The Pre-1899 Antique Guns FAQ
by James Wesley, Rawles
Copyright 1992-2009.  All Rights Reserved
Revised  February 21, 2009


In response to numerous requests, here are the answers to the questions that I most commonly get on pre-1899 firearms.  The second half of this FAQ posting lists serial number cut-offs for the 1899 threshold for many gun makers.

Q:  What constitutes "antique" under U.S. law?

A: Although your State and local laws may vary, any firearm with a frame or receiver that actually made before Jan. 1, 1899 is legally "antique" and not considered a "firearm" under Federal law. This refers to the actual date of manufacture of the receiver/frame, not just model year or patent date marked. (For example, only ***low serial number*** Winchester Model 1894 lever actions are actually antique.)  No FFL is required to buy or sell antiques across state lines. They are in the same legal category as a muzzle loading replica. I regularly ship them right to people's doorstep via UPS, with no "paper trail." Think of it as the last bastion of gun ownership and transfer privacy.

Q:  I saw a post that said that pre-1899s are considered modern "firearms" if they are chambered to fire ammunition that is available off-the-shelf. Is this correct?

That is absolutely incorrect.  ANY gun manufactured before Jan. 1, 1899 (other than a machinegun or other NFA category, such as a short barreled gun) is NOT controlled in any way by Federal law.  There is NO Federal requirement for sales of these guns to be handled by Federally licensed dealers. They may be freely bought and sold across State lines by private parties, regardless of what cartridge they are chambered in. (However, State or local laws vary.)

Q:  Does sporterizing or re-chambering an antique end its exemption?

A:  Unlike "Curio and Relic" category modern guns, sporterizing, re-barreling, or re-chambering an antique gun does NOT effect its legal status. Thus, I can sell folks Mauser sporters that have been converted to modern cartridges (like .308 Winchester!), without having to go through the "FFL to FFL" hassle. I have a BATF letter confirming this, which makes a useful reference.  Here, available for free download in JPEG format is my query letter to the BATF:  Page 1  Page2. And here is the BATF's reply:  Page 3  Page 4.

Q: Is a Form 6 import license required for importation of a pre-1899 gun by an individual?

A:  No Form 6 is required. This is because pre-1899 guns are outside of Federal jurisdiction.

Q: Would an antique serial number range gun be worth more than an otherwise identical gun made just a few years later?

A:  Yes! Pre-1899 production guns now bring a 30% to 200% premium over identical condition guns made AFTER 1898.  For example, in 2002, I sold a 1898-dated M1896 Swedish Mauser rifle  that was dated 1898 on a on-line auction for $770. This was when most otherwise identical Swedish Mausers were selling for around $250!  Based on market trends, I expect the pre-1899 premium to increase considerably in the next few years. (Perhaps even tripling or quadrupling in value if modern (post-1898) guns become subject to registration or additional transfer controls.) Many of my customers are commenting that they previously had no interest in "antique" guns, but now want one or more because they are paranoid about additional gun laws. For the time being at least, pre-1899 are completely EXEMPT from all federal laws.  Presumably, this would also mean that they would be exempt from registration if they ever have nationwide gun registration....   Think about the possibilities.

Q: What would you consider a basic battery of pre-1899 guns for a typical shooter that wants to diversify and "hedge his bets" by buying some pre-1899s for his family?

A:  I'd recommend buying the following pre-1899 production guns:

* Two big bore S&W top break double action revolvers (.44-40 or .44 Russian, but get both in the same caliber.)

* One Winchester Model 1897 in 12 gauge

* One pre-1899 .22 Long Rifle.  (Winchester Model 1890 pump or Winchester Low Wall single shot rifles are ideal.)

* Two Model 1893/94/95/96 Mauser bolt action rifles. (6.5 x 55, 7x57, or 8x57, but get both in the same caliber.)

If you have a big budget, you should also invest in few additional pre-1899 Colts and Winchesters that are chambered for commonly available factory made ammunition.

Q: What about someone who is on a very tight budget?  What pre-1899s are available?

