Letter Re: Advice on Police Department Trade-In Guns

What are your thoughts on the firearms that the various police department (PD) are trading in? From what I’m able to determine the service life of a firearm is just 6 years with police departments after that the firearms are either traded in to be sold to you and me or are destroyed. right now I’m seeing a lot of former police firearms hitting the market the S&W Model 10, 64, 5906, 4043, 4566, Sigma, Glock 22, Ruger P89, every brand of riotgun from the bigger names, and the Ruger Mini-14 GB. all for very reasonable prices, the pistols are running in the $200-to-350 range, as are the shotguns. If you don’t mind the holster wear these look like good deals. Do you see any problems with them? Some of them have NYPD, MDPD, some even having badges engraved on the slides? I’m guessing that if you get caught with one of those after a Katrina-like event you going to have some explaining to do. Signed, – Dan N.

JWR Replies: Yes, I generally recommend buying police trade in guns, if the price is right. In addition to basics like bore condition and general mechanical condition of all guns, and the specific inspection points for handguns, here are a couple of provisos:

1.) Be careful to check for sloppy cylinders on revolvers. (Some poorly-trained owners have a bad habit of flipping open the cylinders of their revolvers.)

2.) Watch out for rust or pitting on the backstraps and/or under the grips of blued handguns. (Some officers tend to rest their sweaty palms on their grip backstraps when they walk.)

If you get a blued gun that has significantly loss of bluing, you can have it refinished. Say you are getting a gun that would normally cost $600 new, for just $300. That leaves a big budget for refinishing. These days, I generally recommend the exotic finished such as as NP3 or METACOL. This will leave them better than new, since they’ll have a more durable finish that their original bluing or parkerizing. There are now a wide range of exotic materials such as Teflon and Zylan are frequently used as “after-market” gun finishes. The Robar Company uses a nickel/Teflon composite that they call NP3. My personal favorite exotic finish is called METACOL (for METAl COLor), which is offered in a wide variety of colors by Arizona Response Systems. Exotic material finishes offer rust protection that is exceeded only by stainless steel. They are quite durable. Parenthetically, for anyone that that dislikes the highly reflective surface of stainless steel, or if you buy a trade-in gun with lots of scratches, it too can be coated with one of the exotic materials such as green Teflon, with a non-reflective matte texture.

Most of the trade-in Mini-14 GBs on the market are ex-Department of Corrections (prison guard) guns. If you can get ones that still have most of their bluing, I do recommend them. (Replacements for battered stocks are cheap and plentiful, so don’t pay much attention to the stock. Instead, look at the bore and the bluing. And again, if you buy it “right”, then some of your savings can be budgeted for refinishing.

As for guns with departmental markings, be sure to save your receipts! In the case of a rifle or shotgun, you can leave a photocopy of your purchase receipt under the buttplate, so you’ll always have it handy.

One final note: Keep in mind that the appearance of gun is not crucial. Preparedness is not a beauty contest. Mechanical condition and bore condition are the essential things. In a pinch, and in just a few minutes, you can tone down a rifle or shotgun’s shiny finish with flat brown or green spray paint. If you let pristine appearance be a determining factor, it will actually be to he detriment of your preparedness. Here, I should mention that I have a friend that has a large collection of pre-1964 production Winchester Model 70 bolt action rifles. He would never dream of cutting a stock to install a recoil pad, threading a muzzle to install a flash hider, or camouflage painting one of his rifles. From a practical standpoint, it is probably better to start with used, slightly dinged-up guns. Not only will you save money, but you won’t have any reluctance when it comes time to modify your guns to suit your practical and tactical needs.

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