Tips on Trading Guns

Dave Petzal and I were talking about gun stores at SHOT, and he mentioned Kittery Trading Post in Maine as a terrific store that deals primarily in used guns. They have a great selection, and he said, they give a generous allowance on trades.

My ears perked up. I have guns, but not much of a gun fund. Therefore, when I find a gun I want, I usually trade for it. Despite having traded a lot of guns, I am a disgrace to my bazaar-shopping, rug-trading Lebanese ancestors. I do not drive a hard bargain. I tend to think of the money I lose as rent paid for shooting the gun for a while. Sometimes I come out well on trades, other times, only okay.

Despite my lack of bargaining game, over the years, I have learned a little about trading. Aftermarket accessories add almost nothing to a gun’s value. Nor do optics. You’re better off removing scopes and selling them separately before you trade the gun. Also, the longer the gun you want has been sitting in a gun rack at the store, the more likely you are to get a good deal on it. And, if you’re like me, and prefer the odd guns, you’ll get better deals, especially if you trade something newer and more popular that the store can sell. For instance, I came out pretty well when I traded my Browning Gold for a 1987 vintage B-80 earlier last fall.

And, obviously, you’re not going to get what your gun is worth out of it, because the store needs to sell it for what it’s worth. Some people have a very hard time grasping this concept.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I found a very clean, used walnut stocked 20 gauge Beretta 390 semiauto at one of the stores here in town and decided I had to have it. I don’t see many nice used 390s because people who have them are smart enough to hang onto them, and that seems to go double for the 20 gauges. I wanted this gun.

As I found myself overstocked on 12 gauge waterfowl guns at the time, I picked one, spruced it up, found its box, manual and chokes and took it in. The guy asked what I wanted out of it, I told him, and he disappeared into a backroom with the gun for a while to confer with someone, came back out, and offered me about 20% less than I wanted out of it.

I said “Really, that’s the best you can do?”

He said “Yup.”

This is the part where my Lebanese ancestors said “Hal tazon anani ghabi?” (“Do you think I’m stupid?”)* and walked away in a snit to get a better price when they returned.

However, this was not a gun to walk away from, because it wouldn’t be there when I come back the next day to haggle some more. Somebody was going to snap it up. I knew that, the sales guy knew that. He had me. I thought, decided yes, I really wanted the gun that badly and said, “Okay, fine.”

Now, I am very happy with my new, used 390. But, I won’t forget feeling a little beaten up by the salesman either, and I’m less likely to trade guns with him again. A friend who works for a different gun store understands this perfectly. He will almost always budge a bit on price, just enough to make traders feel good. That way they come back and trade with him again.

*I don’t speak a word Arabic. I found this phrase on a website of Arabic bargaining tips for westerners. My Lebanese ancestors roll in their graves.