Posts Tagged ‘used guns’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
As I was doing the barrel-bending report, I was thinking about what got me to a place where I needed to know how to bend an airgun barrel. Why? Because I bought a used airgun — that’s why!
I’ve often given people the advice to buy a used airgun if their budget won’t support a good new one. Today, I’d like to expand on that thought a little.
Why buy more guns?
We shooters buy guns for the same reason some women buy clothes — to improve our lives. In the case of shooters, the belief is the next gun you get will be the one that actually shoots well. It couldn’t be you who’s inaccurate, so it must be the gun — right? Maybe you don’t think that way, but I sure do.
The funny thing is that it sometimes happens that the next gun you get really is accurate! All it takes is one time in 10 and you’re as hooked as a Pavlovian dog. Gun shows become huge opportunities for you to find the guns that can shoot.
Other side of the coin
But there’s another way to look at it. Why would anyone ever sell an accurate gun? Doesn’t it stand to reason that they’ll have tried the gun they want to sell you and found it wanting? If you think about this very much, you’ll never again buy anything used.
My way of thinking
I think of it another way. Sometimes, guns become available when the original owner has no more use for them, as in — they left the building. But that isn’t the only thing that happens. Maybe I own ten 10-meter target rifles and discover that on my best day I can only ever shoot three of them at the same time. So, I decide to thin the herd. You might think that I would keep the most accurate guns and sell the rest, but that’s not always how it works. I might be keeping what I keep for other reasons, like the condition or sentimentality. I might actually sell the most accurate guns I have and keep the ones I think are the prettiest. Or something like that.
The seller may not know what he has
I find that many times a seller really has no idea how a certain gun shoots because he hasn’t taken the time to shoot it. This happens a lot with dealers who have large inventories of airguns. You and I are envious of their racks of fine airguns, but the truth of the matter is that, to them, it’s more of a business and way less personal. I know many airgun dealers who have never tried their guns before selling them; or if they have, it was just to see if they worked. You can tell when a guy hands you a tin of inappropriate pellets to test a certain airgun that he has no interest in it whatsoever. But if he tells you which head size shoots best and how deep to seat each pellet, you can be sure he knows exactly what he’s selling.
Some sellers want you to be pleased!
This is a difficult concept for some people to embrace, but there are really people in the world who want you to be happy after doing business with them. They’ll sell you an accurate airgun and be glad that you bought it. If you buy a gun from them, it’s important to give them feedback after you shoot it because your satisfaction is what motivates them.
The previous owner may have missed something
This is the hope that springs eternal in every buyer’s breast — that the fellow who owned this gun before you missed something — something that you will find and then the sun will come out and the flowers will dance and the young girls will look at you with adoring eyes! Well, maybe not all that, but at least you’ll have found out something he didn’t know that will let you shoot your new gun better than he ever did. And it does happen. For example, the former owner may have been a cheapskate who only bought pellets on sale at Wal-Mart. You get the gun and start feeding it JSBs taken from fur-lined tins and voilá! It begins to shoot! You’ve uncovered the secret of the Incas and can turn any bargain airgun into a World Cup contender — pocketa, pocketa, pocketa.
The gun is already broken-in
Most used guns have already been though the break-in cycle. This is a double-edged sword, though, because I’ve bought some guns that were so broken-in they were broken, altogether! That can happen. It happens most often when the guns in question are hot-rods to begin with. The guns that are like old tractors (i.e., strong, relatively slow, overbuilt, etc.) will seldom be found completely inoperable. I once bought an FWB 124 Sport for $35. That’s the cheap one, and it was rusty and had worn, chipped wood finish and was generally disgusting to look at. It was the kind of airgun that requires a tetanus shot just to hold. But being a 124, it was also overbuilt, so another $35 worth of replacement parts and the gun was shooting like new again. It still looked like a throwaway, but it put pellet upon pellet downrange.
But the Super Dragon-Fire Zombie-Killer EXtreme that some guy discounts $50 because he’s owned it for three months is the gun I would avoid. The owner has already discovered his rifle takes too much effort to cock and cannot hit a target in the compass quadrant where the muzzle is pointing. That gun is the two-year-old baseball card collection, or last year’s Hummel decorative plate! It will continue to drop in value until it hits the rising tide of inflation, and from that point on will be worth ten cents on the original dollar paid.
