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How to Buy a Used Gun – The Complete Guide

Posted Sep 24th, 2020

How to Buy a Used Gun – The Complete Guide

Compared to buying a brand-new gun, buying a used one is a whole different ball game. You can’t just blindly purchase one expecting it to function properly or not have any issues. Unlike a used car, there is no history on a used gun to better assess its condition – no logs of rounds fired, cleaning schedules, and part replacement. Even a used gun seemingly in pristine condition could be hiding a whole host of problems that may cause it to eventually break down or malfunction. 

However, this doesn’t mean that one should stop at their decision on purchasing a pre-owned gun. With the right steps, one can easily avoid getting ripped off and land themselves with a deal of exceptional value. Here is our complete guide on how to buy a used gun that’s actually worth your investment.  Continue Reading 

Table of Content 

a.  Doing Your Research 

  • Check Multiple Sources for Information 
  • Understanding What a Gun is Worth 
  • Gun Warranty 
  • Awareness About Your Local Laws 


b. Inspecting a Used Gun 

1. Handguns 

  • Pistol 
  • Revolver 


2. Long Guns 

  • Bolt Action & Lever Action 
  • Semi-auto


c. Where to Buy

  • Brick and Motor Store  
  • Online Store 
  • Listings 
  • Private Sales


d. Buying a Used Gun – 5 Tips 

  1. Bring an Expert Buddy 
  2. Try a Gun Before You Buy It 
  3. If a Price is Too Good to be True, It Just Might be 
  4. Reputation Matters 
  5. Always Meet the Seller in a Safe Place 


e. Parting Shot 

Doing Your Research 

Check Multiple Sources for Information 

Not all sources are honest. The reason behind a great review for a certain product might not be to better inform the reader but persuade them to purchase it, or it could pretty much be outright sponsored content. Check multiple sources, e.g., user reviews, official website reviews, forums, etc., to better assess the true merits. With used ones, two of the key information you should be checking out on is reliability and durability.  

Understanding What a Gun is Worth 

To avoid getting into an unfair deal, it is best practice to research what is the real worth of a certain firearm on the market. Unless it was owned by some famous figure, the price of a used gun should always be less than that of a brand-new equivalent. This may sound obvious, but we’ve seen plenty of gun sales where a used firearm was being sold at a price well above what you’ll pay for a brand new one.  

To properly assess a certain gun’s worth, first, find out the MSRP and then go find listings of used models. Make a list of asking prices and use their average as the benchmark. 

Gun Warranty 

Some used guns may still carry a warranty with them; you usually would not need to worry much regarding its purchase. Typically, there are many reputable arms manufacturers that attach a warranty with their guns. Some such as Taurus, Springfield, Glock, and Smith & Wesson even offer a lifetime warranty with some of their products. 

Do your research about a gun’s warranty, especially on whether it extends to a secondary owner or not. If it’s still valid and offered by a reputable company with solid customer service, you likely have a great deal on your hand. 

Awareness About Your Local Laws 

Don’t count on others to know the law, be familiar with them yourself, and avoid the risk of getting into any potential legal trouble. If you have purchased a used gun out of state or it is being shipped to you, it must go through a Federal Firearm Licensed (FFL) Vendor. If you are planning to purchase a Title 2 weapon, you will be required to fill in the lengthy prerequisite paperwork for it.

Then there are the various state laws you have taken into account. Laws on the purchase of used firearms can differ from state to state. For instance, in certain states, even for private sales, you will need to fill out a 4473 form and have the transfer done through an FFL. Meanwhile, in others, they could be brought like any other ordinary item. 

Inspecting a Used Gun 

General Considerations 

When buying a used gun, take the time to check all its parts thoroughly. If it is allowed, field-strip the firearm and have a closer look at each of the components and also assess how well they fit together. Below is a checklist of the inspection essentials for various gun platforms. 

In addition, be sure to take a close look at the screws, fittings, and bushing of the gun. If the weapon has been dissembled by someone who clearly didn’t know what they were doing, scratches and wallowed out screws would be a clear indicator.    




