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« Surplus Rifles: The Best Bang for Your Buck | Main | Review of the Smith and Wesson SW9VE »

October 12, 2004

What the Heck is the Difference Between "Good" and "Very Good"?

The main problem that many people have when buying surplus guns is that the condition of the gun is a mystery. Unless you know the rating system used by the gun dealers you might pay for something that you think is going to be the perfect little shooter only to find that you've spent your hard earned on a pile of rust. The rating system is detailed below.

Before I start I'd like to point out that I'm only interested in guns that go bang. There's a whole community of people who collect guns for the resale value, some of them even doing it as an investment. These posts are specifically geared towards people who want to buy something to shoot at the range, use in hunting or for self-defense. Buying a gun with an eye towards resale value simply isn't on my radar. If collecting is your thing then I strongly urge you to attend gun shows and auctions and talk to the people who are involved in that aspect of the shooting sports.

I also mention "blueing" below. That's the black finish that guns are coated with to keep the rust off. The paint that's bonded to the metal starts off as being a bright cheery blue color, and only turns black when applied to the gun. The black finish will eventually rub off after awhile, reducing the value of the gun but not it's ability to shoot. (This is just another warning that I'm supremely uninterested in what a gun looks like.)

Firearm Rating System
New- Factory fresh. Older guns in this condition are attractive to collectors, so they usually are more expensive than more recent models.

Mint- This is also referred to as "Perfect Condition". It's a gun that's been fired before but there's no visible wear.

Excellent- Tiny amounts of wear are visible on the blueing. The gun is in almost new condition so far as being mechanically sound. This offers one of the best deals for the buyer of surplus firearms because the guns in this condition aren't of much interest to collectors, yet they shoot just fine and dandy.

Very Good- In perfectly good working condition but it has worn blueing and some scratches or other imperfections. This is the condition that affords you the maximum savings with the least amount of headaches. Almost all of the surplus guns I bought were in this condition.

Good- In perfectly good working condition with worn blueing and some scratches and scrapes, but it also has a few patches of rust or corrosion. This corrosion isn't supposed to interfere with normal function. I've bought a few guns in this condition with no problems at all, but let the buyer beware.

Fair- It's supposed to be in safe working condition, but some of the parts might need replacement and some other work might be needed. Only for those experienced shooters who've educated themselves in the gunsmith's art.

Poor- Crap. Rusty, worn out crap. Don't even think about firing a round through these guns. They can be very helpful in filling out a collection of display-only guns, though.

Gunsmith's Special- Just some parts in a box, really. This isn't an official rating but I've been seeing it more and more often lately.

So there you have it. Follow the rating system and you'll have a very good idea of what you're in for long before you ever hand any money over.

Posted by James Rummel