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Buying a Used Shotgun

If you are not an experienced shooter or gun buyer, perhaps the most important place to start is with the admonition to purchase the first one from someone that you can trust to sell you a quality used gun.

A friend, colleague or failing that, a quality and reputable gun shop isn’t in the business of ripping people off because their reputation is important to them and they are looking for repeat customers. They will have inspected the gun and checked its safety and condition prior to placing it up for sale. They will be usually well able to give you the background on the gun as well as an honest appraisal of what its worth.

Winchester Hunting Rifle

Most of them will permit you to return the gun for a refund without any hassles in a reasonable amount of time, (most within 7 days) and if it doesn’t meet the normal standards for accuracy and its function they will take it back no questions asked.

Of course, as with any other return it will have to go back in the same shape as it was when you purchased it. Make sure that when you test your gun, that you check it for pattern and accuracy using only factory loaded ammunition. If you do find problems make sure that its not the ammunition that you are using.

When you purchase a gun you will want to, if possible, look up the cost and value in the current issue of the Blue book of Gun Values, which is put out by Fjestad, so that the price is within the ballpark of what the gun is worth.

Any problems or deviations from that blue book plus a reasonable markup, and you do have reason to return the gun.
This is the way a used gun sale works and in most cases, it IS the way it works, however this is dependent of course on your dealing with people who are honest and above board in their dealings.

My personal advice for first time gun owners and for seasoned veterans alike, is to not purchase over the Internet on places such as Ebay, unless that purchase is made from a licensed gun show where you have some recourse to return the item.

I don’t like personally choosing something such as a weapon or a vehicle unless I can inspect it first, which is my problem with purchasing in this way. Its not bad for jewelery or small ticket items but it is not the way to go for guns and higher priced items that need to be checked out thoroughly prior to taking them home. When buying guns its better to deal with someone who has something to lose, or face to face with your seller.

Another tip that I picked up along the way is to make sure that you get a signed purchase receipt, stating clearly how long you have to check out the gun and return it if you choose to do so.

One of the more important things necessary in purchasing a used gun is to check it out thoroughly prior to purchase. One gun manufacturer suggests the following:

How to check the condition of a used shotgun

PLEASE NOTE: Before handling any firearm, always open the action and verify that both the chamber and the magazine are empty. Every time a firearm changes hands it should be cleared.

1. Look at the overall condition of the shotgun. Notice the condition of the bluing, stock finish, checkering, butt plate or recoil pad, pistol grip cap, and so on. The action, trigger guard, tang, and forearm screws should be tight and the screw heads un-marred. Look for rust pitting on external metal surfaces. The gun doesn’t have to be perfect in every area, but it should show care rather than neglect. A shotgun could be rough on the outside, yet perfect on the inside, but the chances are that an owner who didn’t care for the external parts of a gun also didn’t care for the parts you can’t see.

Look carefully down the external length of the barrel to see that it looks straight and there are no subtle bulges or dents. Don’t buy any shotgun if you suspect that the barrel has been bulged, no matter how slightly, or is not straight.

2. The stock fit is the most important feature of any shotgun. It should be long enough to keep the thumb of your grip hand away from your face under recoil, and short enough not to snag under your armpit when you shoulder the gun.

When you mount the gun it should come up aligned with your shooting eye, and your shooting eye should be slightly above the rib or barrel so that you are looking slightly down on the barrel. You should see the barrel foreshortened in front of you. If there are two beads on the rib, they should form a figure 8. If you are looking exactly down the rib or barrel with the front bead appearing like the front sight of a rifle, or two beads exactly aligned, the stock has too much drop at the comb. The reason for this is that birds or clay targets are usually rising when shot at, and if your shotgun shoots perfectly straight you will shoot under most of them. Having the gun naturally aimed at a slight up angle gives you some built in lead on rising targets.

3. Check the condition of the stock. There should not be any splits or cracks in the stock or forearm. Pay particular attention to the top and trigger guard tang areas, and at the rear of the sideplates of sidelock doubles, where recoil can cause hairline cracks to develop. Reject any shotgun that shows a crack or split in the stock. Scratches in the finish, worn checkering, and nicks in the stock will not affect the gun’s function, but should lower the price.

