The History of Rimfire Ammunition: Igniting a Revolution in Firearms Technology

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Rimfire ammunition has a fascinating history dating back to the mid-19th century. It revolutionized firearms technology and played a crucial role in the development of modern firearms.

Early Experiments

The concept of rimfire ammunition emerged in the early 19th century as firearms technology advanced. Previously, most firearms used percussion caps or flintlocks for ignition. Inventors and gunsmiths aimed to develop a more efficient and reliable method of ignition.

Flobert and the First Rimfire Cartridge

In 1845, French inventor Louis-Nicolas Flobert created the first practical rimfire cartridge. He used a small lead ball with a priming compound in the rim of the casing. Flobert’s invention was primarily intended for indoor shooting and gallery practice, and it laid the foundation for future rimfire designs.

Evolution of Rimfire Cartridges

Throughout the 19th century, various inventors and gunsmiths refined and expanded upon Flobert’s rimfire concept. Cartridges of different calibers and power levels were developed, making rimfire ammunition suitable for a wide range of firearms, from small pocket pistols to rifles.

The .22 Long Rifle

One of the most iconic rimfire cartridges, the .22 long rifle, was introduced in the late 19th century. This cartridge gained popularity for its affordability, low recoil, and versatility. It remains a favorite for target shooting, plinking, and small game hunting to this day.

Advantages and Limitations

Rimfire ammunition was praised for its simplicity and cost-effectiveness. The rimfire design eliminated the need for a separate percussion cap or primer, making it easier to manufacture and reload. However, rimfire cartridges are generally less powerful than centerfire cartridges, limiting their use in larger, high-powered firearms.

Continued Innovation

Rimfire technology continued to evolve throughout the 20th century, with improvements in accuracy and reliability. Specialized rimfire cartridges were developed for various purposes, including competitive shooting, varmint hunting, and even Olympic sports.

Contemporary Use

Rimfire ammunition remains popular for recreational shooting, pest control, and entry-level firearms training. It’s also widely used in small-caliber rifles and handguns for both beginners and experienced shooters.

Rimfire ammunition has a rich history, beginning with Flobert’s innovative design and evolving into a versatile and widely used type of cartridge. Its simplicity, affordability, and suitability for various applications have ensured its enduring popularity in the world of firearms.

Development of Firearms and Ammunition Throughout History: From Matchlocks to Modern Calibers

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Historical firearms and their compatibility with ammunition have evolved over the centuries. Here’s an overview of some key historical firearms and the ammunition they used.

Matchlock Firearms (15th-17th centuries)

Matchlock muskets were among the earliest firearms. They used a slow-burning match cord to ignite the gunpowder. Ammunition was typically loose powder and ball, and the caliber varied widely.

Wheellock Firearms (16th-17th centuries)

The Wheellock Pistol and Musket used a mechanical wheel mechanism to create sparks for ignition. They typically fired lead balls, and ammunition was loaded in a variety of different forms, such as paper cartridges or loose powder and ball.

Flintlock Firearms (17th-19th centuries)

Flintlocks became the standard for military firearms for centuries. The Flintlock Musket was heavily used in the American Revolutionary War. Flint was used to strike steel, creating sparks to ignite the gunpowder. Ammunition included paper cartridges or loose powder and ball.

Percussion Firearms (early 19th century)

Percussion cap muskets and pistols replaced flintlocks, providing a more reliable ignition system. Ammunition was similar, with lead balls and powder, but percussion caps were used to initiate the ignition.

Breechloading Firearms (19th century)

The Sharps rifle was one of the early breechloaders. It used paper or metallic cartridges that contained both the bullet and powder.

Colt Revolvers (19th century)

The first Colt Revolver was developed in 1839 by Samuel Colt and became synonymous with the West and Texas Rangers. Colt’s revolvers used metallic cartridges that contained both the bullet and powder and were chambered for specific calibers.

Lever-Action Firearms (19th century)

The lever action repeating firearms of the 19th century were a major improvement to firearms, enabling the shooter to fire multiple shots before having to reload.  Among the most successful lever-action firearms was the Winchester Model 1873, commonly referred to as “The Gun That Won The West”. This lever-action rifle used metallic cartridges with rimfire or centerfire primers, making it more convenient and reliable than earlier firearms.

