Sam Hoober writes [via Ammoland.com]:
A police trade-in gun can be a way to get your hands on a serious handgun for not a whole lot in terms of cash expenditure – depending on whom you buy it from – and put a gun in the safe or in the home for defense, or in a gun holster for daily carry.
However, there is a certain amount of due diligence, a certain number of things to know and things to look for before plunking down the cash on a police trade-in.
Police Handgun Trade-Ins – Just Like Any Other Used Gun
There really isn’t anything about a police trade-in that’s any different from buying any other used gun. A gun isn’t nearly as complicated as, say, a police cruiser (stick to highway patrol cars; highway miles and fewer hours idling) so really a used law enforcement gun is a used gun. Basically, you want to look for the same things.
Inspect the frame. Look for any cracks (most police these days have some sort of poly striker gun) in the frame, especially anywhere near the firing mechanism itself. Likewise inspect the frame and see if there’s any obvious damage. Also check for any rust, especially anywhere in or around the firing mechanism and/or the barrel.
Have a look at the magazines. Does the spring seem worn? Are there any cracks in the magazine follower, the magazine itself or the floorplate? Is there any rust visible? Granted, you may want to replace the magazines anyway – more on that later.
Pay attention to how the slide cycles. Does it offer sufficient resistance and does it return to battery as it should? Granted, this is actually the least of your worries; recoil springs are easily replaced and, as it happens, exceedingly cheap.
What To Expect From A Police Handgun Trade-Ins
First, expect that most of the models are going to be familiar enough, as there are only a few common service pistols. Common service pistols in police service include the Glock 17, Glock 22 (.40 S&W), Beretta 92, Sig Sauer P226, Smith and Wesson M&P9 and M&P40.
Cosmetic damage is all but assured. Holster wear is going to be evident, and expect some nicks, scrapes and scratches in the finish. These guns are carried for hours, bump into things and so on.
So if you’re expecting a show-room finish…it’s just not going to happen. You may need to do a bit of cleaning and lubricating, but it will be a working gun.
What about hours on the clock? How much shooting will have been done with these pistols? Actually, not much. Police rarely use their pistols in the line of duty (few officers will be involved in more than a few shootings in their careers, though there are certainly exceptions) and a lot of them actually do less shooting than a good number of civilian carriers.
A police pistol will often enough only go through a few boxes of ammo per month. Some are only fired a few times per year for qualification shoots. It really comes down to the officer who had the gun previously.
What you don’t know, of course, is how fastidiously it was maintained by the armory. It may have been stored with the action locked back and magazine(s) fully loaded at almost all times. As a result, you may consider replacing the recoil spring and the magazine springs (if not the magazines) as a matter of course.
One thing to look at, however, is the trigger. A number of departments only issue DAO pistols, which have a tougher trigger than you like. Granted, this can often be cured with a trigger spring kit, which – again – are cheap.
So, overall, you can actually get a lot of gun for the money. Usually, you’ll get a magazine or two and night sights are incredibly common. You may also get an accessory light in the bargain, which isn’t unheard of. Police trade-ins routinely go for less than $400, which is not a bad deal in the least. At most, you may want to throw in a few springs…but those are cheap, and you get a solid handgun in the bargain.
About Sam Hoober
Sam Hoober is a contributing editor at Alien Gear Holsters, as well as for Bigfoot Gun Belts. He also writes weekly columns for Daily Caller and USA Carry.