Consumer Information

Never Buy a Used Gun!

SIG Sauer P250 left, CZ 82 handgun right

I am certain the savvy gun buyer in the audience will take umbrage with the title. I have purchased quite a few used guns over the years. But in the end, new guns — for the shooter, not the collector — are by far the best bet. This is especially true for the less-sophisticated buyer.

We have several million new gun buyers. These folks have bought new guns for the most part. I would never recommend a new or first-time buyer purchase a used gun. The learning curve is steep enough without taking a chance on a used and abused firearm.

Taurus GRX 9mm handgun left profile
No need to be cheap and search out a used carry gun. The Taurus GRX 9mm is an excellent pistol at a modest price.

Flooded New Market

As an example, a friend’s shop has a ratio of perhaps 80% new to used guns. Another shop runs 50-50. I am a pretty fair parts replacer and rise to gunsmith level in certain areas. In each of these shops, complaints and repairs are 100% in the used gun area. I do the best I can to fix these guns, but most of the time the final cost makes the firearm a poor bargain.

The lure of a used gun isn’t nearly as strong as it once was. There are plenty of affordable and reliable new guns readily available that serve well for personal defense. We each have a practical and a cheap side, I suppose.

The cheap side may go too cheap and buy a handgun that isn’t suitable for the chore. The practical side should decide not to throw good money after bad, bite the bullet, and purchase a new firearm for serious use. Let’s look at some of the strong points of a new gun compared to a used gun. As an example, the new gun will be exactly the gun you want. No compromise. The finish is your choice. Model, size, caliber, and accessories are yours to choose.

If you cannot afford quite the pistol of your dreams, you may purchase a similar model — an economy model — that serves well. The Ruger EDC is a good, concealed carry gun that has cut some corners over the LC9 as an example. The difference between the Smith & Wesson Military and Police, Glock 19, and Springfield XD 9 is primarily conversational.

There is little that may be achieved tactically with one quality handgun that you cannot do with another. Spare magazines and holsters are plentiful. You also have a warranty that will help with the occasional factory defect.

Beretta APX Carry handgun 9mm left profile
Beretta’s APX Carry is an affordable slim line 9mm. Why buy used?


I have had few problems with factory pistols, but no maker is perfect. A few years ago, I had a problem with a Springfield pistol feed ramp. A call tag was sent, and the pistol traveled to Springfield. I had it back in less than a week. I also had an ATI 1911 with an improperly set adjustable trigger. The hammer would not fall.

A call tag was sent, and I had the pistol back in three days. Three days! And it was properly set. Some makers have a better reputation than others. The point is, problems with new guns are few and far between, but they can occur.

A factory warranty is good to have. Taurus rocked the world a generation ago with a lifetime warranty. A standard most of the industry joined.

Beretta 92 X 9mm handgun right profile
Note the improvements to the Beretta 92 X over the original 92 – Vertac grip and excellent sights as well as a light rail. It is affordable.

Bad Deals and Bad Luck

Sometimes a used gun has the factory box and spare magazines, other times what you see is what you get. Most any used 1911 will have a junk or gun show magazine. The person trading it in always thinks he or she will get another 1911, so they keep the good magazines.

Rifles traded in are without a scope or with a Walmart scope and cheap mounts have been substituted for the Leupold the rifle originally wore. Those used deals are seldom as economical as a modern package rifle sold with a bore-sighted scope already mounted. The modern hard-shell box, accessories, and tools are good to have. When you start adding up these things, you may find a used gun isn’t that good a buy.

Remington 1911 R1 handgun right profile
The author is not immune to mistakes. This Remington 1911 features a high-quality frame, slide, and barrel. However, every internal part had to be scrapped. It had been through the hands of a gun butcher who cared nothing about selling a dangerous firearm to the unwitting public. The author salvaged what he could after bailing out a less-experienced friend.

Of course, some shops overstate the value of used guns. They are often within 10­–20 percent of the price of a new gun. And there are new guns with better features. As an example, the older Military and Police self-loaders are not bad guns. In fact, I could easily say they are good pistols. However, the new 2.0 version is a better gun. No matter how good a deal the older gun is, the modern 2.0 trigger system is a better system.

