|Home - Volume 1 (2006) - Issue 2 (Fall '06) - Review: Gun Collection Management Programs|
Gun Collection Management Programs
Reviewed by John Caradimas (John, )
Keeping track of your firearms.
Due to the Greek laws, while most of my partners in US get to test and review the latest M1911 offerings from companies like Springfield, Nighthawk, Guncrafters, Para Ordnance etc, I am confined to testing peripherals. Holsters, bags, grips, magazines, etc. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it. In this case, and since I am the ... expert on software (with about 20 years of experience in the IT technology), my assignment was to try out programs for the gun enthusiast and report back to you on my findings. As if I need a program to keep track of my two allowed pistols! Sigh!
Anyway, I tried to approach this test with the same professionalism that my collegues show, when testing a new gun. First of all, I had to narrow down the scope of this test, to programs used to manage one's guns inventory. Since reloading is prohibited in Greece, I do not have the experience to evaluate ballistics programs, so the scope of this test is limited, to those programs that help you catalog and manage your guns.
I tried to collect as many such programs as I could. After I found all the programs that Google cared to show to me, I contacted their vendors and asked for a full working version. Some of the vendors offer limited-functionality versions, for evaluation, while others offer limited duration, full-versions. I wanted to be totally independent of restrictions, so the full working versions were asked for. Initially, the following program vendors were contacted:
From these, NM Gun Collector, GunTracker and Blue Book Publications were kind enough to send me a CD with their full working program, while I downloaded GunSafe and KollectAll full-versions, from the Internet. There is another program on the Internet called GunInventory, but I found no way to contact its maker, to ask for a full working version, so it is not included in this review.
Now I had the five programs to work with, so I started to install them on a computer, to try them out. I didn't use my regular computer, since it is heavily loaded with programs, and I didn't want to destroy my work environment, if something went wrong.
From the five products tested Blue Book Publications ISP, NM Gun Collector and KollectAll, included a typical Windows installation program. GunTracker includes an installation program, which unfortunatelly didn't allow me to select the directory in which the program was to be installed, and insisted in installing it in the root directory (not good!). Finally GunSafe didn't include an installation program, you are supposed to just unzip the contents of the distribution file, in the directory of your choice, and run it from there.
This is a generic "Collection Management Software". It allows you to organize anything that you may be collecting, from books to guns, with everything in between. The program comes with some predefined "collections", with guns being one of them.
Unfortunatelly, trying to be everything at the same time, this program is lacking several features of the other, more specialized ones. This generic philosophy shows up with the lack of dedicated "help" fields, fields which have predefined values from which to select. Also, the data entry form is organized in a strange way, where the various gun-related fields, which should be grouped together, are spread all over the form, in no rational (for a gun owner) order. Being the Jack of all trades is not always the best approach.
On the other hand, KollectAll allows you to summarize the value of your collection, and to add images to any gun you have stored in its file. Unfortunatelly, the images are not connected to the related item, apart from a loose connection, which will first show you the image of that particular item you were viewing, when you clicked on the "Images" tab. However, from then on, you can browse all the images you have stored in the program's files.
Finally, the program can show you a list of all your guns.
For the gun enthusiast, collector and shooter, this program leaves a lot to be desired.
GunSafe is a dedicated gun collection organizer program, made by Kevin Kelly. Kevin is a shooter and a collector, so he used his experience when developing this program to a good extend.
This is the programs main menu. From here, you can select what you want to do.
The data entry screen, where you enter your gun's details is very well organized with drop-down menus helping you in the filling of the various fields. There is a huge manufacturers list, a list of all possible calibers, a "configuration" list (single action, double action, pump, semi-auto...), a type list (pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine-gun...), a stock/grips list (with various stock or grips to select from), a finish list (blue, stainless, parkerized....). What's significant, is that all these lists are customizable, so you can alter them to suit your needs. For example, if one is collecting only 1911 pistols, he can edit the manufacturers list, to include only 1911 manufacturers. He can edit the caliber list to include only those calibers that a 1911 is available in, and so on. I liked that feature. Such lists exist also in the other data entry screens, as explained below.
