Used airguns

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Adrian Beltrán is this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their airgun facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 Pyramyd Air gift card. Congratulations!

Pyramyd Air Facebook Big Shot of the Week

Adrian Beltrán submitted this week’s winning photo for BSOTW.

As I was doing the barrel-bending report, I was thinking about what got me to a place where I needed to know how to bend an airgun barrel. Why? Because I bought a used airgun — that’s why!

I’ve often given people the advice to buy a used airgun if their budget won’t support a good new one. Today, I’d like to expand on that thought a little.

Why buy more guns?
We shooters buy guns for the same reason some women buy clothes — to improve our lives. In the case of shooters, the belief is the next gun you get will be the one that actually shoots well. It couldn’t be you who’s inaccurate, so it must be the gun — right? Maybe you don’t think that way, but I sure do.

The funny thing is that it sometimes happens that the next gun you get really is accurate! All it takes is one time in 10 and you’re as hooked as a Pavlovian dog. Gun shows become huge opportunities for you to find the guns that can shoot.

Other side of the coin
But there’s another way to look at it. Why would anyone ever sell an accurate gun? Doesn’t it stand to reason that they’ll have tried the gun they want to sell you and found it wanting? If you think about this very much, you’ll never again buy anything used.

My way of thinking
I think of it another way. Sometimes, guns become available when the original owner has no more use for them, as in — they left the building. But that isn’t the only thing that happens. Maybe I own ten 10-meter target rifles and discover that on my best day I can only ever shoot three of them at the same time. So, I decide to thin the herd. You might think that I would keep the most accurate guns and sell the rest, but that’s not always how it works. I might be keeping what I keep for other reasons, like the condition or sentimentality. I might actually sell the most accurate guns I have and keep the ones I think are the prettiest. Or something like that.

The seller may not know what he has
I find that many times a seller really has no idea how a certain gun shoots because he hasn’t taken the time to shoot it. This happens a lot with dealers who have large inventories of airguns. You and I are envious of their racks of fine airguns, but the truth of the matter is that, to them, it’s more of a business and way less personal. I know many airgun dealers who have never tried their guns before selling them; or if they have, it was just to see if they worked. You can tell when a guy hands you a tin of inappropriate pellets to test a certain airgun that he has no interest in it whatsoever. But if he tells you which head size shoots best and how deep to seat each pellet, you can be sure he knows exactly what he’s selling.

Some sellers want you to be pleased!
This is a difficult concept for some people to embrace, but there are really people in the world who want you to be happy after doing business with them. They’ll sell you an accurate airgun and be glad that you bought it. If you buy a gun from them, it’s important to give them feedback after you shoot it because your satisfaction is what motivates them.

The previous owner may have missed something
This is the hope that springs eternal in every buyer’s breast — that the fellow who owned this gun before you missed something — something that you will find and then the sun will come out and the flowers will dance and the young girls will look at you with adoring eyes! Well, maybe not all that, but at least you’ll have found out something he didn’t know that will let you shoot your new gun better than he ever did. And it does happen. For example, the former owner may have been a cheapskate who only bought pellets on sale at Wal-Mart. You get the gun and start feeding it JSBs taken from fur-lined tins and voilá! It begins to shoot! You’ve uncovered the secret of the Incas and can turn any bargain airgun into a World Cup contender — pocketa, pocketa, pocketa.

The gun is already broken-in
Most used guns have already been though the break-in cycle. This is a double-edged sword, though, because I’ve bought some guns that were so broken-in they were broken, altogether! That can happen. It happens most often when the guns in question are hot-rods to begin with. The guns that are like old tractors (i.e., strong, relatively slow, overbuilt, etc.) will seldom be found completely inoperable. I once bought an FWB 124 Sport for $35. That’s the cheap one, and it was rusty and had worn, chipped wood finish and was generally disgusting to look at. It was the kind of airgun that requires a tetanus shot just to hold. But being a 124, it was also overbuilt, so another $35 worth of replacement parts and the gun was shooting like new again. It still looked like a throwaway, but it put pellet upon pellet downrange.

