Buying A Used Pump Shotgun, by Dave McCracken

A coupla things to watch out for,and some gratuitious advice....

First, know your dealer,and hopefully,know your prospective shotgun. Stick with brands that you recognise, not anonymous or unknown. Even name brands can have lemon models; some of the S&W models didn't do well when dirty.

So,you've a dealer you know, maybe even trust,and he tells you this one was owned by a little old lady who only toted it to church on Sunday,and it's practically new.You've BOTH made sure it's unloaded, so....

First,check overall condition. Start at the recoil pad or butt plate, and look for dings, scars, stains,etc. An overoiled piece stood in a closet will often show stains on the grip area. No biggie, but if it was owned and operated by an idiot, there may be other problems. Check metal for rust,worn finish, and general condition again.

Look all over, then disassemble it. If the dealer has a problem with this, you may want to go elsewhere. Be sure you can put it together again.

Look the bbl over by sighting down it like it was still on the weapon. Check for bends, dents, BULGES, corrosion, pitting,and any indication that it was not original to the piece. Check the muzzle for damage, and look for any sign of being shortened or hacksawed. Then check the bore. If the bore is dirty, a reputable dealer will clean it on request. If not, go elsewhere...

Look the bore over and see if there's any of the stuff listed above. If there's tube chokes involved, ask if you can unscrew the tube. Do so, to make sure it's not rust welded in place.It happens.

If it has a vent rib, look UNDER the rib for signs of rust,dirt,etc.

Take a good look at the mag tube, inside and out. Check the condition of the springs, and look for rust. While it's apart,look at the bolt face and see if there's peening around the firing pin hole, and make sure there's a good hook on the extractor. Take a squint at the ejector, usually mounted inside the reciver, and if you can see the bolt lugs, check for peening there also. Old Model 12s show this fairly often, according to a smith friend.

Now, check the action bars for cracks and wear. if all of the parts come through OK, ask if you can cycle a couple of snap caps, NOT LIVE AMMO or empty cases,to check function.

While you're at it, check the bbl markings and make sure it chambered for at least 2 3/4" shells, some older guns are not. Firing off a round longer than what's it's chambered for is neither fun nor safe.

Finally, ask the dealer about what kind of warranty applies. Some dealers have a 30-30 guarantee, 30 feet or 30 seconds, whichever comes first. Others want happy, repeat customers and will address any legit concern you have.


Dave McCracken has been shotgunning longer than many shooters have been alive. He regularly posts on TheHighRoad.org and TheFiringLine.com. This article is reprinted here with his permission; reprinting or redistributing this article without his permission is expressly prohibited.

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