Buy what you like
The longer I’m in airguns, the more I find that everyone has an opinion, and although many of them are mistaken, they don’t know it, for they simply refuse to see things my way. That’s good because it leaves room for me and for the good stuff. And I also find that my tastes change over time. So this year I may be hyped on 10-meter guns, but next year it’s tuned springers and the year after that I’m over on the dark side. As long as I can remain out of phase with most of you, there’s room for all of us in the boat!
Oh, and I suppose after rambling on like this I should end with something concrete. I bought the El Gamo 68 used and loved it. I bought the Crosman 160 used; and after I cleaned it up, it shot like a house afire! And just this past Saturday, I bought a Taiyo Juki Junior CO2 rifle at a gun show for a very good price. It doesn’t hold gas and some fool had stuffed two darts up the bore; but after I get it sorted out and resealed, I’ll have yet another wonderful used airgun!
by B.B. Pelletier
Connor Moynihan is this week’s BSOTW.
This report just bubbled up on its own. I was scanning Gun Broker the other day when I came across a listing for a “Benjamin Franklin” model 312 air rifle in exceptional condition. Whenever I see a listing for a Benjamin Franklin airgun, I know the person doing the listing doesn’t know anything about airguns, because there never was any air rifle that was called a Benjamin Franklin. That was just a title on certain Benjamin airguns as a play on the company name.
Instead, I concentrated on the “exceptional” condition that was mentioned. A model 312 is a multi-pump that has a Tootsie Roll pump handle. It’s made from all brass that’s been plated with silver nickel and then plated with something we call black nickel, but I don’t think that it actually is. The black wears off quickly with handling. The silver lasts a lot longer. And, finally, the gun wears down to the brass, which the owner often shines up like a trumpet. The gun in question was a shiny brass one.
In other words, far from being the exceptional gun mentioned, this was a well-worn air rifle with no original finish remaining. It graded good, at best. That started me thinking about the condition of used airguns and whether they should ever be refinished. That’s what I would like to talk about today.
Is condition everything?
If you’re in the middle of a large, deep lake in a small boat, you want that boat to be waterproof, first of all. The question of whether the cushions match the paint scheme can be tabled until you are safely ashore. So, in certain circumstances, functionality trumps appearance. You can equate that to most things that we use and also collect.
If you bought a Feinwerkbau 125 (a very rare 5mm version of the FWB 124) to hunt with, and subsequently cut down the barrel to carbine length, you now have a nice spring carbine that’s no longer collectible. The fact that it started out as a collectible doesn’t matter after the gun was changed. As a hunting rifle, your gun has value. As a collectible, it has none. But it’s not always that clear, is it?
Let’s say you bought a nice Crosman model 101 multi-pump that was made between 1925 and 1940. It’s not a rare airgun; and when you bought it, it wasn’t holding air, so you had the gun resealed. You spent $100 for the gun and another $40 to get it resealed, so you now have $140 in it. But you’re something of a handyman and decided to refinish the outside of the gun. You strip it, sand it, repaint the metal parts and refinish the wood. The gun now looks like new, and you have about $175 in it. At this point, you probably have a little more money in the gun than it’s worth. As nice as it looks, who knows? Someone might pay $175 for it. Or perhaps they’ll even pay $200.
The point is that this particular gun has gone as far as it can go. As the years pass, the gun will increase in value, but it won’t increase very fast. Compare that to a genuine like-new model 101. This one really is in like-new condition and still has all the factory finish on it. More importantly, the owner can prove that it’s all original. This gun might bring $500-600, even if it doesn’t hold air. Why the difference, when it looks no better than yours, and perhaps not even as good? Because it’s in all-original condition, which is something collectors want. This airgun is collectible, where yours is a good-looking shooter and no more. Add an original box to this gun and the value might easily double. Add a reproduction box to your own refinished gun, and the price won’t increase by a nickel!
Wait a minute!
If what I just said about guns that have been fooled with is true, then there are practically no original M1 Carbines remaining in the world! Why? Because over the past 50 years, ill-advised collectors have stripped the guns and replaced them with parts all made by the same manufacturers — in spite of the fact that when they were made this never happened! Finding a Carbine in factory condition is next to impossible today, unless something very unusual happened to it to preserve its integrity along the way. So, has almost every M1 Carine been reduced to the status of a shooter? Absolutely not!
