Buying airguns at a gun show
by B.B. Pelletier
Announcement: Pyramyd Air recently got in three new Sam Yang PCP air rifles. One is the Recluse, which is a 9mm (also shoots larger .357 bullets). The other two are Dragon Claws, and both are .50 caliber. One has a single reservoir, and the other has two air tanks. Now, on to today’s blog.
Last weekend, Mac and I had tables at the Dallas Arms Collectors Gun Show. I didn’t think I would get a blog out of that experience because they prohibit the use of cameras at the show, which is common at gun shows. But as things turned out, I saw so many airguns and related things that I just have to tell you about it.
Right off the bat, I noticed that gun buyers are freer with their cash. While they bargain just as hard as airgunners, they pull out their wallets when it comes to the end. At airgun shows you see a lot more tire-kicking, and sometimes over ridiculous things like a $15 accessory. Firearm buyers don’t seem to clench up much before the $200 mark. So, by the end of the show, I had a real bundle of cash for the items I’d sold.
While some gun shows are still as small as airgun shows (75-125 tables), this one had over 800 tables. And the weekend before there had been a 4,000+ table show up in Tulsa, which is a four-hour drive from Dallas. More tables mean more people. Yet, that’s a very sad thing, because at an airgun show you will see more collectible and new airguns than at 20 gun shows — this big one included. To my way of thinking, it’s worth a thousand-mile drive with $4 gas to go to one airgun show. At least it is if you want to see some interesting airguns. But, I discovered that gun shows can also have their unique finds.
The last gun show I was at where I sold firearms was over 30 years ago, and I was completely unprepared for the level of thievery that goes on today. Losing something off a table back in 1980 was so uncommon that the whole show talked about it when it happened. At this Dallas show, I was advised to watch my table like a hawk. And, sure enough, I did have a revolver cylinder stolen on the first day. It was priced at just $50 and the guy who got it will be surprised to discover that it doesn’t fit any cartridge, yet, because it was in the middle of conversion to .44 Special from .357 Magnum. But there you are. We had to lock all the guns to the table with cables — rifles and pistols alike! At an airgun show you can go out for lunch for an hour and just ask your tablemate or even the guy at the next table to watch your table in case someone wants to buy something while you’re gone. When something is stolen at an airgun show, the whole show still talks about it, so in that respect an airgun show is like a gun show of 30 years ago.
Just like airgunners, firearm buyers often shop the entire show before making a decision to buy, and therefore they often miss the better deals. One man brought only checks and credit cards to the show, so after he bargained for a price of $450 on a gun he was surprised to learn that I only accept green cash money. He had to go out to an ATM, during which time another buyer slipped in a bought his hard-negotiated treasure. And, no, I don’t hold guns for anyone. A long time ago I would hold a gun, but so often I was often left holding the bag at the end of the show. These days it’s the first cash that buys it. That’s pretty much the norm at airgun shows as well. Forget your credit cards; take cash. And, pull the trigger on those great deals when and where you find them!
The prices for airguns are all over the place at gun shows, which is something I was prepared for. Although I haven’t sold at a show in a long time, I’ve attended them often enough to know about how airguns are priced. Let me give a couple of examples to illustrate.
Diana model 35
There was a very nice-looking Diana model 35 breakbarrel on one of the tables. A nice 35 should bring $150-175, but this one was priced at $650. Oddly enough, the fellow who had the table was a semi-airgunner! He loved to shoot his vintage Sheridan Blue Streak, but he didn’t know that pellets were still being made for it. I told him about Pyramyd Air and how accurate the Benjamin domes are (they look like Premiers, but are less expensive) but he was convinced that vintage Sheridan pellets from the 1960s red tins were the most accurate pellets in his rifle. I bought an H&R Topper with a 20-gauge barrel an a .30-30 barrel from this guy for $105, so he wasn’t pricing his firearms out of sight, but he was way over on the one airgun.
