When talking about fine mechanical devices such as cars, airplanes, motorcycles, boats, watches, and firearms, there is a certain level at which a machine becomes more than just a tool, but rather approaches the rarity, beauty, and perhaps the historical value of true art. For firearms, as with anything else, quality, desirability, scarcity, and cultural or historical provenance can all impact the value.
Placing a monetary value on such an item can be difficult and subjective, but generally, the rarer the gun, the more expensive it can be. This applies to new-production firearms that have become so popular they are hard to get, as well as historically or culturally iconic guns sold at auction. When a rare firearm model is also historically important or owned by a celebrity, it’s a perfect storm, and the value can double or triple.
In this article, we will show you some of the most expensive firearms ever sold in three categories:
- Production or factory-built firearms.
- Bespoke or custom-made firearms.
- Historical or culturally significant firearms sold at auction.
Retail price: Which factory-made, production firearms cost the most?
First, let's look at some high-end firearms that are not quite in the custom-built category. These retail firearms are available from the right dealer and come with factory warranties and support. But you'll need a healthy discretionary spending account or a high credit card limit.
Laugo Arms Alien 9MM
Fast, funky-cool semi-auto pistol for $6,502.99
The Czech-made Laugo Alien 9mm pistol shook up the world of firearms at the 2020 Shot Show with its innovative design and promises of previously unachievable performance. The appropriately named Alien truly is a handgun that looks like it may have fallen from a UFO, with its ultra-low bore axis (1.7mm below the top of the shooter's grip), non-reciprocating top strap/sight mount, and gas-delayed blowback system mounted above the barrel.
The intent of these innovations is to allow faster shooting in competition by reducing felt recoil and muzzle flip, and for the most part people who have been lucky enough to get their hands on this spacegun have come away impressed with the function, accuracy, and flat-shooting characteristics of the Alien, as well as the hefty buy-in price.
Video: Alien Pistol - Laugo Arms
The Alien is available in several configurations, with the most spartan starting at around $5,000, but the top-of-the-line kit includes a threaded barrel and two top straps (one with iron sights and one with an integral red-dot optic) for just over $6,500.
Note: if you're more of a traditionalist and fancy an amazing 2011-style competition/production pistol, you might consider the Atlas Artemis v2 for only $6,300.
Nighthawk / Korth Classic
Revolver perfection starting at $8,999.99
Image courtesy of Nighthawk Custom
Korth (pronounced Court) is a German firm that has made highly regarded combat revolvers for decades, and these expensive, accurate, jewel-like revolvers are now being imported by Nighthawk Custom in Berryville, Arkansas.
Nighthawk/Korth offers multiple styles, calibers, and sizes based on the same basic Korth roller-bearing action, but the cream of the crop is the Classic model, which starts at a penny under nine grand.
Fans of the Korth swear its strength, reliability, accuracy, and quality put even the finest Colts and Smith & Wesson revolvers to shame, and for that price, they better deliver.
Video: Korth - The Ultimate Revolver by Nighthawk
Ohio Ordnance Works 1918A3-SLR
A Browning BAR Replica for $7,616.85
The Browning BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) was one of the most iconic and widely known light machine guns of WWI and WWII, with legendary reliability, power, and effectiveness. In a time when even a semi-automatic, man-portable rifle was relatively rare, the BAR brought 20 rounds of full-auto .30-06 hate to the party and earned itself a lot of fans.
Video: 1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (1918A3-SLR OOW)
Today a fully transferable, original BAR might cost you upwards of $45,000 at auction. Still, Ohio Ordnance Works has made it their mission to bring the BAR to the masses, or, at least, to shooters and collectors who appreciate the platform but may not have the better part of fifty grand to drop on a single firearm.
OOW's 1918A3-SLR is a new-production, semi-automatic variant of John Browning's masterpiece but at the comparatively low retail price of $7,616.85 (or $7,822.85 for those in some of the more gun-restrictive states).
Blaser R8 Ultimate Carbon
Most expensive non-custom hunting rifle for $10,540
The German firm Blaser (BLAH-zer) is known for its strange-looking (to American eyes) straight-pull action rifles and high-end over-under shotguns. If you want one, you'll need to be well-heeled. Currently, the top end of the Blaser rifle catalog features the R8 Ultimate Carbon, which is certainly utilitarian-looking compared to some of the true hand-built, engraved steel, and fine-figured walnut sporting firearms in the custom category below.
Video: BLASER R8 Ultimate Carbon stock
The R8 is available in multiple configurations for stocks, left or right-hand bolt, and ejection. The hand-laid carbon-fiber stock option keeps the weight down and looks fantastic, but it is the priciest model, and with the most expensive choices for configuration, brings the total up to over ten grand.
