New to you guns or buying a used gun
This is a guest post by Scott Sylvester
Acquiring a firearm for personal protection doesn’t have to be an expensive undertaking. Gun shows and almost every gun store keep a stock of firearms for sale that are on consignment, or trade ins, etc. It is worth your time to take a look at some of these pieces. Just because they are labeled as “used,” you’ll find most of these firearms have very little wear or in some cases brand new and unfired, but previously owned.
For example, I was looking at lever action rifles but did not have the $800 to spend. On the consignment rack I found a .30-.30 Winchester for half the price. Looking it over carefully, I couldn’t tell if the gun had ever been fired. There was not a single mark on the stock, all the bluing finish was in place and there was no signs of wear anywhere on it. Used guns on consignment usually have a story as well. The lever action I was considering was purchased by an older gentleman who never fired it. After sitting in his safe for a couple years he decided he needed money instead of the rifle and put it up for sale. It was a win for both of us, I got an excellent gun for half the cost and the gentlemen was able to pay off some bills. The dealer also got paid a percentage for providing a service.
About 30% of my current collection were previously owned firearms. Besides the WWII era rifles that show considerable wear, all of the used guns I’ve purchased have performed exceptionally well and saved me money. If you do decide to purchase vintage rifles, be prepared for some extensive wear and or abuse… especially old military models.
There are some things to check when considering a used handgun, so I’ll go over with you a few things to check or watch out for so you can buy with confidence.
First of all, do a little research and be familiar with the gun you want to purchase. Knowing the features and how it operates are key when evaluating it using the steps below.
When looking at a used gun, I like to ask the store owner the back story. Why is someone putting it up for sale and if they know any history about the gun. Most people who sell a firearm do so because they don’t want it for some reason, want the money from the sale for a new gun, or want to dump a problem gun on someone else. A reputable dealer will not take the latter handguns for resale and if they are an experienced dealer, they will likely have weeded out the junk pieces. Their reputation as a business is on the line so your local gun store will not risk liability, or bad reviews from customers over the resale of a junky or unsafe gun.
Also, used guns typically have an asking price and an actual price. Profit margins on used firearms are usually a bit higher than new models so there may be some room to negotiate. Consignment pieces also have an asking price, and the bottom price the seller is willing to take. When I sold a handgun recently I set my asking price, and told the dealer my bottom number. Since the dealer gets a percentage they will try to get the higher price as well because it means more money for them… but having some flexibility can make a sale happen rather than a long wait for top dollar.
Negotiations are diplomatic so be polite, build rapport and you may save a few bucks on the gun you’ve always wanted. An additional advantage is when you purchase a used handgun, some of them will include accessories like holsters, spare magazines, additional barrels, etc. Used guns do not typically come with a case or owner’s manual, but a good store will print one out for you upon request. I have never had a problem finding an owner’s manual on the manufacturer’s website.
Most firearms dealers have not test fired the used guns. If you are seriously considering a purchase and our dealer has a range associated with it, you may be able to ask for an opportunity to test fire it to make sure it functions. If there is no range, perhaps ask if the dealer has a qualified gunsmith on staff who has or can look at the gun. If not, ask permission to have a gunsmith come in and look over the gun for you if you suspect a problem.
Now start with the exterior features of the gun you can see. For a semi-auto: Look for chips in the finish, excessive wear or bent rails. The overall fit and finish should be in good condition. Check the sights to make sure they are securely mounted. For guns with bluing, you can easily see wear marks which will give you an idea how much the gun has been fired. A quality firearm from a major manufacturer should get you tens of thousands of rounds of reliable performance, so even if the gun has a couple of thousand rounds through it, it is just getting broken in and has a long service life ahead of it.
Make sure the mechanical features work, for example (if equipped) the de-cock lever functions. Some guns have multiple safety features so be familiar with them and check them all to make sure they all work.
Pointing it in a safe direction, press the trigger, hold the trigger to the rear and cycle the slide and check the sear reset. Once the hammer is cocked back, push on it and make sure it does not fall when pressure is applied.
Don’t forget to check each magazine. The main reason semi-auto handguns malfunction is due to the magazines. Make sure the follower engages the slide stop to ensure the slide locks open. Make sure the follower is not tilted and there is not rust on the body or floor plates. Push down on the follower as well to make sure there is good tension in the spring.
For a 1911 you could check to make sure the slide stop will actually prevent it from moving and the grip safety prevents the trigger from being fully depressed.
For any used firearm I also recommend you look at the crown on the barrel and if you have a flashlight, look down the barrel. For safety and with the permission of the gun store salesperson, you may want to take the handgun apart when checking the barrel. Make sure the rifling is tact and there are is no pitting or other interior rust or damage. If you can disassemble the handgun, this is another excellent opportunity to check the internal parts for wear or damage. Pay attention to slide rails, and recoil springs.
For revolvers, you will check many of the same things. On a revolver however, open the cylinder and make sure it is securely anchored to the frame and smoothly opens and closes. If it is a single action, open the gate and half cock the gun so you can rotate the cylinder. Check each and every cylinder and use a flashlight if you can so you can get a clear look. You want to make sure they are smooth, free from rust, pits and debris. With the cylinder still open push the ejector rod and look underneath to make sure it is also fully free of rust and that is actuates smoothly. As mentioned, check the barrel the same way we discussed above.
Close the cylinder and point the revolver in a safe direction. As you press the trigger, make sure the cylinder rotates properly, it locks up firmly and that each cylinder lines up with the barrel. Check the double and single action trigger.
Finally ask the dealer if they offer any kind of a short term guarantee, or if you find any worn parts, ask the dealer if they will repair or replace them prior to purchase. After a thorough inspection you should feel confident about your purchase and will be able to get a good quality Home Defense Gun. With the money you save do not hesitate to sign up for a course and get some training with your new to you handgun. Happy shopping.
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