One of the best places I have found to buy firearms is through local auctions.¬† There is often something for everyone:¬† solid hunting rifles, roughly handled guns that would make a great project for the budding gunsmith, military surplus guns and the occasional rare piece for a high-end collection.
The firearms that come up for sale through local auction companies are a completely random assortment with equal mixtures of treasure and trash.¬† I‚??ve seen a rare Italian double gun with beautiful engraving and scrollwork sitting on a table next to a Jennings pistol.¬† Sometimes there are rare collectibles, many times there are modern guns with a little use on them.
If you have the time, attending a local auction can be fun and potentially rewarding.¬† The bidders are far fewer than what you will find at an online gun auction, and you can often get some really good bargains.
Here are a few tips for buying guns at auction:
Arrive Early:¬† Arriving before the start of the auction is important.¬† This will allow you plenty of time to get registered and find an advantageous location to sit or stand during the sales.¬† Most auctions allow an inspection period of the merchandise in the hour(s) before the sales start.¬† Arriving early will ensure that you are there with enough time to view what will be coming to the block.
Know the Rules:¬† Knowing the auction house‚??s rules is extremely important if you want to have a positive experience.¬† If you can, call ahead or visit the auction company‚??s website for various details.
Many auction houses will have specific rules on the sale of firearms.¬† Auction company‚??s selling firearms will have a Federal Firearms License (FFL) so they can legally sell the guns, so all normal rules apply.¬† But, there are additional rules that may be imposed.
One of the companies near me require you to declare your intent to bid on firearms when you register.¬† You then get a marker with a red stripe, which indicates to the auctioneer that you are allowed to bid on a gun.¬† The auctioneer will only accept bids from people with the red stripe, so not knowing that rule could cost you a gun you wanted to pick up.
Depending on the auction company, you may be allowed to handle the firearms during the inspection period.¬† If the rules allow you to handle the guns, you can check the action, get a look at the bore and more closely examine markings.¬† Not picking up a gun, when the rules allow you to, could result in you missing important information prior to bidding.
Bring Cash:¬† Cash is king.¬† Yes, some auction company‚??s will accept checks or debit/credit cards, but they are in the minority.¬† Most auctions are paid for with cash.¬† Make sure you know your limit and how much you brought.¬† Overbid and not have the cash in your pocket, you are going to be embarrassed, plus you will probably be excluded from all future auctions.
Have Reference Materials:¬† All kinds of guns can show up at local auctions.¬† Sometimes they can be fairly rare pieces or nearly valueless hunks of metal and wood.¬† I don‚??t care how well versed on guns you are, there will always be one or two that will stump you.¬† Having some reference materials on hand to review can save you a lot of money on duds, and tip you off to the real gems.
If you have an iPhone or other ‚??smart‚?Ě phone that allows you to access the internet, a Google search can lead you to a lot of information on some guns.¬† Of course, you always have to be careful from where you pick your information.¬† Wikipedia is not always correct.
A couple of good online sites for quick reference are ProofHouse.com and BlueBookOfGunValues.com.¬† ProofHouse is completely free and offers a lot of information on Browning, Colt and Winchester serial numbers.¬† ProofHouse also has some information on US military inspection marks and ordnance codes from World War II-era Germany.
Probably one of the most useful tools at ProofHouse is the ‚??House Brand Conversion‚?Ě table.¬† This allows you to figure out what company actually made that JC Penny, K-Mart or Sears gun.
The Blue Book of Gun Values is a long time book reference for dealers and collectors.¬† The company now lists their information online for a fee.¬† The pricing data can give you a good ballpark value on most common firearms, and at least give you and indication on how valuable a particularly rare gun may be.
Reviewing similar guns at the online auction sites can also give you an idea of the market value of a firearm.
Don‚??t hesitate to keep a few reference books out in the car either.¬† I‚??ve relied on the Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson and the Standard Catalog of Colt on a few occasions to identify guns that I could not locate in the Blue Book or elsewhere online.¬† The publisher, Gun Digest, also prints Standard Catalog books for Winchester, Remington and Browning.
Have Fun:¬† Don‚??t forget that being at an auction is a somewhat social event.¬† Talk to your neighbors, bring your kids and just enjoy yourself.¬† Shooting and reloading are a lot of fun, and so can bidding on guns.