But the Super Dragon-Fire Zombie-Killer EXtreme that some guy discounts $50 because he’s owned it for three months is the gun I would avoid. The owner has already discovered his rifle takes too much effort to cock and cannot hit a target in the compass quadrant where the muzzle is pointing. That gun is the two-year-old baseball card collection, or last year’s Hummel decorative plate! It will continue to drop in value until it hits the rising tide of inflation, and from that point on will be worth ten cents on the original dollar paid.

Buy what you like
The longer I’m in airguns, the more I find that everyone has an opinion, and although many of them are mistaken, they don’t know it, for they simply refuse to see things my way. That’s good because it leaves room for me and for the good stuff. And I also find that my tastes change over time. So this year I may be hyped on 10-meter guns, but next year it’s tuned springers and the year after that I’m over on the dark side. As long as I can remain out of phase with most of you, there’s room for all of us in the boat!

Oh, and I suppose after rambling on like this I should end with something concrete. I bought the El Gamo 68 used and loved it. I bought the Crosman 160 used; and after I cleaned it up, it shot like a house afire! And just this past Saturday, I bought a Taiyo Juki Junior CO2 rifle at a gun show for a very good price. It doesn’t hold gas and some fool had stuffed two darts up the bore; but after I get it sorted out and resealed, I’ll have yet another wonderful used airgun!

62 thoughts on “Used airguns

  1. Aw dangit BB, now you’ve gone and ruined it for me. I was just going to put my Super Dragon Fire Zombie Killer Extreme up on ebay for an outrageous sum, maybe even trade it for the ever-elusive Walker .44 with the unicorn-horn grips.


  2. I’m jealous. All you guys with machine shops, tools and such and the skills to use them can benefit from all of the info about barrel bending and working on springer internals. Since my skill set is devoid of manual dexterity, I always buy new guns. I just don’t have the ability to buy a used gun with potential and work on it myself. For me the cost of sending a gun out for resealing, other mechanical repair and/or a tune offsets the price advantage of buying used. Plus, a new gun has warranty protection for however much you value such things. For me, that’s critical since I don’t work on my own guns. Lastly, all of the risk that is integral to a private purchase is eliminated buy a new purchase from a reputable dealer. Again, my assessment of risk may be different from yours since I cannot fix unexpected problems myself.


    • Eric,

      You think I don’t have guns that I can’t repair? I have plenty of them. Too many, in fact.

      I don’t own a lathe or a mill, and my skill is very low. The barrel-bending series was designed so that a person with no tools could do that job easily.

      I do understand reluctance to fix things. But not everything needs fixing. Maybe you should look at it that way. Buy a gun that you know will not need anything in your lifetime. An HW 55 that’s just been tuned or a FWB 124 that’s been tuned is an example. I tuned a 124 for Mac about 12 years ago and he tells me it’s still shooting as fast and accurately as ever.

      B.B.


      • BB,

        I’ve been reading the blog and your articles for a while now, and I’d hardly describe your skills as “low”. Of course, everything is relative. I’ve hit my thumb with the hammer enough times to know better than try to open a springer. I don’t even know where to start building a spring compressor, not that plans don’t exist, but my talent doesn’t keep pace. You’re too modest.

        Eric


    • Don’t be affraid, take the plunge. I had never opened a rifle before, I went to the hardware store, bought what was needed to make a spring compressor and less than 30$ later I had taken down 3 rifles and put them back togheter without a hitch with no left over or missing parts.
      Try to find an old beat-up airgun that you can afford to lose just in case, take it apart and if everything goes smoothly you can pick another one and another. As you build confidence in yourself and your skills you might want to get something that NEEDS fixing and that you can apply your new found skills to.
      And if you do scrap that first gun at least you will have tried.

