On Buying Used

Dear Bruce,

I’ve been shooting for a little over a year now; I’m having a great time and doing unusually well. About 8-9 months ago I bought a new Browning Ultra Sport O/U that I use for skeet, trap and sporting clays. I love the gun; it’s been great.

For the past several months I’ve been shoot trap and enjoy it very much — to the point where I’d like to get a trap gun. I’ve got my eye on one of the Browning BT-100’s. I also hear that the BT-99 is very good, but that the newer BT-100’s have more flexibility with adjustable comb and butt.

Your comments on these guns would be very welcome, but more important is the question of where and what to buy. As a new shooter — an “old” (mature) new shooter — I have no experience to guide me.

Is it smarter to buy a used gun? I am told it is. Certainly it will be cheaper, but is it a good move in terms of quality, reliability — all those other things? Is it like a used car — potentially buying somebody else’s problems?

Further, apart from the very obvious things, how can you tell if you’re getting a good used gun? Should you take it to a gunsmith, like a used car to a mechanic?

Finally, what about buying a gun by mail order from the dealers that appear in Shotgun Sports and other publications? As you know, there are long listings of used guns for sale in those books. Is that safe? Is it a dumb thing to do? Are you more likely to lose your money and get stuck with a losing gun?

If you get a chance, I’d really welcome your advice.


Dear John,

When possible, I ALWAYS buy a used gun when I can. Not only is it cheaper, but the standard 3-5 day return policy gives me the chance to check that gun out COMPLETELY. If I buy a new gun, I can’t take it back if it isn’t right. Remember, all guns don’t leave the factory perfect.

Buying a used gun really isn’t too much like buying a used car. Cars are quite complicated and can hide many problems. A gun is fairly simple and it is harder to hide something that is wrong. Naturally, the more you know about the specific gun, the better off you are.

Remember too, your dollar risk in buying a used gun is lower. Your gun should cost a good bit less than a new one and, since you bought it used, you should be able to sell it used for closer to what you paid for it if you don’t like it.

Unless you are getting into the collectors’ market (which is an entirely different deal and full of more forgeries than Brooklyn bodega), what you see is pretty much what you get. You can tell a lot from cosmetics. Actually, the outside of the gun is more fragile than the inside on most guns (except the ultra complex Krieghoff trigger).

Naturally, check the barrel for dents and bulges. Check things for looseness (rib, stock, action). When you check the action of an O/U for looseness, make sure to remove or loosen the forend.

Your job on a single barrel trap gun is really minimal. There isn’t too much to go wrong. Just make sure to pick up the used gun on Friday and shoot the heck out of it on Saturday and Sunday. If you can put 500 rounds through it, you should find out if the trigger is OK and if it shoots where you want.

From the people I have talked to, the BT-100 has had some teething problems, whereas the BT-99 was very well thought of. I don’t remember the exact nature of the BT-100 woes, but SR did receive several letters from owners complaining about them. The old BT-99 seems pretty bullet proof. The BT-99 would be a good gun to buy used, IF you get one that isn’t too used.

You really shouldn’t have any problem buying from dealers that advertise in the national magazines. Most of those guys have been in business a long time. They all offer 3-5 day return policies, so the most that you stand to lose is postage. I have had good dealings with Quality Arms, and Jaqua’s. Jaqua’s is absolutely first class and I would not hesitate to call them and ask them what they have in stock.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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2 Responses to On Buying Used

  1. Ed Sybert says:

    Hi Bruce: You said: “Actually, the outside of the gun is more fragile than the inside on most guns (except the ultra complex Krieghoff trigger).” Yet, Perazzi owners buy spare trigger assemblies and parts kits with new springs and tools to replace them; and carry these to competition events in case of breakage. Krieghoff owners rely on “annual” inspections and maintenance by expert gunsmiths and actually report very little if any breakage of their triggers. Krieghoff triggers have been improved over the years, and the newly designed parts directly replace older versions. Do you have direct experience with Krieghoff triggers’ fragility? Thanks, Ed


    • bamaskeetshooter says:

      My only concern about buying a used trap gun is how much it’s been shot. Often, trap guns are pounded, much more than most other shotguns. I suggest you inspect the gun for overall wear before buying.


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