It is the time of year when there are a lot of gun shows. If you are willing to drive a couple hours, you can probably go to a gun show every weekend for the next month or so.
I was talking with a couple shooters recently and they asked me how I was able to pick up the good buys that I find at guns shows. “You know, I’m a little leery of buying a used gun because I have no idea what kind of care it had, “said one of the guys. “Yeah, I know people trade off guns because it may have a problem and I don’t want their problem.”
I looked at both of these guys and asked, “Have you guys ever bought a used vehicle?” They both looked puzzled. “You use the same logic you use to buy a used vehicle as you use to buy a used gun?’
To elaborate on that point, I offered the following tips:
1 – When you are looking for a used gun, just like a use vehicle, you have to have a budget in mind. Gun dealers are there to make a profit, too. Don’t fall into a trap of finding that used bolt action .243 for $300 and getting talked into a brand new .243 with all the accessories for $700. Know what you are looking for, what you intend to spend and stick to that plan.
2- Getting more specific, just like with a vehicle, give the gun’s general appearance a good look and look at everything with a critical eye. If the gun looks well taken care of, it probably has been. Let’s say you are looking for a new 4x4 pickup. You find two with about the same amount of miles, but one is covered with dents and the upholstery is torn and one that looks pretty clean and taken care of…which one are you likely to be more serious about?
3 – Like with a use vehicle, check the mechanics. Does everything work on the gun you are looking at? Let’s say you are looking for a pump action shotgun. Does the action work smoothly? Does the trigger feel right or is it hard to pull? Does the safety work? Guns that have triggers and safeties that don’t work quite right can be a sign of something as simple the gun needing a good cleaning, or it could be a sign of a more serious issue like broken springs or something internal being bent from abuse.
4 – Make sure all the necessary parts are there. I was looking at a particular older bolt action rifle one time and noticed that is did not have the magazine in the gun. The gun dealer explained that he removed all the magazines to keep them from “walking away” during a show. He was asking $350 for the rifle. I mentioned that aside from the rifle being filthy, I wasn’t going to get serious about it unless I knew he had the magazine.
His assistant looked for a while, and then the dealer looked and finally admitted he must not have a magazine. My next question was how did he expect me to pay $350 for a rifle that went out of production 25 years ago, replacement parts might be hard to find and was basically a single shot without a magazine. I also said this loud enough to get the attention of others in the area. I ended up giving $125 for the rifle and made a call to Numrich Gun Parts as I walked back to my car and ordered two used magazines. It pays to know what your options may be.
5 – Can you get ammunition for the gun you are interested in? It sounds simple, but it can be a big issue. A friend of mine went to a gun show years ago, looking for a .30 caliber deer rifle. He ultimately bought a very nice Remington bolt action that was chambered in .30 Remington. This cartridge was Remington’s answer to the Winchester .30-30 back in 1906. It was basically a rimless .30-30 with very similar ballistics.
Remington stopped making this ammo in the late 1980s and it is now getting very difficult to find. It is tough to even find components to reload your own ammo for this cartridge. Unless you are a Remington collector and are missing this rifle in your collection, I’d pass on this rifle. Note: this cartridge is not the same as the Remington .30 AR which is a new cartridge made for .30 caliber Remington AR rifles.
6 – Revolvers pose a special area to check out. The chambers in the cylinder must line up perfectly with the barrel. One of the things to check is if the cylinder locks into position and turns/advances smoothly. Hold the pistol firmly in one hand and grab the cylinder with the other hand and try to turn the cylinder back and forth. Any movement here may indicate that either the push up pawl or the sprocket on the back of the cylinder is worn. Pass on that pistol unless you have some gunsmithing skills.
Those are a few tips on how to buy a used gun. Good luck!