Skip to main content

How to Prepare Your Gun Collection for Disaster

Consider this a blueprint for your own personal disaster plan to save and prepare your collection for the future.

How to Prepare Your Gun Collection for Disaster

For nearly 25 years, I have been fortunate enough to work with one of the finest collections of firearms in the United States. Our nearly 6,000-gun collection rivals that of the Smithsonian, West Point, the Springfield Armory and the Cody Firearms Museum. We are proud of the trust our donors and lenders have granted us in hopes that we would be stalwart guardians and custodians of their cherished belongings. We maintain a public trust to care for and preserve the items entrusted to our care, not for just the present, but for the enjoyment and education of future generations.

To attain accreditation with the American Association of Museums, every museum must develop a disaster plan that outlines steps taken to protect the collection from a possible disaster either natural or man-made. Now while we can not foresee every eventuality, we take precautions that we feel are within reason and provide a secure environment for the priceless items entrusted to our stewardship.

While your personal collection may or may not be headed for a permanent home in a world-class institution, it obviously holds a great deal of value to you, or you would not have spent so much in time and resources acquiring it. It is our hope that you would treat your collection with the same amount of care and conservation that we treat the objects we guard.

So consider this a blueprint for your own personal disaster plan to save and prepare your collection for the future, whether that future is behind glass at the Metropolitan or in the hands of your grandchild as he hears the oft-told story of how you came to own such a remarkable artifact.


Disaster Strikes!

There are two types of disasters that can strike your collection and one can be just as devastating as the other. The first, and most unlikely, is a natural disaster like a hurricane, earthquake or fire. While it is hard to predict such events, it is not hard to protect your collection against most of these eventualities.


The second and potentially most devastating is your untimely separation from your collection, either from your own mortality or from theft.

Here are some tips from those of us in the museum world who have seen it all and dealt with it all during our careers.

Conservation Saves the Day

For seven days in August 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the United States and killed over 1,800 people and left $81 billion of damage in its wake. Some of the positive by-products of the devastation were the damage reports filed by museum curators on the condition of the artifacts that were recovered.


In an article printed shortly after the event, complete with photographic support, a comparison of the effect of saltwater on the metal and finish of numerous 18th and 19th century firearms that had been subjected to the worst of the floodwaters was examined in detail. The firearms that had been documented as having undergone application of microcrystalline wax had been returned to their pre-hurricane condition, and for the most part looked no worse for wear. Those that had not undergone the wax treatment looked as though they had been salvaged from the hold of a Spanish Galleon after a few centuries on the floor of the sea.

Microcrystalline wax has been a mainstay of the museum world since its development and accepted use by curators at the British Museum in the 1950s. It sheaths metal objects with a microscopic layer of protective wax that leaves no visible trace of discoloration. It resists oil and outside penetrants without any loss in protection. Using gloves, museum curators apply a light coating to the metal parts of all our firearms.

Manufactured in the UK under the trade name Renaissance Wax, the British Museum and hundreds of other museums and private collectors use it to ensure that these items are here for centuries to come.


Prior Proper Planning Also Saves the Day!

At least once a week, we get a call from a distressed widow or family member who had a dear relative recently pass, leaving a collection of firearms that they have no idea what to do with and wholly do not understand the first thing about disposing of it, the laws regarding the disposition or their actual value.

In some cases, even access to the collection is problematic due to the owner having taken into consideration that the best way to keep a collection is to secure it from theft. Safe storage is essential and numerous safe companies produce safes specifically for gun collections. However, it is equally important to leave instructions with someone on how to access the collection.

Just as important is the honest and thorough documentation of the collection. This is important for insurance purposes and is necessary, even if you store guns in a closet. How often have you benefited from scoring a windfall in a collection sale because the seller had no idea what they had on their hands? "Well, my husband said he never spent more than $200 on any of his guns." We all know what each gun in our collection actually cost and what they are potentially worth.

No doubt you wouldn't want what you spent a lifetime accumulating to be sold for pennies on the dollar at a yard sale. You need to make an inventory of your collection for your personal protection, insurance vales and your potential heirs. A flash drive would be a great way of detailing each gun's condition, special features and current value taken from a reputable source.

Guns & Ammo recommends The Blue Book of Gun Values, now in its 33rd edition. The Blue Book not only offers current pricing evaluations on most every firearm available, past and present, but they show, via detailed photographic documentation, how to understand the condition. You can often find that a firearm holds 95 percent of its value in the last 5 percent of its condition. It is important to know and understand the condition and percent of the original finish on your firearms collection. Blue Book Publishing even has a handy tool to record your inventory, values and conditions and even keep pictures of your collection that is kept offsite for disaster recovery proposes. An ISP tool is provided with every subscription to the Blue Book. It's also kept confidential!

You should also consider keeping records on two flash drives, one at home and one offsite at your office, or at your insurance agent's desk. Make sure to password protect these drives for security and maintain a hard copy report and keep this both on and offsite as well.

Consider leaving an "In the event of..." instructions to your wife, husband or close relative and/or friend. And in case any of the above fails to protect you against the worst scenario, cover yourself for the financial loss by insuring the collection. NRA members can call 1-877-NRA-3006 or click here to avail themselves of additional gun collectors insurance.