Likewise, the new Shield is a much better handgun. These new guns are affordable. At present, some guns bring more than the MSRP. However, older guns are also inflated, and they are not worth the money.

A rather weird example was a first-year Glock 17 9mm advertised as ‘the Holy Grail’ for Glock collectors. The sights are the original type which were produced before the front sight improvement. Yep, the type that was easily knocked off even when drawing from a hard-shell holster.

There was no provision for mounting lights and no changeable grip insert on these first-generation offerings. This pistol is worth a fraction of the cost of a new Glock and cannot be upgraded. I don’t think there should be collector interest in a pistol produced in the millions…

Production pistols are seldom a gun deal. If they are half the price of a modern firearm, perhaps. As an example, during a recent browse in a gun shop, I spotted two Ruger revolvers. A new Ruger GP100 was priced at just below $800. A stainless-steel Ruger Security Six was tagged at $697.50. The GP 100 is more rugged, has a smoother action, and is more accurate. It’s just not much of a decision for me.

Black Aces 12 gauge shotgun with wood stock and forearm
This Black Aces shotgun is basically a Benelli clone. The average retail price is less than $400. Why look for a used shotgun with available options such as this?

Autoloaders are more problematic. I may step on some toes, but for the most part, makers have steadily improved their firearms. Older versions are simply not the best performers in comparison to modern firearms. I have a S&W Model 39 9mm on hand for reference.

The Model 39 isn’t in the class for durability and reliability with a modern SIG or Beretta. Used examples are overpriced in my opinion. Try finding a set of grips. Spare magazines will set you back about twice as much as a Glock magazine. Did I mention the Glock always feeds and functions?

Up to now, I have considered only used firearms in good condition. The gun butcher is alive and well in 2022! I run across pistols with a butchered trigger action often. They are dangerous to the user and all those in the near vicinity. As an example, I realize the Apex trigger for the Glock is a popular aftermarket addition. Apex enjoys an excellent reputation. But is the trigger in that Glock an Apex?

Safety Hammerless revolver (top) and modern Smith and Wesson revolver (bottom).
This may be an extreme example, but perhaps the modern Smith & Wesson revolver, lower, is the better choice over the older Safety Hammerless, above.

Build a gun yourself — if you have the skill, and you know what went into it. I have tested several revolvers that have suffered springs cut and the hammer and sear engagement filed to the point the action was smooth — sure — but completely unreliable. Stay away from modified guns of any type. The worst problems I have personally experienced were with this type of handgun.

Gun Shows

At this point, get out the slings and arrows. I avoid guns shows, and not just because of the pandemic. At one time, I enjoyed going to shows and meeting with like-minded folks. Some of the sellers were more exhibitors, selling off a small part of their collection. Today, greed seems to be the main focus.

In the past, I could find parts such as grips and magazines that were not available elsewhere. There were good buys from time to time. During the past three to four years, the landscape has changed. Panic buyers have taken over. Book sellers and parts sellers are now on the internet. Gun show prices are terribly inflated, and often enough, the show is full of broken or butchered guns.

Bul and Magnum Research 1911 pistol left profile
The new Bul and Magnum Research 1911 pistols incorporate features that were unheard of a generation ago. Don’t settle for older pistols.

When you buy from a gun retailer or reputable pawn shop, you have a legitimate firearm. It is a slur that pawnshops have disreputable goods. It is the law in all states that when a firearm comes into the pawnshop it goes into a database and the gun is checked against a national hot sheet.

Occasionally, a gun comes up stolen, and justice is swift to the moron who sold it. Pawnbrokers must hold goods 7–10 days before they sell them, allowing these goods to be checked with law enforcement.

Every time a gun show hits town, a few weeks later some kid or adult trades in a gun purchased at the gun show, and it comes up stolen. If the seller doesn’t have a receipt, only the story was purchased at the gun show, from some guy whose name he did not catch.

Taurus 856 .38 Special revolver left profile
The Taurus 856 is affordable. This .38 features a nicely pebbled rubber grip and front post-mounted night sight! No need to look for older guns.

