Are your guns insured for an amount that will replace them in case they are lost in a fire? Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover personal losses only up to a set amount. Unless, of course, you realized you own some items – jewelry, antiques, firearms, first edition books on a specific subject, and the list goes on – that are worth more than average value, and you insured them appropriately.
Let’s say, for example, you have a homeowner’s policy that will pay $20,000 for personal effects in case of fire, theft, etc. That amount will hardly cover your clothes, much less other items you value. It probably will not cover the six shotguns – including Granddad’s old M1891 Winchester – four rifles and three handguns you have in your gun cabinet or safe. What about the reloading equipment and components, spotting scope, cameras, reference library and trophies you’ve won over the years? Even money can’t replace some of the items, such as the M-1897 your granddad gave you on your 16th birthday. Anyway, it’s better to be reimbursed for some of the items lost than to lose all on both fronts.
Items having more than average value need to be insured separately by adding riders or inland marine floaters to your regular homeowner insurance policy. There is a catch. In order to insure the items separately, you need an itemized list of the items, with receipts and/or bills of sale or a qualified appraiser’s statement of value. Photographs of the more valuable items will help establish you have what you claim.
If you have only a rifle or two, insuring them separately may not be worthwhile. That’s something you have to determine.
The premium cost of additional insurance is normally priced at so much per $100 value. The amount per $100 depends on the firm you have as the carrier, and possibly on several other factors: geographic location, etc. A local insurance agent, for example, quoted $1.36 per $100 of value. Thus, an $8000 over/under shotgun could cost $108.80 per year to insure separately. If your gun room contains several rifles, shotguns, etc., but with a combined replacement value total of $8000, the premium cost would still be the same, or possibly less, and each of the items would have to be listed on the floater.
Several firms specializing in insurance for gun collectors advertise in gun-collecting magazines. These firms often have better rates than local agents, and those in business for several years usually have a good track record. One such firm, in business since 1966, lists $3000 worth of coverage for $13, $10,000 for $43, $25,000 for $108 and $100,000 for $430.
Above $100,000 the rate was $2.15 per $1000 – definitely better than $1.30 per $100. A list of the guns was required, but for other valuables – knives, books, reloading equipment, etc. – no list is required unless an item is worth over $5000.
Fires do happen, and guns are saved from damage. Some decades ago the Andy Palmer Inn in Dearborn, Michigan, burned. The Inn featured hundreds of firearms mounted on the walls as decoration. The fire was put out. A few of the firearms were damaged beyond repair, but most were salvaged and needed only to be disassembled, cleaned, reassembled, oiled and hung back on the walls of the rebuilt Inn.
However, if the fire burns for long, firearms will be damaged beyond usefulness. The stocks will be burned to ashes, and the metal parts affected to varying degrees. The barrels may be warped and even turned to scale (thin shotgun barrels). Steel melts at around 2,800°F, depending on the alloy. Aluminum goes at approximately 1220°F, depending on the alloy, while brass and zinc alloys go somewhere around 1725°F and 787°F, respectively.
The temperature of an average house fire depends on many variables. According to one authority, the temperature is in the 1000°F to 1500°F range, and could be much higher. Firearms subjected to high heat should never be fired again, even if they appear relatively undamaged, except for having the stock burned, since steel loses its temper, springs especially.
Your correspondent’s Grandmother was born the year Custer decided, too late, that a tactical withdrawal might have been a wiser decision than the decision he made. When she married Granddad, her father gave her a present of money. She and Granddad bought some good land and began farming. Several years and seven children later, the farmhouse burned, the result of four small children playing with matches. Granddad was at the other farm and one of the older boys was sent on horseback to fetch him. Meanwhile, neighbors saw the smoke, and rallied to remove as many of the household goods as possible.
According to Grandmother, Granddad came galloping on a bareback horse, turned into the lane, jumped off and his first words were: “Did you get my rifle and shotgun out?”
“Are you okay?”
“Are the children alright?”
“They’re fine. I sent them to the barn to keep warm.” Priorities!
Fires do happen and some firearms are saved. However, if you own more than a few firearms and do not have them insured separately, it’s time to take inventory. Contact your insurance agent and discuss the subject. A pile of rusted, blackened, warped and melted metal doesn’t have a great amount of value. Insurance could be cheap.
This article is an excerpt from the 62nd Edition of the Gun Digest Book 2008.