A:  I'd recommend a Spanish or Chilean Model 1893/1895 (7 x57), or a Turkish Model 1893 (8 x57).  Both can be had for under $200 in original condition, or often for under $125 if sporterized. Most Iver Johnson .38 S&W top break revolvers are also still a relative bargain at $120 to $250 each.

Q: But what if I find a pre-1899 gun at a gun shop that was mistakenly logged into the dealer's "bound book" of post-1899 firearms?  Won't I have to fill out a Form 4473
(yellow form)?

A:  No. All the dealer has to do is log the gun out as:  "Inadvertent entry. Pre-1899 manufactured receiver [or frame].  No FFL required." If the dealer gives you any grief and insists on you filling out the yellow form, a call to any BATFE branch office will confirm this. In fact, according to the law, dealers are NOT ALLOWED to log pre-1899s into their books at all, since they are outside of Federal jurisdiction, and the "bound book" is their record book of guns that are within Federal nexus.  (It makes about as much sense as a FFL holder logging a pellet rifle into his bound book.)

Q: Will the prices of pre-1899s continue to go up?

A:  Yes, and the rate of increase is likely to accelerate!  Here are some examples: In 1997, .44-40 S&W double action top break revolvers were selling for $400 to $800.  They now sell for $900 to $2,000.   In 1997, .38 S&W double action top break revolvers were selling for $50 to $150.  They now sell for $320 to $900. In 1997, .44-40 Merwin Hulbert revolvers were selling for $300 to $1,000.  They now sell for $900 to $4,000. Meanwhile, many pre-1899 Colts have been bid up to unaffordable--almost astronomical--prices.  After  Nov. 30, 1998 the permanent Brady Law rules went into effect. On that date all sales of *post-1898* guns--long guns and handguns--came under the federal control of "national instant background checks." Subsequently there has been a much  bigger interest in guns that are Federally exempt and that can be bought via anonymous mail order or at gun shows with no "paper trail"!

Q: Are pre-1899s included in the Brady II background check law?

A:  No. They are exempt.

Q: How does the law on pre-1899 antiques and replicas actually read?

A: From the Gun Control Act of 1968 (Which modified Title 18, U.S. Code):

18 USC 921 (a)(16).

(A) any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock,
percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or
before 1898;
(B) any replica of any firearm described in subparagraph (A) if such replica --
(i) is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition, or
(ii) uses rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured
in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial

Q:  What are the primary advantages in investing in pre-1899 guns rather than modern
(post-1898) guns, or replicas?

A:  They are not considered "firearms" under Federal law.  Thus they will most likely be exempt from any new Federal gun registration law or any new restrictions on transfers between private (unlicensed) individuals. (Sadly, registration looks inevitable within a few years unless there is a massive swing of the pendulum back toward a constitutional republic.)

I can literally send you a pre-1899 handgun or rifle right to your
doorstep without a lick of paperwork. (Unless your live in New York City or D.C., for example)   The joys of free commerce!

The Dec. 31, 1898 cut-off date has been in existence, (unchanged), since 1968.  Thus, the pool of available pre-1899s continues to shrink
with each passing year, and because of this, those 106+ year old guns A.) Look more and more antique/obsolete to lawmakers--i.e. not worth bothering about.
and, B.) Grow more valuable with every passing year.  Pre-1899 guns already bring a considerable premium. The bottom line is that people are willing to pay more for privacy!

Q:  Are there any other legal advantages to pre-1899s?

A:  Yes. As of this writing, several States (including Florida, Minnesota, and Texas) use the Federal definition of "firearm" as the basis for their CCW laws.  Hence, in some States pre-1899 guns can be legally carried concealed and loaded in your car or under your coat WITHOUT A PERMIT. (Consult your current local and State laws before doing so!)

In essence, with pre-1899s you are buying both privacy (the lack of a "paper trail" and probable exemption from future registration) plus they a great investment. Why buy a replica (such as the Trapdoor Springfield, Winchester, and Schofield top break revolver replicas currently on the market--and requiring the Federal "Yellow" Form 4473), when you can buy the real thing (with far greater long term investment value, and NO paperwork) for just a little bit more money?

Q:  I know of a Class 01 FFL who was told by the BATFE to stop building pre-1899 Mauser custom rifles because they then became "modern", manufactured on that date [of modification], not when the receiver was manufactured. Is that true?