      J-F


    • Don’t be jealous, Eric, because the other side of the coin is…

      We’re jealous of you because we have no time to play with our toys. We’re always fixing something…. ;-)

      /Dave


    • I’m just like you Eric. I only buy new and like having a warranty on my airguns. I purchased a brand new Talon SS back in 2001. I still shoot that gun 11 years later. It is unmolested and still carries the Air Force lifetime warranty. Of course I’ve never had a problem with the gun but it’s nice to know the warranty is there if I need it. Now I own many other airguns that are not in warranty but they came to me in new and in warranty. So I had a year to make sure the gun was not defective in any way and shot right.

      Don’t get me wrong. I would love to be one of these guys who can tinker and fix. Heck I always wanted to be able to work on my own cars. But some of us are best to leave this work to the professionals. LOL


      • Joe,

        I have had to use the Airforce lifetime warranty. Their customer service always treated me well. After having safety cocking/issues that were repaired under warranty twice, when the problem recurred, Airforce sent me a whole new rifle instead of doing yet another repair. Now that’s the product backing that makes buying new worth it!!!

        Eric


  3. The reasons we buy more airguns: boy, that’s a subject.

    I bought my first airguns because I needed to kill raccoons. It took me two or three guns to find the best gun for the job, a 25 cal Kodiak.

    I buy airguns to fill imagined needs such as a 22 springer to hunt squirrel even though I don’t hunt squirrel.

    I buy airguns to try a new competition such as FT or Bench Rest.

    I buy airguns because they are being sold at such a low price that I can make some quick cash.

    I buy a tuned airgun because of how smoothly it shoots or how sweet the trigger is.

    I buy airguns because a friend is in a bind and needs some quick cash.

    At some point I am going to have to buy a Talon SS because of Tom Gaylord’s blog post about them.

    But, now days, I usually buy airguns I am unfamiliar with just to experience something different and learn about a new to me airgun. I enjoy the odd and unusual and history of the airguns.

    Come on guys, add to the list.

    David Enoch


    • I buy airguns because they look good
      I buy airguns because I’m on vacation and didn’t bring one with me and I feel the need to buy a new gun
      I buy airguns because I haven’t tried that powerplant or style of gun
      I buy airguns because they’re on sale
      I buy airguns because I need a takedown rifle
      I buy airguns because I need a longer, heavier gun to shoot from the bench
      I buy airguns because… well because I’m addicted and because I’m a hoarder and because I WILL find a reason to buy every airgun I can! And I won’t sell a single one! I’m getting closer, but I’m not there yet.

      J-F



        • The vacation gun is a must.
          Since I often visit the US when I’m on vacation it’s even more of a treat for me as I can find guns unavailable here or at a much cheaper price.
          If I’m making a short visit I’ll stop and have a look every chance I get but if I’m there longer and I know where I’m gonna be staying I can shop at PyramydAir :D and have it shipped to me before I get there.

          The best thing when buying a gun while on vacation is that I HAVE to try it right away (in case I have to return it, not because I’m childish and must try my new toy of course).

          J-F


    • A wonderful list, David. I got into airguns two years ago, at age 70 by the way, because my doctor thought it would be good for me to “get a hobby that took me outside a little more” and do something that would improve my concentration, keep my mind active and improve my hand/eye coordination. The social aspects were to be a bonus. I told him that when he found a hobby that was inexpensive, presented a genuine personal challenge and one I could do laying down, I would do it. Well, what do you know …


      • PS … I forgot to mention that I now have 14 of them in my collection. Recently I bought my first rifle, I really don’t care for it much and so, I still only have the one. If you have an excellent condition IZH 46 that is for sale way under market, please, don’t tell me. I am buying scopes now. Give someone else a chance …



    • I buy airguns because:

      …if I don’t, my inner demon won’t shut the heck up about it.
      …they’re pretty AND intelligent.
      …they’re mechanical marvels of efficiency.
      …I admire the skill of the maker.
      …I can shoot them more because I don’t get to the range enough.
      …they’re on sale and can’t be passed up.
      …people give me funny looks when I tell them airgunning is my hobby.
      …it’s one I haven’t tried or taken apart yet.
      …I’m a hoarder, too…. ;-)

      /Dave


      • This is starting to sound like Jeff Foxworthy “you might be a red neck if” but with airguns LOL

        You might be an airguner if:
        -when you’re shopping you look at potential reactive targets
        -you buy a new airgun just because it’s a new variant of one you already have
        -you get a new gun because… well because it’s on sale!
        -you bought a new gun because you have a tin of pellets none of the guns you already have like

        J-F


    • For the most part, I see a good sale, read as many reviews as possible, and if they are good, I give it a shot. Otherwise, I buy for a particular need.


