To determine the age, origin or authenticity of a weapon.
As weapons have evolved, changes in materials, technologies, and styles have provided unintentional clues to help today’s experts deduce the era, and in some cases even the year, in which a weapon was made.
In general, weapon dating and identification is divided into broad areas of expertise, such as blade weapons or firearms.
Within these general categories, a specialist may work exclusively in a field as narrow as swords of the American Civil War. Such specialists will have in-depth knowledge of authentic materials and craftsmanship.
For instance, an authority on Colt revolvers may know details as intimate as the grit of sandpaper used at the factory.
Regardless of the specialty, experts rely on some basic techniques to date a weapon and verify authenticity.
Under intense light and magnification, an expert may find vital clues, such as unique tool marks. Or they may deduce that the weapon is actually a modern reproduction or deliberate fake.
In the years after WWII, there was a brisk business in counterfeit German and Russian arms.
Although a family heirloom is less likely to be forged than a purchased weapon, the possibility always exists. Some foreign firearms have been replicated for centuries, specifically for the tourist trade.
If a weapon has considerable historical or financial value, advanced lab tests may be worth the investment. Depending on the weapon, tests can include metallurgic analyzes, or even x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging.