TTAG reader Zak writes “How do you properly dispose of firearms that you don’t want to re-sell such as firearms that are unsafe to shoot or broken and not worth fixing? I realize you can drop it off at a gun buy-back, but what are other options?”

Firearms are mechanical devices. Like all other mechanical contraptions they eventually break or wear out. When a gun becomes BER — Beyond Economical Repair — it may be time to put it out to pasture. Here are four options:

Surrender It to Your Local Police

For sentimental pieces like the rifle your grandfather brought back from WWII or your first hunting rifle there are better options, but for guns that you don’t have any attachment to and just want to divest, surrendering it to the local police is the easiest solution. That said, walking into a police station and declaring you have a firearm might not be the best way to handle this situation.

If you want to surrender an old gun, call your local police station’s non-emergency phone line and describe the situation. They will usually be happy to walk you through the process. Depending on the station they may even dispatch officers to your home to collect the firearm, ask you to schedule an appointment to bring it in, or simply ask you to walk in.

Before you make the call, make sure you are not a prohibited person and that you possess the firearm lawfully (check your local and state laws). Also be aware that the police department may run the serial number of the firearm through their database to see if it’s been stolen. If you’re not entirely sure of your firearm’s provenance, the subsequent encounter could get a little more interesting than you’d like.

Take it to a Gun “BuyBack”

If you’re considering the surrender option, see if there’s a gun “buyback” scheduled in your town.

These “no questions asked” events make the process of turning in your guns as quick and painless as possible. The usually involving some sort of monetary incentive — like a cash card or store credit in return for your busted heater.

Gun rights advocates have taken to setting-up purchase stalls outside these events, offering better prices for unwanted guns than the police and the chance of a new home for an old gun.

“Deactivate” The Gun and Turn It Into Art

When is a gun no longer a gun? According to the ATF any firearm that has been made “permanently inoperable” is no longer a firearm, and no longer subject to firearms-related laws. The definition of “permanently inoperable” in 27 CFR § 478.11 is as follows:

A firearm which is incapable of discharging a shot by means of an explosive and incapable of being readily restored to a firing condition. An acceptable method of rendering most firearms permanently inoperable is to fusion weld the chamber closed and fusion weld the barrel solidly to the frame. Certain unusual firearms require other methods to render the firearm permanently inoperable. Contact ATF for instructions.

The process for normal firearms is pretty simple: weld the action shut, weld the barrel to the action and fill the barrel with cement. For things like machine guns the rules get very specific and require a gas axe, but the concept is still the same. Once the gun has been made inoperable it’s no different than a length of steel pipe and you can do with it what you want.

Here are some ideas for repurposing your now inoperative firearm:

Make a decorative plaque. If your gun had some sentimental value, consider mounting it on a plaque and hanging it in your home. Other alternatives in that same style include making a display stand for a shelf or desk.

Turn it into a lamp. If you are smart you might consider snaking some electrical wire up the barrel of your gun before filling it with cement. Add a lightbulb to the top and mount it on a stand — hey-presto a new lamp! Extra points if the trigger becomes the on/off switch.

Make it into a chair. If you have enough ancient and unserviceable guns then perhaps you should build yourself an ARMSchair. Get it? ARMS chair? Firearms? I know, I’m the worst.

There are plenty of ways to use your now inoperative firearm around the house. I’m sure there will be more suggestions in the comments.

Give It To your Gunsmith

Gunsmiths need practice. If you have a local ‘smith they might want to practice their skills on your old busted piece of junk. Consider donating it to someone who could use it.

I’m sure I’ve missed some options, but that should get your started. Good luck, and let’s hope that your guns never get to that point.

[Email your firearms-related questions to “Ask Foghorn” via thetruthaboutguns@gmail.com. Click here to browse previous posts]

30 Responses to Four Ways to Dispose of an Unwanted Gun — Ask Foghorn

  1. Even a gun not worth fixing can bring in some money. Example: Suppose you have a surplus WW2 Mauser rifle. Every part with the exception of the receiver can be sold on Ebay.

  2. Why does getting rid of a firearm need so much analysis? When did dropping off a bridge drop from Option #1?

  3. I vote give it to your local gunsmith or up-and-coming gunsmith. It’s better for everyone when we practice a new trick on a worthless junk gun first!

    • So gunsmiths just take firearms off any stranger that walks in their door??

      I suspect many might be a little wary…

      • Wary of what?
        You think it’s a gang thug’s preferred method of evidence disposal?

        Look, I regularly utilize the trash cans at gas stations to clean up my vehicle’s interior while the pump is running. It would be especially easy to rid yourself of a handgun this way. Put gat in bag (maybe double-bag for extra security), drop bag in trash can.