In the case of the M1 Carbine, collectors accept the fact that all the guns have been fooled with by the swapping of non-original parts. By non-original, I mean parts that were not put on the gun when it was manufactured. The parts are, in fact, genuine M1 Carbine parts — they simply weren’t installed on the guns they’re found on today, because the government had an aggressive program of swapping parts between manufacturers in the Carbine program. It was designed to promote interchangibility, and it’s why a gun that has mostly Winchester parts or mostly Inland parts today was not originally manufactured that way.
But collectors of Winchester firearms are very different! They want their guns to either be exactly as they were produced; or if they’ve ever been changed, they want those changss to have been done and clearly marked by the Winchester company.
Colt collectors are much the same as Winchester collectors, with a few exceptions. The most common exception is the 5-inch artillery model single-action Army Colt, the Peacemaker, that was manufactured during certain years in the late 1800s. This gun, alone, is allowed to have grip straps and triggerguards with different serial numbers than the frame of the gun, because these guns went through an arsenal rebuild process where they were all disassembled and put into piles of parts for refinish. When they were reassembled, no attention was paid to the serial numbers matching, and that fact is understood and accepted by Colt collectors for this one model and range of guns. But it doesn’t apply to any other model of Colt.
And so it goes. Each collectible firearm or airgun has its own set of rules. No one can give a single set of rules that fits all models and circumstances. I could go on with various anecdotes, such as the Schmeisser-type bolt-action air rifles that often have their stocks cut in front to fit inside a duffle bag, so they could be brought back from the European theater after World War II. But for the sake of brevity, I will stop right here.
Now, I want to talk about airgun conditions and tell you what’s official, what’s accepted and what’s wrong.
NRA Modern Condition Descriptions
Let’s start with the NRA standards for modern firearms. These are published and maintained by the National Rifle Association and are the accepted definitions to describe the conditions of any gun. However, if you obtain these standards from other sources, many of them will be paraphrased, resulting in confusion. I have copied these from the Blue Book of Airguns, whose publisher, Steve Fjestatd, is a long-time board member of the NRA. If any source can be considered accurate, it is this one.
New: Not previously sold at retail, in same condition as current factory production.
Perfect: In New condition in every respect. [NOTE: This is often listed AS NEW]
Excellent: New condition, used but little, no noticeable marring of wood or metal, bluing perfect (except at muzzle or sharp edges).
Very Good: In perfect working condition, no appreciable wear on working surfaces, no corrosion or pitting, only minor surface dents or scratches.
Good: In safe working condition, minor wear on working surfaces, no corrosion or pitting, only minor surface dents or scratches.
Fair: In safe working condition but well worn, perhaps requiring replacement of minor parts or adjustments which should be indicated in advertisement, no rust, but may have corrosion pits which do not render article unsafe or inoperable.
Then there are a separate set of NRA standards for antique firearms.
NRA Antique Condition Descriptions
Factory New: All original parts: 100 percent original finish, in perfect condition in every respect, inside and out.
Excellent: All original parts; over 80 percent original finish; sharp lettering, numerals and design on metal and wood; unmarred wood; fine bore.
Fine: All original parts; over 30 percent original finish; sharp lettering, numerals and design on metal and wood; minor marks in wood; good bore.
Very Good: All original parts; zero to 30 percent original finish; original metal surfaces smooth with all edges sharp; clear lettering, numerals and design on metal; wood slightly scratched or bruised; bore diregarded for collector firearms.
Good: Some minor replacement parts; metal smoothly rusted or slightly pitted in places, cleaned or reblued; principal lettering, numerals and design on metal legible; in good working order.
Fair: Some major parts replaced; minor replacement parts may be required; metal rusted, may be lightly pitted all over, vigorously cleaned or reblued; rounded edges of metal and wood; principal lettering, numerals and design on metal partly obliterated; wood scratched, bruised, cracked or repaired where broken; in fair working order or can easily be repaired and placed in working order.
Poor: Major and minor parts replaced; major replacement parts required and extensive restoration needed; metal deeply pitted; principal lettering, numerals and design obliterated; wood badly scratched, bruised, cracked or broken; mechanically inoperative, generally undesireable as a collector’s firearm.
