In some parts of the US and Canada, the only negotiable firearms sellers will be the pawn brokers. They are a motley lot, often ignorant, greedy and dishonest. On the other hand, these people are wheelers and dealers first and crooks second. Pawn shops generally serve their communities in two capacities, one as a "poor manís banker", making loans and often cashing checks for the working poor and welfare class, the other is as an outlet for stolen merchandise. They rarely market merchandise in the same town as where it was stolen, instead sending it out of town in trade for "cooled off" goods. Recent regulations on the pawn industry have made it somewhat more difficult for them to deal in stolen merchandise, but their main profit center is usually short term loans. Often the best pawn shops are located in lower middle class communities and around military bases and major ports. These guys often deal in just about anything they can get their hands on. They can also trade just about anything for anything; a watch for a pistol, a shotgun for a TV set, an UZI for a gold tiara.
Pawn shops in other countries often operate about the same, but can have some really interesting merchandise. Expect most of them to have black market connections of some sort and able to get items that you do not see on the shelf.
Generally, guns will be among the most desirable of used items traded in these places. They tend to have the most verifiable value and ready buyers. You will usually see that handguns are priced the highest in relation to their actual value, then assault rifles, then lower on the list will be shotguns and the sorts of common hunting guns that are sold at the large discount stores like Walmart. At the bottom will be old discontinued and often broken hunting rifles and shotguns. These guns tend to be highly negotiable in price and pawn shops can be the best places to pick them up. Pawn shop owners usually lack the means or motivation to assure the guns are actually in good mechanical condition and their "clients" will often bring in damaged or defective items. That means you can often find something that needs some service or repair and convince the pawnbroker to sell it off cheap.
The difficulty in marketing stolen guns from a storefront usually means the guns are more or less legit. My preference when dealing with pawn shops is going to be to sign for the guns just to make sure he is legit on his end of the deal and not using me as the means to pass a stolen gun under the counter. You make your own choices base on the local situation where you are at.
Military personnel often trade and sell weapons at pawn shops that would not be traded elsewhere. The great majority of this equipment was purchased retail in the area, some scavenged from discarded material and some stolen. Military scavengers focus on stuff that is abandoned or left over from military operations and deemed too useless to keep track of by upper echelon military leaders. This stuff often ends up in pawnshops and surplus stores. The real gold mine on this is not the weapons, but gear. Pawn shops around military bases often have custom name brand private purchase gear really cheap. You can also find some pretty decent higher end camping and survival items like generators, tools, tents and backpacks.
You can also get lucky and find "grab boxes" of parts and accessories priced very reasonably. Reloading gear also tends to be cheap at the pawn shops and a lot of the better reloading presses can be purchased cheap and then sent back to the manufacturer for a free or low cost overhaul.
In a town with multiple pawn shops it is usually a simple task to find an item you want in one shop (broker A), then talk to a competing pawn broker (broker B) about what he would pay for a similar item on pawn. You will then get a ballpark figure of what broker "A" paid for the item and be able to make a reasonable offer from there. They often calculate their prices by a set of books that vary prices according to the make, model, and condition of the gun. Like the famous Kelly Blue books of the automotive business, these books are a guide, not the law. Local markets may vary. If you become known to the pawn shops as a ready cash buyer of certain kinds of items, you can usually develop a pretty cozy relationship since the pawnbrokers often prefer to take less money on an item right away from a regular buyer than sit on it for months waiting for a sucker to come in and pay more.
If you are interested in a certain gun, ask to handle it and check for signs of how long it has been on the shelf and how old it is. Dust and Rust are two indicators that it may have been on the rack too long and the dealer is ready to sell. Have some knowledge about what the gun should have come with when new and calculate the presence or absence of added accessories accordingly. For example, all Smith & Wesson automatic pistols are shipped from the factory (when new) with two magazines. Gun value books are vague on whether or not the value of the used gun reflects one or two magazines, a lock and a plastic case, or just the gun. The thing is that a spare magazine, the lock and factory case are something, not nothing, and if they are missing from the deal, the gun is worth less. Very often, the monkey behind the counter may be too stupid or lazy to know or care if the box and other accessories are in or around the shop somewhere. Always ask for these items and if they are not present, get an explanation. It is entirely realistic to expect the previous owner to have given up spare mags and accessories when they sold the gun, why would they be missing? You do not want to find out a few months later that someone got to be a smartass when they found out their pawned item was sold off and they decided to go and report it missing or stolen.
If you are one of the several people waiting to handle an item, you may have to jump on the deal and pay his price before someone else does and you may need to bluster out the other lookers. One way to see how much it has been handled is to check the condition of the price tag, usually a small cardboard tag on a string. Is it crispy and new with faded ink? It has sat without being handled much. Is it beat up with fresh ink and fingerprints? It has been handled a lot and recently. A beat up and faded tag could indicate that it is priced too high and the seller has been stubborn about negotiation. Is there some sort of item number that you could discern a date from? Most pawn shops will be very time sensitive in relation to the age of their merchandise. Check item numbers on newer and older merchandise to see how long it has been in the store. Long standing merchandise is dead merchandise. Any smart retailer will turn over a 15% profit on an item three times in a year rather than wait a year for a 25% deal. Pawnbrokers will usually be willing to make a deal on something if they realize they have been sitting on it too long because the market is not as optimistic about the value of the item as they are.
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