Rock Island Auction: New World Record Set

The Rock Island Auction Company has built a very earnest reputation for delivering extremely good customer service and brokering some of the finest (and most coveted) firearms in the world. I personally have done a lot of business with them over the years and I have nothing but overwhelmingly positive things to say about each experience.

On April 30th, 2016 a new world record for a single firearm was set when the hammer fell. The final price realized was $1,265,000 for a very storied and historic Winchester 1886. If you wish to delve into the full history of the rifle, you can read Rock Island’s blog post about it (which I highly recommend).

The firearm itself is in spectacular condition considering the vintage:




And the addition of a pocket watch presented alongside the rifle surely increased the value of the lot substantially:



Some brief history, and what makes this gun worth over one million dollars:

  • Presented to Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Capt. Henry W. Lawton by fellow Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient
  • In September 1886, after a pursuit of over 1300 miles across Mexico and Arizona territory, Lawton found Geronimo and negotiated the surrender of last band of hostile Apaches to the U.S. Army. (the surrender of Geronimo ended over 25 years of bloody conflict with the Apache in the Southwest)
  • During the Spanish-American War Lawton fought in the battles of La Guasimas, El Caney and San Juan Hill
  • Promoted to Major-General, Lawton was ordered to the Philippines to command the 1st Division, VIII Corps, against Filipino insurgents. On December 19, 1899, General Lawton was killed in action in the battle of San Mateo
  • Speaking about Lawton’s death, U.S. President William McKinley said, “I have learned with inexpressible sorrow of the death of Major-General Lawton, and ask to share with the officers and men of the Eighth Corps in their grief. One of the most gallant officers of the Army has fallen.”
  • Henry W. Lawton was one of the most respected officers in the U.S. Army
  • The rifle is serial number 1
  • According to RIA: “This combination of Winchester Model 1886 (serial number 1) presented to the officer credited with the surrender of Geronimo and the very high quality watch and chain presented to Capt. Lawton by New Mexico cattlemen is one of the most important and historic firearms groups ever offered by the Rock island Auction Co.”
  • Incredible amount of documentation along with the rifle

Those who actively seek out and bid on firearms with this much provenance are truly the apex predators in the world of firearm collecting. Fine guns certainly make terrific alternative investments.

Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


  • Pete M

    So, how does it look in your safe?

  • Tyler McCommon

    If I had that much money I wouldn’t be bidding on one gun. But hey it’s their money.

    • The winner of this lot may well have won many other lots.

      • Anonymoose

        Somewhere, this one old rich guy is sitting back lighting original Ghurka Black Dragons with $100 bills and laughing as he has won ALL THE LOTS.

        • MrEllis

          Trump heard voters like a gun owner, so he bought it for a truck gun.

          • uisconfruzed

            It sounds like something that clown would do.

  • Kevin Harron

    Beautiful rifle, and an amazing piece of history. Though if I had 1.2 mill to spend on firearms, I don’t think I’d spend it on 1 gun.

    • Most assuredly, the gentleman who won that lot has plenty more where that came from.

  • Wanderlust

    Its interesting to see how others perceive spending money. I think for people able to afford this its more as a calculation of % of disposable income – the resale value. So if someone makes $100,000 a year a $1000 gun may be reasonable to them, what if they make 1,000,000? What about 10,000,000? is it any different then the guy who makes 100,000 and buys the 1000?

    • lucusloc

      On top of that there were enough people with that much disposable income that wanted *this* gun and no other (because of provenance) that the price got pushed that high. It didn’t get that high because of one crazy rich guy. It took at least 2 😉

  • Don Ward

    It’s not often that one gets a chance to purchase an actual piece of history with provenance that links it to a genuine historical event involving Old West characters.

  • Nicks87

    I don’t have much respect for someone who would spend that much money on a gun (even one with a great story and historical value) just to feed his own ego. However, if he turned around and donated it to a museum so that everyone could enjoy it, that would be a noble gesture and worth every penny. Plus, it would be a tax write off.

    • Why? It’s a tangible piece of history that almost certainly won’t depreciate in value. Keeping large amounts of hard currency around is downright foolish, so trading in that cash for an object that will at worst keep up with inflation is quite sensible.
      The gun also stores easily, isn’t subject to property tax, helps with portfolio diversification, and is fairly liquid. I do not see how this is an egotistical move.