  4. About 2 yrs ago, me and buddy -both new into airgun at that time- went looking for used and affordable airgun. I got battered Sharp Innova with its trigger safety broken from one old timer who couldn’t shoot anymore due to his eyesight. He told me that it was very accurate rifle but picky with pellet preference. We sealed the deal with half tin of the rifle’s preferred pellet as bonus.

    My buddy also got Sharp Innova. Still shiny from factory finished because previous owner only used it occasionally.

    While I enjoyed shooting cans and paper right from the start, my buddy fiddled with his gun’s inaccuracy, tried several different pellets and eventually got bored and abandoned airgunning altogether.

    Now that I am interested in more airgun, how to tell if used airgun is worth buying or not other than shoot it?


  5. I love to buy used airguns and firearms over new most of the time. The only airguns bought new were my first Sheridan “C” back in “68″ and a RWS 52 .177. All the others were used. I buy what I like especially if the price is right. Like my RWS 52 in .22 for $75.00 and a like new RWS 34 in .22 cal. wt. scope last spring for $125.00. Right now I’m more in the “Shoot what I own” mode but you never know what might turn up!

    Mike



      • All the air guns I have purchased have been new. Used air guns seem to be non-existent in my area. Even the gun shows only sell new airguns, with the exception of collector-type old Daisys.

        Cabela’s sells a lot of used firearms, but no used air guns. When I asked why, I was told they didn’t consider them worth dealing with.

        Les


  6. “The longer I’m in airguns, the more I find that everyone has an opinion, and although many of them are mistaken, they don’t know it, for they simply refuse to see things my way. That’s good because it leaves room for me and for the good stuff.”

    I don’t care who ya are, that’s funny (and very true) schtuff!!! Mr. B.B., Ms. Edith, the Gang Thanx. Have great weekend. Soot/ride safe.
    Beaz


  7. I have NO really unique insights to add to this topic.However,out of all the used airguns I’ve bought there have been relatively few dissapointments among them.The ones that arrive and REALLY impress me have far outweighed the “duds”.I do know without the benefit of Tom Gaylord’s tell it like it is informative writing……I either would have made a LOT more mistakes,or would still have a lot more “disposable” income.I tend to believe the first part,and really doubt the second.Thanks Tom (& Edith!)



    • Isn’t that like the 3rd time this guy has won? Lucky, kid!! :-)
      (the name sticks in my head because of a certain drill sergeant with the same name) Also, I’m not complaining here. I don’t enter because I don’t do fb…

      /Dave


    • I thought it looked different from this morning……

      I bought my first air rifle due to a wood pecker. I could kiss that wood pecker now – so long as he stays away from the cedar shakes on my house!

      I buy airguns to try the different power plants, the different calibers, because BB likes a particular one, because I like to shoot in the basement anytime I please.

      Fred DPRoNJ



  8. Well one of the nuggets of wisdom in the pile that is the American Guns show is that some people use guns as currency to buy and sell. That’s a new way of looking at things. I’m very possessive about my guns. I even thought once of having them buried with me when the time comes although I have since backed away from that notion. Maybe that’s why I’m not disposed to bargain.

    Anyway, our camouflage picture winner is good, but he’s not as good as this

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/after-wasting–5-billion-dollars–the-army-is-eyeing-these-new-camouflage-patterns.html

    I did manage to find the hidden man in the photo, but not for a long time.

    Now, just when you thought you’ve heard of every shooting sport, consider this. .50 caliber benchresting! For this you will need vast distances to shoot, a $7000 gun and pockets deep enough to pay $5 a round. I would say your field of competitors worldwide must amount to about 10 people.

