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The Financial Assesment of Military Small Arms

By Robert C. Ankony, PhD

Collectors have long been looking for a measure of valuing potential purchases, and I have seen a number of different processes described. I have my own informal method, but read the Ankony Scale with much interest. We at SAR thought that this would be an interesting scale for those who are interested in formalizing an assessment system.- Dan Shea

Few countries trust their citizens with firearms as does the United States, safeguarded by our Second Amendment. As a result, vast quantities of surplus military small arms are imported into this country annually. Most will make excellent shooters. However, in terms of financial investment, how can a collector or dealer separate the wheat from the chaff?

A number of books and articles have been printed that describe the current value of specific firearms. It is the purpose of this article to identify and explain certain variables which can measure the potential of any modern (post 1898) military firearm to appreciate in value. Although the logic of the variables is for critiquing modern military firearms, most can also be used with conventional or antique firearms. The Ankony Military Small Arms Financial Assessment Scale is presented later in this article to promptly score a firearm.

METHODOLOGY

Sixteen variables are illustrated to establish a comprehensive and objective method for assessing a firearm’s potential to increase in value. This potential whether with one or more variables is hereafter referred to as “explanatory power.” Thus, unlike a casual evaluation of a firearm, the multiple variables presented scrutinize a firearm with an assortment of measurements. As a result, much greater explanatory power is achieved.

Read each variable carefully as many specify unique details. Some of the variables are obvious while others are subtle. Every variable is accompanied by a common example depicting the highest and lowest score for that variable. Since it is impossible to list all the examples of a variable, simple judgment can infer the score in between. If a variable does not relate to a particular firearm, the average score for that variable must be substituted to render the effect of that variable neutral, otherwise the final “investment score” will be artificially lowered.

Because each variable can have different explanatory power, the maximum and minimum scores of some variables will differ. The sum of the variables is the investment score. This score can range on a five-point scale from “excellent” to “bad.”

To ensure accuracy, it is vital to be candid when scoring a firearm. Score only as the firearm relates to that variable. In addition, since a degree of subjectivity is required when scoring a variable, it is advisable to err in the direction of an underestimation if anything. In this approach you can be more confident of your investment score and financial investment.

On a final note, because of the diversity of the variables, do not feel discouraged if a firearm receives the minimum score on a variable, accuracy is everything. Few firearms achieve maximum scores. Consequently, an investment score of “very good” is significant. Firearms having a score of “poor” or “bad” should not be purchased for investment.

OPERATIONALIZATION OF VARIABLES

1. Price measures the degree to which a firearm costs below or above the current market as this has an immediate effect on its ability to appreciate. Using this criteria, the highest value is “well below” with a maximum score of fifty (i.e., 50% or more below, e.g., $500 for a $1,000 firearm). The lowest value is “well above” with the minimum negative score of fifty (i.e., 50% or more above, e.g., $1,500 for a $1,000 firearm). Note, under this classification if a firearm was recently purchased at the current market price, or if the purchase price is dated or unknown, score with the average, i.e., zero.

2. Country’s Significance measures the twentieth century historical relevance of the country where the firearm was manufactured. Using this criteria, the highest value is “very high” with a maximum score of thirty (e.g., United States, Soviet Union, Germany). The lowest value is “very low” with the minimum score of zero (e.g., Chile, Sweden, Portugal).

To elaborate on the possibility of scores for this variable, Great Britain would have a value of twenty five, France a value of twenty, Japan a value of fifteen, Italy a value of ten, and Czechoslovakia a value of five. Also note, under this classification if a firearm was manufactured in one country specifically for another (e.g., in Germany for Chile), score with the lowest valued country.

3. Manufacturer’s Desirability measures the appeal for a specific company or armory of manufacturer. Using this criteria, the highest value is “very high” with a maximum score of ten (e.g., a German Luger by DWM). The lowest value is “very low” with the minimum score of zero (e.g., a German Luger by Erfurt).

Again note, if a firearm does not relate to a variable, score with the average. For instance, a U.S. M50 Reising submachine gun would receive a score of five on this variable as all were manufactured by Harrington and Richardson.

4. Quality of Machining measures the quality of construction of a firearm. Using this criteria, the highest value is “excellent” with a maximum score of ten (e.g., a U.S. M1928A1 Thompson submachine gun). The lowest value is “poor” with the minimum score of zero (e.g., a British Mark II Stein submachine gun). Note, under this classification if a firearm is made from contemporary stampings or with a plastic stock (e.g., a U.S. M16A1 rifle), score with the average.

