Used Weapons and Gear
Most survivors end up with at least one or two used guns in the arsenal. Used guns tend to be a better deal these days than used cars. Why? because most guns have been built to last a lifetime, are used very little, and sell for less money used than they sell for new. In many cases, used guns actually perform better than new guns of the same make and model. The reason is that most guns need some break-in when they are new in order to work the burrs out of the machined parts and get the wear parts to settle into a wear pattern. Used guns usually have the problems just worked out. In comparison - used cars generally have the problems just starting.
Rifle match competitors, military snipers and experienced hunters have all told me of rifles that simply did not shoot at their best accuracy until they had a few hundred rounds through the barrel. Some even apply mild abrasives to bullets in order to accelerate the break in of a barrel and get better accuracy sooner. The process is known as fire lapping.
Finicky collectors demand that guns be in pristine condition in order to command full value. The survivalist should only be a stickler for utility. A few scratches and dings in the stock or scrapes around the magazine well are of little concern - except that they will affect the price and you will expect a price structure for a 'shooter' not a 'safe queen. Even broken guns can usually be fixed by replacing parts but pricing is going to be affected by condition. A normal standard of ethics on firearms and common accessories has been adopted my most collectors. For more detail, CLICK HERE.
The survivor must, however, not compromise on function. Your purpose is to use the gun, not keep it perfect for some future collector to tell lies about how they got it new and kept it so nice all along. You are not the damn museum or a library. I will go over various conditions and prices later, but ALWAYS check the following on a gun. These things will determine if it is worth buying or not.
Most sellers will not want you to strip down a gun unless you have already agreed on a price. Establish that you are a serious buyer, not just a shopper and the seller will usually let you go further. It is also not customary for the buyer to be able to test fire a gun before purchase. That is what makes the buying so tricky.
Check the bore for condition. Use a bore light, reflector, or just hold the think up to a light and look down the barrel make sure it is unloaded). Look for flat spots in the rifling, pits or gouges. Small pits are common on surplus guns and may not affect accuracy that much. They usually form in the corners of the grooves. Pits that stretch across both lands and grooves are bad and will affect accuracy more. Look for discoloration at the end of the bore. On larger caliber guns, you can look at the muzzle from the side and see an inch or so down. Good sharp rifling is what you want to see. If it is polygonal, look for the consistency of the polygon. Discoloration is probably copper residue from bullets. A thick gray residue is lead. It is a bitch to clean out. The worst is old hardened cosmoline residue. It can be found in older surplus guns that have been in storage for a few decades. It can eventually be cleaned out, but it may conceal pitting. I have had fair luck scrubbing as much as I could then burning the rest loose with full metal jacket ammo at the shooting range.
Check the action for smoothness and operation. Move the levers and bolts. See if they bind or stop anywhere in their movement. Move it both fast and slow. If it binds or stops it may be prone to jamming. Feel if the springs are too stiff or too soft. Feel is it is smooth or gritty. Shake the gun and see of it rattles. Generally a gun starts out in life as tight and gritty, then becomes tight and smooth, then gets looser as it wears. Eventually, some parts will get so loose and worn in that they don't work properly. Overzealous gunsmith tuning will accelerate the process as will an abusive break in period (lots of shooting with little cleaning). In many cases, a person getting rid of a gun that does not work right is simply getting rid of a gun that has not yet been broken in.
Experts commonly disagree on what is better, proper fitting or a proper break in. Only with a used gun will you get both. Proper fitting at the factory tends to ad a lot to the price of a gun, and it will make only a negligible cosmetic difference. In reality most gun buyers are simply unwilling to pay extra for a well fitted factory gun, but they will be the first in line for a used gun that was custom fitted by a good local gunsmith. This is generally the better gun than the well broken in one, but it will usually cost more. The typical "action and trigger job" performed on a police handgun costs around $150. One advantage of this over a break in is that it does not put wear on the bore and usually preserves the cosmetic finish of the gun. Otherwise, a gun tends to need a few hundred rounds fired through it before all of the parts settle in right.
Many guns, especially assault rifles, may have certain illegal parts, combinations of parts or configurations. Study what you are shopping for before you buy. Do not interrogate the seller on the pedigree of a gun unless it is relevant to the price. You really need to research these things yourself before going into it with someone. This is especially the case with regard to pre-ban vs post-ban assault rifles that have different features.
You always have to be on the lookout for problems that can be nearly impossible to fix on what may be a decent looking gun.
I once went to buy a used Valmet rifle that was on consignment at a local pawn shop. It seemed in pretty enough condition, but I saw a dark spot in the bore. It could have been a piece of cleaning patch or even a bug that went in there and died (seen that a few times). I went back to the pawn shop with a cleaning rod and some patches. Three patches came out with rust. I pointed out that new barrels were not readily available for that rifle and that the rust would either effect accuracy or require a lot of effort to clean out. Even then it would leave pits in the bore that would be vulnerable to rusting again. On top of that, the rifle's tritium sights were long since burned out (they have a ten year life and the rifle was about fifteen years old). He would not hear it and said that since the rifle was all original, it was worth the collector value, but with a swapped out barrel and non-factory replacement sights it would be worth less. The gun would not suit my purposes without repairs. We had no deal.