If you do this more than once, the cops will take a hard look at you. I am not saying gun shows are full of stolen goods, of course not. However, there may not be background on the firearm purchased in a private sale. I am simply stating reality. I don’t wish to have a gun with a questionable origin. This type of thing really colors a self-defense shooting, and your reputation.

I hope that you will take these few words to heart. Firearms are not terribly expensive, after all, if you need a firearm that accomplishes a specific chore rather than a showpiece. Carefully balance the price of accessories, ammunition, and even the trade-in value. I think you will agree, new guns are the best buy.

Used guns or new? Do you agree with the author that used guns certainly have a place but not for every shooter and not for the new shooter? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Safety Hammerless revolver (top) and modern Smith and Wesson revolver (bottom).
  • three smith and wesson short barrel revolvers
  • Three old Colt revolvers
  • Remington 1911 R1 handgun right profile
  • Beretta 92 X 9mm handgun right profile
  • Bul and Magnum Research 1911 pistol left profile
  • SIG Sauer P250 left, CZ 82 handgun right
  • Bul Cherokee 9mm handgun with TruGlo weapon light
  • Taurus GRX 9mm handgun left profile
  • Taurus 856 .38 Special revolver left profile
  • Black Aces 12 gauge shotgun with wood stock and forearm
  • Beretta APX Carry handgun 9mm left profile

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (15)

  1. Too much chance to over pay and buy someone else’s abuse for me to buy used. However, there’s no denying one could do well buying used. Definitely haggle with the seller if you are not an expert in used firearms. Think of your friend that owns a Harley Davidson, adds nice looking accessories and is convinced the bike is worth more than it is. Even though it’s not. How about all those folks that list a house to sell way above market value. Yet they are convinced of their outlook. Same type of thoughts go into the minds of those selling firearms- lol. Caveat Emptor!

  2. I bought a Taurus 92AFS used. It has vacationed in Miami more than I have. To Taurus credit, they have repaired it twice under the lifetime warranty. My purchase price was not low enough to compensate for the inconvenience. Otherwise, a nice gun.

  3. I recently bought a rifle online as a collector/shooter. I have wanted a Sako rifle for many years. A year or so ago I started looking online – many to choose from, but I was very leary of buying without actually getting to hold it and inspect it myself. I found what looked like a very nice Finnbear in .270 win. It was a little more expensive than other sellers, but, I called the manager there and voiced my concerns about buying online. He went over the pics available and even made me a deal. By the way, I have no Cabela’s near Tampa, but, there is a Bass Pro and they shipped the rifle to Bass Pro for free and only charged me $5 for my background check (they operate under the same FFL so it wasn’t considered a transfer). I couldn’t have been more happy. It was in even better condition than I thought. Happy ending. With that said, I don’t recommend buying used unless you’re very familiar with the seller and know the gun’s history of use/abuse. I did buy from Cabela’s because it is a long time reputable company and I figured I’d probably be less likely to have a problem, and more likely to get a better resolution if I did. But, for a carry gun go new. Remember, you/your family’s lives may depend on your decision. Don’t cheap out. Like we used to say when I raced motorcycles – What’s your head worth – if you’ve got a $5 head then buy a $5 helmet! My helmets always cost about $400-$500 and there were times that I was very glad in my choice. The short story is that I agree with the author. You may not be able to afford your dream gun, but, there are a lot of less expensive models available that would be better than pointing your finger. Get the best you can afford and

  4. If you are that new to firearms; purchase from a gun store owned by a gunsmith!!! Any one that afraid of a used gun, send them my way. I will happily take possession of them.

  5. Basically very true. The new buyer is much better off with a new gun, the exception may be a law enforcement trade in, inspected and/or refurbished by a legitimate shop. Inspection is critical as duty weapons can be abused but person or weather exposure. so used sales are best for collectors or those with the skill to rebuild as necessary. Any used gun should be inspected and backgrounder. It is a total loss if it is found to be stolen or associated with a crime. Be especially wary of “home builds”. The transfer may be illegal and the workmanship substandard.

