Serial Numbers, Serial Numbers, Serial Numbers, or why Gun Day Needs to Happen

Posted | By:  

Recently a deer rifle stolen from the backseat of a truck during hunting season 17 years ago surfaced at a pawnshop in Michigan. Police were able to recover the gun when the shop ran the serial against the federal database-- but only because its previous owner had known the serial number and was able to report it.

The problem

According to a recent U.S. Department of Justice study, there is an average of at least 135,000 unrecovered guns stolen in burglaries nationwide each year. The main reason for guns not being recovered is that the owners did not record and keep up with their serial numbers. If a gun is recovered and its serial is not reported as stolen, odds are, if it wasn't used in a crime itself, it will be auctioned off (usually to a dealer who will resell it) or it will be scrapped.


In Nevada recently, law enforcement has been inundated with calls for stolen guns. Guns that when they are recovered, no one can come reclaim.

"When they are taken, more often than not the owner can't ID them - they can't name the make or caliber or serial number," said Washoe County Sheriff Michael Haley said to the Reno Gazette Journal this month.

"So, in reality, when a weapon is stolen, it can't be traced or returned because we don't know who it belongs to," he said.

To help fix this, Haley said he would ask two things: "Take personal responsibility if you own a gun, secure it in your home. And two, keep the serial number in a secure place separate from the gun."

Monthly ritual

One thing I like to do in my home is the simple ceremony I refer to as 'gun day.'

On the third Saturday of the month (you have to set a specific day to do this or you will forget, I promise), I like to spend a couple hours in my mancave going through my personal collection. Now of course, like most gun guys, it varies from year to year, sometimes from month to month as I buy, sell, trade, swap and rearrange my collection. However, no matter whether you have one old rusty shotgun or a half dozen bulging gun safes, Gun Day needs to happen. If I'm out of town or something comes up, it GD can be rescheduled but it still happens.

At least once a month.

For me it's simple. I sit, put on my gloves (I hate to leave excess fingerprints on my guns as the oils and salts left behind can lead to surface rust), and go through my collection. I have a simple Field Notes book that I write down my collection in with the date I acquired the gun, the make, model, caliber, my estimated value at the time, and serial number. The six things fit on one line. Each month I go back over the book, remove any old guns that have been traded away (or note guns loaned out to friends, trust me, this can help figure out missing guns months later!) and add any new pieces.

While going through my guns I have a chance to notice any issues that may have come up in storage such as rust, dust, and the like, keeping the band going strong.

New guns even get a photo shoot for reference just in case something ever happens to them. Speaking of photos, I take a picture every month of the most uptodate notebook entry, just in case something ever happens to it. This picture (s) I will then email myself so that its always part of the 'cloud' if the cloud is one day all that I have.

The cost for Gun Day? Free once you have a camera or phone (who doesnt?) and a notebook (a nice durable survey book, Moleskin, etc only costs a few dollars and heck, in reality any old notebook will do).

Then its back into the safe and cabinet, closet, holster, and nightstand for the collection.

Until the next Gun Day.

Posted in
  Email   Print
April 8, 2014  •  11:09 PM
Great article! I use a spreadsheet with all the pertinent information you advised. Taking pictures is a great idea I need to do! Thanks!
April 9, 2014  •  10:51 AM
Fantastic ideas that I plan to start implementing this month. My new safe arrives tomorrow and as soon as I get it in place and anchored, I'll start a fresh list with pictures as I fill it. Thanks much!
April 9, 2014  •  11:59 AM
Should be more well known. Great article!
April 9, 2014  •  12:35 PM
Good idea and article, with my only question being about putting your info out in the cloud! Big Brother IS watching, thanks to our government.
April 9, 2014  •  10:09 PM
I do pretty much the same thing, but I do this each time I add or sell\loan one of my guns out. I keep a printed copy in a safe deposit box at my bank, on a CD in my safe at home, on a flash drive at my dad's house, and on both of my computers. In addition to the information listed in the article, i would also recommend adding the following: Finish, furniture (color and type), sights, accessories,barrel length, and any other thing that makes the firearm unique (plant and date of manufacture, arsenal marks,differing S\Ns on parts, in the case of one of mine, my dad's last name and last 4 of the social from when it was stored at the base arsenal). great article, with some great tips. Looking forward to reading more of your work.
April 21, 2014  •  09:02 AM
I enter the firearm into my iPhone (notes app). It automatically duplicates on my iPad. My latest, sometimes I have a brain fart and may enter them after a little while.