Q: How do you tell if a gun has been the subject of some amateur gunsmithing? I have been offered a gun in a private sale and, although it looks good, I would like to know if there are any telltale signs before I part with any cash

A: It depends on how amateur the work might have been, because a lot of craftsmen in various branches of mechanical engineering can do some very neat work, although they are not gunsmiths.

I have, however, seen some horrible examples which include chipped and burred screw heads, scratches on the metal of the action where screwdrivers have jumped out of the slots on screw heads and, on one particularly bad example, the clear prints of steel vice jaws on an action.

Professionals, and good amateurs, always use soft jaws made of lead or plastic which grip firmly but do not leave prints.

Gunsmiths also fettle all screws so that the screwdriver slots line up exactly with the long axis of the gun – in other words, in line with the barrels.

If you are in doubt, why not say that you will buy the gun subject to a gunsmith’s opinion? This will cost you a few quid, but it could well save tears before bedtime!