On another table, a fellow had a 95 percent model 112 Benjamin transitional pump pistol for sale in the box for $165. That one was right on the money for a nice gun in non-working condition. Spend $40 for a reseal, and you have a fine collectible airgun from before WWII. That guy was also an airgunner who knew what things should go for. I could have bought it for $150, which would have been a pretty good buy.
Elsewhere I saw a zimmerstutzen that came out of an estate recently. It was missing the spoon that serves as the breech, but the man sold it for $350. It was a beautiful rifle, with flawless bluing, silver furniture and carved animal faces in the stock surrounded by acorns. The octagon barrel was swamped (tapered larger at the muzzle). There was silver or platinum lettering set into the barrel. So it was a quality gun. Fix it up to shoot and resell it for $800.
The really nice thing about this zimmer is that it takes a No. 9 ball. Neal Stepp, the 10-meter supplier from Ft. Worth, happens to stock them. I steered an airgunner to this table, and he was fortunate enough to buy this rifle. It should be back in action soon.
Also at the zimmerstutzen table, I mentioned what I did for a living and the guy pulled out an air rifle with a broken stock from under the table. It was a BSA Supersport Mk II (think Falke 90). I got it for $75, and it’s worth $100-125 right now. With another stock, it’ll be worth $275-300. This is a very collectible airgun, plus it’s a really nice shooter. I’ll blog it for you some day. My point is that the airgun was priced right.
Mac bought an FWB 150 that turned out to be very nice and just had a Beeman reseal a year ago. I’ll tell you in a few weeks why that’s so important for a 150, but for now take my word that it is. He’ll take it to the Arkansas show this weekend and put it on the table alongside the other two 150s he brought from home, so the guy who comes looking for a bargain 10-meter rifle should be able to score this coming weekend.
The interesting thing about this rifle is that once Mac saw it the first time, the guy kept after him to buy it. At the end of their tarantula dance (where two negotiators dance back and forth over a deal, and the first one to blink gets bitten), I had to flip a coin to see what final price the gun would bring. The other guy called it and won, so I cost Mac $25 extra on the deal. What fun!
Sheridan CO2 rifle
At another table I saw a vintage Sheridan CO2 pellet rifle that is somewhat collectible and goes for $125-150 in working condition. I wanted to pay $50 for this one of unknown operational readiness, but they thought it was worth $350, so we never reached an accord. At an airgun show, that person would soon discover that they were out of line and either change their price or leave. But at a gun show, these are all BB guns and who cares?
Then, I was offered a Marksman 1010 in the box, but it was no more than 20 years old and all I offered was $10. They just aren’t collectible when they’re that new. Somewhere else I saw an original Marksman made in Los Angeles in the ’50s. That one was marked $10, but I didn’t know if it worked. If it had been in the box, it would have been a $75 value. By itself, it can take a long time to sell. Because this was a gun show, there was no possibility of checking the operation without getting kicked out of the show.
The ones that got away
The real deals of the show were the ones I didn’t see. On the drive home after we packed up, my other tablemate asked me what I thought of the two tables of collectible airguns that were at the show. Well, of course, I had never seen them (this was a huge show and most of the time I was at my table), and he neglected to mention them to me while the show was still going. “I thought you would have seen them!” he said. The widow of an airgunner had two tables of Daisys that included some cast iron guns, but I never saw them.
That sort of thing happens at large gun shows, and I’ve even had it happen at a couple airgun shows. I’ll be walking out to my car with the last load of stuff and someone will ask me if I found everything I was looking for at the show. I’ll answer yes, except for that Sheridan Model B. And he’ll say, “You mean you didn’t see the gorgeous one Bill Breechclot had on his table? He wanted only $800, and it was worth twice that, if it was worth a dime! It sat on his table for the whole show, and he took it home half an hour ago!” That kind of stuff does happen to me, I will admit.
I’m going to start doing the larger gun shows again, because there were enough airguns at this one show to interest several airgunners. A real airgun show would have as many airguns on three tables as were at this entire show, but there are precious few airgun shows happening. Besides, at a gun show there’s always the chance of scoring big, because, as I’ve tried to point out, firearms dealers simply do not know what airguns are worth.