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3 Tips for Buying A Used Gun

Updated: Feb 23

By Roland Hesmondhalgh

two used guns
A 1911 handgun and AR Platform Rifle are common examples of used guns you are likely to encounter

It’s always nice to get the shiniest, newest model of a product with all the extra bells and whistles, but many firearm enthusiasts will tell you that quality firearms hold up for thousands of rounds, often years or even decades of use with proper care and maintenance. Buying a used firearm allows for significant cost savings over buying it new.

Fortunately, just like with cars, trucks, and tools, the market for used guns is expansive. There are sellers for everything from vintage muskets to cutting-edge integrally suppressed modular rifles. Whether a buyer needs a pump shotgun for home defense or a precision rifle to hit a target at 1,000 yards, there is something for everyone.

While there are good deals to be had in the used market, there are just as many bad. It’s important for a prospective buyer to be armed with the knowledge of what to look for. Not just to ensure they’re getting a good deal, but that they’re purchasing a safe and reliable firearm.

X-Ring Supply regularly buys and sells used firearms. We do our best to ensure each and every firearm is in proper working order, but not all dealers and private sellers take the same level of care. For this article, two used firearms we currently have for sale – a S&W 38 Military and Police revolver and a Savage Arms 212 bolt-action shotgun – will be used as examples for what buyers should check before purchasing a used firearm.

smith revolver 38 spl
Based on its markings and features, this S&W 38 was produced pre-1948. A seller may not know that.

Used Firearm Tip #1 Inspect the Firearm's Exterior

The first thing a buyer will see, and often the only thing sellers will try to clean, is the exterior of the firearm. It’s always a gamble to buy a used gun without physically inspecting it first. It’s important to test the feel, the fit and finish, to determine how the firearm truly handles.

Check for rust, scrapes, dust, or cracks. In the case of the S&W 38, a handgun that may have been carried in the past, holster wear and minor surface issues in the bluing is not a serious issue. However, external rust can be a cause for concern. If rust occurs on the outside of a firearm, it may be inside as well. Anything more than surface-deep should be closely examined.

On wooden grips or stocks, check to make sure everything is even and intact. Verify screws, bushings, and barrel crowns are undamaged. The Savage 212 is held in its stock by two receiver screws. If those screws are damaged or an improper thread pattern was forced to work, it may take a gunsmith to fix the issue and replace parts. Paint can be easily changed, but metal components need to be done right.

Align the sights and check to see if anything is canted, bent, or misaligned. Unless components are integral to the design, they can be easily changed if there is a need.

deer hunting shotgun with scope
The scope on this Savage 212 may not be zeroed to the rifle. Luckily, it’s an easy fix.

Used Firearm Tip #2 Inspect the Firearm's Interior

Always open the action of the firearm and make sure it is unloaded. Further, inspect the chamber area for wear, as that will give you an idea of how many rounds have been put through the gun. Significant wear is not necessarily a bad thing, especially with quality firearm manufacturers.

For bolt-action firearms, such as the Savage 212, open the action and inspect it just as you would the rest of the itself. After that, check the trigger movement and the bore of the rifle. The condition of these parts is paramount. The barrel of a firearm is where most of the magic happens.

If there’s rust, worn grooves, pitting, or other signs of damage, it’s not necessarily a deal breaker. The Savage 212 is a shotgun and comes with a smooth-bore barrel. It wouldn’t be as affected by barrel wear like a centerfire rifle would, as its projectile does not need to spin for stabilization.

Older firearms are more likely to see pitting in the barrel due to outdated compounds in ammunition. Many vintage calibers such as 8mm Mauser, 7.62x39, or 7.62x54r still have corrosive ammunition in circulation due to the sheer volume of production.

If there is rust or pitting, make a note of it. Firearms with pitted barrels can still shoot accurately, but any damage to a firearm should be disclosed and reflected in the price. A rare or vintage firearm that doesn’t shoot is a firearm in name only.

Timing and fitment of internal components, such as the cylinder of the S&W 38, are vital to operation. How does each component of the firearm react when the trigger is pulled? In the case of single-action firearms, ensure everything locks in place. Pull the hammer to the rear and apply pressure forward and to the sides. It should not move due to anything but the release of the trigger. The cylinder latch should move freely and the forcing cone – the part of the barrel closest to the cylinder – should not be chipped or damaged. Although minor discoloration and erosion is normal.

If the firearm is a semi-automatic pistol, check to see if the slide fits to the frame and reliable locks back. Some rattle is to be expected from mass-produced firearms – it’s the loose fitment that allows dirt and grime to not impede function – but a firearm should never double as an impromptu maraca. The barrel on any firearm, regardless of its manual of operation, should be locked tight when it is ready to fire.

Used Firearm Tip #3 Inspect the Firearm's Operation

The only way to truly know a firearm will work is by firing a live round. The second-best way is to dry fire it. Actuate the controls. Test the springs. Does the safety click on and off? How does the trigger feel when pulled quickly? What about slowly? Does it feel like slick glass or gritty sandpaper?