A: No, the license holder was misinformed.  I suspect that he heard a personal interpretation of the law from an BATFE field agent. The letter that I posted came directly from the ATF Firearms Branch and is hence definitive and authoritative. In essence, here in he U.S., either a receiver was made before 1898 or it wasn't. Pre-1899 manufactured rifles, pistol, and shotguns--except for machineguns and short-barreled rifles and shotguns--are outside of Federal jurisdiction. Legally, the receiver is what constitutes the gun, and anything that someone does to modify it--aside for turning it into a full auto or attaching a short barrel in violation of GCA-'68--cannot bring it into Federal jurisdiction. Please read the letter again. (See the scanned pages.) The wording from the ATF Firearms Branch is quite clear: "The fact that the firearm has been re-barreled, re-chambered, re-blued, or sporterized would have no bearing on its [Federally exempt] classification." Most likely the source of the confusion for ATF field agents is their vague recollection of the U.S. Curio and Relic (C&R) law, that states that if a C&R gun is substantially altered, then it loses its C&R status. But that is an entirely different law, pertaining to modern (post-1898) listed C&R guns, which are inside ATF jurisdiction. It is also noteworthy that the ATF letter on pre-1899s specifically addressed Model 1893 Turkish Mausers, that had their receivers re-heat treated and were then rebarreled for higher pressure 8x57 cartridges, in the1930s. These even had their receivers prominently stamped with 1930s dates at the time that they were re-arsenalized. But even these rifles are still considered legally "antique" and outside Federal jurisdiction!

Q: Are there any threats to pre-1899s looming on the horizon?

A:  There recently was one, H.R. 2872--the so-called "Antique Firearm Safety Act", a bill sponsored by Congressman Hoeffel that would "...make Federal law apply to antique firearms in the same way it applies to other firearms."  Luckily, as of this writing, the bill died in committee and an insufficient number of co-sponsors.

But the so called antique "loophole" may eventually close, so stock up on pre-1899 antiques for your family now, while you can still get them across state lines without any paperwork!

Q: Do you have a list of "cut-off" serial numbers for determining if my gun is an antique?

A: The following is a listing that combines information that I have compiled over the years, plus some information that was kindly provided by Jim Supica, proprietor of The Old Town Station. (, Norm Flayderman, Dixie Gun Works, Dennis Kroh, and Ben Sansing.

Here is a partial list of pre-1899 "cut-off" serial numbers:

Ballard rifles, all are pre-1899

Beesley (Frederick Beesley, England) shotguns - serial numbers below 1,500

Boss & Co. shotguns - serial numbers below  4,200

Burgess pump action shotguns. Operated by a unique sliding iron pistol grip pump lever.  The first model Burgess pump action shotguns are all pre-1899 production, since the second model was introduced in 1897, and production of the first model ended later that same year.  Burgess was purchased by Winchester in 1899. Serial numbers for all Burgess shotguns begin at #1000.  Any Burgess that has no patent date marks later than 1896 can safely be presumed to be pre-1899 manufacture.  See also: Colt-Burgess (below).

Churchill (E.J. Churchill, Ltd., England) shotguns - serial numbers below 959

Colt 1878 & 1883 Shotguns, all are pre-1899

Colt-Berdan, Colt-Burgess, and Colt-Franklin, all are pre-1899

Colt Lightning Rifles, all large frame are pre-1899; Medium frame:
serial numbers below 84,000; Small frame: serial numbers below 35,334

Colt Percussion Revolvers (and cartridge conversions), all are pre-1899

Colt Spur trigger revolvers, all are pre-1899

Colt 1st and 2nd Model Derringers, all are pre-1899

Colt Single Action Army (SAA) and Bisley revolvers with serial numbers under 182,000. I consider SAAs with serials between 165,000 and 182,000 (1896 to 1898 production) the most desirable, since they have steel frames (and are thus safe to shoot most modern smokeless loads), yet they are Federally exempt.

