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Thread: Serial numbers

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
    bigted's Avatar
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    Serial numbers

    Something that has always escaped me is the why of some folks making sure that nobody see's their serial numbers in photo's and such.

    I have wondered why this seems important to some and not others.

    Ideas?
    WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE...MORE WILL BE SAID THEN DONE

  2. #2
    Boolit Buddy
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    Can someone just report it stolen ?

  3. #3
    Boolit Master

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    A good question. Some folks believe that, rightly or wrongly, someone who in the distant past had an identical firearm stolen will claim that the displayed gun is the one that they lost and attempt to prove it by producing documentation, real or false, showing possession of that serial number at an earlier time.

    Therefore, the practice of using "X"s to conceal the last two or three digits of a serial number came into popular use. Here is my Colt Python, serial no. 4321XX.

    Is it a valid concern? Yes and no, and honesty and ethics are involved. If someone really had their firearm stolen, recently or even years ago, and you were the innocent purchaser of the firearm would you feel obligated to return it to them and be out your investment? Putting the shoe on the other foot, would you want to get it back if it had been yours? There have been, however, cases where the previous owner who lost the firearm was wrong about the firearm in question having once been his, or even knowingly dishonestly made such a claim. This can be refuted by the current owner having a bill of sale establishing him as the original purchaser, or here in Oregon as having purchased the firearm used but through a dealer; during which process the firearm's serial number would have been checked twice, once when the dealer took it into his inventory, and a second time when it was sold.

    Personally, I have documentation on all firearms in my possession. There is one interesting area of serial numbers where a victim of theft could be honestly mistaken in claiming that a certain firearm with a certain serial number was stolen from him, and that is firearms that were made in lots or batches where the serial number was repeated. An example would be the German Luger pistol which was produced with a letter prefix, such as a0001 through a9999 and then started over with the b series, 10,000 per series and the production went through the entire alphabet several times. Many owners, previous owners, and law enforcement officials don't realize that the letter is part of the serial number and only record the numerical digits as the number. The letter is small case, and is usually stamped above or below the numbers. Disregarding the letter, there are several Lugers out there with the same serial number and many have been reported stolen lacking the letter. I have 3 in my collection that were reported stolen at various times, but without the letter being included. In all cases I can prove ownership before the number became "hot". This is just one example, as there were other guns produced with letter prefixes, but the letter is usually closely associated with the numbers and is usually not omitted when reported.

    Another thought--how many shooters actually have a record of the serial numbers of their firearms? You're at a large military rifle match and there are 25 M1903 rifles in the rack behind the firing line, all appearing pretty much identical. Someone picks up your rifle and walks off with it. You catch up with them and demand its return. The person with the rifle says it's their rifle. Whether or not you have the serial number recorded at home, how can you prove that it belongs to you there at the range? With my rifles, if you remove the butt plate, you'll find my name glued to the bottom of the plate. You know all those plastic cards we're forever getting in the mail, be they credit cards or membership cards, or whatever? I cut my name off the card and glue the strip of plastic bearing the name to the underside of the butt plate. So, if the rifle you're claiming is yours has my name glued under the butt plate, how do you explain that? Take him away, Mr. Deputy.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    It tends to be yes and no about showing serial numbers in the pics posted online. But I think I don't want to make life easier for a scam artist or thief though.
    Last edited by Earlwb; 02-21-2020 at 01:00 PM. Reason: typo

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    Guess I thought that once registered in my name, it is MINE! If the record keeping with the powers that be is truly up to snuff ... then when registered in my name ... part of the wait is checking the serial number against reported thefts.

    If the number checks out upon the FBI or ATF check ... then I am the legal owner and any claims against me would be against the reporting agency which registered the firearm in my name ... therefore the reporting agency should be held responsible and monetarily responsible.

    If a responsible citizen buys in good faith and goes through the registration process in the legally acceptable means, then that firearm is the recent registered names property.

    Seems reasonable to me anyway. Proof needs to be un-impeachable and irrefutable. Therefore firearms registered in my name ... remain in my name.
    WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE...MORE WILL BE SAID THEN DONE

  6. #6
    Boolit Buddy
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    There are no registration (at least in Virginia).