  6. I am a pretty experienced and knowledgeable shooter, NRA instructor and gun owner/collector, and I pretty much disagree with most of what the author says. I agree that new, inexperienced gun buyers should stick to new guns, unless they have a very experienced teacher or friend to help them select a good used one. But I have bought a d traded over a hundred used firearms during a period of 50 years, and quite honestly have had many more new ones give me problems than used ones. I agree with one other response that the vast majority of used guns are barely broken in, not worn out. And a negligible number of them have been modified in any way in my experience. Most people never shoot enough to wear a gun out, which takes many thousands of rounds. Abused guns are easy to spot and avoid. Bad or unsafe modifications can almost always be spotted on a careful exam at the counter, and those parts are usually inexpensive and easy to replace. And many factory warrantees actually cover used guns, too. I can save an average of $2-300 on most of my used gun purchases, and have only encountered serious problems with a very few used guns. Most people pawn or sell them because they need money in a hurry, decided they didn’t really like the model or caliber they chose, or saw something shiny and new they just had to have instead. Clean non-abused police trade-ins are the best. Most police are not really shooters, and most of their guns are like new mechanically, and very reasonably priced. As I said, I totally disagree, and though price is really is fortunately not a concern for me, I buy far more excellent used guns than new ones. Just one man’s opinion.

  7. I recently purchased a used 1911 from a long time member of the gun club I joined about five years ago. I was told, by my older brother, that this was a great deal on a great gun. As it turned out this great deal cost me an additional $600 at a reputable gunsmith. Now it is a great gun but certainly not the great deal I thought I was getting

  8. I am 71 and I have purchased more used guns than I can relate here. The first one was back in the mid 70’s, not too long after I got out of the Army. I knew a cop who was working security in the ER where I worked and we talked about weapons in general and I asked him if he knew anyone who was interested in selling a Model 19 Smith. He thought he did and did some checking on it. It ended up being a Model 59 Smith, not a model 19. I don’t even remember how much I paid for it, but I had it for several years and it went with me through several states and saved my carcass on more than one occasion. I never aimed it at anyone, but was in more than one situation where things could have gone south real quick. I brought the gun to the ready in case the SHTF. People who were acting like fools, and trying to physically threaten me, decided that their menacing behavior was no longer necessary and were being called by their mother or something like that, that is, once they were aware of my little friend Mr. Smith and his 15 even smaller friends. I sold that gun when money was tight and I have regretted it for a long time. That was before I could afford to get a 1911, or maybe more than one. My first one was a build from scratch Government Model on a Caspian frame so only the slide was used.

    After I got married, I purchased several used guns; there was a 30-60 lever action, made by Winchester for Sears that I never did care for that much. I traded it in for a nice PSE Compound bow. Then, there was a Smith M 29-2, blued and 8⅜” barrel that I took with me when I was deer hunting. I loved that gun but some years later, when Smith came out with the 629 Classic Hunter in the late 80’s I think it was, I bought one of the first (it was brand new) that arrived in the metroplex. There was an issue with my wife over me having two guns in that caliber and I relented and sold the M 29-2. I still have the 629.

    Somewhere in this same time frame, I procured a M 36 Smith for my wife. SHe didn’t like the recoil in that light frame so I came into a Smith 686 that I bought hoping she would like it. That did not work out either. We have a 20 ga Mossberg for her to use in the house if needed. Also somewhere around this time, (c. 1990) a guy I met asked me if I would be interested in a “.270 deer rifle” he had acquired, as a part of an inheritance, I believe. He was not a hunter and didn’t even know what make or model it was. I was able to see the Remington 721 a week or so later and paid him the $200 he was asking, pretty much on the spot after he let me shoot it and covered 3 rounds with a quarter at 100 yards and that was off a terrible makeshift rest. It still shoots like a dream. I have had several different scopes on it over the years and once, that rifle printed a 3 round group at 100 yards that was covered with a dime, part of one hole showing, read a ⅝” group. It has taken more deer than I can remember, some at ranges out past 400 yards.