In the same screen the user can fill in some other useful details, such as manufacturing date, purchasing date, condition, if he has the original box or not, if the item is a C&R or not, where the gun is stored and what accessories he has for that particular firearm etc.
The program has separate forms for entering purchasing and sale information. There is a list of "Transaction Kinds", from which you can select how the gun was acquired (gunshop, on-line shop, auction etc) and enter full details of the seller.
Likewise, there is a separate form to fill, when the gun is sold.
Another form allows you to maintain detailed records of when that particular firearm was maintained and what was done to it on that particular maintenance session.
Still another form, allows you to enter notes for that particular firearm, very useful for keeping important information, such as favorite loads etc.
Finally, the program has another data entry screen, in which you can enter pictures of that firearm. An unlimited number of pictures can be entered, which however are not directly associated with that particular gun. Even though the program will show you the picture associated with that gun first, it will also continue and show you all other pictures entered in its database, something not very intuitive.
You can of course ask to see a complete list of your collection.
As I said, the program comes with a predefined, very extensive list of firearm manufacturers, which however can not be changed from inside the data entry screens, like all other lists can, but you have to go to the main menu to make these changes. Not a bad thing per se, but a little more involving than necessary. All other lists can be edited from within the data entry screens, a very useful approach, which facilitates the usage of the program.
This is a nice program, but limited by the software used to develop it, FileMaker Pro. The user interface is limited by the software, in some strange ways. For example, there is no "Save" or "Cancel" buttons. Let's assume that you want to enter a new gun in your collection. So you fire up the program and you hit the "New Entry" button. You change your mind, and you want first to check your inventory to make sure that you haven't already enter this gun in the file, so you press the "List" button. Well, no luck, the program asks you to enter a serial number, and it insists on this. The only way you can get away from this, is to ask to delete that entry (which you haven't even enter yet). You can't even Exit the program without deleting this record. It seems that from the moment you pressed the "New Entry" button, the program inserts an empty record in the database, and awaits for you to enter the information for that record. And since the serial number is a mandatory field, that the user has to fill, the program doesn't let you do anything, unless you delete that phathom record. I would much prefer to have an empty form, which you fill with the required information, and then hit a "Save" button to insert it in the database, or a "Cancel" button to abandon the operation. That's how any Windows application should work.
Apart from that minor complain, and the issue of not associating pictures with one particular gun, the program is very nice and should cover the needs of the average gun owner. What serious collectors will miss, is the ability to see the total value of your collection, something GunSafe does not offer.
This program is designed to appeal to the serious gun collector. Included in the program, is a database with almost every possible firearm manufacturer (something tells me that the maker of this program is licensing Blue Book of Values database). For each manufacturer, the program includes an incredible number of predefined models (every model that this particular manufacturer has ever produced). There are so many manufacturers and models and models variations in there, that it is easy to become frustrated with the details.
Thank God, the program does not force you to select from its internal database, by browsing through the models produced by a specific manufacturer. You can use the Search function to narrow down your selection. And if course, you can always enter a firearm record without using the build-in database, so the user can select his method of data entry.
As you can see the data entry form has all the fields that a gun owner or a collector will need. In addition to the usual fields of maker, model, serial number etc. the program allows you to enter the current value of the firearm as well as the price you paid for it.
It also allows you to schedule the next maintenance session, to enter an insured value, its storage location and a personal rating for this firearm.
Of course, the program allows you to associate pictures with each firearm, and the images for each firearm are associated to that particular firearm alone (a nice touch).
Of course, the program also allow you to enter some notes in relation to that firearm.
From the data entered, the user can get a variety of reports, such as :
Finally a customized report option is available, but I didn't have the time to try this out.
Problems? I have discovered (not only in this program) that sometimes, the program uses the system's currency symbol, while in others it defaults to $. A small bug that needs to be fixed, for those living outside good, old US of A. Also, a serious ommission is the fact that there are no fields to keep track of the sale of a firearm. If you sell a gun, you just have to delete it from the program's database. Some collectors want to maintain records of these transactions.
Overall, a program for the serious gun collector, a bit too difficult to use for the average Joe who owns some firearms and wants to have an electronic reference for them.
The fourth participant in our review is called NM GunCollector, although once you start the program, its title changes to NM Firearms. The program comes with an full installation procedure and it is quite intuitive to use, there are some tabs on the top, from where you select what you want to see, and a few buttons, like "Add Item", "Delete Item" etc.
