The Firearms Legacy of Will Hoffeld The finest collection of Colt firearms hits the block at Rock Island.

The finest collection of Colt firearms hits the block at Rock Island.
The finest collection of Colt firearms hits the block at Rock Island.

Back in the good ol’ days of the 1960s and ’70s, I frequented a magical, little shop in Los Angeles, California, called the Eagle’s Nest.

Stuffed full of antique firearms, cowboy gear, militaria and other plums of adventure, this veritable gold mine of antiquity was owned and operated by Will Hoffeld, a WWII? Army Air Corp veteran, historical firearms collector and a lifetime National Rifle Association (NRA) supporter.

Born in 1920, Will came to possess a storehouse of knowledge, the gift of gab and a sense of fairness that brought him many friends and return customers. Will’s store was not only a great place to purchase pearls of the past, it was also the gathering place for many of us who loved the relics of yesteryear.

I remember whiling away many pleasant afternoons with Will, enjoying his company while learning much from him. We became good friends, and on occasion, Will would hire me to care for his home when he was away.

When I wanted to make a purchase, like a mint condition 1843 Hall percussion carbine, with my extra earnings, Hoffeld protested that it didn’t seem right that I worked for him, then quickly spent my money at his place. I reminded him that the primary reason I took on the added work was so that I could afford to buy his rarities. Still not feeling right about our arrangement, Hoffeld often insisted on giving me a “bonus” for my work, such as an antique desk, just to keep it fair. That was the kind of man Will Hoffeld was.

Will passed from this life several months ago. He had assembled what is arguably the finest collection of Colt firearms and related memorabilia. He owned more than 800 Colt percussion revolvers, more than 80 Colt Brevetes (foreign copies and counterfeits), more than 100 1st generation Single Actions, dozens of 1877 and 1878 models, more than 300 Winchester rifles, four Henry rifles and a vast number of Civil War single shot rifles and pistols.

His firearms estate is being auctioned off by the Rock Island Auction Company. Because of its size (more than 2,700 lots), the estate will be sold in two sales. The first one was held this past December. The second auction will be held on April 24-27.

Typical of Will’s generosity, he insisted that both auctions benefit the NRA’s charitable entity that promotes a wide range of educational endeavors benefiting shooting sports, such as safety, competition and Olympic training, youth programs and wildlife and natural resource conservation.

Will’s final wish was to ensure a  positive future for firearms enthusiasts. Through the sale of his collection, his legacy will indeed live on—a fitting tribute to a fine man.

What do you think?

Phil Spangenberger

Phil Spangenberger has written for Guns & Ammo, appears on the History Channel and other documentary networks, produces Wild West shows, is a Hollywood gun coach and character actor, and is True West’s Firearms Editor.