Colt Model 1877 (Lightning and Thunderer) .38 and .41 (serial # below

Colt Model 1878 Double Action Frontier revolvers (serial numbers below 41,000)

Colt Model 1889 Navy .38, all are pre-1899

Colt New Police and New Police Target .32 (serial number below 4,600)

Colt New Pocket Model (serial # below 11,900)

Colt "New Army" or "New Navy" .38 and .41 (serial # below 115,000)

Colt New Service, first year of production (1898) only. (Serial # below 250)  (I found one for my own collection.  It only took ten years to track it down...)

Dickson (John Dickson, Edinburgh, Scotland) shotguns - serial numbers below 5000

Forehand and Wadsworth .32 or .38  (all made before 1891.)

Fox (A.H. Fox) shotguns - all are modern

Francotte  (Auguste Francotte & Co.) shotguns  -
   Best grade: serial # below 16,310
   Medium grade: serial # below 29,614
   Bottom grade: serial # below 305,769
Grant (Stephen Grant & Sons, London) shotguns  - serial # below 7,050

Greener sidelock shotguns (Best grade: serial # below 5,311)

Greener boxlock shotguns (serial # below 47,130)

Holland & Holland shotguns :  Best grade: serial # below 22,000. Paradox guns: serial # below 15,400

Hopkins and Allen Mfg. marked guns are ALL pre-1899 because the company changed its name (and rollmark) to Hopkins and Allen Arms in 1898.

Ithaca Baker Model shotguns - all are pre-1899

Ithaca Crass Model shotguns  (serial # below 38,399)

Ithaca Hammer shotguns - other - (serial # below 33,011)

Ithaca Hammerless shotguns - other - (serial # below 32,988)

Iver Johnson top break revolvers. Special thanks to Ben Sansing ( ) for the following Iver Johnson information:

There were three main models of Iver Johnson "Safety" top break revolvers. 1st & 2nd Model revolvers were built for black powder cartridges only. Continued use of higher pressure smokeless in these revolvers will result in them shooting loose, getting out of time, and parts breakage.

[Editor's note: So if you want to shoot smokeless in a pre-1899 IJ revolvers, you must hand load cartridges to match the lower black powder pressure. Use extreme caution and err on the side of lower pressure when working up a load.]

The 3rd Model was especially beefed-up, redesigned, and "fortified" for use with smokeless powder and is fine for modern factory ammo.  Alas, only 1st (all) & 2nd (some) Model revolvers fall into the  legal Antique category.

1st Model (1894-1896): SINGLE-POST top latch; leaf springs;
cylinder "free-wheeling" when at rest

2nd Model (1897-1908): DOUBLE-POST top latch; leaf springs;
cylinder "free-wheeling" when at rest

3rd Model (1909-1941): DOUBLE-POST top latch; COIL springs;
cylinder locked when at rest

If you've determined, from the above characteristics, that  you have a 2nd Model IJ revolver, here's how to determine whether it was made before 1899 (and thus a legal antique) or not. Fortunately, Iver Johnson built revolvers by the "batch" system, and only changed & upgraded their guns once a year, so it is quite easy to determine whether an IJ is antique or not, just by cursory examination. In only *one* case (.32 small frame *hammer* model) does the serial number need to be checked. In other cases, you can "tell at a glance" once you know what to look for.

Pre-1899 2nd Model guns will exhibit the following characteristics:

Large frame (.38) HAMMERLESS: Separate hammer shroud on frame (shroud not integral with frame)

Small Frame (.32) HAMMERLESS: Separate hammer shroud on frame (shroud not integral with frame)

Note: Integral frame with shroud introduced start of 1899 production

Large frame (.38) hammer: Patent dates on top rib of BARREL

Small Frame (.32) hammer: Patent dates on top rib of BARREL, *AND* must check serial number prefix (left side of grip strap underneath grip - yes, you must remove the grips for this one): A = 1897; E = 1898; F = 1899. The easy way to remember: If it has an 'F' it FLUNKS the Antique Test.

Note 1: Patent dates moved from top rib of barrel at start of 1899 production.

Note 2: All .22 rimfire IJ topbreak revolvers are post-1898 (The .22 chambering began in 1901).

