Consumer Information

Should You Buy a Police Trade-In Gun?

police gun in holster

Every LEO agency in the U.S. has a timetable for their firearms.

A given agency may determine the wear and tear on the average gun will make it a potential liability after seven years of ownership.

Other agencies may decide on five or 10 years.

Regardless of the timeframe, this means bidding on a new buy contract and part of that contract is normally getting a trade-in value on the used guns.

Most of that is not particularly important to the citizen gun buyer, right up until the point the company who now owns the used guns needs to sell them.

This is done almost exclusively into the citizen market.

Man holding revolver at counter

Trade-In Example: GLOCK

We will use GLOCK as an example, as that is what I did the most of.

When I was an over-the-counter gun salesman, my company was a blue label GLOCK dealer and we did buybacks frequently.

Sometimes it was from a small agency encompassing 50 guns or less. Other times it was a much larger agency and involved several hundred guns.

Our buy-back pricing was done assuming the average condition of the firearms in the lot. There were always outliers.

We graded ours from “not saleable” to “unissued” and priced them for retail accordingly.

The not saleable ones were disposed of as gunsmith specials to other businesses. The rest became retail sales options in our used counter.

Pricing was significantly below new pricing, even for the unissued units. 

Let’s say a new GLOCK 17 ran $500.  

Pricing for the used models might look something like:

Unissued$399
A+$369
A$339
B$319
C$289

For a +40% savings, you could purchase a fully-functional GLOCK 17 with lots of holster wear and some pitting on the slide.

It would typically not come with a box and only have one magazine.

But you also got the GLOCK lifetime warranty on all components other than the magazine. Those are always considered expendable components.

In a seven-year life, an agency would typically put no more than 200 rounds per year (50 each in quarterly qualification) on the gun.

A barrel with no more than 1,400 rounds through it is just getting to be well broken in.

Of course, some officers shot a lot more, but doubling or tripling those numbers does not shoot out a barrel and a replacement barrel is not exactly expensive.

GLOCK Pistol

Other Firearm Examples

For other manufacturers that did not have a lifetime warranty, we paid less for the buyback and passed that along to the consumer.

This meant, on a firearm without warranty coverage, the “C” grade gun was typically at a 50% or greater discount compared to new.

All our guns were function checked prior to being sold.

Not all companies have the ability to do so, but most will honor at least a 30-day warranty so you can easily figure that out.

In my store, we sold police/armed security trades of Smith and Wesson Model 38’s, GLOCK 17/21/22, Berretta 92’s, Mossberg 500/590 and Remington 870 with some regularity.

There were occasional Benelli shotguns, Smith and Wesson M&P pistols and a smattering of AR’s of various makes.

trade-in gun shotgun and AR-15

My Trade-In Gun Purchases

Our clients were always on the lookout for these sales, as most of the guns were in great shape for the price or were easily fixed up and still well below new price for a fully-function firearm.

I can put it another way. I personally own a former LEO Remington 870, Mossberg 500 and an AR chambered in .45 ACP.

The odd LEO trade-in that I own, is a Marlin Camp 9. I should have also bought a Model 38, but we never got one in set up the way I wanted it.

Conclusion: Buying a Trade-In Gun

As always, the buyer should beware.

But, from a reputable dealer and especially with brands that have a lifetime warranty, an LEO trade-in gun is a very good value.

Of course, new guns are always the better option. And where else can you get that new-gun smell to accompany your purchase?

Have you ever purchased a police trade-in gun? Tell us your experience in the comments section below!

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
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 (23)

  1. Last November 2020 I purchased a LE trade in S&W MP 45 acp . I think I paid $450 for it it came in a plastic case 1 mag , 3 grip adjuster pieces, night sights, very good condition . My complaint was the background check I have always cleared in a week here in Wa state . For some reason this weapon didn’t clear till Jan 21. The dealer(FFL) was telling me that several other firearms forms that were sent in that week were also held up they thought maybe misplaced (right). I had bought several handguns there , although this was a online purchase sent there .

  2. I’m a licensed C&R collector. My thought on this is simple, if I’ll buy a hundred year old rifle, that went thru WWI, check it and shoot it, I’m fine with a PD trade in. As long as it passes muster.

  3. In 1990 I purchased a SIG P226 that was an LEO return. It looks a little worn but the barrel is in great shape and shoots wonderfully. All I have done is replace the recoil spring. I finally swapped to a Glock last year (Also an LEO return) but my son prefers the SIG. I think I paid around 200 bucks back in 1990. It was a bargain.

  4. I was lucky enough to get a Glock that was “unissued” even had an extra (3rd) clip in the box. This was well below new price and of course I have purchased other items at this dealer

  5. I purchased a Glock model 22 in 40s&w that appears new ( I fired ). I don’t see any wear at all. I looked it over quite carefully and decided it was a great buy at 350.00 as it came with it’s original extra magazine. 40 A&E is not my first choice, but at 350.00 how could I pass it up. It’s no longer unfired and is very accurate. I would not hesitate to buy a police trade in. I hope my fellow shooters at some point have an opportunity like I have. It’s a great way to buy a gun and get a great deal. Happy shooting.

