Introduction to Used Hunting Rifles: What You Want In a Rifle

What you look for in used hunting rifles depends greatly on your intended purpose.  The first question you should ask yourself is: what kind of game do I intend to hunt?  Once you have the answer to this question, it will help narrow down the type of rifle you are looking for.
Choosing the right used hunting rifle for your game preference is important; if too large a caliber round is used on a small animal, there won’t be anything left.  However, if too small a caliber bullet is used on a larger animal, it may injure the animal without killing it, which could leave the animal in pain or put you in a dangerous situation.  While some cartridges are more versatile than others, none of them are designed to handle all species of game.  

If you are new to the hunting world, want to try a different type of game, or simply want to try out a new brand of gun, shopping for used hunting rifles rather than new could save you considerable money.  Guns hold their value very well, so if you later decide to trade or sell the gun, you should be able to get most of your money back, so long as you have done a proper job of maintaining your gun.  Buying used hunting rifles also allows those of us on a budget to purchase a better or higher-grade rifle than we might have otherwise.

After you figure out which used hunting rifle is right for your needs, there are a few things that you still should think about. You should look at the condition of the gun that you are considering, since many rifles are sold refurbished, but have been well maintained, where others will have a poor quality that will not be worth your money.  You should look for indications on the rifle about the maintenance, the barrel condition, as well as how the trigger mechanism works.  Any amount of wear and tear to the rifle is possibly additional cost that you will eventually have to pay.

While a gun may show wear in many areas, there are just a few that will really affect how well the gun shoots and will indicate whether the gun may be a good option as a hunting rifle you’ll keep for years to come. Of course this will be somewhat dependent on the gun’s action, but these general tips should cover most firearms. First, look at the bolt. Can you see wear on the bearing surfaces? Look primarily at the action itself – wear on the bolt handle, or on the pump grip, for example, may not be an indicator that the action itself is in poor shape. The main concern here is the actual mechanism. Does the action lock smoothly and completely? If the answer is no, this may be a strong indicator that the gun has not been cared for particularly well.

The bore should be examined closely. Again, look for indicators of the weapon’s care. If looking you see signs of fouling when looking at a used gun’s bore, there’s probably a good chance that the gun’s previous owner has not taken great care. After all, if the seller wasn’t willing to properly clean and service the gun before a potential buyer’s inspection, they probably did a worse job with day-to-day maintenance. Either way, fouling needs to be removed so that the bore can be inspected properly. Pitting or rust both indicate trouble, and can result in problems out of the gate and down the line.

Finding out the reason the seller is getting rid of a gun is also a good idea, especially in a person-to-person transaction. Asking questions about the owner’s use of the gun, the consistency of maintenance, and whether the gun has been serviced by a gunsmith likewise can reveal a great deal about the owner’s habits. Bringing the gun to a gunsmith yourself, along with the seller (if the seller is a private party) is a good idea if you feel any insecurity about making the purchase. Some sellers will even cover this cost if negotiated well.

When considering used hunting rifles, one key factor is the time investment. If you are looking to purchase a rifle immediately, it may make more sense to buy new from a local gun shop. However, if you are willing to spend the time to do it right, a used hunting rifle can provide a lifetime of reliability at a much-reduced cost. Going into such an acquisition, make sure you have the time, inspect the weapon carefully, and if possible, get a professional opinion. If you follow these steps, you can find a rifle that will last more than a lifetime!


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