How to Estimate The Trade-In Value of a Gun

You know, it wasn’t until relatively recently that I came to fully understand how to find quality guns.

Throughout my life, I’ve purchased some real pigs.

I remember thinking “hey, here’s a pocket pistol for under $100!  That’s perfect for carrying!”

Yeah, it wasn’t.

The bright side of the gun world is that only a bit of your money was flushed down the toilet.  Just about every gun dealer will take trades so that festering pile of crap that you bought can get you at least a small discount on a better one.

GunStore

This, however, also opens up a can of worms.

Just because the gun is crap doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get its full trade-in value.

The dude at the gun store is going to try to give you as little for your gun as possible.  That doesn’t mean he’s unscrupulous, mind you.  The nature of the business is to make money and losing money on trade-ins isn’t a very good long-term business solution.

Think about it, this guy is buying something from you with the hope that he can sell it later at a price that will recoup the money he spent buying it from you in the first place.  He knows what he can get for the guns as he’s probably sold a bunch like it before.

That doesn’t mean you have to roll over and take it.  There are some things you can do to increase your chances of getting the best price possible for your gun.

Private vs Trade-In Sale

First off, throw away any sentimental value.

The dude behind the counter isn’t going to care if it was your first gun ever or your grandfather’s gun.

Now, if it was a gun that was documented as owned by someone really famous then, and I can’t stress this enough, SELL IT THROUGH A PRIVATE SALE!

Or through an auction house, however, that does involve a bit of a gamble since you may not get the price for it you were hoping for.  Or you might get a lot more.  Like I said, a gamble.

I should note, by the way, that you will almost always get more money for your gun through a private sale than trading it in.

The difference is convenience and effort.

By taking a lower price for the trade-in, you’re essentially paying a fee for the other person to eventually sell it for you.

Anyway, the best thing you can be is informed.

When the guy behind the counter looks at your gun then looks at you and says “ok, what do you want for it?”, don’t just shrug your shoulders.  Also, don’t ask for the brand new price either.

Both of those are telling the salesperson “I have no idea what I’m doing.  Please take advantage of me.”

Make sure you have a reasonable price in your head beforehand.  Let’s go over the basic “rule of thumb” steps for finding the trade in value.

PT Barnum Quote
PT Barnum, The Man Who Could Sell Anything

Calculating the Trade-In Value

  1. Be honest with yourself about the condition – Never taken out of the box with 0 scratches and hardly a fingerprint is considered mint condition.  Scratches, corrosion, worn finish?  Take your initial assessment then move down to the next grade.  You can argue all you want but that single scratch is going to keep you from getting the “excellent” price even if you’re selling to a private party.  Them’s the breaks.
  2. Find the going used rate for your gun – Go to GunBroker.com, Armslist.com or even bluebookofgunvalues.com (although the last one isn’t free) and find your gun.  Make sure it is EXACTLY your gun.  Yes, Kimber 1911’s are going for $800 but your 1911 is made by Rock Island Armory. There will be a price difference.  It also helps to know your area and what used guns go for there.  The only way to do that is to frequently visit the gun stores and try to figure out where your local stores sell compared to internet used prices.  Is it higher?  Is it lower?
  3. Take that going used rate and cut it in half.  That’s your starting point.  If the cut in half price ends in 50, I like to round up to the next 00.

Also, take a look at our articles about GunBroker and Armslist to familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of the platforms.

So, for example, let’s say I have a Ruger LCR .38 with the factory Crimson Trace Laser.

Ruger LCR
Ruger LCR

I have only put, say, a dozen shots through it at the most and it is truly in excellent condition.

The used prices on GunBroker.com range from 400-600 dollars.  I tend to grab the middle price, in this case, $500, because that’s how stuff generally falls in my neck of the woods.

So with that in mind, when the salesman behind the counter says “what do you want to get for it”, I’ll look him right in the eye and say “$300” (50% of the used selling price and I rounded up).

So what are the chances that I’ll get that amount?

Slim to none.

Let Me Talk to My Manager
Sure You Did…

He’ll probably go “talk” to the “manager” and come back with $200.  That was the low end I found online.  If I wanted, I could probably get him to $250 at this point and I would try.  I’d probably walk away with a $225 final offer.

Not bad for a gun that was just sitting in a drawer completely unused.

If I’m trading this gun in for a pistol with a high-profit margin or dealer sales incentives, well, they might actually give me that $250.

This is because even with the trade-in “discount” they’re giving me, they’re still making a profit over what they paid for the gun.

This is RARE, mind you.

There are only a couple of manufacturers where this is possible.  Believe it or not, the markup on most guns isn’t as much as you think it is.

Trade-In vs Selling

All of this was assuming you were trading the gun.

If you’re wanting to just dump the gun for some quick cash (essentially pawning it), figure 30%-40% in that case instead of the 50%.

In those cases, you might actually get more for your gun at one of those police buyback programs, controversial though they may be.

Pawn Stars Meme
Pawn Stars “Fair” Offer

Conclusion

In the end, this is just a quick way of determining the starting point.

The store is going to give you what they want to give you.

Fortunately, you have a choice.

If they’re just insisting on low balling you, just walk away.  Say “thank you for your time but no thanks”, collect your gun and try somewhere else.  Don’t ever feel pressured to go through with a transaction you’re not comfortable with.

Remember: knowledge is power in all cases, not just dealing with salespeople.

