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Village Auto Body, Richfield, Ohio
How did you get into collecting antique firearms?
A few years back, I had some modern guns, and I have kids in and out of the house all the time. Even though the guns were super locked up, it still made us a little nervous, and I really wasn’t enjoying them, so I decided one day to liquidate them. Instead of just spending the money I made, I decided to start investing in antique guns.
How did you educate yourself on these guns?
I got interested in the early abolition movement, and the city of Richfield was very active with the Underground Railroad. So one thing led to another and I was asked to look at some parts of a Revolutionary War gun, which I found out were not real but reproductions. Continuing my research, I found out you could buy actual guns from the Revolution, so that started me down the path.
What interested you about the abolition movement?
John Brown the abolitionist lived in Richfield for four years. In fact, four of his children are buried across the street from my house. He’s one of the reasons I started collecting firearms from Harper’s Ferry, where Brown led an unsuccessful raid on the federal armory that ended with his capture.
What is the oldest gun you have?
A 1769 Brown Bess that was used in the 17th Regiment of Foot, which was an English regiment that fought in the revolution.
How did your interest in Harper’s Ferry pistols lead to you writing a book about antique guns?
There wasn’t a lot of good information out there on those pistols, and I wanted to buy one and be sure I knew what I was getting. So I started doing a lot of my own research on early pistols made between 1806 and 1808. I acquired a bunch of photos and original articles and compiled them for my own use. My friend’s wife saw this and asked if I was publishing a book, so I mentioned it to my wife and she said, “Well, you should publish a book.” I looked into self-publishing, but then a real publishing company got ahold of the manuscript and ended up publishing it.
How long did it take you to write?
It took me two years, and I finished it in August 2012. The first year I wrote it, I didn’t realize I was writing a book! What I really like is that the publisher didn’t rewrite the text. Being a science major, I’m pretty proud to have written a well-received history book.
You have a unique perspective on your guns, don’t you?
Yes, these guns are part of history. I don’t really own them. I have control over them and I paid someone for them. But eventually I won’t be here or, for whatever reason, won’t want to keep them and someone else will possess them in the future.
Does it irk you when you see people attempting to shoot these guns on TV?
Yes. There are certain popular cable TV programs where the so-called “experts” will tell an unsuspecting person who owns the gun that it’s worth X amount of dollars but will be worth twice that amount if it can be fired because then it’s functional. I cringe every time I see these clowns take a 150- to 400-year-old firearm out, put something that acts as an explosive powder in it and fire it. No true collector or dealer would ever attempt to do something like that because you could potentially destroy a piece of history.