That used airgun may be a cut-price gem — or it could turn out to be a useless piece of scrap. In our guide to buying second-hand air guns we show what to look for, and what to avoid

You can save a fortune by buying a second-hand air rifle. But if you don’t know what to look out for, it can also end up leaving you out of pocket. Here’s what to look out for so you make the right decision when it comes to acquiring a pre-owned air rifle.

Breech lock up

Ensure that the breech lock-up is secure when inspecting a pre-owned break-barrel

The first thing to look for

Check for signs of rust along the barrel and cylinder, and don’t be afraid to remove the gun from its stock. Tidy metalwork indicates that the gun has been properly cared for, whereas external corrosion tends to suggest that the internals have been neglected. While you have the gun out of the stock, inspect the woodwork for signs of splitting.

PCP cylinder

Don’t be afraid to remove the gun from the stock, and always look for signs of corrosion – especially on the cylinder of a PCP

Rust is an even bigger issue with pre-charged airguns, as there’s a risk of the integrity of the air cylinder being compromised by corrosion. Ideally, the owner will have used dry air from a scuba bottle or from a pump with a moisture filter to minimise the risk of internal corrosion — it’s worth checking. Remember also to check the filling probe and/or inlet for signs of damage around the seals. 

PCP filler probes

Check the seals on PCP filler probes – though easily fixed, damage can reveal a lack of routine maintenance

Next check the screws

Damaged screw heads are usually evidence of tinkering, which can often do more harm than good. If you see any screws with gouged heads, be sure to ask the owner how that happened.

Give the gun a shake

  • Have a few test shots with the gun if you can.
  • Before you load-up, give it a good shake and make sure there are no unusual rattles.
  • If the gun you are trying is spring-powered, the cocking stroke should be smooth and with no roughness or grinding.
  • On a break-barrel, the breech lock-up should be secure with no hint of play.
  • Whatever the power-plant, the test shots should reveal whether the gun is still up to scratch, both in terms of the smoothness of the firing cycle and its downrange accuracy.

Power

Chronograph testing, if possible, should confirm consistent muzzle velocity and (with the exception of FAC-rated airguns) an acceptable power level within the UK legal limit of 12ft/lb. Have a look down the barrel; a build-up of lead deposit isn’t a problem and can easily be cleaned, but rust, scrapes and gouges are cause for concern. Metal-bodied airgun darts can cause serious harm to rifled barrels; if the gun is offered with a set, or if you have reason to believe the owner has been using them, expect there to be damage.

Provenance

Who you are buying from can make a big difference. A shooter who has kept a written record of airgun maintenance will probably have taken good care of it.  Gunshops have a reputation to maintain, and should have the staff and resources to service a second-hand airgun properly before it reaches the racks. You could also be offered a warranty.

You could find excellent quality second-hand airgun bargains by joining a reputable airgun club.  Serious club shooters tend to take very good care of their guns, and many of them change their hardware frequently, ensuring a steady supply of nearly new, and very well cared for, pre-owned airguns.

The golden rule when buying a second-hand air rifle?

Use common sense and be cautious. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

garden airgunning

Garden airgunning

If you have a moderate sized garden then you probably have enough room to set up a shooting range for…

10 tips for buying a second-hand air rifle

  1. Look out for rust – including under the stock and especially on the cylinder of PCPs
  2. Be suspicious of damaged screw heads
  3. Ensure that barrel lock-up is secure on break-barrels
  4. Check wooden stocks for splits
  5. Test fire to check firing cycle and accuracy
  6. Chronograph test to confirm power is consistent and legal
  7. Inspect the barrel for signs of damage, especially from metal darts
  8. Ask gunshops if they offer a warranty
  9. Join a club. Serious club shooters look after their guns and change them regularly
  10. Use common sense, and walk away if you’re in any doubt