  6. I purchased a former Colorado State Patrol, Smith And Wesson 686. It rapidly became my favorite wheel gun. Absolutely the most accurate and comfortable revolver I have ever shot.
    Unfortunately my ex knew I loved that gun so she made sure she got it in the divorce.
    99% condition with Pachmayr grips. $200.00 about 25 years ago.

  7. I have 5 daughters and over the years I started each with a police trade in revolver.
    I managed to get one Orange County, California Sheriff’s dept S&W model 15 and 4 NYPD turn in
    S&W Model 10s.
    These revolvers were all simply terrific. A little holster wear on the finish but excellent quality revolvers for each of my girls. They all learned basic handgunning and personal defense, as well as full familiarization with the shooting experience.
    Each have gone on and added an auto loader and various rifles to their own collection.
    But they all still have that first revolver given them by their Dad. I paid 175.00 for the model 15 and an average 110.00 for the Model 10s.
    Some of the very best quality buys in all my handgunning years.
    I would heartily recommend anyone get a police turn in where ever and whenever they can.
    It is never a pretty gun, but if you want a quality firearm that you can toss in the truck or the car, get wet and dirty and never really worry about it, you have one in spades.

  8. Back in the day when PDs were transitioning from revolvers to autopistols several area small departments disposed of their old guns with the gunshop I worked at. One PD turned in a dozen or so S&Ws, a mix of blued model 19s and a few stainless steel model 66s. “Buyer beware” was right. While most were in good but holster worn condition, a few had problems. A couple we got fixed with a few parts replaced, one had the frame damaged to the point it had to go back to S&W for repairs. None of the “bad” ones would fire!

    When the Chief came by to collect his check for the lot we learned that he had first offered them to his officers and several had taken him up on it, mainly buying the “new” ones they kept in reserve for new officers and replacements. The ones we had received were carried every day by his officers, including at least 3 that were actually unarmed officers…

    I grabbed one of the better condition model 66s and paid $85 for it. A few months later someone offered me $200 for it and like an idiot I took the money! Figured I’d just replace it the next time a PD got rid of their revolvers but apparently that was the last local agency to switch, we never got any more.

  9. I too over the years have acquired several excellent police trade ins, to include a pristine 13-2 in nickel and a scuffed but mechanically sound model 36.
    And I have built a collection of trade in second and third generation s&w autos all bought for near pennies on the dollar versus original price.
    I have owned and traded all varieties of k frame and n frame police trade ins.
    If you know what to inspect for prior to purchase and can get by surface distractions you can get quality equipment at great prices.
    My 5906 looks like it was used for dis-armament practice, literally, but mechanically it’s perfect with new springs before I ever got it!

  10. Carried a Glock 23 for last 10-12 years of my career. After retiring I found a nice, holster worn 24 with box and 3 LE only
    Mags. It’s been a great gun and I requalify with it every year.

  11. I purchased a LEO trade in about a year ago, HK P2000 V3 in .40 Cal, for $390 with a trade in on an old CZ I had. I still had a lot of ammo from a previous .40 and was wanting a smaller frame carry when working on the farm during summer. After purchasing I took it apart, cleaned it, fired 100 rounds thru it not no problems at all, everything was was great! All it had was some holster wear, but even that was not bad, and it had the LEO stamp. It was to me a great purchase and I had no regrets. The way I look at it, it was taken care of, service by a armorer and does not have an illegal record on it.

  12. Back in 2015 I purchased a Glock 22 / 40 S&W. It was a LEO trade-in. Glock rebuilt it and packed it in a red box with paper work, warranty two new magazines night sights (dim) 95% pistol. FFL dealer sold it to me for $199. I don’t like Glocks, but could not pass up that deal.

  13. Back in the 70s, the gun store where I worked was able to swing a deal to buy used Argentine 1911’s as they were going to the Baretta. Back then, the going price was less than $300 and some of those guns were worn, while others were almost new.
    Our gunsmith picked out one for me that he wanted to restore. He loved working on guns, and the only thing he ever charged me for was parts, but this one 1911 didn’t need any. I paid about $150 for that gun, and I repolished it and blued it. I used it for my EDC.
    I joined a pistol club. The .45 I used was a Colt Gold Cup, but before we started our competitions, we fired whatever we wanted to test. One guy asked if he could test my carry gun, and he offered me a considerable profit if I would just sell him my gun, but I declined. (I eventually gave it as a gift to my auto-mechanic).