Krieghoff and Perazzi
Most expensive non-custom shotguns tie at around $15,000
Image courtesy Cole Fine Guns & Gunsmithing
Competition or sporting over-under shotguns are generally the most expensive non-custom firearms newly manufactured. Even without hand engraving or super-fancy wood, these shotguns can be eye-wateringly expensive, and for good reason. Krieghoff and Perazzi are informally known as the Porsche and Ferrari of shotguns, and they are both high-quality over-unders that will last hundreds of thousands of rounds.
Perazzi shotguns have won more Olympic medals than any other shotgun manufacturer, which is impressive. On a more macabre note, Vice President Dick Cheney used a 28-gauge Perazzi shotgun when he accidentally shot his friend in the face in 2006.
A utility-grade, bottom-tier, basic finish Krieghoff K-80 will cost you just under $15,000 new, and they go up to $136,000 depending on your choice of wood and custom engraving.
A basic Perazzi over-under will cost you just over $15,000 new, and prices go up from there.
Pro tip: If you want to get into a Perazzi but want to save some dough, many Perazzi dealers offer pre-owned shotguns starting at about $9,500.
Barrett MK22 Mod 0 MRAD
Own the same sniper system as US SOCOM for $18,230
Barrett's MK22 Mod 0 recently won the $50 million USSOCOM sniper system contract competition, but if you're lucky (and rich), you can purchase the same rifle as the military.
The requirements for the USSOCOM Advanced Sniper Rifle competition included:
- Must be convertible to fire 7.62mm NATO, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum cartridges.
- Must not exceed 17 lbs. with an empty magazine, but is ideally 13 lbs. or less.
- Must not exceed 50 inches when fully extended, but is ideally 40 inches.
- Must not exceed 40 inches when collapsed for transport, but is ideally 36 inches.
- Must perform with at least 1 MOA accuracy for the 7.62 NATO and .300 Norma Mag at 300 yds. - ideally, .5 MOA.
- Must perform with at least 2.5 MOA accuracy for the .338 Norma Mag at 300 yds. - ideally 1.5 MOA.
- Must have a modular flash or sound suppressor.
Video: SOCOM's New Mk22 Sniper Rifle: The Barrett MRAD
Barrett has a long history of providing weapons to the US military, and the MK22 lives up to the company's reputation of exceptional quality, accuracy, and reliability. In the competition, the MK22 proved extremely accurate (sub-MOA) and won over the evaluators with its easy, intuitive caliber changing method, wherein only two parts need to be swapped when changing to another caliber, namely the barrel (secured by two torx screws) and the bolt head. Both are easily and quickly changed.
The rugged aluminum chassis features a folding, fully adjustable stock, MLOK compatible forend, and all the usual long-range goodies like a 10 MOA top rail. The full Barrett MK22 cased set comes with all 3 barrels in .308 Winchester, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum calibers. Believe it or not, even at this price, they sell out quickly, so if you're in the market and find one for sale, you better jump on it.
Custom-built field guns: The most expensive new firearms (up to $1.3 million or more)
As we discussed in our article on the best 1911s, custom gunsmithing can be very expensive, and there's no limit to how much a full-custom firearm can cost. A full Open-class race pistol from Atlas Gun Works will cost you over $9,000 without optics or extra magazines. A full custom-built 1911 from a top-level builder can top $8,000 without too many add-ons. Long-range competition rifles built on custom actions can easily pass $10,000, and that's before you add the price of premium long-range scopes or other accessories.
However, by far the most expensive guns in the world, when it comes to newly made firearms intended for actual use, are custom-built British, German, Italian, or Austrian Field guns, whether they be premium, bespoke shotguns or dangerous game rifles like safari-bound double rifles. As noted above, some makers, such as Perazzi, offer off-the-shelf retail guns and full custom, made-to-order specimens, which can sell for up to $450,000.
Image courtesy of Peter Hoffer
Pricing information for full custom double rifles or shotguns from top-tier makers like Purdey, Holland & Holland, and Peter Hofer is often difficult to obtain since most of these makers don't list pricing for the unwashed masses. Still, credible reports show that the final price often starts around $200,000 and can go up to a million pounds (around $1.3M). You can expect to wait at least six months for delivery, often 2-5 years or more.
