Buying A Used Gun

Buying used guns is a lot like buying a used car, except you can’t get a “GunFax” history on how many rounds have been fired or how the gun was used. So what should you look for when purchasing a used firearm? Are you going to purchase from an individual or a business?

The general rules for a used gun for sale are the same, whether you purchase the firearm from a dealer or individual. However, you may be taking a greater risk by purchasing from an individual. The person selling you the gun isn’t looking for a repeat buyer as much as just getting a good price for the gun they want to sell. Gun stores on the other hand should be looking for repeat customers (this is no different from any other business in that you can find good and bad businesses to deal with). Pawn shops are a great source for used firearms but the sales staff will typically know less about firearms than the sales staff in a gun store. Gun shows can offer a unique gun purchasing options to you from both dealers and individuals that are walking around with guns for sale. As with all used items, the best defense against a bad deal is the knowledge of what the item is worth and how to check to make sure it is functioning correctly.

Guns For Sale

How do I know what to pay for a used gun?

As gun values fluctuate over the course of a year, it is good to check not only the gun value books that are available, but to also use online auction sites like GunBroker. You can search for the model of firearm you are looking to purchase and see what real people have paid for the firearm recently. The best part is that it’s free and in real time. You might even find a better deal on GunBroker than you are currently seeing around your area. One thing to consider when purchasing a firearm from any online resource is that you might have to pay shipping and unless you have your FFL license you will end up paying a transfer fee at your local firearms dealer. On the other hand, you may save state sales tax (which could be significant).

Another often overlooked resource is to search forums that are related to firearms. Almost every forum will have a classified section and most sites require disclosure of the state the seller is from be listed in the title of the posting. This way you can avoid transfer fees and shipping costs. A tip if you are going to purchase from a member of a forum: take the time to search for reviews on the member; many times if the member has sold anything before you can get an idea if the seller is legit.

How do I know if a firearm is in good shape?

Ok, so you have found the firearm you want to purchase and know that the price is reasonable . . . . what do you look for to make sure it is in good condition? Condition is relative to the firearm. Is it an old military surplus rifle? Or a modern pistol? Or a hunting rifle? Each of these result in some differences in what you can expect from the overall condition of the gun.

All firearms should have the same basic characteristics to evaluate. The first thing to look at is the general condition relative to the price and how the gun is advertised:

  • Is the finish worn? Some wear on the finish is acceptable. What you don’t want is pitted metal. If the metal is pitted that means at some time this gun was neglected or the metal used/finish wasn’t properly done by the manufacturer.
  • Does the action properly function? The best way to check a firearm is to actually shoot it. This is not always an option, but there is a nice alternative in Snap Caps. Snap Caps are dummy rounds that can be used to practice trigger control without worry of damaging your weapon. Most sellers will not have the snap caps on hand, so be sure to bring your own. It’s a cheap insurance against getting a firearm that has damaged internals.
  • How do you check the barrel? There are a couple of major things to check for in regards to the barrel on a firearm. You only need 2 items: 1. Your eyes (or a friends if yours aren’t working as good these days) and, 2. A flashlight (or bore light). A small flashlight or bore light to look down the barrel and check the state of the rifling. If the gun’s rifling is pitted or the grooves are worn past the point of recognition, you will most likely need to replace the barrel. This could also be a sign of improper general maintenance. Make sure you check the outside of the barrel and look for any bulges. If you see a bulge, say “thanks but no thanks” and walk away.

Remember that you should always safely handle any firearm as if it’s loaded, even if you’ve been assured its unloaded. Always check the firearm to make sure that it is unloaded before inspecting any part of the firearm. While unsafe handling by the seller can mean nothing in regards to the condition of the gun; it can sometimes denote poor maintenance.