Before I developed an interest in guns, I thought of them as prohibitively expensive. The gun enthusiasts among my family and friends all had pricey collections, with individual guns worth thousands of dollars on up.
However, cheap guns are available, and I’m referring to price, not quality. You don’t have to spend big, or break any laws, to buy a reliable handgun, rifle, or other types of firearm. Here’s a look at the cheapest ways to buy a gun:
New vs. Used: Which is Better?
First, decide if you want a new gun or a used one. While used guns might seem like they’d have lower prices, the choice isn’t always so clear-cut.
A used gun might be cheaper upfront, but its total lifespan can vary dramatically based on how well the previous owner took care of it (or failed to do so). On the other hand, a new weapon will have a manufacturer’s warranty.
Ultimately, consider the greater value. If the cheap used gun you buy only lasts a year or two, or is so horribly damaged it doesn’t fire properly, you’re better off spending a bit more now on a new gun without those problems.
If you’re one of the over five million people buying a gun for the first time, I recommend buying new. Doing so eliminates many potential pitfalls a new gun owner might struggle with, such as negotiating price, meeting the seller safely, and inspecting the firearm for damage.
How to Save When Buying a New Gun
If you find a gun you like but which isn’t within your budget, check if any older models are cheaper. They can still offer the same basic design and functionality at a lower price.
However, take time to research what’s changed from model to model. Typically, improvements are made to safety features, aiming, grip, and other vital components. If an older model is significantly cheaper than the newest one, it might lack significant features.
How to Buy a Used Gun
Although buying used isn’t relatively as easy as buying new, it’s still a viable option and often one of the cheapest ways to buy a gun. First, you’ll want to determine the general value of the gun you plan to buy so that you can identify a fair price.
Check out the following sites to help determine the value of a used gun:
- Blue Book of Gun Values – A comprehensive resource that displays industry-standard prices, organized by make and model.
- Gun Broker – This auction site helps give you a general idea of what people typically pay for different types of guns.
- Firearms Price Guide – Another extensive, searchable database. Unlike the Blue Book, this guide is entirely free, although it also has many ads.
Once you know a general price range, you’re ready to start shopping. Used guns are available from the following sellers:
Gun shows are large events, typically held in convention centers. Both licensed firearms retailers and private individuals sell all types of guns and gun accessories, along with survival gear, knives, and related equipment.
The ATF estimates over 5,000 gun shows are held each weekend. No matter where you live, a gun show is likely within a reasonable driving distance. But accessibility is only one factor for their popularity.
Many people like to purchase both new and used guns at gun shows because of the Gun Show Loophole. Background checks aren’t required in most states if the buyer is buying from a private seller (although they’re necessary when buying from a licensed firearms dealer). Buying through a private individual allows you complete privacy, plus you can negotiate on price.
However, buying from an individual can be hit or miss. You’ll want to carefully check the gun for potential problems because it’s unlikely you’ll be able to track down the seller later if there’s an issue. When buying from a licensed dealer, you’re less likely to run into problems because they have a business with a reputation they want to protect.
You can also meet with an individual privately to buy a used gun. Keep in mind that you want to take precautions when meeting someone in person. After all, even if you’re buying a cheap gun, you’ll likely still have over $100 in cash on you – and the only thing you know for sure about the seller is that they’re armed!
Experts recommend meeting in a public place with lots of people and cameras, such as a bank parking lot. Also, check with your local police department. Many encourage people to conduct high-profile transactions on department grounds.
When purchasing from a private buyer, ask questions about the gun’s history, such as how long it was owned, how well it was maintained, and how often it was used.
Note that Craig’s List prohibits gun sales, so I recommend staying away from any seller who has no issue breaking those rules. Instead, use a site designed for firearm sales, such as Armslist.
You can find cheap guns in pawn shops, but I usually don’t recommend them, especially for inexperienced gun owners. Pawn shops typically don’t know anything about the history of the guns they sell. You’re usually better off purchasing from either a gun store or directly from an individual.
There are a few pretty good websites where you can shop for used guns. Guns.com is one option to consider where you can view all their current used guns for sale, or search for a specific model you are looking for.
Fortunately, guns aren’t as expensive as many people think. Choosing an older model, visiting gun shows, and purchasing from individuals are among the cheapest ways to buy a gun. A wide variety of handguns, rifles, shotguns, and other firearms are available that fit into practically any sized budget.
Use the suggestions above to help get the most bang for your buck!