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Banding Together for Waterfowl

14 Tips for Buying Used Shotguns

Waterfowlers who know what to look for can get a great deal on a secondhand shotgun
  • photo by John Hoffman, DU
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By Phil Bourjaily

Since shotguns are built to last, there are always used waterfowl guns available on the resale market. The rigors of duck and goose hunting can be hard on a gun, but "used" doesn't have to mean "abused." Waterfowlers sell or trade their shotguns for all kinds of reasons. They upgrade. They need money. One hunter's trade-in can be another's treasure. 

Armed with the latest Blue Book of Gun Values, you can find a quality used gun that fits your hunting needs. Reputable dealers stand behind these firearms, but used guns still come "as is" and need a thorough inspection. 

Here's a checklist of things to look over when buying a secondhand gun:

1. Barrel Check the barrel inside and out for dents and bulges, which are immediate deal breakers. If the barrel is dirty, ask for it to be cleaned out before you look for pitting in the bore and chamber. Check the rib for dents.

2. Break Action Remove an over/under or side-by-side's forearm. Holding the stock's grip in one hand and the barrels in the other, wiggle the action. It shouldn't budge.

3. Pump Action A stiff or balky action on a pump gun can mean bent action bars. There's a difference, however, between "smooth" and "sloppy." Buy the former; avoid the latter.

4. Chamber Length The gun's chambers may be shorter than standard, especially on older 16- and 20-gauge Auto 5s and Model 12s. 

5. Choke Tubes Be sure they can be easily removed. Tubes rusted in place can cost a couple of hundred dollars to remove.
Extractor Check the extractor on the bolt; it should be sharp with good spring tension. 

6. Magazine Tube On gas-operated guns, make sure the outside of the magazine tube is clean and smooth. Feel the inside as far as you can reach with your finger. Most tubes are dirty, but you don't want to find rust or pitting.

7. Opening Lever On new break-action guns, the opening lever angles to the right and gradually moves to six o'clock as the gun wears in. If the lever is past six o'clock, the action needs tightening.


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