Image courtesy of Holland and Holland
In this rarified air, the bargain-level finishes, with basic in-house engraving and without the expensive (and beautiful) custom carvings featured on the bazillionaires' guns, can lower the price to around $60,000-$90,000 depending on options. For example, Britain's The Field reports: a traditional steel gun with classic Purdey rose and scroll in 12-, 16- or 20-bore are £94,080, inclusive of VAT; 28-bores and .410s cost £99,120. The 12-bore hammer ejector costs £99,120 and may be ordered with Damas steel barrels for an extra £14,400, making a total of £113,520 (thus qualifying as Britain's most expensive house-engraved side-by-side).
Image courtesy of Purdey
With their heirloom-quality wood figuring, flawless wood-to-metal fit, hand-built actions, custom-fitted stocks, museum-level carvings, engraving, and gold embellishments, you might be tempted to think these firearms are non-functional works of art. Still, in the hands of the uber-wealthy, many of these guns actually see use in the field.
Historical or cultural icons: The most expensive guns ever listed or sold at auction
Guns that are used in famous movies or that were owned by historical figures often gain value. The actual firearms are often useless as real-life weapons since many are permanently altered to fire blanks for filming or are so valuable, rare, or fragile that it would be ludicrous to fire them. But the fact that our film or real-life heroes owned or handled certain guns seems to spark our imaginations like nothing else. Here are some rare, famous, and/or historically important guns listed or sold at auction.
Cabot Guns Big Bang Meteorite Pistol Set
Most expensive 1911s listed at $4.5 million
Cabot Guns makes fine, boutique 1911s, but caused quite a stir a few years ago when they made a pair of full-custom 1911s out of a piece of the Gibeon meteorite, which impacted the area of Namibia around 4.5 billion years ago. Cabot has listed its price for the pair of acid-etched meteorite pistols at an appropriate (numerically at least) $4.5 million but has not found any takers as of yet. If you win the lottery, they could be yours!
Han Solo's DL-44 blaster from the original Star Wars
Sold for $1,057,500
In 2022 the presumed-lost DL-44 Heavy Blaster Pistol that Harrison Ford carried in the original Star Wars movie was auctioned off for a whopping $1,057,500 and is the last surviving example of three models that were made for the franchise's original trilogy. This one is visibly strapped to Han's leg at the conclusion of Episode IV but went missing after shooting wrapped. The prop crew was forced to make a copy for The Empire Strikes Back, and another was used in Return of the Jedi (that blaster sold in 2018 for $550,000).
Incidentally, just because it's a famous gun used by a famous person in a famous movie, doesn't mean it will sell for what it's priced at. The so-called Bapty S&W revolver used by Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark was listed online for several months at a price of $5 million, but found no takers at that price. It's currently in private hands, but may resurface again at some point in the future, at which time it may reach its minimum reserve price.
The Danish Sea Captain's Colt Walker Revolver
Sold for $1.84 million
All original Colt Walker revolvers are iconic and valuable for many reasons: They were extremely important in changing the military tactics utilized during the 1850s; the model saved Samuel Colt from bankruptcy; only a few thousand were ever made; and roughly half of those blew up due to improper loading and/or poor metallurgy. But the most expensive single firearm sold at a Rock Island auction wasn't used in battle with the Native Americans nor wielded in the Civil War.
Image courtesy Rock Island Auctions
This is the finest known civilian-sold Walker and the only known cased original example and includes an original bill of sale from Samuel Colt himself. It was sold to a Danish sea captain and traveled across the Atlantic with one of its owners to take up roots in Denmark, where it stayed for about one hundred years. A supremely rare old gun with excellent documentation and pedigree, it sold for $1,840,000 in a 2018 Rock Island auction or around $2.3 million in today's dollars.
Ulysses S. Grant’s Remington Revolvers
Sold for $5.17 million
Image courtesy Rock Island Auctions
Ulysses S. Grant's stunning pair of New Model Army Remington revolvers, presented to the Civil War general and eventual President of the United States, were likely presented to Grant after he captured Vicksburg on the Fourth of July in 1863. They feature carved ivory grips with Grant's likeness, and exceptional engraving by L. D. Nimschke, one of the most renowned master engravers of the 19th century. The pistols were hidden in private collections until they were revealed in 2018, and sold in 2022 for $5.17 million at Rock Island Auction company. To date, this is the highest per firearm price reached at a Rock Island auction.
The gun used to kill Billy the Kid
Sold for $6,030,312
Image courtesy Bonhams Auction House
This otherwise unremarkable Colt Single Action Army revolver would probably be worth around $2,000 if Old West lawman Pat Garrett hadn’t used it to end the life of the notorious William H. Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid, on July 14, 1881.
Though the circumstances surrounding Billy’s death have been up for debate over the decades, that wasn’t enough to dissuade the buyer of the Pat Garrett Colt, and to date, this is the highest-priced single firearm ever sold at auction.
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