  7. #7
    Boolit Master

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    Under the present system you are correct. When you buy a gun through a dealer it is checked against the record of stolen firearms, and if it doesn't come up stolen, then it is officially yours. Again, here in Oregon, the dealer is required to make a stolen check on a used gun that he takes into inventory, and nationwide a dealer is required to do so when he sells the gun.

    Your statements and concern open the door to a thread possibility of several pages (as I've seen it do in the past!). First, Oregon has passed lots of restrictive anti-gun legislation, and the effort continues, but in this case it can work for you instead of against you. Private sales, such as neighbor to neighbor over the back fence, are no longer legal here. Private sales at gun shows are no longer legal here. The law mandates that all firearms transactions must go through an FFL Dealer, with the possible exception of a Father-to-Son inheritance situation. So, today, it is virtually impossible to buy a stolen firearm through legitimate channels. In other states private party transactions are still legal and in theory a stolen firearm could pass through many hands before it again surfaced by passing to a dealer, with the situation being discovered only when the dealer resold the firearm. A friend of mine in his late 70s was found to be in possession of a stolen handgun reported 15 years earlier in S. California and spent 30 days in jail while it was sorted out that he had been an innocent purchaser. Possession of Stolen Property is a serious offense and usually difficult to defend against. Although these laws can and do presently work for you, the day may well come when they word against you. For example, if AK-47s or AR-15s are outlawed the government will know who has them. They may not get around to picking them all up, but they might as well as once outlawed, and if caught with one you'll become a felon.

    The possibility still exists, though, that here in Oregon there are lots of firearms floating around that were stolen years ago before the current laws went into effect. But, it is now illegal to make a private party purchase, so if you did and the gun later came to the attention of the authorities as being stolen, you've got big problems.

    I moved here in 1988, and it was so easy and unencumbered to purchase a firearm. You just walked into the store, said, "I'll take that one", filled out the Form 4473, paid and walked out with the firearm. Then, if memory serves correctly, there was a mass shooting in N. California with an AK-47, so the Oregon politicos decided that their proper reaction should be to require background checks on handguns. Then the Federal background checks went into effect a few years later for all gun sales including long guns. This was, and still is in most locations, conducted by the FBI, but Oregon wanted the money from the background check fees and gave the job to the State Police. Originally the OSP was supposedly required to destroy the records of all background checks at the end of the business day, but now after many years they are no longer required to do so, and the background check system has become de facto registration.

    On a nationwide basis, whether or not permitted to do so by law, I feel very strongly that the background checks made by the FBI are permanently retained, resulting in an existing partial National Registration. Further, FFL Dealers going out of business are required to send their accumulation of completed Form 4473s and record books into the ATF Records Dept. There have been several times in past years that the ATF was strongly reminded that they were not allowed to create a registration system, but few doubt that they have done so. My point is, folks, that cuss and rail against it as you will, it is largely already here.

  8. #8
    Boolit Grand Master
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    And to add to the excellent information provided by Der Gebirgsjager concerning pre-1946 German guns, different factories would produce the same type of firearm and duplicate serial numbers. So in addition to the serial number and any letter prefixes, it is also sometimes necessary to have the year of manufacture and the factory code to identify a particular firearm.

    And to make the waters even more muddy, people often record the wrong number as the serial number. Some guns have serial numbers applied to more than one part. If the gun is assembled from parts of different guns, those numbers will not agree. Most knowledgeable gun owners know that the serial number located on the receiver is the controlling number but not everyone knows this. And some guns have numbers that are not the serial number that are sometimes mistaken for the serial number. People will occasionally mistake an assembly number, rack number, unit number or some other marking as the serial number. I've even seen examples where patent dates were mistaken as serial numbers.
    The manufacturer is also a key piece of information. Different manufacturers can duplicate serial numbers. When several manufacturers produce the same type of firearm the manufacturer may be assigned a block of serial numbers so that duplicate serial numbers don't appear on the same type of weapon. However, not every nation follows this practice, so the identity of the manufacturer is a key piece of information along with the serial number.
    And then there are the copies of firearms by different nations. While a knowledgeable gun collector would know the difference between a Soviet TT-33 and a Chinese Type 54; not everyone is a knowledgeable gun collector.