Lancaster (Charles Lancaster, London) shotguns - serial # below 8,353

Lang (Joseph Lang, London) shotguns - serial # below 8,700

Lefever Arms Co. Sidelock shotguns - serial # below 28,916

Lee-Metford and Lee-Enfield .303 Rifles and Carbines:
"Magazine Lee Metford" (MLM) rifles are all pre-1899. However, since "Magazine Lee Enfield" (MLE) rifle production began at the end of 1895, a substantial number of MLEs are pre 1899.  Check the receiver date.  While the "Magazine Lee Enfield" Cavalry Carbines Mk I (no star) ran from 1896 to 1899, the Mk I* is post '98 so again, check the date.  Royal Irish Constabulary ("RIC") MLE Carbines are also post-'98, though some may have been conversions with pre-'99 MLE or MLM actions.   All "Charger Loading Lee Enfield" (CLLE) Rifles and all "Short Magazine Lee Enfield" (SMLE) rifles are post-'98.  As with the Mosin-Nagants (see below), a lot of early Lees were turned into later Marks, but the date on the action body is the governing date.  My MLE Mk 1* was built in 1901, then became an SMLE Mark I in 1904, then in 1908 an SMLE Mk I**, and finally circa 1912, a Mk II**.

Marlin rifles--serial number groups not consecutive!  The only models that ended production before 1899 are the Model 1881, 1888, Model 1889, and 1891. All others must have a serial number under 161,200.  (Note: Marlin did not start a new block of serial numbers staring  at 1, like most makers.  Instead, their number were mixed. But the approximate # for those Marlins produced before the end of 1898 is 161,200.)

Marlin-Ballard rifles, all are pre-1899

Martini-Henry Rifles, all are pre-1899 (For details, see: )

Mauser M1896 "Broomhandle" pistols  (serial # below 15,000--these were mostly made with  "cone" (pyramidically step-sided) hammers or large ring hammers--are pre-1899.

Mauser Bolt Action Rifles.  See the following listings by model year/country. Note that any Mauser marked "Ludwig Loewe" or "Loewe, Berlin" is pre-1899, because Loewe was merged into DWM in 1897):

M1889 Belgian, most rifles are pre-1899. However, most carbines made with Yatagan bayonet mounts are post 1899 and thus legally modern.

M1890 Turkish contract, all are pre-1899

M1891 Argentine contract rifles and carbines, all are pre-1899

M1891 Columbian contract (Argentine Pattern) most are pre-1899

M1891 Ecuadoran contract (Argentine Pattern) most are pre-1899

M1891 Peruvian contract, all are pre-1899

M1891/1892/1893 Spanish rifles, all are pre-1899

M1893/M1895 Spanish *carbines* --see date on receiver ring.

M1893 Turkish contract rifles, all are pre-1899 (Note: Many of there were re-barreled to 8 x57 Mauser at Ankara in the 1930s (and re-stamped on the receiver ring with their re-arsenalization year, but they are still legally "pre-1899" antiques.)

M1894 Brazilian contract, all are pre-1899

M1894 Swedish carbines--see date on receiver ring--Less than 40% are

M1895 Bolivian contract (M1891 Argentine pattern) all are pre-1899

M1895 Chilean contract by Ludwig Loewe --all are pre-1899

M1895 Chilean contract by DWM--Many later examples are post-1899, However, it has been determined with certainty that early DWMs with A through K prefix serial numbers are
pre-1899. Special thanks to The Dutchman in Indiana for the first "in captivity" report on a K-prefix M1895 DWM that is cartouched 1898. Also thanks to  Ed Albers, who spotted another, with serial number  K7023.  Since then, I found three others that were cartouched 1898, also with a K prefixes.

M1895 Chinese contract (Chilean Pattern)--all are 1899.

M1895 Costa Rican contract (Chilean Pattern) by Ludwig Loewe are
pre-1899 (DWMs with "L" or higher serial # prefix are not!)

M1895 El Salvadoran contract (Chilean pattern) by DWM. Most are
post-1899 except early production guns with three digit serial numbers.

M1895/96/97 Orange Free State contracts (Marked "O.V.S." Some also have Chilean crests.  These are original Boer war contract guns and quite sought after by collectors!) All are pre-1899.

