.
The Expanded NRA rating system:
In the Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson, which I wrote with Richard Nahas, we expanded the NRA definitions. Given the subject matter of the book, this discussion focuses primarily on cartridge handguns, but many of the concepts apply to other fields as well. Here’s our extended version:
NEW IN BOX (NIB), or AS NEW: NIB means in the same condition as when the gun left the factory, with accompanying box, literature, and accessories. This is important to note, as older boxes may have substantial value in themselves. Purists will want the box to be the original box which that particular gun was shipped in (serial number was often penciled on the bottom or marked on the end of the box by the factory).
As to the condition of the gun itself, the gun must be unfired and unused. Comparable terms expressing the same gun condition when not accompanied by box might include “AS NEW,” “MINT,” “PERFECT,” or 100%.” Even if the gun has never been fired, if the action has been worked to the extent that wear is visible, the value may be less that “NIB” or “AS NEW” to a collector. For example, the faint drag line that appears on the cylinder of a revolver that has been dry-fired a few times will reduce the value to less than “AS NEW” for a condition purist on an out of production revolver. This sort of general shop-wear to an otherwise new, current production gun will not matter to a buyer purchasing the gun to shoot. It rapidly becomes more important to a condition collector who wants a truly pristine example of an out-of-production piece.
Generally this condition is seldom found in older antique guns, but an older antique gun that is NIB or AS NEW will bring substantial premium over antique Excellent condition – sometimes bringing double or more what the same model would bring in EXCELLENT condition.
EXCELLENT (EXC): All original parts and configuration. For modern guns, nearly new condition, with only slight finish wear at muzzle or sharp edges. For antique guns, sharp markings, unmarred grips, fine bore. Also, excellent guns should generally exhibit at least the following percentages of original finish, depending on production era & type of finish:
TIME ERA BLUED GUNS NICKEL GUNS
post 1945 98% 99+%
1920-1945 95% 98%
1890-1920 90% 95%
1865-1890 85% 90%
pre 1865 80% 85%
(For comparison, NRA definitions require that Modern Exc. have “bluing perfect, except at muzzle or sharp edges,” and that Antique Exc. retain “over 80% original finish.”)
Stainless steel: Due to the durability of the finish, most used stainless steel guns are found in excellent to very good condition so long as they are unmodified and in perfect working order.
FINE: This condition rating applies primarily to older and antique guns. All original parts and configuration, or possibly a very minor alteration from original configuration that was made during the period of use (fancy grips added, sight configuration changed slightly, etc.). Sharp markings, only minor grip blemishes, good bore. Minor replaced parts may be acceptable on antique guns, but will effect value. Also, at least the following percentage of original finish by production era & type of finish:
TIME ERA BLUED GUNS NICKEL GUNS
1920-1945 90% 95%
1890-1920 70% 80%
1865-1890 50% 70%
pre 1865 30% 50%
(For comparison, there is no NRA standard for “Modern Fine.” NRA “Antique Fine” requires “over 30% original finish.”)
Factory refinish: A factory refinished antique S&W with 98% of the refinish remaining, which was in excellent condition before refinishing (i.e., sharp markings, no pitting remaining under refinish) may approach Fine in value.
VERY GOOD (VG): All original major parts. For modern guns, must be in perfect working order, no corrosion or pitting, minor scratches only. For antique guns, smooth metal and sharp edges, clear markings. Mismatched parts from the same model, or minor replaced parts may be acceptable on older guns, but will effect value. Also, at least the following percentage of original finish depending on production era. (At this condition level, the difference between blue & nickel finish required is not significant.)
Post 1945: 85%
Pre 1865: less than 10%
(For comparison purposes, NRA “Modern Very Good” discusses general surface condition, while NRA “Antique Very Good” requires “zero to 30% original finish.)
Refinish & Modification – The following classes of refinished or modified guns may approach “Very Good” in value:
Modern guns with at least 98% of a factory or arsenal refinish.
Pre-1945 guns with at least 98% of a modern professional refinish or restoration.
Antique guns with at least 85% of a factory refinish or old period of use refinish.
Pre-1920 guns with major period-of-use modifications (for example, bobbed barrel) which are otherwise about Fine or better.
GOOD: Good working order. Markings are legible. There may be properly matched replaced parts, minor repairs and light pitting. May be professionally refinished. Grips may be worn or cracked, but should be serviceable. Configuration may have been modified. Bores should be shootable on modern guns, but are disregarded on antique guns. Older antique guns may lack any original finish, but modern guns in Good condition will probably show at least the following percentages base on production era:
Post 1945 75%
(For comparison, neither NRA Modern nor NRA Antique definitions specifically address percent of original finish for “Good” or lower condition guns.)
FAIR: Modern guns must be in safe working condition, but can be well worn, showing visible repair or replacement parts, or needing adjustment or minor repair. May be pitted so long as pitting does not effect function or safety. Antique guns may have major parts replaced and minor parts missing, may be rusted, pitted, heavily buffed or refinished, may have rounded edges, illegible markings, cracked or broken grips, and should be working or easily repaired.
POOR: Broken, poorly refinished, heavily rusted and pitted, or otherwise generally undesirable. Most often valued only as project guns for amateur gunsmiths, curiosities for display, or parts guns.
Applying the above standards – These condition ratings represent an attempt to describe the general overall condition of a gun in a single word. Variation from a single aspect of any condition definition does not exclude a gun from that classification. For example, a gun that was in otherwise “Excellent” condition except for a broken grip would not be reduced to “Fair” condition for that reason alone. However, a responsible description of any gun will mention any variation from the standard of definition for the condition rating, and any variances will most likely affect the monetary value.