Bolt-Action Firearms (late 19th century)

Bolt-action rifles like the Mauser Model 1898 used metallic cartridges and were chambered for specific calibers. This design became a standard for military rifles.

Machine Guns (late 19th-early 20th centuries)

The Gatling Gun, Maxim Gun, and other early machine guns used metallic cartridges, usually of a larger caliber, and belts or drums to feed ammunition.

Modern Firearms (20th century onwards)

Modern firearms use a variety of metallic cartridges, each designed for a specific caliber and purpose. Semi-automatic and automatic firearms, which use detachable magazines or belts to feed ammunition, became common.

In terms of compatibility, older firearms were generally designed for specific ammunition types and calibers. Using ammunition not designed for a particular firearm could lead to dangerous malfunctions or damage to the weapon. The standardization of ammunition and firearm designs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries greatly improved compatibility and safety.

Historical firearms and their ammunition are often collected and used by enthusiasts today, so there’s still a demand for specialized ammunition production to match these antique firearms. But for safety reasons, it’s important to ensure the ammunition is appropriate for the specific firearm.

Historical Evolution of Shotgun Shells

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A Historical Overview of the Evolution of Shotgun Shells

Shotgun shells have evolved over the course of several centuries to serve a wide range of purposes, from hunting and sport shooting to military applications. These are the key developments in the evolution of shotgun shell types:

Key Advancements in Shotshell Development

Early Black Powder Shells (Late 18th Century):

The earliest shotgun shells were simple paper or brass hulls containing black powder and lead shot. They were ignited by a percussion cap, and the shot pattern was often inconsistent due to the irregular shape of lead pellets.

Paper Hulls (Late 19th Century):

In the mid-1800s, paper hulls became a popular alternative to brass. They were more affordable and biodegradable, but they were susceptible to moisture, which could affect their performance.

Pinfire and Centerfire Priming (Mid to Late 19th Century):

The pinfire and centerfire priming systems replaced percussion caps, offering more reliable ignition. This innovation allowed for the development of more versatile shotgun shells.

Smokeless Powder (Late 19th Century):

The introduction of smokeless powder in the late 19th century revolutionized shotgun ammunition. It burned cleaner and provided higher velocities, making shotguns more effective for a variety of applications.

Plastic Hulls (Early 20th Century):

Plastic hulls began to replace paper as a shell material in the early 20th century. These hulls were waterproof and more durable, enhancing shell performance and reliability.

Different Shot Types (20th Century):

Shotgun shells were adapted for various purposes, with different shot types, including birdshot, buckshot, and slugs, for specific hunting and defensive needs.

Gauge Standardization (20th Century):

The standardization of shotgun gauges, including 12-gauge and 20-gauge, helped simplify ammunition production and usage. Each gauge corresponds to a specific bore diameter, making it easier for shooters to choose the right shells for their firearms.

Magnum and Specialized Loads (Mid to Late 20th Century):

Magnum shotgun shells, with larger powder charges, were developed to increase velocity and energy. These were especially useful for waterfowl and turkey hunting.

Specialized loads like steel shot, which were less harmful to waterfowl, were developed to meet environmental regulations.

Non-Toxic Shot (Late 20th Century):

Environmental concerns led to the development of non-toxic shot materials like steel, bismuth, and tungsten, which replaced lead shot in many hunting situations.

Modern Shell Varieties (21st Century):

Advances in materials and manufacturing have led to a wide variety of shotgun shell types, including low-recoil loads for beginners, subsonic shells for suppressed firearms, and specialty rounds like breaching and less-lethal munitions for law enforcement and military use.

Innovations in Wad and Slug Design:

Modern shotgun shells feature advanced shotshell wad designs and slug configurations, improving accuracy and performance for both hunting and tactical applications.

Continued Development & Research

The evolution of shotgun shells has been driven by advancements in materials, propellants, and design, leading to more efficient and effective ammunition for various purposes. Today, shotgun shells continue to evolve with ongoing research and development, ensuring they remain versatile tools for hunters, sportsmen, and professionals.

