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By James England via

Modern pistols and revolvers are pretty resilient. You can push upwards of tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition through them before mechanical parts start to degrade. With proper maintenance, it’s possible for a revolver or pistol to last a lifetime. But what if you’re sick of that pistol? After the barrel is worn down, the grips smooth, the striker pin bowed, you just want to be rid of it and move on to another firearm? There are a couple legal processes you can do to legally dispose of a firearm . . .

Pre-flight Check
Before attempting to dispose of one of your firearms, always do the following:

  • Unload and visually inspect the barrel to ensure no live ammunition remains.
  • Record the serial number of the barrel and take pictures for your records.
  • Check with your local state to see if they have any programs or restrictions.
  • A clean, old gun sells/trades better than a dirty one.

Route 1: Trade-In For Bigger And Better!
Most gun shops accept used firearms for trade-in towards the purchase of a new one. “New”, in this case, means “new to you” more than “brand spanking new”. Most gun stores don’t care if you trade-in for a new or used handgun so long as they’re getting a good deal.

And they will. Gun stores have a catalogue of recommended costs based upon the estimated percentage of the weapon’s condition. That cost is then parred against how the owner is feeling and whether he believes he can resell it.

All said and done, for most firearms you can expect to get less than half of what you bought it for as a trade-in value towards your next purchase.

PROS:  Easy, convenient, legal, and you get a new firearm!

CONS:  None, really.

Route 1b: Just Offload It At The Gun Store
Most owners DON’T want the majority of your used or busted firearms.  They’ll happily take them as trade-ins for a decent value but if you’re looking to straight up sell it for cash – you’re going to take a massive hit.

PROS:  The one advantage to this is straight convenience.  No hunting around for private party buyers or dealing with online brokerages.

CONS:  If sold for cash, return on investment will likely be minimal.  Gun shop owners may outright refuse to buy your old gun if it’s in rickety or compromised condition.

Route 2:  Online Gun Brokerages
There are a number of gun auction websites where you can attempt to offload your old firearm.  Success varies depending on the quality of the pictures.  If you don’t have an FFL, you’ll need to operate through an FFL to send it.  Conversely, the buyer has to have an FFL on his end to pick it up.

PROS:  Will certainly get more money at face value than selling at a gun store.

CONS:  Need to ensure that it’s legal to sell to the other party through verifying FFL certificate, state restrictions, etc.  Fees will certainly apply.

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  1. Yeah, take it to a government buy back… I’m still not sure how the government can buy “back” something it never had to begin with… Every word, propaganda, trying to make it look like they’re the center of the universe, from which all things flow…

  2. If you don’t have an FFL, you’ll need to operate through an FFL to send it.

    Not true.
    A private party can legally send a firearm to an FFL holder through UPS and FedEx (list it as “machine parts”–not illegal, and saves you from their next day air only policy on handguns).
    And if the shipper and receiver are in the same state, federal law does not require the firearm go through an FFL (although state laws might).

    • FYI – FedEx and UPS won’t honor the insurance if you send it any way but priority overnight. Can you get away with it? Probably. But they get really testy about it if they find the gun.

      • Also not true, at least for UPS.

        I’ve sold at least 5 firearms through online brokers, rifle, shotgun, collectable revolvers, pistols. So long as the receiving FFL will accept shipments from an individual (some are stubborn), you can ship handguns UPD 2-Day, fully insured for whatever price you ask for, and long guns UPS ground, again, insured for whatever you like.

        Talk to the receiving FFL first, read the shipper’s policies.

        Thanks TTAG for more bad info. This site has gone so far downhill (read: agendas). I’m out.

        • Bad info? Not from me…. You base your opinion on shipping 5 guns? I base my opinion on shipping 500-1000 handguns over many years.

          From the UPS website:

          Handguns, as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 921, will be accepted for transportation only via UPS Next Day Air Services, specifically, UPS Next Day Air® Early A.M.®, UPS Next Day Air®, and UPS Next Day Air Saver®. (Note: UPS Express Critical™ Service is not available for firearms).

          Packages containing handguns must be separated from other packages tendered to UPS for delivery.

          When you are shipping a package that contains a handgun, you must verbally notify the UPS driver or UPS Customer Center clerk.

  3. In the old days, after being used, many handguns were simply dropped down the old outhouse to rust away in peace. Lots of interesting “dugups” have been recovered from such places – some still loaded….. Not many outhouses around these days.

  4. Man. I wish I’d thought of this before I stupidly took then all on my boat. Such a tragic accident.

    • Yup. If it comes to disposal of a worn out pistol, with little sentimental or cash value, and as rifles deserve a place over the mantle instead, a fitting tribute offshore, or deep lake/River will suffice, with a few words, and a moment of silence is all that is needed.

      • I did throw a .22 jennings in the Ohio river decades ago. There was no moment of silence and the words I said I would not want to repeat to my mother.