If possible, have an inert round such as a snap cap ready to test ejection and extraction. Some people believe dry firing a firearm can damage components such as the firing pin. Using a training round can mitigate any chance of damage, even if the belief is unfounded. X-Ring Supply offers snap caps for nearly all calibers and is more than happy to sell them.

red dot and magnifier combo used
X-Ring Supply also buys used accessories. This used optic combo is currently for sale. Would you know the optics and mounts are from different manufacturers if you weren’t told?

Bonus Tip: Firearm Accessories and Warranties

People like to modify and accessories things. It’s a side-effect that comes from pride in ownership. Firearms are no different. Add-ons can be as simple as a scope attached to a rifle, or as advanced as a new barrel or trigger. Optics and foregrips don’t often come stock with firearms, and sellers may add these accessories to improve the perceived value of the firearm or to get rid of extra parts. These items need to be compatible with the firearm they go to and are properly installed. Inspect them like any other product. If you’re considering purchasing a firearm from X-Ring Supply but aren’t sure which accessories will work, ask us. We’re here to help you. We have conversion kits, optics, expertise and more.

It’s also worth knowing the origin of any specific firearm you’re interested in. Some manufacturers have more comprehensive warranties than others. Other manufacturers may simply not exist anymore. Know who stands behind their product.

Some companies have warranties that transfer with the life of the product. It doesn’t matter how many owners the item has been through or what shape it is in. As long as it is identifiable as a legitimate product and there are no signs of deliberate damage, the company will honor the warranty. Two prominent optics manufacturers, Vortex and Leupold, regularly tout their “no question” warranties. If there’s an issue, they will clean, repair, and/or exchange the item to fix it and mail it back. It’s hard to beat that level of service.

Keep the manufacturer and possible warranty in mind when purchasing a used firearm. Sometimes the biggest, flashiest manufacturer isn’t the most helpful when it comes to their older products and warranties. Marketing and sales do not equate to responsibility, and many a gunsmith makes their living repairing firearms that others won’t.


The first, last, and most important thing a buyer should check before purchasing a used firearm is whether or not it’s legal for them to own that firearm.

If you are considering a firearm that is being sold by a reputable seller such as X-Ring Supply, there’s nothing to worry about. However, private sellers may genuinely not know or care about federal and state firearm laws. Ignorance is no excuse, especially when firearms are involved.

Know your laws. No purchase, firearm or otherwise, is so good it’s worth a possible felony. Ensure the firearm is what it is supposed to be and is being sold by the rightful consigner or consignee.

Parting Thoughts

A used firearm can be a great way to get into shooting sports, protect your home, or add to a collection. But just like a car, ensure everything works and it is a reputable sale. Do your research and due diligence, and years of worry-free firearm usage will follow.

Used Gun FAQ

When looking to purchase a used gun online from our store, the process is straightforward, secure, and customer-friendly. First, browse our extensive selection of used firearms, where each listing provides detailed information about the gun’s condition, specifications, and history. Once you find your desired firearm, simply place it in your cart and proceed to checkout. For compliance with legal regulations, the gun will be shipped to a licensed firearms dealer (FFL) near you. You'll need to complete the necessary background checks and paperwork as required by law at the dealer's location. We ensure that every used gun sold through our store has been rigorously inspected for quality, safety, and legality, providing you with peace of mind. Should you need any assistance or have specific queries, our expert customer service team is always available to guide you through the process, ensuring a smooth and satisfactory purchase experience.

Should I buy a used gun?

Deciding to purchase a used gun can be a wise choice, especially when shopping from our trusted online gun store. Buying used offers several advantages: cost savings, access to models no longer in production, and often, guns that have been well-maintained or rarely used. This means you can enjoy the benefits of a high-quality firearm at a fraction of the cost of a new one. Whether you're a collector, a shooting enthusiast, or seeking a firearm for personal defense, our selection of used guns offers value, variety, and the assurance of purchasing from a reputable source.

If I buy a used gun do I have to register it?

When purchasing a used gun online, the need to register it depends on the laws and regulations of your specific state or locality. Once you purchase a used gun from our online store, it will be shipped to a licensed firearms dealer (FFL) near you for legal transfer. During this process, the FFL dealer will guide you through any necessary background checks and inform you about the requirements in your area.

How to sell a used gun?

Selling a used gun through our online store is a secure and straightforward process, designed to ensure both legality and convenience. To get started, simply contact us with details about your firearm, including its make, model, condition, and any other relevant information. Our team will then provide you with an initial valuation. If you decide to proceed, you'll need to send the gun to our store for a thorough inspection and final appraisal. We handle all the legal aspects of the sale, including compliance with federal and state laws. Once everything is verified, we list your firearm on our platform, reaching a wide audience of potential buyers. Our transparent process not only ensures that you receive a fair market price for your used gun but also guarantees a hassle-free selling experience, adhering to all necessary legal procedures.

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