man examining a handgun at a gun shop

3 Things You Should Do Before Buying a Used Gun

Buying a used gun can be a great way to get a better value for your money, and your local Eagle Shows gun show is a great place to do it. In order to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth, however, you need to know what to look for before the show, ask of the seller at the table, and how to inspect a used gun. This not only can save your hard-earned money from going toward a lemon, but it also helps ensure you get the firearm you truly want to add to your collection. As Pennsylvania’s Largest Gun Show, we’re proud to give buyers and sellers a place to trade used guns legally in a safe, comfortable environment.

A Unique Shopping Experience

We pride ourselves on being a family-friendly event that is centered on fostering and supporting Second Amendment rights in the cities we visit. Deciding to buy a used gun at a gun show gives you access to regional and national vendors as well as your friends and neighbors. It’s a chance to find a quality weapon in a truly free market environment that has a wider selection of modern, vintage, and antique firearms most brick-and-mortar gun stores can’t match. For many would-be gun owners, their next local show is circled on the calendar as the perfect chance to buy, sell, or trade a used gun.

Rifles on display at a gun show

While we do provide a safe venue for commerce, it’s up to the buyers and sellers to make sure the deals are fair and square. That means it’s up to you–the buyer–to do your due diligence and make sure the used gun you’re buying is what you’re looking for. Buying a used gun comes with a lot of freedom, but you need to be prepared to look for what you want, evaluate it when you find it, and have the confidence in your knowledge to walk away if the value just isn’t there. The preparation starts before the doors to the show ever open.

Do Your Research

When you’re considering a used gun purchase, research becomes your best friend. Start by asking yourself what kind of gun you want to buy? Is it a handgun or long gun? What kind of action do you want? Is there a specific purpose for the gun you want to buy? Once you have a few general answers, it’s time to get to work.

  • Familiarize Yourself With Local Gun Laws – Find out if you need to have a permit to buy the used gun you want. Will a background check be needed for private sales, as with handguns in Pennsylvania, or is it cash and carry, like private long gun sales? These questions help keep you on the right side of the law when making a purchase.
  • Get The Details – Start with a general search based on what you know you’re looking for, such as “revolver 4-inch barrel”. This will lead you to pages for different manufacturers and models over the years. Look for features you like. Take notes. This will help you narrow down what you’re looking for, and it will help you better understand what to look for when inspecting a used gun. 
  • Pricing – Pricing can vary widely when buying a used gun, based on condition, availability, collectability, and the seller’s valuation of their firearm, which can be different than your own. This can be as broad as checking general prices in a category or as narrow as looking up the prices you find for a specific make and model. Remember, these aren’t MSRP stickers but rather records and estimates compiled by sources to give you a general range to budget within.
  • Reputation – Before there were five-star reviews, there was word of mouth. Even now, online forums are filled with people willing to share their experiences with firearms. If you run across reports of common issues, look for them when inspecting a used gun. If all you read are glowing reports, keep it in mind while considering your options. Pay attention to these in your research, but understand your mileage may vary. Some budget guns have a horrible reputation but have users that will swear by them, and there are some really popular “brand-name” pistols that respected gun owners will never try again because they got part of a bad run. 

Shop Smart

The day of the show has arrived, and both you and your copious notes are ready to go pick out your firearm. Before you can make your purchase, however, you need to make sure you’re taking a few steps to avoid overpaying or missing out on an even better opportunity.

  • Get To The Show Early – If you can, take advantage of early access periods. When you pre-order tickets to an Eagle Shows gun show, you have the opportunity to enter during VIP early access with law enforcement officers, veterans, and mobility-impaired shoppers. This lets you browse in a less crowded environment and find deals before the same-day ticket holders have an opportunity at them.
Eagle Shows Gun Show attendees browsing vendor tables
  • Scout The Entire Show – The only thing worse than finding the same used gun cheaper on the next aisle after purchase is finding out you could have been buying a used gun in better condition for less money on the next aisle afterward. Be patient, but move with purpose and a keen eye. If you know what you’re looking for, do a full circuit, looking for it and noting the location of the tables you saw your preferred gun at, before moving in to inspect it. A used gun is an investment, and you want to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.
  • Ask Questions – Your seller should be willing to answer reasonable questions before and during the inspection process. For a private sale, you can ask how long they’ve had it, how it shoots, how many rounds they’ve put through it, and more. If you’re buying a used gun from a licensed retailer, you might ask what they can tell you about it (some may have asked similar questions of the previous owner), whether it may still be covered under warranty, if they offer a return period should the gun fail to function right, or if they have any accessories they’d be willing to throw in to sweeten the pot for consideration. It never hurts to ask.

Inspect It Like A Pro

There’s a good chance you aren’t a trained gunsmith. That doesn’t mean you can’t look for the warning signs of a lemon. With the research you’ve done, some patience, and attention to detail, you can spot some of the most common red flags and walk away.

  • Make Sure The Gun Is Unloaded – No loaded weapons are allowed at Eagle Shows gun shows, and every gun should be tied to prevent their loading. That being said, did you unload the gun? No? Then basic firearm safety calls for ensuring visually it is unloaded before you start inspecting it. It’s not only for safety. It reinforces the idea to the seller that you know your way around a firearm.
  • The Once Over – Inspect the outside of the weapon, looking for wear, damage, and signs of abuse. Cosmetic issues, like common holster wear, usually won’t inhibit function but may knock a bit off the price. A sticking slide release, cracked frame, or badly scraped slide, however, could point to serious issues. Precision barrels, replacement slides, and other components are available from reputable firearms parts companies, but you need to be aware of the potential for added cost before buying the gun.
  • Rattle Check – Gently rattle the gun back and forth, shaking it slightly. Do you hear the sound of something loose shaking about, or worse, feel something jiggling around inside? If it’s more than a little play, it’s a problem.
  • Through The Barrel – The condition of the barrel affects accuracy, but with many weapons, the barrel also serves as part of the chamber for the round. Carrying a small flashlight or specialized barrel light can give you a clear view so you can check for signs of pitting, scratches from improper cleaning, or other signs of damage. 
  • Magazine Mayhem – If the weapon is magazine-fed, make sure to check them as carefully as the rest of the firearm. Springs should still be strong but compressible, plates should be firmly held in place, and they should slide easily into the magazine well and release cleanly. Check the bottom of the magazines for damage. Excessive scratching may mean frequent drops, which are good for realistic training but not great for magazine health. Also, look for intentional markings, such as tic-marks. Many shooters use these to denote when a loading issue has occurred with a given magazine and will replace the magazine as unreliable after enough occurrences.
  • Going Further – Finally, if the seller will allow it before you buy the used gun, field strip the weapon to look for hidden signs of damage. You don’t have to fully disassemble the weapon, but removing the parts commonly disassembled for a quick cleaning can give you a far better look at these components. A dry firing of the gun helps you assess trigger pool, slide motion, or if there are any catches to the hammer’s movement, depending on the action of the firearm in question. Some sellers may balk at this during an inspection of a used gun due to concerns that dry firing may damage components in some older firearms. For a small investment, many shooting sports stores have dummy bullets designed to allow safe dry firing by cushioning the pin, and these may help you and the dealer find a middle ground.

Get Your Tickets To Find Your Next Gun

If you’re in the market to buy, sell, or trade a used firearm, we’re ready to welcome you with open arms. There’s a local gun show coming to your neck of the woods soon, and along with it, the chance to buy a used gun, get a great deal, and experience one of the most unique shopping experiences around. Preorder your tickets to secure early VIP access to an Eagle Shows gun show near you today.

Like This Article?

Related Posts