Firearms are expensive and extremely desirable targets for burglars. My experience as a law enforcement officer has taught me that many gun owners fail to keep proper records for their firearms. In the event that your firearms are stolen, inadequate records can cause problems with insurance claims and make it difficult for law enforcement to identify the lawful owner if the firearms are recovered. For obvious reasons, every effort should be made to secure firearms in a gun safe or lockable cabinet, but firearms are valuable and easy to turn into cash quickly on the street so despite your best efforts, there is always a risk of them being stolen.
Fortunately, keeping proper records is a simple process. The first step is to create a format to record the necessary information. You can create a simple spreadsheet or document on your word processor or you can use this form provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. An additional option is to purchase a record book; several are available on the market and they are an nice option if you’re willing to spend a little money. For each firearm, your records should include, at a minimum, the following information:
- · Manufacturer of the Firearm (i.e. Ruger, Smith and Wesson etc.)
- · Model of the Firearm (i.e. 1911, 870 Express etc.)
- · Serial Number (can be found on
- · Firearm Type and Action (i.e. Rifle/Lever Action, Shotgun/Semi-Auto etc.)
- · Caliber or Gauge ( i.e. 12 ga, 9mm etc.)
- · Date Acquired (the date you purchased or received the firearm)
- · Cost (original cost of the firearm)
- · Purchase Location (name and address of the location where you purchased the firearm)
In addition to this basic information, I recommend you add the date and person or store you sold the gun to (if you no longer are the owner of the gun) and a list of any modifications that were made to the gun or accessories that were added to it along with the cost of the modifications or accessories. Finally, take a photo of every gun in your collection and attach printed copies of those photos to your records.
Once you have completed all the information for your records, store the forms in a secure location that is away from where firearms and ammunition are stored. It is also a good idea to make a copy of your records to store somewhere other than your home such as your office, a deposit box at your bank or the home of a trusted friend or family member. If any of your firearms are stolen or lost, immediately inform your local police or sheriff’s department and provide a copy of your records. You should also request a copy of the police report. If your property is recovered, law enforcement will be able to easily identify it and ensure it is returned to you. If your gun subsequently shows up at the scene of a crime, you will be have some evidence that the gun was stolen and not in your possession at the time of the crime.