  4. When I was growing up my neighbor had a Mauser stamped Danzig 1914 that he brought back from the Great War and made into a lamp. When I saw it, I remarked how I would really like to have the rifle if it worked. He produced the bolt and the butt screw he removed to push the wiring through, took it apart and I have that Mauser til this day.

    • Every floor lamp in my grandfathers house was like that, the bolts were bagged and kept in one of his safes. Other long guns filled the safes, and there was another rifle above the fireplace (also functional).

    • Paint the word “ACTION” on it and throw it, real hard, at some MDA types, or maybe at Shenanigan herself?

  5. You left out giving it to me… That is the best option!

    I need to set up an FFL just to take unwanted, homeless guns….

    I do feel this article is in incorrect order, I don’t think we should be pushing people toward the relinquish/destroy options over the legal repair/reuse/recycle. If someone quickly searches for this answer they will see police and buy back first, and some old widow will be taking an old war trophy to the police to be melted rather than a gun shop who might give her at least some value for it. Have an appraisal done or take to gun smith should be option one.

    Gun buy backs are just for making political statements or disposing of stolen weapons, or trying to sell a hardware store creation for cash.

    Maybe call NRA as an option, they take donations and they auction them, maybe they would take a scruffy gun too.

  6. If anyone is looking to dispose of an R51 I’ll gladly take it. Just figure it was topical to the picture.

    That said I think the “trophy” process is interesting, and it’s certainly plausible to have 1-2 that are wall hangers; I want to do it one day.

  7. Beyond Economical Repair means different things to different people. My brother would sooner sell his car before he had to change sparkplugs or perform PMCS.

  8. I second the notion of first trying to sell it or donate it to a friend or gunsmith.

    Having said that, if you really want to eliminate a firearm permanently from circulation, why not disassemble it, bash/gouge the receiver, bolt, slide, barrel, and/or trigger group (with a hammer, file, and/or grinder), and put the pieces in the trash? That process would take all of 5 minutes.

    Alternatively, wipe excess oil of of the firearm (and out of the barrel if practical), fill the barrel/action with damp salt, and bury the firearm somewhere. The damp salt will render it inoperable within a couple days and the ground will destroy what is left over the next several months/years. (Note: you may have to dampen the ground where you buried the firearm if the dirt is not moist.)

  9. I was gonna say “take it apart, file off the serial numbers, firing pin, jack up the rifling and the extractor, then drop the parts in a lake or river. Then call your homeboy about a new hi-point”

  10. There are other options:

    1. Donate it to a gunsmithing school. There are several gunsmithing schools around the nation – Colorado School of Trades, Trinidad State Junior College (both in Colorado), Yavapai College in Arizona, Murray State in Oklahoma, Lassen in California, etc.

    They will all have FFL’s, so you can ship to them directly. They all need example guns for students to work on. They can all work on guns at reduced cost to the owner if you’re willing for your gun to be used in instruction and you’re not waiting on a schedule. If you don’t want your gun any more, they might also give you a letter confirming you’ve made a charitable donation, and used as an income tax deduction could be fluffed up a bit to give you more economic value than the gun would have in an outright sale.

    2. Send it in to a parts house – Numrich, Jack First, etc. They all have FFL’s as well, and they’re often looking to buy parts. Your gun might not be all that serviceable to you, but the parts therein might be quite in demand.

    • This. I donated an inoperable gallery rifle missing many parts to the Colorado School of Trades. It had no value to me and was not worth it for me to repair. I was happy to be rid of it and they were happy to have it.

  11. Have 2 1910 Columbia 12 guage shotties. Both could be called barn finds and would blow up if shot. 1 is now a floor lamp barrel down action open with the stock. A pipe coming up from the barrel and the lamp pull is a 12 g empty and the lamp shade is a tin bucket with buckshot holes.

    The other is hanging on a wall on a piece of gnarled heart pine and has to old shotgun shell flashlights rewired with LED’s it is the bedside light.

    And I just took a Thompson replica and stood it on a 45acp WWII ammo box with a helmet as the lamp shade and a 45 cal bullet as the pull.

    Its a disease I tell you. Making lamps outta usless guns.

  12. I cut a very old and very worn out double barrel 12 gauge into little pieces with a Sawzall. The pieces went into the trash a few at a time over a couple of weeks, The section of the receiver with the serial number was buried in an undisclosed location.

  13. Speaking of broken old guns. Anyone have parts for a Smith and Wesson Model 1 second issue? I broke a part and I would like the repair or replace it option as it was my great grandfather’s pistol. I don’t shoot it, but my gun OCD drives me up a wall when I know I broke a part inside during cleaning.

  14. These options sound like too much work. Put them in a box next to the box of unused holsters and forget about them until a friend mentions needing a part.

  15. An unwanted Remington 51? I have one that looked just like that one, now Cerakoted. Runs like a Gazelle before and after. Surely a better example could be pictured

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