5. Action Desirability measures the appeal for a firearm having a more rapid method of function. Using this criteria, the highest value is “very high” with a maximum score of twenty (e.g., a machine gun). The lowest value is “very low” with the minimum score of zero (e.g., a bolt action rifle).

To further detail the possibility of scores for this variable, a semiautomatic rifle or pistol would have a score of ten and a revolver a score of five. Also note, under this classification the specific method of function is irrelevant (e.g., gas, recoil, blowback).

6. Matching Parts measures the degree to which a firearm retains matching numbered or coded parts (i.e., not numbered but denoted with a manufacturer’s code, e.g., “SA” for Springfield Armory). Using this criteria, the highest value is “all” with a maximum score of thirty. The lowest value is “none” with the minimum score of zero.

Note, under this classification if: 1. the firearm parts are not numbered or coded but appear to be matching (i.e., having similar finish and wear), score with the maximum; 2. the firearm parts are matching but the receiver has an importation marking, score with the average; or 3. the firearm parts are matching but the receiver was remanufactured or the crest was removed, score with the minimum.

7. Technologically Innovative measures the technological contribution of a firearm. Using this criteria, the highest value is “very much” with a maximum score of twenty (e.g., a French M1917 Saint Etienne — first common military semi-auto rifle, or German MP44 — first true selective-fire assault rifle). The lowest value is “very little” with the minimum score of zero (e.g., a German Kar. 98k or Japanese Type 38 Arisaka bolt action rifle). To elaborate on the possibility of scores for this variable, a Canadian Mark III Ross or Swiss M1911 Schmidt Rubin straight pull bolt action rifle would have a score of ten.

8. Symmetry of Design measures the firearm’s visual appeal and harmony of design. Using this criteria, the highest value is “excellent” with a maximum score of ten (e.g., a German MP40 Schmeisser submachine gun). The lowest value is “poor” with the minimum score of zero (e.g., an Australian Mark 1/42 Owen submachine gun).

9. Compact Model measures the appeal for the smaller version of a firearm model. This criteria is a simple dichotomy. The highest value is “yes” with a maximum score of ten (e.g., a U.S. M1898 Krag carbine or paratrooper stocked U.S. M1 carbine). The lowest value is “no” with the minimum score of zero (e.g., a U.S. M1898 Krag rifle or full stocked U.S. M1 carbine). Note, under this classification if a firearm was not produced in a smaller version, score with the average.

10. Reliability measures the degree to which a firearm model is perceived as dependable. Using this criteria, the highest value is “excellent” with a maximum score of ten (e.g., a Russian AK-47 Assault rifle). The lowest value is “poor” with the minimum score of zero (e.g., a French M1915 Chauchat light machine gun).

11. History measures the degree to which a firearm model took part in significant military history. Using this criteria, the highest value is “very much” with a maximum score of thirty (e.g., a U.S. M1 Garand rifle). The lowest value is “very little” with the minimum score of zero (e.g., a Chilean M1895 rifle).

Note, this classification does not measure a firearm’s specific history. For instance, if an individual firearm was known to be used in a distinct battle or by a particular person, as these factors would uniquely affect the firearm’s value.

12. Condition measures the degree to which a firearm maintains its original condition. Using National Rifle Association criteria, the highest value is “mint” with a maximum score of twenty. The lowest value is “poor” with the minimum score of zero.

Note, under this classification “mint,” “perfect,” and “new” are considered synonymous. Also note, if a firearm has been refinished, score with the minimum. However, if professionally rendered (i.e., no rounding of edges or obliteration of markings etc.), score with the average.

13. Availability measures the degree to which a firearm model is rare due to brief production or attrition from time. Using this criteria, the highest value is “very rare” with a maximum score of fifty (e.g., a U.S. M1942 Liberator pistol). The lowest value is “very common” with the minimum score of zero (e.g., a British No.1 Mark III Enfield rifle).

14. Importation Prohibited measures the degree to which a particular type of firearm (not model) is lawfully restricted from importation. This criteria is a simple dichotomy. The highest value is “yes” with a maximum score of fifty (i.e., any machine gun). The lowest value is “no” with the minimum score of zero (i.e., any other firearm).

