5 Things You Absolutely Must Do Before Buying a Used Firearm
Daniel Xu 03.20.15
One of the most commonly asked questions from gun owners—or those who want to be gun owners—is how to buy a used gun. What kind of gun holds onto its value the best? Should I buy it online and have it shipped, or buy it from a gun show? What is a good price for a specific gun? What should I look for in wear and tear?
Buying a used firearm is a good way to cut down on cost, but it comes with many hurdles that don’t come with factory fresh guns. If you’re lucky and smart, you’ll be able to come out with a bargain. In the worst case scenario however, you might find yourself handing over your hard-earned cash for a firearm that is not only a clunker, but could very well be dangerous to use.
Here are our top five basic steps you must absolutely take before buying a used gun.
1. Research who you’re buying the gun from
Whether you’re buying online or in person, be sure to do some research on who exactly is selling you the gun. This is easiest when you already know the person, but that is not always the case.
- Online marketplaces—There’s plenty of reliable marketplaces for the prospective gun buyer to visit, but buying used guns online also means you won’t be able to inspect the gun in person. This means relying on pictures, descriptions, and essentially trusting the seller not to scam you. First, research the trustworthiness of the marketplace itself. Some sites are less than reputable and you may want to consider taking your money elsewhere. Secondly, look up the seller’s previous sales, customer feedback, and their rating (if there is a system that keeps track of that). Read what unsatisfied customers have to say and make an informed decision.
- Gun Stores—As brick-and-mortar shops, gun stores are in many ways much more reliable than buying guns off the internet. Go online to check out customer reviews of a certain store, of if that’s not possible, simply go there and have a chat with store employees. A short conversation will often tell you everything you’d want to know about the shop and its sales policies. Buying used guns at a gun shop, like pre-owned cars at a dealership, also have the benefit in that most stores will not sell you a broken or potentially dangerous firearm.
- Pawn shops—Pawn shops often get a less than stellar reputation, especially when it comes to guns. However, there is nothing inherently bad about buying guns from one, as long as you ask the right questions. People often assume the pawn shops carry nothing but overpriced junk guns (or even hot guns), but reputable stores work much like any other gun shop.
- Gun show—Gun shows are the best for variety and making that rare find, and vendors are generally more than happy to oblige. That said, treat a deal made at a gun show the same as you would with any stranger selling you a firearm. Since gun show purchases usually are made on impulse, you may not get the chance to do much research on the vendor, but try to glean as much information as you can. Above all, use common sense.
2. Google it
So you found a gun you might like, but you know relatively little about it. Perhaps it’s a foreign-made firearm, or just one of those strange, exotic ones like the Dardick pistol. You don’t know how much you should pay for it, how many were made, or if the gun is known to be a joke. This is the easiest step: Google it. A simple web search on most firearms will reveal all you need to know, and if it doesn’t, it would at least give you some idea of used gun prices. You could look through a gun price book, but the internet often has the most accurate and up-to-date prices. Plus, you might even find a better deal.
3. Ask Questions
Questions like who was the previous owner? How much was it used? What was the gun used for? How old is it? Why are they selling it? Was it ever customized? Does it have a history of malfunctions? And so forth. Don’t worry about annoying the seller, any reputable dealer would be more than happy to tell you what they know.
4. Examine the gun
The most important part of buying a used gun: examine it as thoroughly as you are allowed.
- Wear and tear—Are there any visible signs of damage or wear? Cosmetic issues will often drop used gun prices, but generally not affect the function of the firearm. Look for things that affect the gun’s operation, such as damage to the bolt, a non-functioning slide release, adjustable sights that won’t adjust (or fall out), etc.
- Rattle it softly—is anything loose? Check to see if the screws are damaged or missing. If there are too many parts that jingle, perhaps you should consider moving off somewhere else.
- Is it customized?—Do you see any modifications to the firearm? Has the trigger been swapped out or the stock replaced? Do the modifications make the firearm more desirable, or less? If you’re looking for something that’s as close to the factory version as possible, then you probably don’t want to pay top dollar for something that’s been tricked out.
- Dissemble it—Some sellers will agree to dissemble the gun for you, or even allow you to field strip it. This will allow you to examine the working parts more closely. Inspect the bore for rust or fouling and check the chamber for pitting. Are there bulges on the barrel? Guns can look great on the outside and horrible on the inside, especially if it belonged to someone who knew nothing of proper maintenance. The inverse is also true. As always, be sure to follow safe gun handling practices.
- Dry fire it—If the seller allows, dry fire the gun a few times. Operate the firearm as you would if it was loaded. Any sort of stickiness or trigger trouble will make itself known fairly quicky. Eject the magazine and rack the slide a few times.
- Online buying—Ask for as many clear photographs of the gun as you can get, including some of the gun dissembled. If they are willing, even ask for a short video of the gun being manipulated.
5. Barter before you pay
You want to pay as little as possible, the seller wants as much as he can get. Meet somewhere in the middle. Armed with the research you’ve done on the gun (and the seller) you are now in a good position to negotiate a price. Point out the flaws in the gun and ask them to lower the price accordingly. Be polite, yet don’t be afraid to barter with the seller a bit—too many people just take the first price that they are offered. Even with sellers who say they won’t budge on the price, it never hurts to ask.
However, keep in mind that if you’re thinking of doing business again with the same seller, it might be advisable to not to argue over pennies.
Do you have your own advice about buying used guns? Share with us in the comments below.