by B.B. Pelletier

Before we move on to today’s blog, here’s a link to a recent interview with Josh Ungier, founder and owner of Pyramyd Air. It was published in the October issue of Smart Business Cleveland.

Just a reminder that I’m on my way to the airgun show in Roanoke and not able to answer most blog questions. Edith is monitoring the comments, but I’d appreciate any help answering questions.

It’s been a while since I wrote a report like this. Our readers have discussed it, but it doesn’t get nearly enough exposure, so here it goes. Notice that I made it a multi-parter, because each of you has a different set of circumstances, and I have more than just a little to say. What prompted it was a message I received on Monday from a reader named Jay. It went like this, “I see the sign up for the airgun show here in Roanoke. Is it worth attending?”

That reminds me of the farmer who sold his farm to finance a worldwide search for diamonds. He supposedly ended his life at the Straits of Gibraltar after a long and disappointing search. Then diamonds were discovered on the farm he sold. His land became the Golconda diamond mine, one of the richest diamond mines ever and the source of many of the crown jewels on Europe. Whether or not the story is true doesn’t matter. It illustrates a powerful lesson in life that applies to us all.

So, right now there is a guy driving past the Roanoke Expo Center every day, wondering if he should waste his time and money to attend. And, then, there is Joe B., paying paradise tax out on Maui, who would probably be willing to drive 200 miles–if it were possible to drive 200 miles in Hawaii–just to see a show like Roanoke!

My point is that Roanoke is the largest airgun show in the world, and it’s held this coming Friday and Saturday. I don’t have any problem convincing those who have already been to attend again–they know what awaits them. But some airgunners will say, “My gosh, Roanoke is a 400-mile drive! No way am I going to do that.” Then I will get a question two weeks after the show, asking where someone can buy an FWB 124.

Roanoke is 1,150 miles for me, but I drive it every year. I almost can’t afford to miss it, because it is a large part of what I do and even who I am. Besides all the guns and the old friends, I get a post-graduate course in airguns at every show. So, that’s why I think it’s important to go.

Get a route…
But what about the guy who lives in Keokuk, Iowa, or even in Kennewick, Washington? For them, Roanoke really is too far. But there are alternatives. Start with pawn shops. I have a route I run periodically here in Texas, and it’s really paid off over the past five years. Not just for airguns–I have also found some nicer firearms. As the economy gets ever tighter, more will appear in the pawn shop and the pawnbroker will be more willing to deal. I watch Pawn Stars on TV, which is a look at a Las Vegas pawn shop that gets really nice stuff. From the episodes, I can tell that the pawnbrokers are very willing to make deals these days. I know that’s how it’s been around here. My route is local, with no store being more than five miles from my house, but that doesn’t stop me from checking out a pawn shop in a distant place if I happen to be there.

Gun stores
Yes, I said gun stores! I don’t mean the gun stores that also carry airguns, either. I mean the narrow-minded gun stores that laugh at us and call all airguns BB guns.

Where does everyone go when they have a “gun” to sell? A gun store! So, old widow Smith bundles up her late husband’s guns, including the Browning shotguns, Mauser rifles and Colt revolvers. She also takes along a Feinwerkbau 300, because it looks like a gun and she knows they will know what to do with it.

Well, they don’t know what to do with it, but it’s no big deal. They got the Brownings. The store owner dry-fires it a couple times because he’s too cheap to buy a tin of pellets at Wal-Mart, and then he leans it in the corner and forgets it for the next eleven years. Then, you walk in one day and ask him if he has any old airguns, and he remembers the gun in the corner. He knows it’s well made but he accepts that $150 cash offer you make because it’s green cash money and because this rifle isn’t in his book. He can take his wife out to a nice dinner, and you get a great buy. Everyone wins.

Here is a fact. I don’t think I have ever been in an established gun store that didn’t have a couple airguns laying around somewhere. Yes, some of them might be Chinese guns, but I’ve also bought Benjamins, vintage Crosmans, a Diana 27 and the list goes on. Gun stores. Even small, hole-in-the-wall gun stores. In fact, especially hole-in-the-wall gun stores!

Gun shows
I used to walk around gun shows with a big sign stuck in the hatband of my Stetson–(I BUY AIRGUNS). At one show I was with my wife and my best buddy, Mac, plus another Airgun Letter reader. I told them I was going to buy an airgun and turn around and sell it to get material for an article. I walked down ONE AISLE and a guy almost jumped over his table at me. “I’ve got an airgun you’ll like.” Long story short, I gave $200 for a 1920 BSA underlever rifle made up for a shooting club. It had a flip-up tang peep sight and a number on the stock, which are two telltale signs of British club guns.

In the VERY NEXT AISLE, a man pulled the rifle away from me and bought it for $250. I had what I needed for my story inside five minutes, though I never made it out of the building, nor did I get a picture of that rifle. So, wear a sign to the gun show and bring cash. You will be amazed at what happens!

Newspaper ads
This isn’t my tip; it belongs to one or more of our readers. You place an ad to buy airguns in your newspaper, Thrifty Nickel or whatever you have that will take your ad. Then, you start answering ads and buying airguns. I now ask those readers who have done or are doing this to tell us their stories in the comments.

Cleaning crews
This technique belongs to one of the most successful airgun dealers of vintage guns that I know. He tells a cleaning crew that he will buy all the airguns they find. He may actually buy other eBay stuff, too, I don’t know. Cleaning crews find lots of stuff in the apartments and houses they clean. Sometimes, they’re asked to remove all the stuff in a house and it’s theirs to do with as they wish. They still get paid for cleaning the building. too.

Most of the time, they sell him modern crap guns and airsoft or paintball. But a couple times each year he scores something fantastic to make up for all the disappointments. The trick here is to buy everything they bring you. Pay very low and bring the stuff you don’t want to airguns shows.

Those are my tips for today, but there is at least one more part to this report. How can you buy airguns among airgunners and still get great deals? Next time.