  • Does its slide move and lock back smoothly and easily? 
  • Are the trigger and safety functioning properly? How is the feel of the trigger?
  • Are its sights fixed in place or do they feel loose? Can they be easily adjusted?
  • Is the magazine drop smooth and seating secure?
  • Are there any signs of uneven wear on the back of the slide? 



  • Does the cylinder feel ill-fitted or rattles? Is it correctly aligned with the barrel and can rotate?
  • Is the trigger and safety (if any) functioning properly? How is the feel of the trigger?
  • Are its sights fixed in place, or do they feel loose? Can they be easily adjusted?
  • Does the hammer stick, or does it operate reliably? 
  • What is the condition of the forcing cone? Does it show extensive signs of damage?


Long Guns 


Bolt Action & Lever Action 

  • Is the operation of the bolt cycle smooth, or is it sticky and clumsy?
  • Is the magazine drop smooth and seating secure?
  • Are the trigger and safety functioning properly? How is the feel of the trigger?
  • How is the condition of the barrel? Is there any evidence of rust, pitting, or a lack of rifling? 



  • Is the operation of the bolt cycle smooth, or is it sticky and clumsy?
  • Is the magazine drop smooth and seating secure?
  • Are the trigger and safety functioning properly? How is the feel of the trigger?
  • How is the condition of the barrel? Is there any evidence of rust, pitting, or a lack of rifling?
  • Does the handguard feel tight and secure, or is it loose?
  • Does any aftermarket upgrade feel loose? Do they function properly?
  • If it has a telescopic stock, does it adjust properly without any hint of slippage?


Where to Buy

Brick and Motor Store  

Unless you hold a fair degree of expert knowledge on guns, this should be your go-to option for buying a used gun. This is because there are fewer risks involved. A physical store with a solid reputation is very unlikely to try and sell you a piece of junk firearm, and often, will attach some sort of guarantee with your purchase. Some of the bigger stores also typically feature a range, providing you the opportunity to test-fire a gun before you buy it.

While it would be untrue to say that all physical gun store owners are knowledgeable about firearms, many are. They should be able to guide you better on what to expect when buying a used gun as well as provide additional value through other ways. 

The downside to this option is that stores expect to make a profit on their inventory, so there are little chances of finding a rare gem of a deal here. If you live in a remote area or a small town, you might need to drive a good distance to reach one nearest your area. 


  • Less risk of getting scammed or ripped off
  • Some may allow you to test fire 
  • Most offer some sort of guarantee with the purchase 


  • Other options may potentially provide better deals 


Online Store 

Over the recent years, online stores have rapidly surged in popularity, and the trend certainly accelerated this year for obvious reasons. Compared to a physical store, shopping at an online store is much more convenient, and typically, there tends to a much higher inventory on offer as well as better prices. 

It does have its fair share of drawbacks. For one, there is the risk of cybercrime. Anybody can set up a fake website to steal your confidential data. When shopping for a gun online, it is even more important that you stick to vendors that are trusted and credible. 

Furthermore, generally, very few online vendors offer a guarantee with a purchase of a used gun. Lacking it, you have little or no resource should something wrong happen with the gun.  


  • Convenient
  • Generally, offer better prices 
  • Bigger inventory 


  • You cannot test fire a gun 
  • Greater risks of scams 
  • No recourse on gun purchase 



Many individuals looking to sell their old guns will put them up as classified ads on listing websites. Some of the most popular of such websites include Armslist, Gunbroker, and Guns America. Here, you are likely to land on a great deal from time to time. Quite a people might just be looking to get rid of their old firearms or in need of quick cash.  

The main disadvantage of shopping through this option is that it is filled with scammers. Armslist is particularly notorious in this regard. Furthermore, unlike online stores, it is much harder to assess the credibility and reputable of an individual seller. However, some websites do host various means of verifying its users. 

Certain precautions can be taken to mitigate such risks. You should consider asking the seller for a photograph of their photo ID and making a check or money order only on that name. Another step you can take is to send a money order only to a physical address and not a P.O box. 