M1895 Paraguayan contract (Chilean pattern) by  DWM. Most are post-1899

M1895 Persian contract (Chilean Pattern) by Ludwig Loewe are pre-1899 (DWMs with "L" or higher serial # prefix are not!)

M1895 Peruvian contract (Chilean Pattern) by Ludwig Loewe are pre-1899 (DWMs with "L" or higher serial # prefix are not!)

M1895 Uruguayan contract (Chilean Pattern) by Ludwig Loewe are pre-1899 (DWMs with "L" or higher serial # prefix are not!)

M1896 Swedish rifles --see date on receiver ring--only about 1% are pre-1899, since 1899 was the first year of full production on this model Mauser, Oberndorf, and 1898 was the first production year at Carl Gustafs Stads Gevarsfaktori.

M1896 ("Prototype M1898") German, all are pre-1899. Note: Some prototype 98s were sold to China and overstamped with Chinese markings. These are VERY rare, and command a huge premium in price. (Up to $800 just for an action with bolt!)

M1898 German--see date on receiver ring--less than 1% are pre-1899.

Merwin Hulbert revolvers, all are pre-1899

Mosin-Nagant rifles--see date marked UNDER the rear tang, near the action screw.  You have to take off the wood to see it.  The date that one first sees on top is actually on the rear of the BARREL, not on the receiver itself. Many of these receivers were made pre-1899. Even a lot of the "later"  Finnish M-91/30s and Model 39s (with barrel dates in the 1940s) have  receiver tangs dated in the 1890s! Note:  Some of the tang dates are two digit, such as ì95î (for 1895) or ì9^6î for 1896--with a vertical arrow between the digits.) Thanks to Dennis Kroh of Empire arms for this information!  Note that Empire Arms ( occasionally has pre-1899 production military rifles available for sale.

Nagant revolvers: Those produced at Liege, Belgium (serial number under 20,000) are pre-1899.  But virtually all of those produced at the Tula arsenal are legally modern.

Parker shotguns (serial # below 89,350)

Purdey (James Purdey & Sons, London) shotguns - serial # below 16,736

Remington Model 1875 revolvers, all are pre-1899

Remington Model 1890 revolvers, all are pre-1899

Remington-Keene bolt actions, all are pre-1899

Remington-Lee bolt actions, all U.S. military models are pre-1899, but most civilian models are legally modern.

Remington Model 1889 Shotguns (serial # below 89,124)

Rigby (John Rigby & Co., Dublin) rifles and shotguns- serial # below 16,600

Savage Model 1895    See: details

Schmidt Rubin (Swiss) Rifles. Model 1889 - all are pre-1899

Schmidt Rubin (Swiss) Model 1893 Carbines (serial # below 5,000)

Schmidt Rubin (Swiss) Rifles. Model 1889/96 or 96/11 (which were built on pre-existing 89/96 receivers) are pre-1899 if they have a serial number less than 236,500.  Note: ONLY the 96/11 (and later models) are safe to use the high pressure M11 cartridge!

Schmidt Rubin (Swiss) Model 1897 "Cadet" short rifles (serial # below 2,100)

Scott (W&C Scott a.k.a. Webley & Scott) shotguns - serial # below 56,000

L. C. Smith double barrel shotguns. The 1899 transition serial number #61,199 previously published elsewhere is not accurate. There were thousands of L.C. Smiths made after 1899 with lower serial numbers than this. Because L. C. Smith serial number blocks were assigned non-sequentially, there is no way to be certain whether or not any particular L.C. Smith is antique!

S&W Single Action (SA) .32 and .38 top break revolvers, all are pre-1899

S&W Spur Trigger: With the exception of one rare S&W model, production of single-action spur trigger revolver frames had essentially stopped by 1892.   So just about all of these are antique.)