  14. Police Department trade in guns I feel are some of the best values in the gun market!!
    From the days when PD’s were getting rid of revolvers, then getting rid of 9mm’s, to the more recent switch from .40 & .45 back to 9mm.
    The PD trade in firearms I have purchased were in like new to good condition. Well worth the money!!

  15. The AR in the photo is a select fire M4 actual assault rifle. I assume that is not available to civilians. I have noticed a lot of stock photos show military select fire rifles when talking about semiauto ar15’s. I always look for the sear pin, most of the civilian population doesn’t know the difference by looking.

  16. From what I have seen over the years, police department trade in guns are a great value!!
    From the years when most PD’s were switching over to semi-autos and so many great used revolvers were on the market for a real bargain. To more recently when a lot of departments are switching from the .40S&W or .45ACP back to the 9mm. Locally Gen3 Glock 22 / .40’s with night sights were selling for $299. The ones I bought were in very good condition!!
    Just recently I bought a PD trade in Remington 870 “Police Magnum” shotgun, sight unseen for $400. The condition was good, it came equipped with a pistol grip stock that holds 4 extra rounds, side saddle on the action that holds 6 extra rounds & an old sure fire forend with light. Considering the condition and the additional features AND the fact it was impossible to find a new 870 anywhere in person, I feel I did well. Also the “Police Magnum” 870’s have 6 upgraded heavy duty parts, so they are always more than the standard 870 Express.
    I’ve been more than happy with my PD trade in purchases and feel they are some of the best values out there in the gun market.

  17. I haven’t bought one, yet. I have a question. How does one locate a dealer that has these for sale? Online or in person.

  18. I also worked at a retailer that sold police trade ins. Most agencies sell to a local blue label dealer that will vary by location. Cabelas also does police trade ins on a corporate scale and can be found in their used gun section

  19. As a current LEO my agency currently trades our Glocks in on a 10 year schedule. We are in GA and get great service directly from Glock frequently. I will say the authors used price scale seemed a bit high. I passed on my first issued gun because the buy back price was just 50 dollars under what our blue line price was. I did buy my second issued gun (they improved our buy back price) and immediately took it to Glock who replaced everything except the frame slide and barrel for free. Fyi I shoot my duty weapon much more frequently than a lot of officers.

  20. I bought a second hand LEO handgun from a Texas Ranger . It was a great price ! A Sig p226 model . It shot well overall , but the sight was a little off . I traded it after a couple of years and essentially received back what I paid for it ! Overall, not a regrettable experience and I’d recommend purchasing used LEO handguns !

  21. Question:
    Where do you go to buy 2nd hand police guns??

    I bought a S&W model 36 (.38 cal) in 1972. With the law enforcement discount I paid $89.00. I took it with me when I was assigned to S. Korea.

    I had to store it in my detachment’s armory. Two months after I arrived our entire building, including the armory, burnt down to the foundation. previously I had been assigned to get rid of a lot of ammo and weapons that were the result of the build-up following the USS Pueblo incident.

    While we were watching the fire a sizable safe packed with .556 ammo as well as flares, grenades, and any other flammable ammo came hoping out of the fire. The ammo blew out the bottom and went for a stroll. Instead of a filing cabinet full of papers, I was able to write off the ammo and weapons with one page report of destruction!!! 🙂

    My little .36 was deemed destroyed and I was reimbursed $78.00.

    When I returned to the U.S. I took the pistol to a gunsmith who charged me $90.00 to rebuild it.

    In 2019 my arthritis got to the point when it was difficult to use my 9mm daily carry. Thus my little model 36 is now my daily carry. I love revolvers

  22. I bought three police trade ins years ago when there was the mass move from revolvers to semi-autos. I got S&W Models 10, 13, and 64 and they ranged in price from $125-$150. The Model 10 and 64 clearly had very little use… the hand, cylinder stop, and extractor star were all crisp and tight and the timing was fine. The 10 had a very small amount of holster wear at the muzzle and very little bluing wear on the recoil shield but otherwise was unmarked. The 64 had no shiny spots and was unmarked. The Model 13 had a lot more holster wear and bluing wear on the recoil shield.

    I did a lot of double action shooting with the $125 Model 13 and shot a fair amount of .357 magnums in it… including during armed guard training. After I put about 13,000 rounds through it I replaced the hand and cylinder stop to tighten it up and retimed the gun. About 15,000 rounds of mostly 38s later I sold it to a dealer for $150 who thought it was in very good condition.

    The Model 10 and 64 are among my most used revolvers. They are accurate and reliable and I don’t feel bad about putting a lot of rounds through them. On the other hand, I’m less inclined to shoot my original Python a lot…

  23. I once bought a police issued S&W Model 10-6 .38 spcl. revolver, 4″ blued heavy barrel.It came with the original box and paper work of officers to whom it was issued. Aside from some light holster wear it is in great condition, one of my favorite revolvers. Price paid was $150.00.

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