  • Probably feature the biggest inventory 
  • Good likelihood of discovering a great deal 
  • Guns could be test-fired if meeting with the seller in person 


  • Generally, a high risk of scam 
  • No guarantees 


Private Sales

A lot of people still sell their guns the old-fashioned way by holding a private sale at their garage, home, or a designated venue such as a gun show. You can generally find used firearms to be decently priced here. Unlike online listings, there is generally little danger of getting scammed at a private gun sale. 

Furthermore, it is generally easier for you to inspect a gun properly, and there are generally other people around too at the sale who you can ask for guidance or feedback in the assessment of a firearm. The downside of private sales is that they typically tend to offer a very limited inventory and might not even be a viable option if you live in a remote area. 


  • Might would allow you to test fire 
  • Good likelihood of discovering a great deal 
  • Little risk of getting scammed 


  • Very few, if any, would provide any sort of guarantee 
  • Limited inventory 



Pawnshops are yet another place to look for used guns. Pawnshop owners generally might not have much expert knowledge on firearms, which can work for or against your bid of buying a good-quality firearm for cheap. There is just as much likelihood of a used gun being sold overpriced as it would be underpriced. Fortunately, you can certainly conduct bargaining, and with enough persuasion, perhaps come out with a great deal. 

But that is assuming you know what the gun is really worth. If your own knowledge of guns is lacking, there is a much higher chance you’ll be walking out with an actually bad deal. 


  • Possible likelihood of a good deal 
  • Limited inventory 


  • Equal likelihood of a bad deal 
  • No guarantees 


Buying a Used Gun – 5 Effective Tips 

1. Bring an Expert Buddy 

If a person doesn’t have much expert knowledge of cars, they will bring along a mechanic to help inspect a used car before they made the purchase. The same applies when buying a used gun, especially if it is your first time. If possible, bring an expert buddy along to help you better inspect a used gun. They might be able to sense issues or spot red flags that you otherwise might not have noticed yourself alone. 

2. Try a Gun Before You Buy It 

This goes for both new and used guns. Just because a certain gun is popular, boasts excellent reviews or just looks ‘cool and badass,’ doesn’t mean it would be the right one for you. As individuals, we all have different hand sizes, grip strength, and level of shooting skills. 

Before you buy a firearm, make sure that you have tried your hands on it first. A lot of gun ranges offer to rent you their firearms, making it easy to discover which guns you are comfortable with. 

3. If a Price is Too Good to be True, It Just Might be 

A Denial Defense M4 being sold for $300? What an absolute steal, you might think. However, the only steal here would be your money by a scammer. In fact, a price that low is an obvious indicator that the gun potentially has a big issue. 

4. Reputation Matters 

Given the choice between a free 2001 Toyota Corolla vs. a 2001 Ford Taurus, most will be willing to choose the Toyota. This is because a Toyota car is reputably more reliable. Similar should one’s mentality be when buying a used firearm. This relates to both the gun manufacturer and the gun seller. 

5. Always Meet the Seller in a Safe Place 

Meeting with an individual gun seller face to face offers a chance to inspect the gun and assess if it’s a good deal or not. But one should always ask themselves this question first – could that be dangerous? 

A lot of people engaged in an in-person sale of expensive items end up becoming victims of robbery. Gun sales are no exception. Always plan to meet a seller at a public location, ideally, one near the police station or with surveillance cameras. As an added precaution, tag a buddy alone instead of going alone.  

Parting Shot 

While a used gun may certainly be cheaper, it can still amount to a hefty investment. Take the time to do your research properly, and don’t hesitate to walk out of a deal should you feel something about the gun doesn’t feel right. We hope this guide to be helpful. Be sure to share it with others in your circle who would also find it useful to read.

Have any questions of your own about buying a used gun? Feel like wanting to share any opinion regarding this article? Do share them with us by writing them in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to check out our inventory of high-quality firearm ammunition and accessories.