Avoid Junk Guns with a Passion
Dr. John Woods 12.15.16
Those new to the prepper and survivalist movement interested in obtaining firearms for self-defense or bug out protection are often drawn to the wrong guns. By that I mean the quality not always the type, brand, or caliber. There are still a number of really poor made firearms in today’s marketplace and should be avoided at all costs, no pun intended. It is often the cost factor that leads many down the wrong pathway.
I was reminded of this first hand while working a recent gun show with my dealer friend. Gun shows are the opportunity to buy, sell, and trade, often on both sides of the tables. Many guns come down the aisles by people wanting to sell or trade up. Quite often these guns are of low quality and of very little value, though the original buyer may have paid too much for it to start with. Others carrying a family heirloom often are mistaken that their wares are worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. They usually are not.
A seller approached our table with a small chrome plated handgun, which is usually a red flag to start with. I looked at the gun and declined it. I knew the brand name as cheaply made, unreliable to function, and inaccurate if it fired at all. The dealer looked it over and researched its used value online with his laptop. He said the gun was worth about $65 at best, but that he was not interested in any gun of that low quality. The man was incensed, of course. He had paid $225 for a piece of junk. His bad. Which, of course, is probably why he wanted to sell or trade it to start with.
So, how does first time or a regular gun buyer tell the junk from quality? Most often it starts with the name brand but assuredly the price. In this day and age, if you buy any kind of a gun for say under $300, you are not getting much. The exception might be somebody you know at work or otherwise in a pinch to raise some money. Still, know the brand and know the gun. Then inspect the condition and standard evidence of use or abuse.
If you stick with a well-known handgun brand such as Smith & Wesson, Colt, Ruger, Browning, SIG, Beretta, Kimber, and such, you will buy quality. Same for long guns from names like Remington, Ruger, Winchester, Marlin, and many others. There are over 1000 brand names of ARs now, so pick established known makers. Beware of ARs that may be homemade by parts assembly in garage workshops. Seek out a good gun value reference book to learn more or perform an Internet search.
Next comes the inspection of the specific gun if it is used. Another good reason to buy NIB, or new-in-the-box guns. Then you just have to research the model, features, caliber, and functioning characteristics such as striker fired, hammer fired, single stack or double, etc. to match your needs, wants, and expectations. You can better learn this at a shooting range or shooting course, which is highly preferred and recommended anyway.
Used guns can be a good value at a good purchase price, or you can get screwed. Obviously if you were shopping for a used car, you likely would not pick one with a missing bumper, or the back fender crushed in, seats ripped, or three different types of wheels or hubcaps. Today you would want a Carfax report to review its history. Get my point?
Look at used guns in this same light, because there is no “Gunfax” and dealers after all are trying to sell what they have regardless. Buyer beware is the watchword.
If the firearm is overtly worn, scratched up, stock cracked, sights missing or bent, bluing or other finish highly worn or just looks “rough,” then it was probably abused and not well maintained. Are the weapon’s screws intact with screw heads not turned out? Does it look like a shade tree mechanic had been tinkering on it? If so, avoid the potential trouble and move on.
Is the gun clean? Why dealers put a dirty used gun on their shelves or tables is beyond me. If it’s a revolver, check the cylinder for burned powder and a lead build up. Same for the barrel using a bore light, which is simply a special flashlight or clear tube to focus a beam down the barrel. Inspect the barrel for signs of wear. Lands and grooves should be well defined and sharp, no chinks or chucks, scratches, or dark spots. Inspect the muzzle crown for damage.
If a semi-auto pistol, check the chamber and barrel for dirt, grime, and lead. Make sure the magazine is original and locks up. Double check the safety mechanisms on all guns. Truth is, if a gun looks worn or overly used, then it probably is, but it could still be mechanically sound and safe. Just be careful.
On rifles and shotguns, check the bolt heads, chambers, and loading mechanisms as well as the safety. Cycle the bolt and then bounce the gun on the floor with the safety “ON,” especially with shotguns. If the firing pin releases at this test, pass on it. Inspect scope mount holes on rifles to see if the original factory screws are in place. Has there been a scope mounted but is now missing? Inspect the barrel as suggested above. Look for heavy copper or leading fowling in the barrel, which means the owner never cleaned it. Again such a gun could be recovered, but be mindful.
The main point here is if you are just starting out in the buying of a gun(s), then use caution with used guns and for new ones, just buy a well-known and recognized brand and model. What you don’t need is a gun that does not function well or breaks down with little use.