Sunday, May 24, 2009

Handgun Buying Consideration: New Versus Used

A prospective handgun purchaser may want to consider whether he should buy a new or a used firearm. For some people, the mere thought of buying anything used is unpalatable. In this scenario, it doesn't matter if the item in question is a laptop computer, an automobile, or a television set. These consumers typically have the mindset that the item is suspect. After all, if it was an item of value why would someone want to sell it? Other folks might be open to the idea of buying "pre-owned" goods if a good deal could be realized. This article will explore both sides of the debate.

Reasons To Buy A New Handgun
Buying a brand new handgun has the obvious benefit of implied utility. If a person acquires a brand new handgun it is expected to be in factory condition and free of defects. Thus, there are virtually no fears about making a bad purchasing decision on a lemon - a gun that has operational problems. A defective gun bought brand new can be readily returned or replaced to the gun shop without any issues.

Furthermore, on a retail purchase of a new gun, the buyer is assured of getting everything that the particular manufacturer intended for the end user of that firearm model to acquire: extra magazines, empty chamber indicator, operator's manual, and extra grip panels. In contrast, it is entirely possible that an unsophisticated buyer might not get a great deal when buying a used handgun because he was shortchanged a few extras.

The reluctance to buy a used handgun, for a lot of people, is mostly due their lack of knowledge. This condition can be easily overcome as knowledge about handguns can be readily acquired from a variety of sources. For example, there is a wealth of info available on firearms on the Internet: Gun Forums, Manufacturer's Web Sites, Gun Rights Organizations, and Firearms Instructor Sites. A little time spent "doing your homework" can pay off handsomely in realized bargains and increases in knowledge that can be shared with others.

Another argument often made to me, by students in my CCW Classes, is that many first-time buyers are uncomfortable about the idea of owning a gun with an unknown history. Specifically, they are concerned with whether "a body is on the gun." This interesting phrase makes reference to the fact they don't want a gun that someone may have been shot or killed with.

A firearm is a neutral inanimate object. Anything done legally or illegally with a lawfully owned and registered firearm is not the fault of the handgun; the result - good or bad - rests with the prior user. In a similar vein, in most states it is not a "material fact" for a real estate agent to disclose to a house buyer if someone died in a residence. It is legally not germane. Of course, if a handgun buyer believes in ghosts, haunted houses, and spiritually "possessed" firearms then it is important to know. It is not my intent to belittle folks who feel this way, but it shouldn't be the reason why they balk at buying a used firearm.

The Best Reason To Buy A Pre-Owned Handgun
The largest benefit of purchasing a used handgun is the ability to get a good deal. Firearms, like most other physical goods, suffer greatly from depreciated value from the moment it leaves the store with its new owner. The market value of a used firearm in good condition drops appreciably regardless of whether it was carried/used daily or safely stored in the back of a closet. Accordingly, a reasonably knowledgeable buyer can invest in a firearm purchase with a good expectation that the price he paid will at least retain its value.

To illustrate, some time after I had bought my first handgun - a brand new Smith & Wesson 9mm autoloader - I somehow became enamored with the idea of buying a matching 'twin' gun. My first handgun was purchased brand new from the now defunct Northwest Gun Shop in Redford, Michigan for the price of $400.

A short time thereafter I researched the local used gun market and found a matching twin for my autoloader in Lansing. I called the owner and we made a deal over the phone. The ensuing weekend I hit the highway and bought another Smith & Wesson 9mm autoloader. The gun was in excellent condition as it had been only used sparingly, had all the original factory issued equipment, and had a fully transferable limited life-time warranty from the manufacturer. This handgun cost me only $200, the time to drive to and from Lansing, and a quarter tank of gas.

In my personal example, I was able to basically get a 50% discount on a decent quality handgun. Sure, it wasn't brand new but it was definitely "good as new." Plenty of bargains, such as the one I received, are available in the used handgun market if you are willing to do your research. There are many used firearms that are not being actively used by their current owners: some owners upgrade to higher calibers whereas other owners inherit guns they don't want or need.

Bottom Line:
In today's political environment, which is openly hostile to gun rights and firearms ownership, prices for handguns have risen steadily since the last Presidential election. Buying a used handgun should be at least be considered, as a means to avoid paying inflated retail prices. It's a true win-win arrangement: an unwanted gun goes to a good home and a handgun buyer gets a great deal. Concerns about making a bad purchasing arrangement on a used handgun can be easily mitigated by doing basic research over the Internet or consulting with a knowledgeable firearms owner.
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