        • Christ! I’ll bet that’s the one I caught with my deep diving bass plug last month, Cleaned it up and sold it to my ex wife for three hundred smackeroos!

  5. A lot of people seem to bring their unwanted guns to Chicago, where they have no trouble being adopted into a loving new home.

  6. You could follow this advice.

    Or you could call up one of the several gun parts companies out there (Numrich, Bob’s Gun Shop, Jack First, etc), get a bit for your gun and have the parts that are usable end up in other guns.

    For some guns, some of their components are worth more than the assembled gun will fetch in the used market. I’ve had to hunt down parts for some economy-grade shotguns that were worth 50 to 70% of what a whole example of the gun was fetching on gunbroker or other online auctions. You could even part out your gun on FleaBay, except for the receiver or frame.

    All of the above listed parts houses have FFL’s.

  7. Seriously? Your answer to the question posed here is to merely sell it? Duh… Your photo, followed by this article makes it appear as if burying a gun is illegal. Don’t we all just lose our guns in boating accidents?

  8. BATFE has a series of rulings on their website’s publication page which illustrate acceptable methods of destroying machineguns for importation as parts kits. These methods should be legally satisfactory for other firearms’ destruction.

    • Yep. It is the same method used to destroy a firearm by a manufacturer here in the states. Basically if you are making a firearm and for what ever reason it is no longer needed (say a manufacturing prototype that just doesn’t work out) you follow the same steps as demiling it for import. Then it can be sold off as scrap metal or chucked in the garbage.

  9. Does TTAG pay by the word? Because this article could have been more economically worded as:

    “Sell it.”

    • Probably ways to sell it that are legal and some that may not be. Depends on the laws where you live. After the recent passage of the “Gun Show Law” in WA State I think every sale “theoretically” has to go through an FFL. I could be wrong but that was my understanding of the law. It was supposed to prevent “private sales”. But, like many laws, it seems so convoluted that I am not really sure what it means, exactly. Probably have to hire an attorney to figure it out. Which seems to be the point of many of these laws. Made by attorneys for attorneys.

      • Very true. And this article could have touched on some of those things, or offered alternate ways to dispose of a broken or unusable firearm (which is what I thought the lead photo was getting at), but it basically gave two options that anyone with the brainpower of a house cat could have figured out: sell it to a gun store, or sell it to a private party. Hence my two word summary, since that’s essentially all that the article said.

  10. “Record the serial number of the barrel ”

    I had a lot of guns (before the boating incident) and not a single one had the serial number on the barrel. Or am I looking in the right place? Mostly handguns.

    • You’re likely looking in the right place. There is no legal requirement for a serial number on a barrel.

      The BATF regs require a serial number on the part that holds the fire control group, aka “trigger.” This is commonly known as the “frame” or “receiver.”

      Some gun makers put a set of numbers on every component in the gun (except pins and screws), but most guns have a serial # on only the frame. And some guns don’t even have that. Before the GCA ’68, there were plenty of cheaper shotguns and .22 rifles that had no serial number at all – on anything. When these come into my shop, I have to record them as “NSN” (No Serial Number) in the bound book.

  11. We had a lower receiver with unknown providence in the parts bin. When we bought a bunch of $50 aero’s, we added 1 to replace it.

    Then took it out to see how well it could catch 308 hpbt.

    Ar15 serial #s ar hard to hit.

  12. Ohio here… You could just sell it face to face; even wear a shirt, button, or hat that says gun for sale. You could just give it away. AFAIK, unless you had reason to believe the person was a “prohibited person”, you could hand it to a stranger in the street.

    FWIW: I’ve never asked to see identification when selling, or loaning a used firearm. I didn’t have reason to suspect that they were a “prohibited person.”

  13. I just threw a broken-frame Tomcat in the trash. Not going to spend 1 penny to discard a gun that already wasted my money.

  14. Great guide here. Though I definitely wouldn’t try to bring the gun in the picture to a buy back anytime soon! Thanks for sharing this. It’s really important that people know how to dispose of firearms that could still potentially be used.

  15. I had an American Double Action revolver that I had acquired along the way. It presented possibly more risk to the person behind it than the person in front of it. I own framing hammers that are more finely crafted than this gun.

    So I brought it to a gun “buy back” for $100. They refused, telling me that It was broken. So I told them I wanted it back. They told me that it had already been transferred. I pulled out my phone and called the NICS check number in my state. They relented and gave me back the non-functional gun.

    We took it to our local sand pit and tried to shoot it from 200 yards away. On the second shot, my .308 found its mark right at the gap between the cylinder and the frame, shattering the pot metal piece of garbage.

    Selling was not an option because I could not in clear conscience ever put that gun in a situation where it might be shot.


  16. One of my uncles once ‘lost’ an unsafe revolver in a blast furnace.

    And my best buddy, shortly after moving to Indiana, demonstrated that a cheap .22 semiauto that was more semi than auto could be turned into a decorative oil lamp holder in a blacksmith shop.


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