This variable requires further explanation. Although other firearms can periodically be found abroad and imported and sold as surplus in this country, machine guns can never be (except to government agencies or as parts without receivers). Thus, the only firearms of this type available to collectors are those that were federally registered in this country prior to May 1986. Even nonregistered firearms of this type in domestic possession can never be sold on the market. This reduces their supply to what is legally here. In addition, since a 200 dollar federal tax is charged on every machine gun upon transfer to a citizen, the buyer adds this and other expenses upon selling. This process is repetitive. As a result, machine guns increase in price extraordinarily fast, which is very lucrative to any collector or dealer who bought one or more at the lower price a few years ago (e.g., a U.S. M50 Reising submachine gun that several years ago could be purchased for $500 now costs about $2,000).

Note, although U.S. M1 rifles and carbines are also prohibited from importation they are not viewed under this classification for the following reasons. First, their supply is not limited to those that are federally registered. Second, they are released through the Civilian Marksmanship Program. Third, original receivers are available. Fourth, receivers can be manufactured.

15. Market Restricted measures the degree to which a firearm is lawfully regulated in the domestic market. Using this criteria, the highest value is “very little” with a maximum score of twenty (e.g., a Curio and Relic rifle). The lowest value is “very much” with the minimum score of zero (e.g., post May 1986 dealer sample machine gun).

16. Ammunition Price measures the degree to which ammunition is available for a firearm at a reasonable cost, as the greater this factor is present the more it would increase a firearm’s potential to increase in value. Using this criteria, the highest value is “very low” with a maximum score of ten (e.g., 9 mm Luger ammunition). The lowest value is “very high” with the minimum score of zero (e.g., 7.62 mm Russian Nagant ammunition). Note, under this classification if ammunition is not available for a firearm, score with the minimum.

INSTRUMENT OF MEASUREMENT

All aforementioned variables measure the impact on firearm demand, except for the variables of “Availability” and “Importation Prohibited” which impact on firearm supply. Nonetheless, each variable is an independent variable as each influences the dependent variable, the ability of a firearm to appreciate in value.

Variables are scored according to their explanatory power. Thus, “critical” variables have a maximum score of 50, “very important” variables have a maximum score of 30, “important” variables have a maximum score of 20, and “meaningful” variables have a maximum score of 10. The sum of the variable scores is the investment score. This score can range from 380 to negative 50. A negative score can only be obtained with the variable “Price.” If acquired it must be subtracted from the total.

The categories of the investment score and their respective range of scores are: “excellent” 380 to 295, “very good” 294 to 209, “good” 208 to 123, “poor” 122 to 37, and “bad” 36 to negative 50. The mean score is 165 and serves as a baseline for comparison.

The higher an investment score the more rapid a firearm should appreciate in value. Again, firearms having a score of “poor” or “bad” should not be purchased for investment.

The following Ankony Military Small Arms Financial Assessment Scale provides a collector or dealer a method to make rapid evaluations. After writing the manufacturer and model of a firearm in the upper right-hand margin of the scale, a firearm is scored on each of the sixteen variables in the adjacent blank space and totaled below. The categories and range of the investment score are also presented. It is recommended to make copies of the scale to evaluate multiple firearms prior to purchase.

LIMITATIONS

There are several limitations that should be noted about the variables and scale presented. First, precise adherence to instructions is required as some variables can appear confusing (e.g., “Price” is mathematically a continuous variable that can range from positive to negative).

Second, when designing any instrument of measurement, every effort must be made to assure the variables are exhaustive and mutually exclusive. In other words, there should be a category for everything logical and every possibility should fit into one and only one category. This is a rigorous requirement and weakness must be acknowledged here. For instance, the variable “Country’s Significance” has ambiguity (overlap) with the variable “History.” This can affect the reliability of obtaining consistent measurements. Yet, if one remains cognizant of the definition submitted for each variable this weakness can be eliminated.

Lastly, since the scale is new, time could present other variables of significance. There are many insignificant variables. For instance, parts availability, original packaging, or additional accessories. These were eliminated for weakness in explanatory power and for their peripheral character.

Overall, the sixteen variables furnish a comprehensive, valid, and reliable method to assess the potential of any modern military firearm to appreciate in value. And the scale provides a prompt method to score a firearm.

Dr. Robert C. Ankony, Ph.D., is the Director of CFM Research and an NRA Life Member. He is a former Detective/Sergeant from a metropolitan sheriff’s department and U.S. Army Ranger who served in Vietnam. Dr. Ankony received his Ph.D. in sociology with a specialty in criminology from Wayne State University in Detroit.

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