S&W Double Action (DA) .32 top break revolvers with hammer (serial # below 209,301)

S&W DA .32 top break hammerless ("lemon squeezer") revolvers (serial # below 91,400)

S&W DA .38 top break revolvers with hammer (serial # below 382,022)

S&W DA .38 top break hammerless ("lemon squeezer") revolvers (serial # below 119,900)

S&W Model 3 and New Model 3 single action revolvers, all are pre-1899

S&W .45 Schofield revolvers, all are pre-1899 (Note: Most of the Schofields currently on the market are modern replicas)

S&W DA First Model revolver, all are pre-1899

S&W DA "Frontier" revolvers, all are pre-1899

S&W DA "Favorite" revolvers, all are pre-1899

Important Note: An article by Roy Jinks (S&W factory historian), some years ago reported that all of the *frames* for the large frame top-break S&Ws were made prior to 1899, and hence all New Model #3's, .44 DA 1st Models,  DA Frontiers, and related models are considered "antique" by the BATFE, even though they may have been cataloged and even assembled well into the early 20th century.  Special thanks to Roy Jinks and the S&W Collector's Association for this information.

S&W Model 1891, all are pre-1899

S&W 1st Model hand ejector (.32s only), all are pre-1899

Sharps Co. Rifles, all are pre-1899

Snider-Enfield Rifles and Carbines, all are pre-1899

Stevens: Many early Stevens guns are unserialized and hence difficult to date. Stevens guns made from 1864 to 1886 will be marked J. STEVENS & CO. From 1886 to 1916 they were marked J. STEVENS A & T CO or J. STEVENS ARMS & TOOL CO.

Swift revolver (Made by Iver Johnson), all are pre-1895
U.S. ("Trapdoor") Springfield .45-70, all are pre-1899

U.S. .30-40 Krag bolt actions (serial # below 152,670)

Webley Mk. I and Mk. II .455 Revolvers. All Mark I and Mark II revolvers are antique. (The Mark II was adopted in 1894, production ceased entirely in 1897 in favor of the Mark III which replaced it.  Most Mark IIIs and all subsequent Marks are post-1898.)

Webley Green .450/.455 Revolvers, all are pre-1899

Webley R.I.C. No 1 .455/.476 CF NEW MODEL  Revolvers, all are pre-1899

Westley-Richards & Co. rifles and shotguns (all except "T" boxlock)- serial # below 15,818

Westley-Richards & Co. "T" boxlock shotguns- serial # below 13,438

Whitney Arms Co., all are pre-1899

Winchester Rifles and Shotguns.   See:  for exact dates of manufacture on 12 different models.

Winchester Model 1866, all are pre-1899

Winchester Model 1873  (serial # below 525,923)

Winchester Model 1876, all are pre-1899

Winchester Model 1885  (serial # below 84,701)

Winchester Model 1886  (serial # below 119,193)

Winchester Model 1887  (all were produced before 1899).

Winchester Model 1890  (serial # below 64,521)

Winchester Model 1892  (serial # below 165,432)

Winchester Model 1893  (serial # below 34,204)

Winchester Model 1894  (serial # below 147,685)

Winchester Model 1895  (serial # below 19,872)

Winchester Model 1897  Shotgun (serial # below 63,633 -- some sources say 64,668, but better to use the lower number as your guide).  That is a just a small fraction of the total of 1,024,700 M1897s produced!  A TAKEDOWN Model 1897 that is pre-1899 is VERY rare, since they were a factory special order item.  They command a big premium in price.

Winchester-Hotchkiss Bolt Action Rifles, all are pre-1899

Winchester-Lee (U.S. Navy) Straight-Pull 6 mm (serial # below 20,000)

Woodward (James Woodward & Sons, London) - serial # below 15,327


I hope that you find this information useful.  Your comments, additions, and corrections are greatly appreciated.

  Special thanks to:
  Ken at
  Jim Supica, proprietor of The Old Town Station  (  snail mail: c/o P.O. Box 15351, Lenexa, Kansas 66285
  Dennis Kroh of Empire Arms (,
  Dixie Gun Works
  Ben Sansing

 James Wesley, Rawles      <><


I'm the author of numerous firearms FAQS on topics including:
AR-15 magazines, M1 Carbine magazines, M14/M1A magazines, M1911 magazines,
FN/FALs and L1A1s, Mauser rifles, pre-1899 cartridge guns, and  European Ammo Box
Markings Translations.  These FAQs are available at

I'm also the author of a pro-gun survivalist novel and screenplay. For info,

I'm also the author of the Internet's most popular daily Survivalist Blog (Web Log journal).  See: