An Antique Firearm is, loosely speaking, a firearm designed and manufactured prior to the beginning of the 20th century- the Boer War is often used as a cut-off event, although the exact definition of what constitutes an "Antique Firearm" varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Antique Firearms can be divided into two types: Muzzleloading and Cartridge firing. Muzzleloading Antique Firearms are not generally owned with the intent of firing them (although many people do shoot original muzzleloaders, after having them thoroughly inspected and safety tested), instead being owned as display pieces or for their historic value. Cartridge firing Antique Firearms are more commonly encountered as shooting pieces, but it should be noted that most antique cartridge guns made from the 1860s through the 1880s were made with relatively mild steel and were designed to use black powder. They were limited to low bullet velocities and had heavily arcing "rainbow" bullet trajectories. However, advances in steel metallurgy and the advent of mass-produced smokeless powder in the early 1890s gave cartridge rifles of this new era much higher velocities and much flatter trajectories than their predecessors.
These advances, typified by cartridges such as 7x57 Mauser, .303 British, and 7.62x54R made many smokeless powder rifles manufactured in the 1890s quite capable of accurate shooting at long distances. In fact, many antique smokeless powder cartridge guns from the 1890s can still compete satisfactorily in target shooting events alongside modern guns.
Antique Gun Values
Given their increasing scarcity, the prices of antique guns have steadily risen over recent years. Overall they are an excellent investment. Current prices are best monitored by comparing prices at gun shows, and by studying gun auction catalogs, along with their accompanying realised price sheets. Just remember though that a once off auction price as the result of a bidding war on the day does not automatically create a new higher value generally.