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What to consider when buying a used shotgun

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There are many people who enjoy hunting, shooting, or just collecting firearms, and so they are always on the lookout for the best guns. The price of quality guns is always going up, but one way to save money is to purchase pre-owned firearms. Used shotguns are particularly popular, but while buying a new gun can be fairly straightforward, shopping for used guns requires a lot of research and careful thought.

To help you make an informed decision, this is what to consider when buying a used shotgun.

Visit Your Local Gun Shop

If you prefer doing your shopping offline then your best bet is to head down to your local gun shop to see what used shotguns they have in stock. Make sure that it is a reputable gun shop and that you have any requisite background check to present before buying any firearms there. Most gun shops will be able to help you find what type of shotgun is right for your needs as well as teach you how to use it properly if it is your first shotgun.

Find a reputable used gun store online

Shopping for used guns online is often more convenient, and some websites may have exclusive offers that are not available in your local gun shop. Whenever buying guns online, make sure that the website is licensed to sell firearms and check that any purchase made on the site constitutes acceptance that all is legal and above board.

Some affiliated sites earn fees through commission by recommending certain rifles or shotguns so make sure you read the latest articles to check that their recommendations are valid. If you are unsure about the asking price of any used or new shotgun, you can check it in Fjestad’s Blue Book to ensure that you are getting a fair price.

Decide what type of shotgun you want to buy

The first thing to consider is the type of shotgun you need depending on what kind of shooting you intend to do. The main options available are side by side shotguns, under over shotguns, and single shot shotguns.

Side by sides

Side by sides have two barrels that sit next to each other and usually have one trigger for both barrels (although some models have triggers for individual barrels). This is a popular choice for hunting because it allows you to take more shots before reloading and also offers better balance when carrying heavy loads. The downside of side by sides is that if one barrel jams or misfires, both will be impacted and unusable until cleared.

Over unders

Over unders feature two separate barrels stacked on top of each other; this can result in decreased weight due to lighter construction than a side-by-side model. They are often easier to aim due to have both a front sight and a rear site on either end of the gun’s frame. One downside of over unders is that should one barrel jam or misfire, they are not as easily interchangeable as side by side barrels.

Single shots

The single-shot shotgun is a traditional, less expensive option that are similar to pump action shotguns. They are durable, inexpensive, and easy to operate without any prior experience with firearms. One downside of single shots is that they typically hold only two rounds instead of six like some semi automatics offer so they can take longer to reload and fire them.

Assess the overall condition of the shotgun

When buying a used shotgun you will need to check that it is in good working order. Just like buying a used car, it’s easy to buy a used gun that looks like it is in superb condition only to find out it has been sitting in the seller’s gun rack for years.

Check the opening lever to make sure that it isn’t stuck or jammed otherwise this could cause problems when loading or shooting. Then, check the condition of the recoil pad, buttplate and shoulder pads for excessive wear or damage as these could indicate heavy use.

Check the choke tubes

The choke tubes are one of the most important considerations when buying a used shotgun. They work by altering how much shot disperses from the muzzle, and this affects where it will land on your target. Interchangeable chokes are ideal because you can change them as required. When checking the tubes, things like scratches or worn paint won’t usually affect the gun, but a missing choke tube may point to lack of general care.

Look out for barrel pitting

Barrel pitting is one of the most common defects in shotguns and it affects all barrel lengths. Pitting can cause shots to come out with inconsistent patterns, and it will definitely affect your accuracy. If there are any signs of pitting inside the barrel then you may want to move on because it will only get worse as time goes by, which will lower the value of your used shotgun even more. This problem often happens when people use steel shot instead of lead or copper as steel tends to stick inside barrels and causes these pits due to chemical reactions that happen after contact.

Check the stock finish

Check the stock of the shotgun for any damage such as cracks, warping or splits. Shotgun stocks are made from a variety of materials including wood and plastic, but if there is significant damage to the stock then you may want to reconsider buying the firearm. If the damage is not so bad, stock refinishing is an easy way to give an old gun new life that doesn’t cost a lot. This includes sanding, buffing and recoating the stock wood with lacquer or another sealer. If you have refinished the stock on many guns before, use the damage as a negotiating point to try and bring the cost down.

Look for internal rust

New barrels are totally rust-free and flawless, but in older guns, rust is often found around the trigger area and in recessed areas on the barrel, and is often a sign of poor maintenance. Pay particular attention to rust inside the barrel or chamber because it may not be safe to shoot and cause an injury due to malfunction. While rust and other issues may be invisible to the naked eye, you will be able to see wear marks by inspecting the gun with a magnifying glass.

Check for dents and Bulges

Dents and bulges should also raise concern as they potentially affect accuracy and lead to misfires. A gunsmith can sometimes remove a dent from a barrel, but bulges are almost impossible to eradicate. Bulges can be an indication that there is a dent or imperfection in either the choke tube, forcing cone, and/or muzzle threads as well as warped barrels. The best way to find this flaw is by looking down at it from above with your eyes focused on where the breech meets the barrel.

Check for replacement parts

Generally speaking, collectible gun values drop if there have been a lot of replacements because the value is in the original firearm. However, if you are just looking to buy a used gun for sport, modifications and replacements to improve a gun’s performance or appearance can potentially add value as long as the work has been done well.

Make sure there is internal blueing

The color of a gun’s metal can be an indication as to how much wear there has been from usage, but it will not tell you anything about its function or reliability. Many older guns will usually wear externally with use but it’s important to check for blueing on the inside.

If there is no blueing, then this may indicate that someone has been firing corrosive ammunition without cleaning their gun afterward. This could be a problem if you plan on using non-corrosive ammo because your new purchase may have already begun to corrode from previous usage.

Check for damascus steel

For many collectors, damascus steel is the most sought-after type of shotgun. It can be identified by its wavy pattern and dark, rich tone. These pretty patterns were originally created as visual effects for swords but became popular in the late 1800s when they began being used for shotgun barrels.

On the other hand, if you looking for a functioning firearm, you should avoid damascus steel altogether. Many shooters feel that they have a tendency to break when firing which could result in injury. It can also be difficult to determine how many rounds have been fired from a damascus gun and how much damage has been done internally because they don’t have serial numbers like new guns.

Test fire the gun

Once you are satisfied with your inspection, the next thing to do is check that the gun functions properly. This will vary depending on who you are buying from, but some dealers will have a range for customers to test fire before making a purchase. If there is no range available, you may want to at least fire off a few dummy rounds or snap caps to check the action is working properly.

When it comes to buying a used shotgun, there are many considerations to make but it is really easy to buy a nice shotgun that doesn’t cost too much. Whether you purchase your firearm online or offline, make sure that they are licensed and have good knowledge of used guns so that you know you will be buying a quality weapon. Whether you want a firearm for hunting or clay trap shooting, if you follow these tips you will be able to get a great deal.

Corey is a co-founder of GunHub and has built GunHub as a platform for other gun owners to buy and sell guns easily.

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