Also look for discolored wood at the back of the action, top and bottom. This is a sign of an excessively oiled gun, and the oil has softened the wood. This is bad if it seems extensive and may eventually require replacement of the stock.

4. Get permission to dry fire the gun and check the trigger pull. Use dummy rounds or snap caps to protect the firing pin(s).

The Browning O/U (and other similar guns, such as several Charles Daly models) uses the recoil from the first shot to “set” the trigger to fire the second barrel. To simulate recoil after dry firing the first barrel, you can thump the butt plate against the floor (on a soft carpet), and it will usually set the trigger to fire the second barrel. Or, you can reset the safety to fire the second barrel. In any case, make sure both barrels of any double can be fired.

Whatever the trigger pull weight, it should be consistent from shot to shot. If it feels like a stock factory trigger (too heavy with some creep), fine, you can get it adjusted later. If it feels crisp and breaks at 3-4 pounds it has probably been worked on or adjusted. This is even better if done properly, but make sure that it will not jar off. To test this, get permission to bump the butt of the cocked gun against some hard but padded surface–a carpeted hardwood floor is good. If the gun has a recoil pad there is little danger to the stock even if bumped on a hard surface like concrete.

Likewise, the cocked hammer(s) should not drop when the action of a repeater is closed smartly. If you can make the gun fire by bumping it or closing the action of a repeater briskly it is unsafe. Don’t buy it!

5. Check the action. You will need a couple of dummy rounds and/or snap caps of the proper gauge to do this. Double guns should be tight when closed and the opening lever should be centered or to the right of center (when viewed from behind or with the gun at the shoulder). Top levers to the left of center indicate a worn action. Some actions can be adjusted to take up wear (the Winchester Model 21 and Lefever doubles, for example).

Hammerless doubles should cock when the barrels are lowered. Some have automatic safeties that move to the safe position when the action is opened, and others do not. Either type is satisfactory.

Check the selective ejectors on double guns so equipped to insure that they eject the fired shell, but not the unfired shell. Ditto the single selective trigger on double guns. Again, use dummy rounds or snap caps for this purpose.

Cycle a repeater to verify that it operates smoothly and properly. See that the bolt is tight and free of looseness when closed and cocked. Make sure the safety works correctly–the gun should not fire with the safety on, and should fire with it off. This is true of all types of shotguns.

On pump guns the slide should remain locked while the gun is cocked, after the trigger is pulled you should be able to cycle the action. When the gun is cocked, pressing the action release (bolt release) should allow it to be cycled. Make the action pumps smoothly, without binding.

Check that the gas seals on gas operated autoloaders and the friction rings on long recoil (Browning) designs are in good shape. Also see that the action has been kept reasonably clean for proper functioning.

6. Check the inside of the barrel(s). If it is dirty, ask that it be cleaned or for permission to clean it yourself. Do not oil the barrel after cleaning, and be suspicious of any barrel that has been oiled. The shine from the oil can hide minor barrel pitting and imperfections.

Once the barrel is reasonably clean, dry, and oil free, open the action or remove the barrel and look into it from both ends. Use a bore light. A small amount of rust or pitting inside the barrel will ordinarily not seriously degrade performance in a shotgun, but it should lower the used price.

If the gun has interchangeable chokes, make sure that they can be screwed in and out, and that you get a full set. Usually this includes Full, Modified, and Improved Cylinder tubes. If the choke is fixed, see that there is some and that it at least roughly matches the amount of choke marked on the barrel. It is a Very Good Thing if extra barrels can still be purchased for a used repeater.”

Firearms are generally built with a quality that you wish you could find in other goods

They are generally built to last several generation sand be passed down through a family. This makes them not onloy good collectors items, but also a quality investment, far more than many other collectibles.

Buying a used gun, shotgun or rifle is usually well worth the money and a good deal for both buyer and seller. Many of the guns I own currently I’ve purchased used and its been a good experience so long as you remember to pay attention to detail.. I can purchase guns I otherwise could not afford to own, and sometimes even make a profit if you later sell it.

Buy used guns, pay attention and deal with reputable sellers and the experience will be a positive one.



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