The difference between airguns and firearms
Airguns are often made from materials that are very different than those used to make firearms. They don’t have to endure the same working pressures, operating abuse and general ruggedness standards to be acceptable to airgunners. Let me illustrate this with an example. The Desert Eagle firearm is made of steel, is extremely robust and can stand up to the hardest abuse and still operate. The Desert Eagle airgun is made of large amounts of plastic and, while acceptable to shooters, it cannot withstand any of the rugged treatment the firearm can.
I mentioned that certain firearms (Colt SAA artillery model, M1 Carbine, etc.) are treated differently than the NRA standards dictate, for various reasons. This also holds true for airguns. The Schimel GP22 is a single-shot CO2 pistol from the early 1950s. It was designed to resemble a Luger pistol, even to the point that the loading bolt was part of a toggle linkage that was manually raised up from the receiver to load each pellet — much the same as the toggle link works in the semiautomatic firearm — every time it fires.
The Schimel was a CO2 pistol made in the early 1950s.
The Schimel was constructed of potmetal parts with reinforcements for needed wear durability. For instance, the rifled barrel is a thin steel tube that’s pressed into a potmetal jacket that resembles a barrel on the outside. Because two dissimilar metals were in contact, many guns suffered electrolysis over the decades, and these parts are now welded together.
Schimels were painted with a flat black paint that did not hold up well over time. As a result, most guns have lost some to all of their original black finish.
Schimel grip panels were made of a synthetic that shrank over time. Most grip panels will show some shrinkage, which makes me suspicious of any Schimel with grip panels have not shrunk.
I’ve never seen a Schimel in 100 percent original condition, and I’m pretty sure one doesn’t exist. I’ve seen a couple of 80 percent guns that I thought were refinished. I’ve seen Schimel grips that were not shrunk, and I am all but certain that are not original parts.
So — what would make a perfect Schimel collectible? I think a gun that has as much as 25 percent of the flat black (don’t handle this gun because that paint is still flaking off!) and shrunken grips in a nice original box is about the best you can hope for. Anything beyond that is either a gun that was in a mammouth’s mouth when he was flash-frozen, or it’s been refinished. That’s my opinion, and it’s not necessarily true.
Back to the first gun I talked about — the Crosman 101. If the American Pickers suddenly discover one that has been housed in a warehouse in a dry climate, it may be possible that it has its original finish. But 99.999 percent of this model that have 100 percent finish have been refinished. They may be worth as much as $200, where a good shooter might bring only $100. But that one lone gun the American Pickers found is worth whatever anyone is willing to pay.
Rarity means very little
Every airgun is potentially unique in this respect. And, despite the efforts to which some refinishers have gone to make the guns shine, their collector value remains low because of the major changes that were made to get the gun in the finer condition.
I own a Falke model 90 underlever spring rifle. According to the best information available, there may have been fewer than 200 of these airguns made in the early 1950s. Mine is in fair-to-poor condition because of the vandalism of a former owner who tried to carve his initials into the stock. If my gun was a Winchester that was just as scarce, it would be worth five figures in this condition. But as it is, my Falke has been offered at several airgun shows at $450 in working condition and has been ignored. If it was in 80 percent condition (even if restored to that condition) and had the rear peep sight, it might bring $450. But it probably wouldn’t bring a lot more.
In contrast to the Falke, Sheridan produced 2,130 model A (Supergrade) rifles from 1947 to about 1953. One of these that works and has been restored to near-new condition will fetch about $1,400 today. That’s despite the fact that this rifle is in no better condition, from the NRA standards standpoint, than my Falke.
Slang terms used to describe condition
Here are some terms that are commonly used to describe the condition of airguns.
Pristine: Meaningless, but it conveys about the same as NRA Excellent condition.
Mint: Same as Pristine. Meaningless for firearms or airguns. Minty is a subset of Mint.
LNIB: Stands for Like New in Box. It conveys that the condition is New and there is also a box.
Excellent condition, considering its age: Watch out for anything sounding like this! The seller wants to cover the true condition by having you imagine what it might be. Whenever I see this phrase, I think I’m about to be swindled. The only time you should consider the age of an airgun is after you’ve been told what the real condition is, as in, “This gun is in Good condition, which is not too bad when you consider its age.”
