The value of expertise

For sale: LIGHTLY USED. Remington 870 pump action for home defense! Great price!

This is an ad I saw, and the more I looked the gun over, the more my eyes narrowed at the ‘great price’ being not really a ‘great deal’. At first glance, it looked ‘tactical’, sure, with a pistol-grip stock, tactical light, and 18.5″ barrel. I’m sure someone snapped it up.

But was it really a great ‘home defense’ gun? Instead of running ghost rings or even a red dot, the shotgun just had a single fiber optic front sight post. Great for birds, lousy for actually aiming the weapon defensively. No mention was made of the choke, which can create a dangerous situation if you’re firing the wrong kind of ammo through a choke you haven’t properly gauged.

The tactical light was a $30 knockoff from Amazon, mounted to a clamp-style latch between the magazine and barrel. Not only are these clamp latches unreliable (they are rarely secured with proper locking washers), the tactical light probably puts out 90 lumens at best and I think I’ve had burritos wrapped in sturdier aluminum. Did you know there are dozens of different grades of aluminum, and some are MUCH weaker than others?

The stock was a classic Knoxx collapsible stock. I know (from experience) that shotgun recoil will actually wear the camming pin on those Crane-style stocks down and cause it to collapse with each shot fired!

Lastly, there was an aftermarket magazine extension installed. This tells me at some point someone either replaced the original spring with a new one of unproven quality, or left the original in. Either way, that’s a real risk for reducing the gun’s ability to feed ammo reliably.

All of the above is an illustration of why it’s important to get a second opinion when purchasing a used firearm. It might be your friendly local gun shop or your gunsmith friend up the road. All used guns are a gamble, but when someone’s started modifying the weapon with aftermarket parts, what sounds like a great deal might actually turn out to  be a tremendous liability. And oftentimes, only a seasoned professional really can spot the difference between crapware and ‘tactical’ improvements.

Shop carefully when you buy used, and make sure to throw a little business your local FFL’s way when you do. It’ll save you a lot of grief down the road.

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