Evolution of Bullet Design: A Journey Towards Maximum Terminal Performance

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The pursuit of maximum terminal performance (a bullet’s ability to incapacitate or kill a target on impact) has driven the development of bullet design for years. Over centuries, bullet design has evolved from simple lead balls to highly engineered projectiles.

Historical Perspective

  1. Early Bullets: The earliest projectiles used in firearms were simple lead balls or musket balls. These primitive bullets lacked any design sophistication and relied on their mass and velocity to cause damage. Their spherical shape and lack of aerodynamics limited accuracy and terminal performance.
  2. Minié Ball: In the mid-19th century, Claude-Étienne Minié introduced the Minié ball, a conical-shaped bullet with a hollow base. This design improved accuracy and terminal performance by allowing the bullet to grip the rifling inside the barrel, causing a  stabilizing spin. When the gun fired, the hollow base expanded, sealing the bore and increasing efficiency.

Modern Evolution

  1. Expanding Bullets: The next significant leap in bullet design came with the introduction of expanding bullets. These bullets were designed to deform or expand upon impact, causing larger wound channels and greater energy transfer to the target. The hollow-point bullet, which features a cavity at the tip to cause controlled expansion on impact, is a prime example of this concept.
  2. Jacketed Bullets: Jacketed bullets, made up of a lead core with a harder metal jacket, were developed to improve bullet stability and penetration. The jacket ensures the bullet maintains its shape during flight, minimizing deformation until it hits the target. This design became the standard for military and many civilian applications.
  3. Hollow-Point Bullets: Hollow-point bullets were refined for controlled expansion, optimizing terminal performance. Law enforcement agencies adopted these bullets due to their ability to create effective stopping power while reducing over-penetration. Modern hollow-points are engineered to reliably expand and deliver energy to the target.
  4. Fragmenting and Specialty Bullets: The evolution of bullet design continued with the development of specialty projectiles, such as frangible and fragmenting bullets. These bullets are designed to break apart on impact, dispersing fragments throughout the target. They’re useful in situations where over-penetration is a concern.
  5. Polymer-Tipped Bullets: Polymer-tipped bullets combine the benefits of expanding and ballistic-tipped designs. They feature a plastic tip over a lead core and jacket. The tip begins expanding on impact, while the design remains aerodynamic for enhanced accuracy and range.
  6. Controlled Chaos Bullets: Some manufacturers have pushed the boundaries of bullet design with controlled chaos bullets. They feature multiple segments or expanding petals for consistent and devastating wound channels. They provide maximum terminal performance while maintaining accuracy and reliability.

The evolution of bullet design for maximum terminal performance has been a continuous journey of innovation. From the rudimentary lead balls of early firearms to the intricately designed bullets of today, the quest for improved accuracy, reliability, and stopping power has driven the development of various bullet types.

Expanding bullets, jacketed bullets, and specialty projectiles have revolutionized terminal performance, making modern ammunition highly effective for both self-defense and law enforcement applications. As technology and materials continue to advance, the future of bullet design could hold more efficient ammunition and greater terminal performance.

History of Lehigh Defense 

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Lehigh Defense has established a unique niche in the firearms industry with its groundbreaking innovations in ammunition design. Since its inception, the company has been at the forefront of developing cutting-edge Lehigh bullets that exceed performance expectations. This article dives into the fascinating history of Lehigh Defense. 

The Formative Years of Lehigh Defense 

Lehigh Defense’s story began over two decades ago with the production of Swiss CNC machine Match Solid Bullets for competition use. Since then, the company’s unwavering desire to transform the firearms and ammunition industry has propelled them on their path of innovation and excellence. 

Pete Vogel and Mike Cyrus joined Dave Fricke at Lehigh Design in 2004 to use cutting-edge technology to design and manufacture solid brass and copper bullets, including reloading bullets

Dissatisfied with the outdated products on the market at the time, Lehigh Defense delved into uncharted territory with extensive research and rigorous testing to develop a high-performance bullet that would shatter world records and offer unparalleled reliability. 

Lehigh’s Emergence as a Leading Force 

However, the company did not stop there. They shifted their focus to hunting ammunition and its terminal performance, inventing the first Controlled Fracturing bullet for the Muzzleloader industry. What began as a Knight Rifle exclusive has since grown into a full line of Controlled Fracture ammunition. 

