By Will Allen
Let’s face it, most of us don’t have as much money as we did a few years ago. People have lost jobs, homes, and businesses. Gas and food prices are rising. The cost of guns and ammunition are also on the rise. While problematic, most hunters overcome these setbacks and continue to hunt. It’s in our nature to overcome problems. But the money pinch has put new firearm purchases on the back burner for many hunters. For them, buying a used gun is the only way to add to the collection. The good news is it’s not hard to buy a quality deer rifle used.
The first step is deciding what you are looking for. Finding a specific rifle could be difficult. For example, if you decide on a .30-06, there is going to be a lot of choices at varying price points. If you have your heart set on a .300 Win. Mag. Browning A-Bolt in stainless steel, you may have to look around a bit before finding the gun for you. While on the topic of calibers, consider going with a common caliber. The .270, .30-06, and .308 are all great deer hunting calibers. Chances are if you’re in the market for a used gun, staying under budget is an issue. You can buy quality shells for these common calibers for under $20 per box, in some cases under $15. They can be found anywhere from a huge sporting goods warehouse store to a gas station in rural Wyoming. Try finding a box of .45-70 shells in the middle of nowhere.
Once you have decided on what to buy, the next question is where to buy it. I recommend a reputable gun dealer, preferably in your immediate vicinity. Their guns have been checked out for mechanical flaws and legal issues. A lot of people sell guns with classified ads in newspapers, magazines, and websites. You certainly can get a good deal this way. However, when buying guns from individuals there is often no recourse if a problem arises.
No matter where you purchase a used gun, you should perform a thorough inspection. Red flags should not be ignored. There is a good chance there is a hidden problem for every problem spotted. A look down the barrel isn’t enough. A fresh coat of oil will make any barrel look as good as new. Bring along a gun cleaning kit and pull a clean patch down the barrel. Wipe the chamber down as well. Look for signs of misuse. Some black powder residue is fine but brown stains are a sign of rust.
If there is pitting or deep gouges on the outside of the barrel, it’s a good idea to avoid this gun as well. Those things usually don’t effect the immediate performance of the gun, but they are an indicator of possible hidden issues. Take a look at screw slots and scope mounts as well. The word “refinished” should also be a red flag. There is a reason someone refinished a gun.
Scopes and other accessories can raise the price tag of a gun. But be sure they are accessories you will use. For instance, a seller may be adding on $50 to the price of a gun for the scope but if you’re going to replace it, that scope is actually a hindrance. Other alterations such as changing the length of pull & cutting down the barrel actually decrease the value of a gun. The seller may have spent big bucks on what they considered upgrades, but in the end it hurts the resale value.
One other side note… I often get offers to purchase guns from friends, relatives, and acquaintances that desperately need money. Divorce, car breakdowns, or medical bills are often the culprits. I have on occasion purchased guns in these situations. I always give the seller the option to purchase back the gun for the same price down the road. Of the four guns I’ve purchased this way, only one person has ever taken me up on the offer. But they were very appreciative of the opportunity to get their gun back and I was more than happy to see the two reunited.