Also watch out for sellers who try to mix the condition ratings, like, “This gun is in 95 percent excellent condition. The one thing that keeps it from being rated that high is a small area of deep pitting, where moisture from the box rusted the left side of the slide at some time.” He has taken a gun that is in NRA Fair condition (the deep pitting) and upgraded it to almost Excellent by how he worded the description. This is dishonest but probably not intentional. Watch out for it, nevertheless. Like blurry closeup photos — you don’t know whether the guy is covering something up or is just a lousy photographer.
Be concerned when someone tries to come across as your friend when they describe a gun. Such as, “This gun was obviously loved a lot by some proud little boy,” is code for “It’s a wreck!”
What does it all mean?
Collecting is complex. That’s the lesson I think you can take from today’s report. Rarity, alone, often has little bearing on the value buyers will place on an airgun. However, there are things to watch for. Guns that have been modified have generally lost all collector value, if they ever had any. That doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable — just that collectors won’t see them that way.
Restoring an airgun can add to its value — to a point. And that point will differ with each and every model.
by B.B. Pelletier
Tyrone Nerdin’ Daye is this week’s BSOTW. He says this about his winning image: “My beautiful daughter Kailee with her Ruger Mark I. I think she’s a big shot!”
Today I want to talk about the deals that exist in airgunning. I see them all the time and try to alert you whenever there are several guns of the same model to be had. I did that several weeks ago when I reported on the TS-45 sidelever rifle that Randy Mitchell was selling at the Malvern airgun show. That was a new-old-stock Chinese air rifle that Randy was selling for a mere $20.
I’ve been writing about airguns since 1994, and I’ve seen quite a few similar deals come and go. No doubt, there will be more in the future. The time to act is when the deal is available; because once I announce it, people swoop in.
Many years ago, when Edith and I were publishing The Airgun Letter, a pawn shop in South Carolina bought a container of East German air rifles. Among the thousands of guns they got were many Haenel models 310, 311 and 312 target rifles. They priced them to sell, and that’s what happened. I helped them spread the word about these beauties for several years, and today most of the thousands of these models that are circulating in the U.S. originated from this single source.
When someone wants more gun than they have the money to buy, I’ll often suggest they consider buying used. Buying used is a tough call, because you don’t know what you don’t know. If you get to see and hold the gun, like at a garage sale or a gun show, then at least the general external condition can be assessed. But only at special events can you also shoot the gun. Even then, shooting doesn’t tell you everything. It may show the gun is accurate, but seldom do you have the benefits of a chronograph to tell you the real health of the powerplant.
Why am I talking about buying used? Several reasons, really. If you follow my recommendation, you won’t be exposed to very much risk at all and often will be protected better than by buying a brand new model.
Safety with certain private dealers
The No. 1 reason you can buy used airguns safely is that there are certain dealers whose reputations are sterling. They will never knowingly sell a gun without full disclosure, and they’ve been doing this so long that their disclosure sometimes sounds like an IRS audit report. They’re overly critical of their own guns, pointing out each and every flaw, including those so small you would miss them unless they drew your attention to them.
Sometimes, these people are the way they are because that’s how they were raised. Other times, they’ve become this way through many years of dealing in airguns. They’ve run into their share of overly picky customers who obsessed over the most minor flaws to the point that they never wanted to experience such post-sale criticism again. So, they became anal in their quest to point out flaws in the guns they sell.
If you’re new to airgunning, the best place to find this kind of dealer is by doing business on the Airgun Classified ads that are part of the Yellow Forum. They have a Board of Inquiry (BOI) that has an honest history of many transactions — both buying and selling — that each person has done on that website. Unlike eBay, where the Feedback Forum is structured to be politically correct and almost forces a top rating for every transaction, the Board of Inquiry is quite honest and the contents can be trusted. If you see a lot of great remarks, you can bet that seller is someone with whom you want to do business.
I buy on the Yellow Forum Classified ads with confidence, knowing that not only will the item be as good as described, the entire transaction will go smoothly. If for any reason there’s a problem, these top-rated dealers will bend over backwards to make things right. And if they tell me that the gun will shoot Crosman Premier Lites at 934 f.p.s., on average, that’s what it will do.