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20 Leave a Reply

  • JackTenn008

    This helped so much. Thank you. I estimated three well-used guns at $450 total but would walk away at less than $300. I used your calculations, looked him straight in the eye, and the final offer was $350 cash. I was willing to do $300 before i read your article so you made me $50! Thank you very much. #pawnshop #rugerlcp #benellisupernova #springfieldxds

    5 months ago
  • David

    I have an HK 93 that is in perfect condition and went around to some gun shops and the most was offered was 700 dollars the rifle at the time had a value of 2500, i was told well what it is worth and what it will bring is two different things. I said no you want to steal it you're not even close. They can do better than that, this was like spitting in your face. They didn't get the rifle I still have it. They said they only give 1/3 of the value well they didn't give that.. That's, why I won't, buy anything from any of them THEY ARE TO DAMN GREEDY. i buy all my guns used and from private face to face sell or online and have the FFL transfer done thru their greedy shop. What i buy my cost 400 dollars the same thing in a local gun shop is 725.00 now that's greedy and don't let something get scares they will buy them all and the fools that want to give double price they stick it to them and puff out the chest and pat each other on the back and brag how they screwed that fellow out of his money and how they were going to get a premium price out of his trade in, Hey Sally call Jack tell him i found what he was looking for. Car Dealers are the same way any privately owned business without competition.you are going to get dry humped they are so greedy they want use Valvoline that cost a few pennies more to use..

    1 year ago
  • Robert Sophiea

    Was this written by a gun shop owner? Lol Take the going rate and cut it in half and don’t expect to get that... So it is not worth the shop owners time unless he makes over 100% profit?

    1 year ago
    • Gunner Dave

      Whoa- The shop owner has to pay taxes, wages,building and other operating costs including loan costs and advertising. Of his "profit" almost half of the is outgoing expense. He also buys guns cheaper than he sells them(duh) he figures his buyback on HIS costs.. not what you paid. YOU are better off cash-wise to sell yourself and take thee wait and costs of selling.

      7 months ago
      • davis bush

        Last year I was buying Compass rifles with a net of $107 after applied discounts through retailmenot-gift card discounts and Cabelas cashback plus the 100.00 factory discount.. It was a cash cow as I just sold two at $275.00 each..Which pays for my remaining 5 guns.. Go figure- just keep your eye open and have cash in hand. bargains like that lasted 3 weeks before Christmas.

        7 months ago
    • VoixceofReality

      Yes- profit is figured by time to sell, cost to have an open shop and pay employees, Therefore the "profit" after taxes is about 8%.. Nothing is free these days and you do not work for nothing !!!!!!

      11 months ago
  • Rene

    Trying to sell several different guns that I have one is at 3:57 Magnum handgun in very good condition still with the box also Single barrel shotgun sod off to legal status Bolt action Long rifle and another one I'm not quite sure what make it is it was from my husbands great grandpa

    1 year ago
  • Kimberly

    I wanted to know how much my gun ia valve is it is a the Marlin fire arms co Mayfield. ky. Usa model XT-22 micro-Groove barrel 22 mag only MM655475

    1 year ago
  • Joe

    Another site you can use to find the going rate of your gun is gunhunter.com. They track what guns are selling for on a bunch of gun websites, like 80 I think, including gunbroker. Gun values are automatically calculated when you search, kind of like blue book for cars, and searching for gun values is free.

    2 years ago
    • Eric Hung

      Good suggestion Joe!

      2 years ago
  • Timothy J

    I would never go and trade a gun before I tried to sell it privately, The big box stores (rhymes with Crapelas) are a business they need to sell that gun later so they will low ball you big time. I took a barely fired Beretta 92 FS in just to see what theyd do wouldn't give over 225 sold the gun a day later to a coworker for 400. Always go private is my advice.

    2 years ago
  • Perry Lane

    Another option to consider is that many gun shops accept firearms on consignment. If you do not need immediate cash you may be able to get a better price.

    2 years ago
  • Bob Morales

    I have never sold a gun that I didn't regret selling later.

    2 years ago
    • Eric Hung

      Yup! I'm trying to never sell a gun.

      2 years ago
  • James Kane

    I just inherited an 1891 Mauser Argentino Modelo 7.65x54 Berlin, Ser# W0700, with a great adjustable open sight. It's in AWESOME condition.... blue too. Looks like it's rarely been used. All matching #s. What is something like this valued at? Is this a 'keeper or should I sell it?It's light yet seems like a great gun for 'the hunt'.

    2 years ago
    • Mike

      I have the exact same rifle my dad bought in 1959. I thought it might be worth a few bucks. Turns out a few bucks is about right $100- 150 seems about right in great condition. Some buckle heads have paid $500-600 for them. But that is nuts.There are 10's of thousands of these surplus rifles in crates all over the world. Find a few crates that's where you could make a couple bucks. BTW my dad paid $12 for it at sears in 59

      2 years ago
    • Tad

      If you look at gunbroker.com they are ranging between 200 to 600 (asking) not a lot of bids on them. I have seen them at a gun show but they weren't selling in this area right now. However if you find a Mauser guy, then it may draw more.

      2 years ago
      • ehung

        Thanks for the input Tad!

        2 years ago
    • ehung

      Hey James, nice! I'm not too great on the pricing of antique guns. I'd say take a look at the Blue Book or try to find a recent auction.

      2 years ago
  • undeRGRound

    My son bought an M&P9c for $550 @ Gouger Mountain, on the same day I bought an M&P 9 at an LGS, non-chain store. I paid $499 and the 9c was the same price. Anyway, he later (a year or so) sold the 9c at the LGS, with 4 mags total, 2 of which were the full sized ones with X-Grips on them. $300, because they pretty much had to pay as if he had bought it there... Your formula held true there, it is our #1 LGS, we buy most of our items there, and they know us well. The deal was the offered $300 right away, and he took it. No haggle. Expect much more resistance at a place where you have not spent so much money, however :D He had dropped around $5,000+ there on several purchases, but a used M&P might only bring $400 if the LGS is fortunate. But it was perfect, and low round count, very clean. Marines tend to keep their weapons spotless!

    4 years ago
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