Browsing Gunbroker and other firearms websites as well as publications such as Shotgun News and Gunslist, you often see that firearms are C&R or Curio and Relic Eligible.
What does this mean?
A Collector of Curios and Relics Licensce in issued by the BATFE. For the price of $30, a little paperwork, and a little time, you can become a FFL holder for 3 years. This allows you to purchase qualifying firearms directly from distributors at wholesale prices. Many distributors cater to C&R holders specifically including J&G Sports, Samco and Aim surplus.
The C&R also allows you to purchase the same directly on firearms auction sites without having a middleman FFL holder.
It is a collector's license and is meant for personal use-meaning you don't have to have a storefront, or fill out 4473s. The big no-no is selling your weapons acquired with the license. As a C&R hobbyist for more than two decades, I recommend it.
What does the C&R list allow you to get
According to the BATFE, to be recognized as C&R items, 478.11 specifies that firearms must fall within one of the following categories:
Firearms which were manufactured at least 50 years prior to the current date, but not including replicas of such firearms;
Firearms which are certified by the curator of a municipal, State, or Federal museum which exhibits firearms to be curios or relics of museum interest; and
Any other firearms which derive a substantial part of their monetary value from the fact that they are novel, rare, bizarre, or because of their association with some historical figure, period, or event.
Firearms automatically attain C&R status when they are 50 years old. Any firearm that is at least 50 years old, and in its original configuration, would qualify as a C&R firearm. It is not necessary for such firearms to be listed in ATF's C&R list. So currently by that logic, any firearm manufactured before 1962 is eligible (2012-50=1962.)
Many imminently collectable firearms are highly traded and very popular on the C&R list. This includes Broom handle Mausers, Enfield Rifles, WWII era pistols including Lugers, Colt 1911s, P38s, and others.
If it is an old and historical firearm, odds are its C&R eligible. Browsing through various firearms auction sites in the C&R section as I wrote this article, history screamed out at me. I came across a Wells Fargo marked Colt Police Positive in 38 Special, a Colt 1908 25ACP mouse gun with a receipt made out to a 1920s silent movie star, an 1895 Winchester saddle ring rifle chambered in 7.62x54R made for the last tsar of Russia's Cossacks, and a Tokyo Gas and Electric manufactured Japanese Nambu pistol. Now if that isn't history ready to be boxed up and sent to your door, what is?
Also, as an investment you are hard pressed not to look into historical firearms. For example, when the Russian M91 sniper rifles with PU scopes came into the states just a few years ago, many dealers sold them for as low as $199. Today these have doubled. In another example, Turkish 8mm Mausers in 1998 went for $39 for the pick of the litter. Today ugly dark bored versions cannot be found for less than $150.
Buying economical hunting arms
Many older shotguns and rifles are available for a steal as a C&R holder. Several early versions of the Mossberg model 500, made for JC Penny, Sears, and Montgomery Ward qualify and can be had for the $100 range. The same can be said for legions of reliable Stevens 77 and 82 model shotguns in a myriad of gauges.
-Many great old shotguns like this Remington Number 11 Riot gun can be had through C&R (authors personal collection)
The entire reason that ammunition manufacturers produce .303 British, 8mm Mauser and 7.62x54R in soft point loads is for individuals who use old Enfield, Mauser, and Mosin rifles, among others, as reliable deer slayers. These rifles can often be bought for as low as $75 through distributors and auction sites with your C&R license. The great thing about these old soldiers is a lot of them were arsenal remanufactured at in the 1950s and stored until the end of the Cold War, making them in excellent shape for WWII and in some cases, WWI-vets. M1916 Spanish Mausers, re-chambered in the 1960s for 7.62x51mm NATO, are very popular with custom rifle builders and are very affordable.
Self Defense C&R Guns
Just because a gun is older than you does not mean it is outdated and cannot save your life. Many popular C&R list guns can be used for self-defense/home defense and even CCW carry. Most of the sidearms of World War One and Two are on the list including vintage Remington-made 1911 models, Canadian-manufactured Browning Inglis 9mm Hi-Powers, Webley and Enfield S&W revolvers, and German P38/P1 9mm pistols. While shopping around can get you most of these from anywhere from $200-$300 in functional condition, some minty examples can be as much as ten times that amount. As with any used firearm be sure to have a competent gunsmith examine it prior to firing and for safety's sake try to stick to standard (i.e. not +P) ammunition loads.
- Russian Nagant revolvers were first imported into the country a decade ago for as low as $49, today they are still an affordable, historic deal for around $100. An aftermarket cylinder is available to convert it into more common 32-caliber.
Several small pistols such as the Czech CZ-82 and the Polish P64, both chambered in 9x18mm Makarov are often available in the $175-$250 range. These guns are nice, affordable CCW or bedside companions of modern construction. The caliber is rare in the US, but it is gaining a lot of ground and some good loads are available for it if you look. Even Hornady is making 95-grain 9x18mm JHPs these days.
For a number of reasons, if you are looking into becoming a collector, the C&R is for you.