As you read more about airguns and start recognizing certain names as reliable private dealers, you can start to trade with them at any time. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that Vince, Jim in Pittsburgh, Kevin Lentz and Tom Strayhorn are all good guys you can trust. There are probably many others I haven’t named, as well; but if you read the comments, you’ll soon be able to draw your own conclusions.
Watch for closeout sales and refurbs
The next tip is to watch the websites of your favorite airgun retailers for closeout sales and refurbished guns. Here are several prime examples.
Many years ago, Pyramyd Air sold HW55 rifles. They sold pretty quickly except for one model. The HW55 Champ had a short stock for youth shooters. Though the barreled action was exactly the same size as all the other HW55s, for some reason, buyers avoided the Champ. As a result, Pyramyd Air had a couple Champs left over for a long time after the other 55s had all been sold.
When the FWB 124 finally closed out in the 1990s, many dealers had new-old-stock rifles they couldn’t sell. For a couple years, there was an ongoing sale of brand-new guns that are highly sought-after today; but at that tim, they were simply the end of a long and successful run. While that doesn’t qualify as a used gun, anymore than the HW55 Champs I just mentioned, both guns were incredible buys at the time.
From time to time, Pyramyd Air has refurbished airguns for sale. You find a link to them on the home page in the left navigation column under the title Pre-owned products. Some of these are customer returns and others are just guns that the Pyramyd Air photographer unpacked to take pictures for the website. Still others are special deals on refurbished guns that have gone through an overhaul process, either at Pyramyd Air or at the original manufacturer’s plant. There are great savings on these pages, and they’re usually backed by the same warranty Pyramyd Air offers with all new guns.
Watch for blems
When they first brought the rifle out, Pyramyd Air inspected every Air Venturi Bronco they sold. As far as I know, they still do. So, when they found a number of guns that had blemishes from the stock finishing process, they passed incredible savings along to the customer.
What to avoid
The sad thing is that the advice I’m about to give will never be read by those who need it the most, because they don’t read this blog. Avoid buying guns from “dealers” who sell through airgun forums by continually touting their own guns and modifications — sometimes trashing similar guns and modifications by others. These guys are mostly hobby dealers who think they can make a killing with their wonderful work, and they’re turning out dangerous and substandard airguns left and right.
Some of these guys are predators and others are just stupid and don’t know the damage they’re doing. Either way, I would avoid doing business with them. If they were any good, they would have good reputations on major websites and wouldn’t have to toot their own horns in dark corners.
I would avoid a selloff of a recently “latest and greatest” model gun. This happens when someone who doesn’t know anything about airguns convinces an airgun manufacturer to make a certain model to their specifications. You’ll read about it in several places on the web, but never on this blog and probably never in print. The dealer is writing his own reviews or he’s getting his friends to write reviews for him, and the gun has flaws that aren’t obvious but they should be. The guns will all be delivering velocities that readers of this blog know are impossible to achieve. They’re almost always spring guns, though there have been a few CO2 guns that fit this description.
What to look for is an overly powerful airgun that delivers unbelievable accuracy. Invariably, the caliber will be .177, and the gun will be a breakbarrel. When you see this, walk away!
When the word of their true quality and performance spreads at the grassroots level (i.e., emails and chat forums), all sales will stop and the dealer will have to sell off the remainder of his inventory at reduced prices. This is almost never a bargain and should be avoided at all cost.
A variation on this theme is when an airgun manufacturer is bought out by an investment firm that, again, knows nothing about airguns. They will build the same overly powerful models described above, and they’ll do it in the cheapest possible way. Once the guns hit the market, the word will spread rapidly, and at some point there will have to be a grand closeout sale. Unless you buy one for a laugh, I wouldn’t waste the money, no matter what the savings. These guns often have barrels without rifling, or are missing key parts. In the end, when all the rats jump ship, what’s left to sell isn’t worth buying.
One last thing to avoid is when a manufacturer takes an airgun model that has earned a wonderful name over the years and they cheapen it to milk out the last few dollars. I was appalled when I saw this happen the first few times, until it dawned on me that this is a new way of doing business. It’s an actual and intentional plan some businesspeople use to make money. Now, I treat it like the deception it is, and I try to warn shooters if I can.
This has been a brief look at the underbelly of the airgun market. I doubt I’ve addressed every important issue, but that’s what the weekend is for.