The success of the Controlled Fracturing bullet catapulted Lehigh Defense into the spotlight, and the company’s reputation for precision and dependability grew. 

In January 2022, Lehigh Defense joined the group of Wilson-owned firearms and hunting companies that included Chip McCormich Custom, Circle WC Ranch, Khumba Bush Camp, Scattergun Technologies, Wilson Custom Ammunition, and Wilson Combat.  

Lehigh Defense currently has two manufacturing plants: one in South Dakota and one in Pennsylvania. A new facility in northeast Texas is expected to increase production capacity even further. 

Diversification of Lehigh’s Expertise 

As their reputation grew, Lehigh Defense continued to experiment with and improve their ammunition designs. They developed a Subsonic bullet that could match or even outperform the terminal performance of high-velocity bullets. 

Furthermore, Lehigh Defense expanded its product line to include personal defense ammunition with both terminal and barrier performance, capitalizing on the predictability and effectiveness of Controlled Fracture technology. Law enforcement and military personnel have come to trust this revolutionary ammunition because of its exceptional bystander safety. 

The Xtreme Penetrator bullet was released in the spring of 2014 after three years of development. The advantages of solid copper construction were combined with a unique nose geometry in this innovative design, resulting in exceptional penetration and controlled expansion. The Xtreme Penetrator quickly became a popular choice for self-defense applications due to its ability to penetrate through barriers. 

Lehigh’s Commitment to Innovation 

Lehigh Defense has remained committed to its mission of transforming the industry throughout its history. A dedicated team of engineers, researchers, and designers is constantly pushing the envelope of what is conceivable in their relentless pursuit of novel approaches and ground-breaking technologies that will improve the performance of firearms and ammunition. 

To ensure that its products meet the changing needs of shooters worldwide, the company intends to continue challenging conventional norms, investing in cutting-edge research and development, and collaborating with industry leaders. 

Shaping the Future 

Powder Valley is extremely proud of Lehigh Defense’s significant contributions to the advancement of the ammunition industry, and we are confident that the future holds limitless possibilities. Lehigh Defense is poised to continue shaping the industry with its dedicated commitment to innovation, dependability, and superior performance. 

The company’s innovative designs, including the Controlled Fracturing and Xtreme Penetrator bullets, are evidence of its commitment to revolutionizing the industry. These innovative bullets show they’re able to produce ammunition with exceptional terminal ballistics, nimble precision, and unwavering dependability. As the firearms market continues to evolve, their industry recognition, valuable partnerships, and unwavering pursuit of innovation position them for continued success. 

Get Lehigh Bullets from Powder Valley Today 

Lehigh Defense is a dependable source of bullets that pushes the boundaries of possibility for shooters and firearms enthusiasts. Put it to the test! Shop Lehigh bullets from Powder Valley today. 

History of RCBS 

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For 80 years, RCBS has been a leading provider of reloading equipment. From die and shell holders to bullet casting, to case processing, RCBS manufactures everything a reloading enthusiast needs to keep their ammunition stocked.  

In celebration of the company’s 80th anniversary this year, we’re going to take a look at RCBS’s remarkable history, from its humble beginnings swaging .22 rimfire cartridges to becoming the leading manufacturer of reloading equipment. 

Varmint Hunting and Bullet Swaging 

The story of RCBS begins in the year 1943, in Oroville, California, with Fred T. Huntington. Huntington was a prolific hunter but had a hard time finding high-quality bullets suitable for hunting varmints, particularly .22 rimfire cartridges.  

Remember, by 1943 World War 2 was in full swing, and every factory available had to produce ammunition for the war effort. In total, U.S. factories produced an estimated 41.4 billion rounds during the war. However, this colossal demand left civilian shooters with what little was left over.  

Huntington, however, discovered a solution. When he read about using a die to swage .22 rimfire cartridges to form jackets for bullets, he started making his own dies in one of the backrooms of his father’s laundromat.  

Huntington’s dies became popular enough among other hunters and shooters that by 1948 he relocated to a small shop, and then a larger building in 1954. By 1958, RCBS had expanded its operations to encompass a 7,500-square-foot factory, one that now covers 50,000 square feet.  