There are also people who get rid of guns that have problems. If you frequent gun shops in a certain area, look out for the guns that keep turning up back on the market. If a particular gun is on the market from two or three different owners in the space of a year, it likely has a problem that none of the people want to deal with. It may be a problem that could be dealt with through a simple warranty repair, but it is still a problem.
General rules to go by:
Only the guns and magazines themselves will hold high value when used, other items such as cases, bags, optics and cleaning kits will not hold their value nearly as well.
High quality professional grade equipment is always desirable, but does not mean it will trade used at high value. Often, the limited market for such items is balanced by limited availability so such things can be a crap shoot. Sometimes you get really fortunate, other times you are lucky to get the item anywhere below retail.
Night vision optics and electronics only hold their value if they are still current issue and repair service is available on them. Obsolete equipment is of much less value, although it is still of use even though not state of the art.
Here are some things to look for in many commonly available used guns.
AR 15 - Look for a shot out bore. The barrel can be replaced, but it will cost. Look for any cracking or deformation of the lower receiver, this part cannot be easily replaced. Many "parts kit" guns have been built using substandard parts. Worst of all are certain Colt rifles that were made in the early 1990's that took non-standard internal parts that cost twice as much to replace as standard parts. Warning signs for substandard components are a plastic trigger guard, plastic magazine release button and plastic slip ring. Test the trigger action by firing the action (releasing the hammer), hold the trigger back and cock the hammer all the way back; then release the trigger as slowly as you can. If the hammer simply cocks itself on the trigger, the action is good; if it releases, then you have a problem with worn or out of spec internal parts. In a worst case scenario, you could have a bad receiver with the pin holes drilled out of spec. This may or may not be corrected by hand fitting the parts. Be aware of any full auto parts that may be in the gun. It is a felony (in the US) to have certain M16 parts installed in a semi automatic version of this rifle, even though the gun may not fire automatic.
AK types - Check out the barrel, that is the part that is very difficult to replace on these rifles, also check for warpage or deformation in the receiver. It cannot be easily replaced either. Basically if you have an AK with a bad receiver or barrel, you might as well strip the gun down for spare parts and dispose of the rest. Paratrooper folding stocks on these are often flimsy and damaged. Extend the stock and check for damage. These are also difficult to repair. Internal parts are fairly easy to replace, but certain models are not compatible with others.
Ruger Mini-14 - Check for a burned out or worn out barrel. Also check for a warped or twisted receiver. Run the cocking rod back and forth to see if it stops or binds. Spare parts can be very difficult to get for these rifles so make sure everything is there. It is common for used ones to have burned out barrels. See which magazines come with the gun. Many high capacity magazines made for this rifle are substandard and simply do not work at all. Some feed well enough, but the last shot hold open device will not work with them. This is tolerable, but you should be aware of it.
Mossberg Shotguns - These are guns that can wear out from regular use. Check for sloppiness and binding in the actions, especially in the newer 500 and 590 series pump action guns. Also check for missing parts. The trigger assembly can get loose and sloppy with wear. Once one of these guns is beat, it is pretty much a pile of spare parts. Note that older "crown grade" Mossbergs are tougher and more durable than newer models.
SPAS-12 - Check to see if the gun is frozen up on the inside. It is a common ailment with these and parts are very difficult to get - even if you can disassemble this complex gun to do the repairs. Early models with a lever type safety had a recall because you could still fire one if you pull the trigger hard enough with the safety engaged.
Any Spanish made 1911 type pistol - Check to see if it takes standard 1911 type magazines. Many of the Llama guns to not. In fact, these guns are similar to mil-spec, but many parts are not interchangeable.
Any HK 91 or G3 clone - Check for binding or misalignment in the action. Make sure the mag well and mag catch work as designed. Check for damaged sights or scope mounting surfaces. Also check the barrel - they are almost impossible to replace on these rifles. Check the trigger as you would an AR-15 type rifle.
FAL rifles and clones - Including the Stg-58 and L1A1. Check for a warped or bent receiver. Barrels usually hold up well on these rifles, but they may be pitted from corrosive ammo. Inspect the bore for pitting. If it is very dark, it is probably pitted. Also check the trigger action. It is common for the cheaper clone and parts kit guns to have loose rear sights that ruin accuracy. Replacement with upgraded sights usually solves the problem. Parts are usually available, so if a FAL is broken, you can deal with it.
Revolvers - Check for sloppiness in the cylinder when the hammer is cocked. Cycle the action (unloaded) as fast as you can and see of it stops or binds, If so, the gun has a timing problem or broken springs. Timing problems are deceptively complex and tricky to fix.