    Inaccuracies concerning the recording of a serial number are not always malicious. Ignorance and simple mistakes often play a role.

  9. #9
    Boolit Grand Master
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    And while we are on the topic, one of the most historically fascinating examples of duplicate serial numbers came out of occupied Poland.
    Laborers forced to work in the arms factory in Radom, Poland during German occupation intentionally duplicated serial numbers on select Vis pistols to hide guns smuggled out of the factory.

    Workers would duplicate some serial numbers so that parts of pistols could be smuggled out of the plant without appearing as a missing pistol at the end of the production process. As long as the parts with the duplicate numbers were never together during the production, it would be nearly impossible to detect the duplicate serial numbers. This allowed pistols to be supplied to Polish resistance fighters.
    The scheme was discovered when pistols used by resistance fighters were captured.

    https://www.americanrifleman.org/art...an-occupation/

  10. #10
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    Also, pre-GCA 68, many firearms were not serialized at all; For those, the "Putting a name card inside" idea is a very good one, as the serial number's just not there.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    Some people believe the government keeps track of those serial numbers show in the pics as well.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by Der Gebirgsjager View Post
    "....Another thought--how many shooters actually have a record of the serial numbers of their firearms? You're at a large military rifle match and there are 25 M1903 rifles in the rack behind the firing line, all appearing pretty much identical. Someone picks up your rifle and walks off with it. You catch up with them and demand its return. The person with the rifle says it's their rifle. Whether or not you have the serial number recorded at home, how can you prove that it belongs to you there at the range? With my rifles, if you remove the butt plate, you'll find my name glued to the bottom of the plate. You know all those plastic cards we're forever getting in the mail, be they credit cards or membership cards, or whatever? I cut my name off the card and glue the strip of plastic bearing the name to the underside of the butt plate. So, if the rifle you're claiming is yours has my name glued under the butt plate, how do you explain that? Take him away, Mr. Deputy.

    Thank you for this "tip",Der Gebirgsjager! I now have high on my "do it! list" to do similarly as you suggested! I have many, many more of the return address labels I receive from donating to the DAV (Disabled American Vets) than I might ever live long enough to use , and it surely will not be too great of a task to remove long-gun butt plates, as well as handgun grips, adding one of these to each! Again -- thanks for this wonderful suggestion!
    geo

  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    the ATF is already making sure that 4473's are archived, so yes, gun confiscation lists have been around for some time and will continue. https://gunowners.org/na02152020/

    Last edited by rfd; 02-23-2020 at 09:59 AM.
    "Owning a handgun doesn't make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician." - Jeff Cooper

  14. #14
    Boolit Master


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    Also, with technology being what it is now, there are rumors that the "insert large internet search company here" can store all the pics of firearms, and cross reference postings by who showed it. It is, after all, just data. However with how much innocent data there is out there like firearms for instance, it is in my mind a certainty that this data is being stored and sifted through. It can and likely will be used for some purpose. And we are giving it to them...

  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master
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    So walking this back a bit, Many users of this forum and other forums, don't want to share serial numbers of firearms on the internet.

    As for the "government" scouring the internet to identify people that possess firearms, I think that may be a little far fetched.
    If you're posting on firearm's related forum, it's probably safe to say you're likely involved with firearms. Just like posting on a motorcycle related forum would show some connection to motorcycles.

    There have been individual cases of criminals posting pictures of themselves that depict large amounts of illegal drugs, money and firearms that led to search warrants and arrests (I didn't say they were particularly intelligent criminals). That's different than someone posting a picture of their son with a rifle and their first deer. In both examples, the serial number is not a key element.

    On a different tangent, an unscrupulous individual could see a serial number in a photograph and claim that the firearm depicted in the photo was theirs even if it wasn't. In that situation, blocking out a portion of the serial number in a photograph may be a good defense to that scam.
    Last edited by Petrol & Powder; 02-23-2020 at 07:53 PM.

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