    Matt61


  9. I normally make it a rule of thumb never to buy a used gun. But there is a reason for this. Most of the guns I buy get torn apart and made into something much better. For example, I buy crosman 1377′s and turn them in to wonderful high quality rifles, but I gut the things when I do it and put in stronger valves, power adjusters ect, and even do a graphic dip on them on occasion. I have discovered that any old 1377 will not do. The older ones have this stupid cocking knob on them which really limits ne to what I can do. I also find these old guns from “Uncle Pappy’s root cellar” don’t have the proper holes and slots on them to work with aftermarket breeches requiring me to have to put them in my milling machine and cut the slots I need and drill and tap the holes I need. This takes more time and effort to rebuild an old gun to the standards I need. For someone that’s looking for antiques to display or just to shoot until the thing falls apart, used guns are fine, but they just aren’t for everyone.

    I’ve had customers send me old guns to fix as well and I have repaired too much of what I call “child abuse”. (No not refering to guns used to abuse anyone). These guns have been left outside in the dirt by a child, slid across the ground like they see cops do on tv shows, barrels are rusted and bent, breeches cracked, valves leaking and packed with dirt. These are usually bought for a few bucks at a yard sale. Seeing these abused guns I try to avoid used guns since I don’t know who did what to them.

    I had one gun come to me that just to get it looking decent I had to do a graphic dip after bead blasting the gun. When I was done it was awsome, but you should see the bill for that! It took me more than a month to get that gun sorted, but it turned into a work of art.


  10. BB, you often mention JB bore paste for cleaning the bore. What other good alternative for it? Will Autosol metal polish work as well?

    Reason I asked because this morning I met some guy who want to sell his pcp. Sneak peek to the bore shows streaks of grey instead of mirror polish. I can’t find JB bore paste here but we do have Autosol and various grinding paste of unknown brand for modding automobile valve.

    If the price is right I might have use ur method for cleaning the bore.


    • Lee,

      I can’t recommend anything I don’t know about. JB Bore Paste is especially formulated for polishing soft steel barrels. I don’t know what that automotive polish is formulated for, but if the grit particles are too hard they might damage the bore.

      B.B.



      • If I’m not mistaken the “paste” part of JB is formulated to loosen lead (and copper and powder) deposits as well as polish the metal. So even if the abrasive part were comparable I don’t think it would work nearly as well.


        • I was able to get some JSB Non-Embedding Bore Paste through my local gun shop in New Mexico. They had to order it, but it only took a few days.

          The stuff comes in two sizes. I bought the smaller jar, just to see how it works. I would estimate the small jar would supply the average air gunner for at least several years.

          Les


  11. Anybody notice something else about the shooter in this “Shot of the Week”? The shooter is a LEFTY!!! Gun makers take note: quit pandering to the right-hand only population. According to Scientific American, about 15 percent of people are left-handed.

    “Uh, boss, this is Joe. I’ve got a great idea. Let’s make a product that we can’t sell to 15% of the population.”

    “Schmo, that’s a great idea. Maybe it’ll boost our overall sales since our square wheels aren’t selling as well as we expected.”

    -Chuckj


  12. I started buying airguns because the are essentially more fun than say a Rolex,which by the way is a very expensive way of knowing your late for something . Airguns can be shared with friends,they are fun to compete with even if your great expertise with them is shooting at cans. And airguns when handled properly are much more safer than ridding a motorbike,a horse or even a bike. They entertain and at the same time present a challenge,but more than anything else friends just love to shoot them and become the wild west shooting heroes for just a couple of hours of an unforgettable afternoon .


  13. Used Airguns (guns).

    Left early Friday for my hosting of the annual boys weekend (fishing, shooting, poker, telling true stories, dieting, no alcohol, etc) at my cabin in the mountains and have been out of touch with the internet. What a great topic.

    Actually surprised at the number of folks that don’t buy or shy away from buying used airguns (guns) since this is a dimension to this hobby that thrills me. Yes, my mistakes have cost me money BUT these mistakes are rarely repeated and since a little research and advice has minimized these mistakes. The majority of the time, these days, buying used guns has allowed me to make a profit and then allowed me to experience other models of guns. Buying them for the right price (most of the time LOL!) has allowed me to continue to “trade up” into models that I otherwise couldn’t afford.

