When are handguns classic treasures and when are they junk? It’s a good question because many uninitiated people think just because a handgun is old it’s a treasure. That just isn’t so. If it was junk when it was new it’s still junk when it’s old.
A simple rule to judge them by is brand name. If an old handgun carries a name such as Colt or Smith & Wesson or Remington then it just might be a treasure. The operative word there is “might.” A good brand of handgun can still be rendered to junk by abuse.
Some years back a local fellow called and asked me to look at his family’s heirloom Colt. He didn’t know what it was but since it had that magic word on it he figured it was worth a bundle. He wanted me to tell him just how big a bundle he was sitting on.
It was a pretty small bundle and he didn’t like hearing that. His treasure was junk despite the word Colt on it. Specifically it was a Model 1878DA chambered as .44 WCF/.44-40 caliber. That was good. The bad was it was trashed. The cylinder spun freely and the hammer fell back and forth. Those problems could be fixed but deep pits all over the thing were going to be there forever. A normal barrel/cylinder gap is from 0.003″ to 0.008″. This old Colt’s was about an eighth of an inch. I don’t even know how that could happen.