Gunsmith with gun

Don’t be afraid to ask the seller to break the gun down into component parts, so you don’t miss anything

There are plenty of reasons for buying guns second-hand.

First off is probably price. Buy a second-hand gun and it’s unlikely to depreciate further.

You’re getting a brand from a well-known manufacturer at a greatly reduced cost, and if you buy second-hand from a gun shop you’ll almost certainly get a guarantee too.

However like a used car, there are some excellent used guns out there and some that are definitely not a bargain.

What’s best? Buying guns second-hand from a gunshop or privately?

Buy from a shop and the gun will probably have been fully inspected, cleaned and serviced.

You’ll find gunshops offering quality guns at value-for-money prices all over the country.

You can get a good deal if you buy privately but buyer beware, you’re getting the gun sold as seen and probably won’t have much comeback if anything goes wrong. (You might like to check our guns for sale section.)

Brands that sell well second-hand

  • Miroku
  • Browning
  • Lanber (spare parts are straightforward to source)

Chris Lamb from the Country Sports Shop comments: “Italian shotguns offer great value for money and a strong heritage. Spare parts are never an issue, unlike some of the Spanish names that have gone out of business. Having said that, traditional side-by-sides from Spain have always carried a great reputation. I’ve often heard it said that if you can’t afford an English game gun you should buy an AYA.”

Check used gun values here 

Buying guns second-hand checks

Left: Check the fore-end for cracks and the mechanism to ensure it locks and there is not too much oil soak. Right: Fire in some snap caps and pull the triggers, making sure they sound crisp and not dead.

What to check when buying second-hand guns

  • Mount the gun – how does it fit? A gunsmith may be able to make adjustments, but it is much easier and more cost-effective to buy a used gun that fits to start with.
  • Start at the muzzle end. If the gun has removable chokes, ask for the key and check that they can be taken out – seized chokes can be expensive to get released. Otherwise make sure that the chokes are finger tight.
  • Check the barrel ribs for dents or rust, and then look over the barrels for signs of damage or wear.
  • Inspect the insides of the barrels. Look out for pitting or ring bulges.
  • Take off the fore-end and inspect the faces, especially where metal meets metal. Dents and scratches may indicate heavy wear.
  • While the fore-end is off, hold the gun by the barrels and give it a small shake. There should be no looseness. Then, holding the stock in one hand and the barrels in the other, gently twist the gun. If there is any movement the gun may be out of proof.
  • Check that the action opens and closes cleanly.
  • Using snap caps, test the triggers, whether the ejectors (if fitted) operate, and if the safety catch works. Using trigger pull scales, see what the release is – it should be between 3½ and 5 pounds.
  • Inspect the screws on the action to see if the heads are sharp with flush edges. Any competent gunsmith who may have burred a screw will face it over and polish it back to original condition.
  • If the gun is a multichoke, have the chokes out and check the threads for wear and corrosion. Do the “ting” test. Hold the barrels at the chamber end and flick the barrels with your fingers. This can show if the solder on the rib and between the barrel is intact.
  • Chequering wear is a good gauge for how much use the gun has had.
  • The position of the top lever can also show wear and tear. When the gun is new, almost certainly the top-lever spring is over to the far right of travel. As the spring is used over time, the spring wears down and the lever will travel toward the centre of the stock.
  • Check the breech face for corrosion and the firing-pin condition because you can often see the top of the pin.
  • Examine all woodwork thoroughly, and check carefully for any minute cracks.
Checking barrels on a used shotgun

Check the barrels both internally and externally, looking for signs of pitting, dents and wear

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