Shotgunning: Gun Buying Tips for Waterfowlers

Whether you’re looking for a new or used shotgun, here’s how to get the most for your money

Bargain Hunt: Visit local retailers and search online for the best deals on new and used guns.

© Jim Thompson

Bargain Hunt: Visit local retailers and search online for the best deals on new and used guns.

There are lots of ways to go about buying a duck gun, from ordering a brand-new shotgun online to scouring gun shows for the right old shooter. Following are tips on how and where to buy.

New Guns

Regardless of where you buy, manufacturers’ rebates (which are usually offered in the winter and up until tax season) can put an extra $50 to $150 back in your pocket after a new gun purchase. Guns will often go on sale after the season closes, too, if you’re able to wait.
Margins on new guns are low and prices don’t vary much from store to store. However, big-box retailers and chains buy in bulk and pass those savings along. Searching online retailers for a new gun can turn up bargains, too, although you have to take shipping and $25 to $50 transfer fees into account.

While it may not save you much on the price of a new gun, buying from local retailers has other advantages. When the staff knows you as a regular customer, you’ll often get higher allowances on trades, a few dollars knocked off the price of a used gun, and better service that makes the extra money you spend locally pay off over time.

Used Guns

Used guns are the best deals going, because the original owner takes the depreciation hit. You can get a good gun at a lower price, and it might even have a couple of dings on it, so you won’t be afraid to take it hunting. Arm yourself with the Blue Book of Gun Values and go shopping. If you’re not 100 percent confident in your ability to tell a good gun from a bad one, buy from a store that guarantees what it sells.

Margins on used guns run higher than on new guns—around 15 to 25 percent—meaning there’s usually more room to bargain. The longer a gun has been sitting in the rack, the more eager the store will be to move it. Don’t be afraid to make an offer. If it isn’t accepted, come back a few weeks later and try again.

Check condition carefully. Be sure the gun has all its parts. Make sure magazine caps and, especially, choke tubes come off. If there’s something minor wrong with the gun, point it out and see if you can get a better price. I’ve had $50 knocked off the price of a gun with a dented rib that I knew I could fix myself, and a lot more taken off the price of a turkey gun that turned out to have its choke tube permanently stuck in its muzzle.

Gun Shows

Gun shows and auction sites can intimidate first-timers, but they are great places to see lots of guns at once. When you go, bring cash, ID, a gun case in areas that require one for transport, a concealed carry license if you’ve got one, and, most important, a smartphone to check prices. Most gun-show sellers also have stores, so if you want to play it safe, shop only from retailers with brick-and-mortar addresses. Go early to shop the widest selection or late to find bargains. Or scout early and plan on going back to see what’s left at the end, when dealers who want to pack up as little as possible are in the mood to make a sale.

Online Auctions

Surfing auction sites casts the widest possible net. A friend built up a collection of classic American deer rifles for very little money by shopping on GunBroker.com. Another sent money to a seller on an auction site for a Remington SP-10 and never saw the gun or his money again. The best way to avoid horror stories is to pay attention to the seller’s ratings. As with gun shows, most online sellers have brick-and-mortar shops, and you can perform due diligence by reading online customer reviews. Call and talk to them, too. Be sure you can inspect and return the gun, if necessary, and don’t be afraid to send guns back until you find the one you really want.