There are expensive guns and then there are expensive guns. By that I mean there are guns that, because of their history or celebrity ownership, have sold for ungodly amounts of money.
Take Elvis Presley’s .357 Magnum Colt Python and S&W Model 19-2. Together at the same auction, those two wheelguns fetched $367,000.
Then there’s the 12-gauge Fox double-barreled shotgun that Teddy Roosevelt used on his African safari in 1909 that sold for $862,500. Expensive? You bet! But their value was based on who owned them and how they played a part in history.
The other kind of expensive gun is the one that anyone with money—lots of money—can buy. Those are the guns we’re dealing with here. Of course, any kind of gun—handgun, rifle or shotgun—can become expensive if you engrave the hell out of it and have it festooned with gold inlays of nymphs and satyrs cavorting about. No, I’m talking about the kind of gun that’s mind-bogglingly expensive to start with, without any artistic embellishment. There’s almost no limit as to how much the cost of a gun can escalate due to custom machining, precious metal inlays, engraving and carvings. The trouble is, when you’re talking really expensive guns—think six figures—virtually all of them are embellished to some degree.
Another thing to consider is that the world’s most expensive guns, those from the houses of Purdey, Holland & Holland and Fabbri, to name some of the top players, are made to order, so the idea of a “standard model” and a fixed price is just too nebulous. Then, too, no matter how prestigious the maker, not all of their guns are bespoken. The great gun houses are always working on shop guns, as it were, that are spec’d to what that maker feels will appeal to its clientele. These guns are inventoried by the maker and high-end gun dealers. It is this inventory- type gun that probably best represents the kind we’re looking for here.
As I began reaching out to my various sources to cover this topic, it became obvious to me that if you’re looking for expensive guns, you can find them all in one place: GunsInternational.com. Virtually every major, minor and custom manufacturer in the world lists its available guns on this website. All pertinent information is shown, including specs, condition, photos, who’s selling it, and for how much. Thus, the search began for the priciest revolver, semi-auto handgun, double and bolt-action rifles, and over/under and side-by-side shotguns.
Most Expensive Guns: Wilson Combat Classic Supergrade
Let’s kick things off with a custom semi-auto. We wanted to choose a pistol that would be considered expensive without any extra embellishment. Of course, “expensive” is a relative term, especially in light of our selections here. About the priciest pistol we could find was Wilson Combat’s 9mm Classic Supergrade, but when we found out it could be had for a measly base price of $5,045, it wasn’t quite in keeping with the theme of this piece. So, we went with the fanciest Level 3 engraved version that goes for $8,490.
Only a handful of these Wilson Combat Classic Supergrades are built each month, and they are all bespoken.
This particular gun, or one exactly like it, can be ordered directly from WilsonCombat.com.
Most Expensive Guns: Alvin White’s Colt New Frontier
At the outset of this piece, we stated that celebrity guns were not to be considered here. But because no one other than cognoscenti would recognize the name Alvin White, we felt that choosing this gun was in keeping with that premise. Alvin White was probably the most celebrated American gun engraver of the 20th century, and he was commissioned by a noted author of firearms books, R.L. Wilson, to produce a gun that was a “self-portrait,” as it were. He chose the single-action .44-40 Colt New Frontier for customization.
The barrel, frame, cylinder and grip straps are covered with deep-relief floral scroll engraving with gold inlays and border lines. Two cylinders are provided, one of which is un- fluted to provide more engraving surface. Both depict those objects that were important to White, such as a chasing hammer, engraving tools and an engraver’s vise. The topstrap has a gold bust of White and “AAW” underneath.
Appropriately enough, a tribute to Colt is present in the form of the company’s rampant horse logo done in gold. The ivory grips are relief carved with an eagle on one side and a checkered panel on the other. And what’s the price you ask? Oh, only $28,500. This gun is listed on the Guns International website as being in the possession of James Wayne Firearms.
Most Expensive Guns: Dakota Arms Custom Model 70
Though most super-expensive guns are double rifles and break-open shotguns hailing from Europe, this one from Dakota Arms is a homegrown bolt action. This particular .300 Winchester Magnum is listed on the Guns International website as new. The degree to which it’s engraved and inlaid had to be commissioned by someone else, because I can’t believe Dakota would build guns like this and add them to its inventory. I assume a serious buyer might be given the gun’s history, but all we know is that it’s built on the superb Model 70-type action that Dakota is famous for, this one in a rare double-square-bridge iteration.
The receiver is color casehardened and blanketed with English scroll scratching and gold line work, as is the front sight, rear sight and floorplate. The Turkish walnut stock is gold inlaid with depictions of grizzlies on one side and fighting buffalo on the other. This one-of-a-kind masterpiece can be yours for $34,995, which is chicken feed when compared to break-action European guns.
For more information, visit ConnecticutShotgun.com.
Most Expensive Guns: Fabbri Best Grade
For our over/under, we go to Brecia, Italy, where Ivo Fabbri and his small cadre of artisans produce no more than 30 guns per year. Order one and you’ll have to wait at least four years before you see it. Not only is Fabbri known for its exquisite guns, but the company may well be the most technically advanced when it comes to designing and manufacturing them. Fabbri joins the barrels using a precision-machined H-rib that assures identical points of impact. The barrel/rib assembly is then fused by laser into a monolithic unit that maintains that perfect collimation.
This particular 20 gauge is based on a stainless action, but titanium is an option that reduces weight by almost a pound. This Tomasoni-engraved masterpiece depicts an upland setting graced by gold inlays of pointing setters and quail. It can be yours for $125,000.
For more information, visit SteveBarnettFineGuns.com.
Most Expensive Guns: Holland & Holland Royal Deluxe
Showing up at a typical shooting range with just about any double rifle, especially a big bore, is likely to attract attention. But showing up with one of these puppies would be an event. However, on second thought, if you owned a Holland & Holland Royal Deluxe double rifle in the first place, you’d probably have someone going to the range and shooting the damn thing for you!
Anyway, since money is no object here, why not go for a matched pair? In the showroom of Lewis Drake & Associates, a purveyor of fine firearms located in Murray, Kentucky, is a pair of new .470 Nitro Express double rifles that were delivered to two brothers in 1985. The only material difference between the two guns is that one brother had longer arms than the other, so the length of pull is 15 inches on one gun and 14.38 inches on the other. Master engraver Phil Coggan embellished both of these guns with elegant scrollwork and Bulino game scenes depicting elephant and Cape buffalo.
For some unknown reason, the brothers never got to use the guns on safari or even fire them! So, this magnificent pair of unfired H&H .470s resides in their custom cases in the pristine condition they were delivered in some 33 years ago. Their price? $450,000.
For more information, visit Drake.com.
Most Expensive Guns: Purdey Extra Finish Round Action
If you go slumming and look to see what’s available among the 188 used Purdeys listed on the Guns International website, you’ll find a 28-gauge side-by that shows only “light wear marks” that can be had for $150,000. J. Purdey & Sons, an iconic London gun-maker whose origins go back to 1814, crafted this shotgun in 2006. Matched in status only by a couple of other London gun houses like Holland & Holland and Boss, Purdey is best known for its superb shotguns, but the company also produces exquisite double-barreled and bolt-action rifles.
On this particular gun, there is not a square millimeter that doesn’t carry the exquisite engraving of Bradley Tallet, the theme of which depicts quail coveys in upland settings. The 28-inch barrels have improved cylinder/modified chokes with 2¾-inch chambers.
For more information, visit SteveBarnettFineGuns.com.
This article is from the summer 2018 issue of Ballistic Magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.