Buying a Used Firearm

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Many of us,
sometime in our shooting lifetimes, will purchase a used firearm.
Sometimes this will be done for financial reasons, and other times,
nostalgia might play a big part in certain purchases and then there
are those spur-of-moment type transactions resulting from your coming
upon a "good deal."

Firearms differ
from other consumer products in that – with proper maintenance
– their serviceable life can be measured in generations. I
own several firearms that are over a century old but, thanks to
proper maintenance and the fact that proper ammunition for them
is still available; they are as useful today as they were in the
19th century.

But that being
said, there are a lot of "dogs" out there! All too often
a firearm is put away in a closet (probably a damp one?) and forgotten.
Needless to say, such treatment does little for the firearm’s appearance,
to say nothing of mechanical integrity or overall safety.

Besides finding
a good deal on a used firearm, the search itself can be an enjoyable
and educational experience. The key to a successful search for a
used firearm is preparation. Good preparation can be broken down
into four stages: research, examination, questioning, and suitability.
For example, let’s assume you are looking for a used rifle or shotgun
for hunting. The four stages of preparation would look something
like the following:

Do your

It behooves
the smart shopper to decide, if possible, on a particular brand
and model before the search begins. Then, with a bit of further
research into the brand or model you can save a lot of time, trouble
and money in the long run. Some things to consider:

  • Is the firearm
    still manufactured and is the maker still in business? The availability
    of spare parts, accessories and/or service may be important to
  • How old
    is the firearm? Popular models often have a production life of
    many decades. Knowing serial number ranges and differences in
    markings between old and new would be a big help. Being aware
    of the styling differences (stock design, barrel lengths, caliber
    options, types of sights, etc.) can also help date the firearm.
    You can also check manufacturers
    web pages for historical information
  • Is factory
    ammunition still available from retail outlets?
  • Has that
    model has ever been subject to a factory recall?
  • Does the
    manufacturer offer second owner warranties?
  • What is
    a fair price for that make and model firearm? Check the Blue
    Book of Gun Values
    and/or other trade publications, to
    ascertain a price range.

Make a Thorough

of a used gun is essential. When looking at used guns you should
always keep in mind the old axiom, "Beauty is only skin deep."

  • Has the
    firearm been allowed to rust? Check the barrel, receiver, magazine,
    trigger assembly, and all metal parts for rust and pitting. Are
    there loose, broken, worn or missing parts on the firearm? If
    so, walk on!
  • Is the barrel
    in good condition? Check the bore and chamber with a bore light
    for excessive wear, rust, or lead/metal build up. The latter often
    hides the former. Are there nicks or dents in the muzzle crown
    that will adversely affect accuracy? Examine the barrel (inside
    & out) for bulges.
  • Does the
    stock appear to be oil/solvent soaked? Are there cracks and dents?
    Does the firearm look like it has ever been dropped or abused?
    If possible, examine underneath the stock. This is where evidence
    of lack of maintenance is often found.
  • Is the gun
    in original condition? Has the barrel been shortened, the stock
    reworked, or replaced or has the trigger been adjusted? Question
    any modifications, changes, non-factory additions or accessories.
  • Does the
    gun appear to have been kept clean and maintained properly?
  • What is
    the condition of the magazine? Check the magazine for proper function.
    Determine whether it been modified and how many rounds it will
    hold. The latter may have legal repercussions in some jurisdictions.
  • Do the receiver
    and bolt serial numbers match? Does the bolt function smoothly?
    When closed is the bolt loose or difficult to open? Ask permission
    to strip the bolt to check for rust, dirt and the condition of
    the springs and firing pin.
  • Has the
    trigger mechanism or safety been modified or altered in any way?
    Make sure both work as intended.

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24, 2009

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