While RCBS has outgrown the laundromat, it remains located in Oroville, California, staying close to its roots as a reloading equipment manufacturer. 

Why the name RCBS? 

The name RCBS can be somewhat confusing for those trying to figure out what it stands for.  

In truth, the name is a reference to Huntington’s original .22 swage dies. Those dies were meant to make jacketed bullets for shooting rock chucks, also known as yellow-bellied marmots, a species of small mammals found in the western United States.  

Huntington named his product the Rock Chuck Bullet Swage, or RCBS. RCBS would later become the company’s name, in recognition of the creation that started it all.  

Other Innovations 

Huntington didn’t stop with just bullet swaging dies. One of his greatest innovations was the very first removable shell holder for reloading presses. Up until his creation, shell holders were built into the ram of the reloading press. This meant that if you wanted to switch out the shell holder to reload a different caliber, the entire ram had to be switched— a slow, complicated process. 

Huntington’s invention made it far easier for a reloader with different calibers of ammunition to quickly resupply, without having to take apart their press every time they wanted to switch.  

Acquisitions and Growth 

In July of 1976, RCBS was acquired by Omark Industries and became part of its Sporting Equipment Division. Later, in 1985, Omark was purchased by Blount, Inc, a tools producer focused on construction and manufacturing.  

In 2001, Alliant Techsystems, an aerospace, defense, and sporting goods company purchased RCBS, only to later create a separate division known as Vista Outdoor for its sporting goods.  

Even today, RCBS remains close to its roots by remaining in Oroville, California, and the Huntington Sportsman’s Store, run by Fred’s son, Fred Jr., remains right next door to RCBS’s factory.  
Through it all, RCBS has remained committed to its customers as the leading manufacturer of ammunition reloading equipment. High-quality die and shell holders, presses, and case processing kits are just some of the high-quality products the company offers. RCBS has even expanded into items like bullet molds, for shooters that want to try their hand at crafting their own bullets from scratch.  

Where to Purchase RCBS Equipment 

Powder Valley is America’s #1 supplier for reloading supplies, from gunpowder to casings, to reloading presses. We offer a full range of RCBS equipment, including presses, shell holders, decapping pins, and die sets. Start shopping or contact us today for more information.  

History of Nosler

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Nosler, founded in 1948 by John Amos Nosler, has established itself as an impressive, respected name among gun owners. Nosler ammunition, bullets, and brass, are considered among the best in the industry, with a reputation for excellence. This has much to do with founder John Amos Nosler’s love of the sport, which directly led to the groundbreaking innovation that continues to define the company’s products to this day.

Nosler’s Product Range

In addition to bullets, ammunition, and brass, Nosler also manufactures firearms and gun accessories, including suppressors. The company offers a comprehensive range of products designed to meet the diverse needs of gun enthusiasts. From precision bullets to reliable ammunition, Nosler covers all aspects of the shooting experience.

When you purchase a Nosler product, you’re taking part in a rich tradition that began with frustration during a hunting trip.

Hunting Gone Wrong

The story of Nosler traces back to a hunting trip in 1946 when John Amos Nosler faced challenges in effectively taking down large moose in British Columbia. The bullets he used proved inadequate in penetrating vital organs or expanding properly upon impact.

Some bullets were effective at penetrating the flesh of the animal but had issues expanding once inside. Some bullets would fracture into smaller pieces, leaving the animal wounded but still alive.

Unsatisfied with the existing options, Nosler embarked on a mission to develop a solution to these issues.

A Mission to Create a Better Bullet

In 1948, Nosler introduced the Partition® bullet, which became a turning point in the company’s history. The Partition® bullet featured a dual-core design, ensuring reliable expansion while maintaining projectile integrity for successful penetration. This breakthrough led to commercial success, establishing Nosler as a trusted provider of high-performance bullets.

Over the years, Nosler has continued to innovate in bullet designs, introducing popular options such as AccuBond, AccuBond Long Range, Ballistic Tip, Varmageddon, and RDF bullets. The company began publishing reloading manuals in 1976 to assist sportsmen in optimizing their loads. Nowadays, alongside bullets and reloading manuals, Nosler sells an assortment of ammunition, components, firearms, and accessories.