      • Dan

        If i was wealthy enough, I would do this same thing. Buy pieces of history so that I know they will be around. It wouldn’t just be guns but lots of things, anything that tells the story of America. I wouldn’t do it for my own ego, i wouldn’t do it for anyone. I would do it so that our story never vanishes to only be seen on the internet or in the pages of a book.

        • Nicks87

          It might as well be relegated to the internet or history books. Because now it will sit in some rich guy’s gun room only to be seen by his safari hunting buddies and his mistresses, who will pretend to give a s**t just so they can continue to leech off him.

      • Nicks87

        Something is only worth what somebody is willing to pay for it. I could easily see a future where this gun is un-sellable because of laws that are passed or a political/social climate where buying and selling guns is impossible. Then he will be forced to donate it to a museum, where it will become a de-milled paper weight for history buffs to ogle. That same scenario could happen to all of us but at least I wont be out $1.2 million when it happens.

        • Actually, if that happened, he could write off the cost as an unsalable asset.
          But cmon Nicks, the guns isn’t legally a firearm under US law (pre 1898 antique). I have a better chance at having a menage a trois with Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley than this gun becoming illegal to trade hands.

          • The Brigadier

            Scarlett has herpes she got from her ex pro-baseball boyfriend. She is virtually dateless and is in a cure program to rid herself of the virus. She already rid herself of her diseased boyfriend. Now, as far as I know from the popular press Keira is untainted. You might want to pick another famous babe to join you and Keira for your analogy Alex.

    • Ben Wong

      said someone who is not in the top 1% personally I can only dream of owning a piece of vintage firearm from a MOH recipient no less and on top of that as a Pinoy oh the Irony of owning a rifle that belongs to a Gen that was killed in PI I wonder if Andres Bonifacio and his men killed him ? and (in my dreams) as a top 1% I would LOAN it to a museum

    • A private collector is likely to take better care of a relic like this than a museum, so there is an actual tradeoff here.

      Also, many museum pieces are on loan from collectors, so it’s hardly mutually exclusive.

      • Jwedel1231

        I’m glad you said it, becuase I didn’t think about the ‘on loan’ aspect of it. Like you said, a private individual is likely to take great care of it because it’s HIS. A museum employee may only sees it as another piece in a collection.

  • livingonenergydrinks

    Not doubting its value, but considering the general and event are not as well known as many others, its hard to imagine it pulling this kind of change. It only tells me that other guns that have more historical significance, IE derringer that killed Lincoln, rifle that killed Osama, Pistols used in the Burr Hamilton Duel, General Custard’s gun. would be worth considerably more.

    • Blake

      Apologies for the nitpicking, but Custer lost the battle of Little Bighorn, & “custard” is a dessert

      • livingonenergydrinks

        Whoops sorry about that. Sure winning matters, but I just feel the Gun taken out of Custer’s Cold Dead Hands would be worth more than the gun awarded to Crook for Valor.

    • The price at auction often depends upon how many want the item and are willing to spend the money. Often those historic guns you name either get five or six figures not seven.

    • Doom

      too bad no one will ever own the rifle that allegedly killed Osama, being a Machine gun/ Select fire and the registry is closed to we lowly civilians.

  • TheSmellofNapalm

    So bloody cool. My name is Henry and I’m from San Mateo, god damnit….

  • Harrison Jones

    Seeing things like this is what drives me to work harder!

    • Me too. It’s inspring to know that some man made it, and instead of parking the money with some hedge fund said “screw that, I want this gun”.

  • Rob

    I just hope it went to an American collector, the thought of it on some wall in Dubai for example bothers me.

  • Badwolf

    The Philippines forces in the battle of San Mateo were commanded by Gen. Licerio Geronimo. So Gen. Lawton fought 2 Geronimos.

    • avconsumer2

      Holy crap. What a “wtf moment” that would’ve been for him. “Whoa whoa… ha! For a second there… I could’ve sworn you said his name was Geronimo! LOL!!!! Wouldn’t that be… wait wha?!”