Do it, do it now and you will be amazed at how well you will sleep tonight knowing that you are protected from the various dangers and evils that could attack without warning!

Current Magazine Cover

Enjoy articles like this?

Subscribe to the magazine.

Get access to everything Guns & Ammo has to offer.
Subscribe to the Magazine

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Cameras Don

Cameras Don't Lie: Subsonic 9mm vs. .300 Blackout

In this segment of "Cameras Don't Lie," a subsonic-ammo showdown, 9mm vs. .300 Blackout fired from AR rifles.

Pocket-Pistol Carry Tips and Tricks

Pocket-Pistol Carry Tips and Tricks

Pocket carry, as a method of concealed carry for a defensive firearm, can be a practical option when done right. This is especially true during the colder months when heavy outer garments can obstruct access to a traditional waistline holster. Former U.S. Navy SEAL Jeff Gonzales, president of Trident Concepts, joins G&A contributor Kimberly Heath-Chudwin to discuss guns, training and gear, including Blackhawk's TecGrip holster that can make pocket carry more successful.

Guns & Ammo TV: Irons vs. Optics

Guns & Ammo TV: Irons vs. Optics

How much of an edge do optics give shooters? In this segment of Pros vs. Joes, Guns & Ammo TV puts Coordinating Producer Jeff Murray against Professional Shooter Chris Cerino.

Guns & Ammo TV: Shooting 1,270 Yards with the 5.56 NATO

Guns & Ammo TV: Shooting 1,270 Yards with the 5.56 NATO

Guns & Ammo Rifles & Optics Editor Tom Beckstrand was on location in Idaho where he pushed the limits of the 5.56 NATO cartridge in this segment of “Long Range Tech” for Guns & Ammo TV. Pairing a SIG Sauer MCX Virtus rifle loaded with Hornady's 73-grain ELD-M ammunition, Beckstrand attempted to ring steel set at 1,270 yards, an incredible distance for any 5.56-chambered rifle and beyond the typical range for an AR-15.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The Swarovski Z5(i) P BT L 3.5-­18x44mm has a unique and versatile multiple-­zero system and an erector assembly unlike any other on the market. The Z5(i) is an excellent choice for an all-­around hunting scope.Swarovski Z5(i) P BT L 3.5-­18x44mm Scope Review Optics

Swarovski Z5(i) P BT L 3.5-­18x44mm Scope Review

Tom Beckstrand - September 09, 2020

The Swarovski Z5(i) P BT L 3.5-­18x44mm has a unique and versatile multiple-­zero system and...

Whether you're going hunting or to the range, hitting your target is more fun when you have a zeroed rifle scope. Here's how to sight in your rifle scope setup in five quick-and-easy steps.How to Sight In a Rifle Scope in 5 Steps How-To

How to Sight In a Rifle Scope in 5 Steps

Craig Boddington - June 04, 2018

Whether you're going hunting or to the range, hitting your target is more fun when you have a...

The story of a confederate sniper’s revenge and an exclusive look at his rifle.The Story of Civil War Sniper Jack Hinson and His Rifle Historical

The Story of Civil War Sniper Jack Hinson and His Rifle

Kyle Lamb - January 12, 2018

The story of a confederate sniper’s revenge and an exclusive look at his rifle.

From milled slides to optics-included packages, these pistol options are all red-dot sight ready.14 Red Dot Ready Pistols You Must See Handguns

14 Red Dot Ready Pistols You Must See

James Tarr - December 20, 2018

From milled slides to optics-included packages, these pistol options are all red-dot sight...

See More Trending Articles

More How-To

You have to have solid fundamentals to be a good pistol shooter, and their importance is clear when we watch the Step Back drill in Guns & Ammo TV's “Pros vs. Joes.” Professional shooter and law enforcement officer Chris Cerino walks G&A TV cameraman Ben LaLonde through the drill and learns the benefits of training and experience.Guns & Ammo TV: Step Back Drill How-To

Guns & Ammo TV: Step Back Drill

Guns & Ammo Staff - May 13, 2020

You have to have solid fundamentals to be a good pistol shooter, and their importance is clear...

That's why, despite any internal protest, you must clean your firearm if you want to maintain its function and accuracy. This guide will show you how.Cleaning Guns For Accuracy Shoot 101

Cleaning Guns For Accuracy

Kristen Weiss - April 21, 2020

That's why, despite any internal protest, you must clean your firearm if you want to maintain...

Hardened warriors don't rely on luck; they make their luck. Rely on your training. Don't rely on superstitions or a lucky rabbit's foot. Good Luck Comes With Good Training How-To

Good Luck Comes With Good Training

SGM Kyle Lamb [Ret.] - June 22, 2020

Hardened warriors don't rely on luck; they make their luck. Rely on your training. Don't rely...

In this Guns & Ammo TV: Appendix Carry Equipment and Training How-To

Guns & Ammo TV: Appendix Carry Equipment and Training

Guns & Ammo Staff - August 14, 2020

In this "At The Range" segment, Contributor Kimberly Heath-Chudwin and former U.S. Navy SEAL...

See More How-To

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Guns & Ammo App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now