How to find the year of manufacture using a firearm's serial number

Written by keith allen
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How to find the year of manufacture using a firearm's serial number
The serial number on a gun can be used to ascertain its age. (gun image by dinostock from

Most gun manufacturer's have some sort of numbering system to the serial numbers of the firearms they produced. This could include the model or the gun, calibre, level of finish and the year and sometimes even the month of manufacture. Unfortunately, each gun maker has their own system. Still, if your gun was made by a manufacturer who is still in business, or one popular enough to be widely collected, the tools to find the year of manufacture may be as close as the internet.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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  1. 1

    Locate the serial number of the gun and confirm all the characters. Each manufacturer places serial numbers in different locations; sometimes they the numbers wear away with the use of the gun. You probably won't need all of the serial number, but you certainly will need to know the digits or letters of the first half of the serial number.

  2. 2

    Research the gun's manufacturer on the internet. Many current manufacturers have websites with a search function based on the serial number of the gun. In some cases the search is as simple as punching in the serial number and reading the results.

  3. 3

    Research the gun with collectors. This works best with guns that are popular with collectors. Even if the gun's maker is no longer in business, some gun enthusiast may have taken the time to collect the information on serial numbers and the dates of manufacture.

Tips and warnings

  • Make sure the serial number matches the entire gun. If the barrel, for example, has the serial number on it, make sure it isn't the barrel from a newer gun fitted to an older stock and action. In this case, the year of manufacture will be for the gun barrel, not for the entire gun.
  • It is impossible to find data on some gun manufacturers. The records could have been destroyed in a fire or other disaster. In other cases, the serial numbers may not have even been sequential. The exact year of manufacture of some guns may remain a mystery. However, these types of gun makers were usually short-lived and a range of dates that the company operated may be available.

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