    Other used guns I own are an AR that I got when a brother-in-law succumbed to cancer and my sister asked me if I would like it. He had built it from scratch and it shoots very nicely. My sister also gave me an old Swedish Mauser that I have seriously considered taking it when deer hunting. It shoots good groups for having iron sights and is kinda fun to shoot. I also have an SKS that has taken a number of deer. I got it for my daughter to use for deer and she lost all interest the first time she had an opportunity to shoot a deer. Oh, well, you know what they say about the best laid plans…

    Off the top of my head, those are the most important or prominent used guns that have passed through my hands over the years and I must admit that I am kind of picky when it comes to buying guns used or new. But if anyone has a WWII era 1911, I would like to learn the details on it…

  9. I agree with this article for the most part with one exception. If you watch the surplus market for law enforcement trade ins. You can pick up gen3 and gen4 Glocks for around 350 glock 22 in 40sw glock 21 in 45 well maintained agency weapons night sights might be dim with holster wear only being shot for annual or semi annual qualification. being shot hundred rounds or so a year for 5 to ten is 1000 rounds or less through them. broke in not wore out. with some agency going to 9mm lots of 40sw weapons being traded in.

  10. As someone who enjoyed going to gunshows, found that now the only “bargins” are everything other than the firearms or ammo. Now it is safer to go to a retail store to purchase a firearm, or a national online market place to purchase other items. Prices are almost always better, and IF you are buying an used gun, have a better chance of getting a decent firearm. Some gunstores now offer a rental/shooting range where a firearm can be tried out before purchase. For the current “panic” buyers, that would be the best option to help pick out a firearm that you can actually handle. Wish that the rental/shooting range concept would be more widely available. That is one reason that when I go to the local range, I will offer to let someone to try out one of my firearms, or provide simple pointers on safe gun handling, (Yes – I did take a NRA Instructor course years ago).

  11. Sorry to hear that you have gotten some bad stuff, but I have quite a few used firearms in my safe. Also, during my early years I never had enough money to always buy new guns but I was lucky enough to have owned many, many different firearms and it’s only because I bought them used.
    Either a quality firearm or my own knowledge of mechanical devices and obsessive compulsive consumption of every bit of firearms literature ever written has allowed me to experience owning and shooting lots and lots of guns.
    At most I have had to replace some springs and small parts.
    Currently I have a model 5906 that looks like it was used in a police disarmament training class, lots of scratches and dents, but it functions flawlessly and I will bet my life on it.
    Also I have a model 469 for ccw that was bought for less than half the original sale price and, again, I trust my life, and more importantly, that of my loved ones.
    For the novice or non-mechanically inclined, perhaps your advice is valid, but for the rest of us, used guns are a treasure waiting to be found.

  12. May I add, new gun warranty cannot be overstated either, as I was excited, for the first time ever I got In on an initial introduction of a new gun, from a reputable manufacture when I purchase one of the first Glock 44s. Unfortunately it had a severe leading of the barrel issue, AND unheard of, also packing the barrel crown with lead (NEVER seen, nor heard of, that before), resulting in rectangle holes on paper, and a very dangerous situation, which could occur in as few as 40 rounds, different brands of ammo. Upon the second return to Glock, I received a call, and given three choices: #1 Return as is (why?), #2 replace the barrel (but it would have a mismatching serial number = red flag for future sale), or #3 a new gun replacement. At first I chose option #2, the new barrel, but then I am a fanatic on stuff like mismatched serial numbers, so I changed it to option #3, a new replacement. Option #3 seems to be the correct choice, as so far it IS the gun the Glock 44 WAS supposed to be on its introduction. To date, this is the only firearm I have ever returned to a manufacture in many decades. Glock did the right thing for me, but can you imagine purchasing the original one I had, used (like at a gun show)? Especially if someone NEW to the gun family, purchased it.

  13. I have never purchased a used gun I don’t think I would unless it’s from somebody I know well

  14. Mr. Roberts,

    I appreciate your good article. I agree with you for firearms still in production. I always buy a new firearm if it is still in production. However, I wanted a pre-64 Winchester 30-30 and a H&R 949 double action .22 revolver and of course used is your only choice for those two. I bought the rifle from a reputable website and it was as advertised. I bought the revolver at a nearby pawn shop and actually had an issue with it and took it back. Their gunsmith fixed it at no charge of course and I have enjoyed it for years since them. I do agree with you that manufacturers try and most succeed at improving their models. I bought a Ruger Mark III Standard. My son bought the Mark IV and I love his disassembly much much more than mine…

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