Buying a second-hand shotgun is a bit like buying a second-hand car. You might end up with a real bargain, especially in these difficult financial times, or you might rue the day.
There are some genuine bargains to be had but, as ever, it is up to the buyer to be well-informed and aware.
The old adage “buyer beware” rules. Here are just a handful of tips to help a prospective buyer avoid the more obvious pitfalls.
– Buy from someone you trust. Whether it is a registered firearms dealer, a friend or a complete stranger you need to be comfortable doing business with them.
Reputations are hard won but easily lost so dealers will generally want to give good advice and offer a high quality service.
On the other hand, you may never see your stranger again so they have less to lose and once you have released the funds you might have little or no recourse if something goes wrong.
Trust your gut – if you smell a rat trust your instinct and move on. You will still have your money and there are plenty more choices out there.
– Do your homework. Shop around and find out as much as you can about the model of gun you want to buy, the well-known faults (if any), whether spares are available, if it is difficult or expensive to service or repair and if there a dealer network or distributor back-up if things should go wrong.
There is plenty of easily accessible information, especially online. But remember, the internet is not gospel though it may be a good source of advice initially.
For example www.gunmarket.co.uk will help you establish what the gun might be worth but you will not know the condition of the gun for sale other than looking at a photograph.
Would you buy a car based on a photo only? However, the internet has now made price discovery a lot easier and there is generally greater transparency which is helpful to potential buyers.
– Some things to look out for. It is very hard to generalise but first make sure the gun is in proof, in sound condition and safe to shoot.
It is illegal to sell a gun out of proof – if in doubt consult a professional or a Proof House in either London or Birmingham.
Ask about the gun’s history, whether it has been serviced or damaged and, if so, what the damage was and who made the repairs.
Is there any original paperwork? Ask why the gun is for sale.
If possible take someone who is knowledgeable about guns or ask to have it inspected by a gunsmith – even if there is a charge it will probably be worth it in the long run.
Depending on age there may be some obvious signs of wear – some things can be remedied quite quickly and cheaply but other things may be more costly and outweigh buying the gun at all.
For example, if the stock is broken or badly cracked you may need a replacement and, depending on the model and make, this can be expensive.
On the other hand, a small crack might be easily repaired but again professional advice should be sought before committing.
Check the action opens smoothly and the ejectors work properly using snap caps if you cannot fire it. Is the gun loose or possibly “off the face”? This means the action is loose when it should be locked up tight.
Check for external rust which, if present, might suggest the internal lock work could be rusty – and therefore possibly unsafe. Again professional advice should be sought.
The barrels should have no damage, for example external dents or pitting inside, and should be measured up using a micrometer gauge to ensure they match the original dimensions.
Has someone had the barrels bored out for some reason? At the same time, check the chokes are as marked or originally stamped. If not – ask why?
If the gun has multi-chokes, check they can be removed easily, that they have not been damaged and that spare chokes are available, either with the gun or to buy at a later stage.
Do the barrels ring true like a bell when held by the fore-end loop and gently tapped? A dull thud should be investigated – the rib might be loose for example.
– Be legal. Don’t forget to get the details completed on your shotgun certificate and for both parties to inform the police of the transaction.
If in doubt, consult your local firearms officer. If you are buying a semi-automatic or pump-action shotgun on a shotgun certificate, remember it is restricted by law to a three-shot capacity – any more and you require a firearms certificate.
Also, remember shotgun barrels should be at least 24” long. Again, consult if in doubt. UK firearms laws are complex but ignorance is no defence!