Above, you can see the data entry screen. Wherever you see a down-arrow next to a field, there is a hidden list of options you can use. For example, if you click on the arrow next to "Manufacturer" a list of manufacturers will appear, from which you can select the one who made your firearm. Manufacturers, Types and calibers are already predefined, but you may want to alter the lists to suit your needs. For example, I would edit the manufacturers list and leave in only the ones who produce M1911 pistols.
The Receipt tab allows you to enter information related to the seller of that firearm (where you got it from), while Disposition is the area where you enter information about to whom you sold it to. In these screens you can enter the amount of money you paid for the gun and the amount of money you got when you sold it.
A separate tab allows you to enter pictures of the selected fireram, an unlimited number of pictures can be entered and the program includes a nice feature to show you those pictures in thumbnail form.
There is also a "Statistics" tab where you can see where you can see a list of your whole collection, together with the total values etc.
There is finally a "Lists Edit" tab, from where you can alter the predefined lists that appear in certain fields in the data entry screen.
One unique feature of this program, is the fact that it incorporates a bar code feature, which allows you to print bar code labels for your firearms.
The program allows you to maintain firearm records as if you were an FFL dealer or a C&R collector, and it will generate the BATFE required lists for you, warn you a certain number of days before your license expires etc.
In using this program, one gets to appreciate its simplicity but also its flexibility and power. What I liked is how easy it is to enter the information for each firearm you own, and how easy it is to change the predefined lists of values. An M1911 collector can easily erase all the other calibers, except the ones related to the 1911. What I didn't like is the layout of the tabs (I never figured out why the Description tab is second and the Pictures tab is first) as well as the naming used in those tabs. For example, the tab where you enter the information about who sold you the firearm, is called "Receipt". Why couldn't it be "Purchase" or something similar? Why couldn't "Disposition" be called "Sale"? Nothing serious, but these wording issues got my attention from the first day I tried this pistol.
Overall, for the average shooter, this is a very nice program to manage his collection with.
Blue Book Gun ISP
This program is sold by the well-known Blue Book Inc., the same company that publishes the Blue Book of Values, so useful to gun collectors and enthusiasts. When you install this program (and it comes with a full installation program), you also install an electronic version of the most recent Blue Book of Values database.
When you first start the program, you are shown the screen above. This is an interface to the Values database, you first select the first letter of the manufacturer you want (say "C" for Colt). A list of all gun manufacturers whose name starts with C is shown below. When you select the name of the company you want, a brief description of the company is shown. Also, you get a drop-down menu, with the various types of firearms this manufacturer has produced. From then on, you are shown the various models of this particular type. Next to each type there is a "Add to Collection" button, through which you add one of those models in your collection.
As soon as you press the "Add to Collection" button, you are taken to the data entry screen, which however does not have all the fields entered from the Values database. For example, even though I selected a military Colt 1911A1 the program didn't enter the caliber. One interesting feature of this program, is that it can be used to manage more than one "collection". There is a drop-down menu at the bottom right of the screen, which allows you to select the collection you want to add this item into, or....
which allows you to create a new collection. By default the program has a collection of items you would like to find and purchase, named "Want List".
After you enter some items in your collection, you can use the "My Collection" menu to view the items in your collection (if you have defined more than one collections, you will be prompted for which collection you want to view.
From this view, you can select the report you would like to see.
This is a sample summary report, there are several others defined in the program, and you can also define your own report.
As far as images are concerned, the program allows you to enter up to seven pictures per firearm, and these are truly associated with that particular firearm, which is very good.
What I liked about this program:
From the programs tried, it seems there are two different categories of software for the gun enthusiast and the gun collector. Those targeted at serious gun collectors (Blue Book Gun ISP and Gun Tracker) and those targeted at the average Joe, who wants to keep some electronic records of his gun collection. With this in mind, I would suggest that the best alternatives from the programs tested are:
If you want to discuss or comment on this test, please use the following thread in our Forums Site:
NM Gun Collector
|Home - Volume 1 (2006) - Issue 2 (Fall '06) - Review: Gun Collection Management Programs|