    My airgun budget was exhausted a long time ago. Any new acquisitions must be fueled by selling something(s) off. This forces me to be a better buyer AND a better seller. I know this topic is about buying but it’s just as important to learn to be a better seller. Look at the yellow forum for the past 30 days and you’ll see I’m funding a new gun purchase!

    I can’t afford to let the equity in my airguns diminish. It must grow. This alone fuels some of my purchases. Not just in guns but mounts, scopes, triggers (anyone see that original venom trigger on ebay today?), literature, etc. Usually my motivation is to try a gun that I’ve never owned.

    Why else do I buy guns?

    Well……….it’s something to look forward to. A new gun on the horizon gives me that youthful thrill like most had on our birthdays and Christmas.

    The difference now is that if I don’t like my “gift” I can sell it at “hopefully” a profit and get something better.

    kevin

    ps-genghis jan there’s still a chance at the lgr


    • Fingers crossed, Kevin!

      Folks, I’m working on purchasing my first-ever used airgun; shooting for a classic match rifle with peep sights. Clearly, B.B.’s blog has NO influence over me!

      -Jan



        • Well, I suppose it goes something like this: With a newborn in the house, I’m getting even less trigger time than usual. I go to every DIFTA match, but that’s about it. No practice in between matches. Like many folks, I could especially use some offhand practice. I love my Marauder, but it’s not the most ergonomic thing, especially with its overgrown FT scope.

          Meanwhile, B.B. is blogging about the lovely, wonderfully precise vintage 10m rifles. And Mac is blogging about fun stuff like mini-sniping. And B.B. is blogging about the wonders of peep sights.

          So when Kevin put a beautiful Walther LGR Universal up for sale, how could I NOT try and buy the thing? I probably snoozed and lost on Kevin’s LGR, but I’m still prowling for one.

          Somebody tell me I’m not insane, and that I’ll get all the 9-yard basement offhand practice I think I will over the cold winter months…

          -Jan


  14. I was gifted an old Norica 83 air pistol by a friend.I fitted a new piston seal (leather) and mainspring. Used a Gamo Delta Fox mainspring which I had to reduce to 22 loops to get trigger lock. It is rated at around 390fps new, but I feel it does around 475fps now. I lubed as per B.B.s instructions.I would appreciate very much B.B. if you would kindly advice me on how much power I can get out of it. It is in VERY GOOD condition & very accurate.

    Errol


    • Errol,

      You “feel” the gun now does 475 f.p.s.? What does the chronograph say? That is the only way to know for sure.

      A spring gun develops the most power with the lightest pellet usually, so try the lightest pellet you can find to get the most power from your gun.

      B.B.


  15. Dear B.B.

    Thanks so much for your reply. I’d like to tell you right now how much I appreciate your Blog & You Sir
    for trying to help guys like me. I have learnt so much about airguns from you.The most important was
    the correct Hold & maintenance.Unfortunately I don’t Have a Chrony which I agree is the only way, so
    I guessed from tin can penetration at 10 metres.Punches through one side & dents the other.
    Thanks for the advice. I will try the lightest pellets(like PBAs). Should do better then. The reason I need
    the extra power is for light pest control.(small ground rats & birds). Also should I use a more powerful
    spring?

    Errol


    • Errol,

      A “more powerful spring” will often take velocity AWAY from the gun. You best bet is to find the most accurate pellets for your rifle. If it is really shooting just 475 f.p.s. it’s good up to field mice and no farther.

      B.B.


      • B.B.

        Thanks for the advice. Will follow. Am using Gamo Pro-Magnum .177 which are very accurate in my gun.
        (Its an air pistol) Will check out some lighter pellets as advised. Would appreciate if you could clarify on
        your Blog how a more powerful mainspring could take “away” power from a gun for the benefit of all.
        I think we commonly expect an increase in power with a powerful mainspring.

        Errol



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