Establishing Excellence and Setting Standards

With a focus on quality and performance, Nosler has become synonymous with precision and effectiveness in the shooting community. In 2021, Nosler received the notable American Hunter’s Golden Bullseye Award, which decreed that the company’s Trophy Grade Ammunition was the “Ammunition of the Year. “

How Nosler Hunting Ammunition Rises Above Other Brands

Like all dedicated manufacturers, Nosler insists on using the finest materials and supplies when creating its ammunition. This insistence on quality is a large part of the reason why Nosler ammunition is lauded for accuracy and performance again and again.

The Partition® bullet, in particular, offers a uniquely impressive design.

  • The bullet gets its name from the partition situated between the front and rear lead cores.
  • When the bullet makes contact with the target, the front core expands while the partition safeguards the rear core.
  • This design ensures a substantial wound channel combined with deep penetration, which is best when going for a quick kill via the vital organs of the animal.

It’s clear that John Nosler engineered his bullets with a true understanding of the ethical hunters’ needs.

Why Powder Valley Believes in the Nosler Name

At Powder Valley, we are hunters and shooters, just like you. We share your values and culture. That’s why you can trust that we stock the finest ammunition and reloading components available—Nosler sets the standard for high quality and performance.

Powder Valley is your home for reloading components and equipment, including brass, bullets, powder, primers, and more, at the best possible price. We invite you to shop now or contact our team today to learn more about the products we carry and our commitment to quality and customer service.

A Guide to Historical Black Powder Weapons

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As a gun enthusiast, you’re probably fascinated by historical weapons and how they were used. You may even have a few vintage or antique firearms in your current collection, in which case you’re already very familiar with black powder.

A precursor to the modern gun powder still in use today, black powder played a crucial role in world history and the firearms used to shape it. This guide explains the historical significance of these weapons, and where black powder stands today.

Understanding Black Powder

First developed by alchemists in 9th century China, black powder traditionally consists of potassium nitrate (also known as saltpeter), charcoal, and sulfur. When these substances are combined together in the correct manner, they create a chemical reaction that helps propel objects forward.

While the modern gun powder recipe is somewhat similar, adjustments have been made to limit the amount of smoke generated. Smokeless gun powder is also more refined, which limits how much residue it leaves behind on firearms.  

Types of Black Powder Weapons Throughout History

Muzzle-loading weapons, including muskets, are a famous example of blackpowder firearms. The first recorded instance of the word “musket” occurred in the late 15th century, and they remained a popular weapon until breechloading rifles were introduced in the 1800s. Flintlock rifles were extremely popular muzzle-loaders, and they were also available in musket and pistol form.

While slightly less common, black powder revolvers are another type of historical weapon. In the late 1800s, a new Army snub nose revolver was introduced, complete with a brass loading tool. Available in .36 or .44 caliber, black powder revolvers are usually reserved for cowboy action shooting these days.

The Reloading Industry in Modern Times

While not as common as in the past, black powder is still in use today. In addition to black powder’s use within the military and for the manufacture of fireworks, it is also used by reloaders in historical battle re-enactments and other applications where muzzleloading is required.

Reloading your own ammunition offers a number of benefits when compared to factory-created brands, particularly for the experienced gun owner.

Factory ammo is meant to be one-size-fits-all in terms of power. With reloading, you can tweak the power generated by the ammunition to ensure it meets your specific needs. You’ll also have greater control over the ingredients that go into your ammunition. This is crucial when you own a vintage weapon, which may not be compatible with store-bought ammo.

Reloading can also save money. If you’re a prolific hunter, you probably go through quite a bit of ammunition during the different seasons. By reloading your own ammunition, you can save lots of money on hunting supplies from year to year. You can also avoid inconvenient ammo shortages, which are becoming more of an issue.

Where to Find Quality Reloading Supplies

When it comes to essential reloading supplies, Powder Valley has everything you need in one convenient online location. We insist on carrying reloading powders and other supplies from trusted manufacturers to meet your high expectations. We also carry muzzleloading accessories to ensure your antique weapons receive the proper level of care. Start shopping or contact us today for more information.