Handgun Gold Where You Least Expect it!

After spending several decades shopping mostly mainstream gun shops, I still find pawn shops an excellent source of good used handguns. With the advent of the internet there are a lot of venues for finding the older models that often pique my interest, as well as current models catching my eye. However, if I can stumble across one of these guns at a pawn shop I’m frequently able to buy it at a significantly lower price. While not every gun I buy in a pawn shop is a smokin’ deal, many have been.

I’ve also found some bargains on the various internet sites, but by the time one adds shipping costs and transfer fees some of the deals are not quite as sweet. At the local pawn shop I can inspect the gun in person. When buying over the internet or telephone you have to rely on photos and another person’s opinion as to the condition of the piece. The same holds true, of course, for any gun bought locally. The real advantage I have found in pawn shops is the pricing structure and the willingness of many shops to negotiate price.

Bear in mind some “pawn shops” are really gun dealers that happen to have a bit of jewelry and used tools. These shops tend to price their wares at full market value and tend to stick to their prices. The shops where guns are simply a profit center, just like the electronics and lawn mowers, may price their guns at fair market value, but they seem more interested in turning over their inventory than in getting a maximum price.


This Ruger Security Six looked a little rough, but it cleaned
up nicely with minimal effort and proved a great shooter.


The second generation Colt Agent is about the same size and weight as a S&W J frame,
yet it carries a 20 percent greater payload in its 6-shot cylinder. The factory
hammer shroud is a very desirable option.

Finding Fun

What sort of guns can you find in these pawn shops? Just about anything you can imagine. Many of these shops will carry a least a few new guns as well as used ones. The condition of the used guns will range from near new to sadly abused, and frankly there are more guns showing evidence of serious neglect than not. Nonetheless, there are treasures to be found if you sift enough sand.

Some of the guns I’ve bought had cosmetic issues, but all have been 100 percent mechanically sound. If you shop for used guns anywhere, you need to be able to determine the mechanical condition of the gun you’re looking at. The mainstream gun shops probably won’t knowingly sell a gun having any mechanical issues and neither will a pawn shop. However, the personnel at the mainstream gun shop may be better qualified to recognize a gun with problems Most of the shops I deal with have a 90 day warranty.

If you don’t know how to inspect a handgun for mechanical defects there is a lot of information on the internet on how to inspect specific models of pistols and revolvers. Drop by and click on the “Insider Tips” to see a few videos by our own Roy Huntington about how to buy a used gun. Very briefly, when inspecting a revolver check the barrel and cylinder for corrosion or pitting. Look for any sort of bulge in the barrel. Often this will show up as a ring in the bore, or may be felt on the outside of the barrel. Check the cylinder for excess play and for proper carry-up and lock up. Check the frame around the forcing cone for cracks. With the hammer cocked, press firmly on the hammer to be sure it won’t push off.

When inspecting a semi-auto, field strip the weapon and check the barrel for corrosion or pitting. Check the frame carefully for cracks or excessive peening, especially on alloy frame models. Check the safety or decocker for proper function, and if there is an exposed hammer check for push off. Cosmetic issues are quite subjective. What may look like a complete piece of junk to you may look like a diamond in the rough to me. Handguns showing a bit of holster wear don’t bother me a bit. I look at it as character. If the wear is really bad, it can be made to look a whole lot better with some cold blue. Stainless guns may show a lot of small scratches from handling or riding in a holster or vehicle. These are easily removed with scotchbrite pads or polish.


For a “do everything” gun, the Ruger GP100 is hard to beat. This specimen is
about 15 years old, but its stainless steel finish looks almost new. The Ed
prefers the old style grips to the current style.


A lot of bang for the buck, this S&W M1006 is Ed’s all-time best buy.
The pawn shop owner knew the gun’s value, but also knew his
opportunities to sell a 10mm were limited.

First Find

My first real score at a pawn shop was a Ruger Security Six. The poor gun had a lot of light surface rust, but with a price tag of $137, I decided to take a chance on it. The rust cleaned right off, and the Ruger proved a terrific shooter. I recently sold the Security Six to fund another purchase. It quickly brought my asking price of $275.

Soon after came a Colt Agent. It had a bit of holster wear, but if you carry a gun that’s usually what happens. Priced at $225, the Colt was well under the market for these guns. With its factory hammer shroud and blue finish I would expect it to sell easily for $350-$375. A few months later I ran across another Ruger, this time a stainless steel GP100 in about 95 percent condition. After lengthy negotiations it was purchased for $255. The fair market value of these guns seems to be in the $375-$425 range.

No doubt my best find to date is a Smith & Wesson 1006 that came home with me for $318. Chambered for the potent 10mm cartridge, the 10XX series semi-autos are much sought after by those who favor the .40 caliber “magnum” that spawned the .40 S&W. Were I to part with this piece, I would expect it to realize around $600.

My most recent find was a Smith & Wesson Model 19. I had been looking for a replacement for some time for the one I sold in the early ‘80’s. The one I stumbled upon showed a lot of holster wear but little evidence of firing. At $242 it was priced at about one-half the price of a pristine specimen. After disassembly and close inspection I seriously doubt the gun had digested more than a dozen rounds in its lifetime. With a little elbow grease and some cold blue, the gun looks very presentable. It shoots as good as or better than its long lost cousin I traded away years ago, so I’m quite pleased with the acquisition. After a little “fluff and buff” I expect the gun is worth around $325-$350 given the rapidly escalating M-19 market.


Bill Jordan dubbed the Smith & Wesson Combat Magnum “A Peace Officer’s
dream.” This one showed a lot of finish wear but almost no mechanical wear.
A little elbow grease and cold blue got it looking respectable in no time.

Points To Ponder

Know the market for guns you’re looking at before you go pawn-shopping. If a gun has cosmetic issues, don’t buy a gun with the intent of having it refinished. You will end up upside down almost every time. If there are mechanical issues, it’s usually best to walk away. Know what you can fix and what needs a gunsmith’s attention. If you have to send a gun out, factor that into the price. I once walked away from a $320 Colt Python with peeling nickel and timing problems. It would probably have been a money pit.

Always carry cash. It’s hard to beat a merchant down to his bottom dollar and then offer a credit card that will cost him money to process. If you find a good shop you can do business with, cultivate relationships. You may be able to get them to call you when they get in the type gun you are looking for. Who knows, on your next visit you might find that WW1 1911 or J. Edgar Hoover’s Registered Magnum!

Hey … it could happen
By Ed Jennings

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