Gun Digest

20 Questions To Ask When Buying A Vintage Shotgun

While neither a true sidelock nor boxlock, the Syracuse Lefevers were among the most innovative and possibly the most well designed of the classic American doubles. This refurbished G-grade features moderate engraving and utilizes the ball and screw hinge instead of a hinge pin.

There are great deals on vintage shotguns for those willing to shop, but you better ask the right question before putting cold, hard cash on the table.

The best place to shop for a classic shotgun is online. Always search the most recent listings first. If searching auctions, look at the number of bids. There’s some risk since you can’t actually see the gun in most cases, but most sellers have reasonable return policies, and you can see more guns in one evening than you could by attending 20 gun shows.
The main thing is to ask the right questions. I composed this list when I first became interested in doubles. I’ve added to it a couple of times. There is also an explanation of a few of the questions. Hope it helps.

Vintage Shotgun Questions:

  1. Are there cracks or chips in the wood?
  2. Is there evidence of repair to the wood?
  3. Is the level of the wood lower than that of the metal (proud metal)?
  4. Is the checkering clean and in good shape?
  5. Has the checkering been finished over?
  6. Does the gun’s metal appear refinished?
  7. What’s the length of pull to the front trigger? (Length of pull should be about 14 inches to the front trigger)
  8. Is the forearm loose?
  9. What’s the percentage of case color?
  10. Is the engraving sharp?
  11. What’s the percentage of bluing?
  12. Is the lettering on the blued surfaces sharp? (Poor refinishing often affects engraving and lettering.)
  13. Are the screws damaged? (Screws on these guns were timed, and slots should all orient from front to rear.)
  14. Is the lever right of center? (Lever right of center indicates excessive wear.)
  15. Is there movement between the barrel and receiver with the gun closed and the forearm removed?
  16. Is there sideways movement between the barrel and receiver with the gun open?
  17. Does the gun operate properly?
  18. Are the trigger pulls light and crisp?
  19. Do numbers match?
  20. What’s the length of the barrels?
  21. What are the chokes?
  22. Is there any pitting in the barrels?
  23. Are there any dents or bulges?
  24. Is there any metal pitting externally?
  25. Has the gun been personalized with numbers, initials, etc.?

By asking these questions, you can eliminate 95 percent of the surprises that inhibit most folks from buying on the net or making a bad purchase. If you’re buying in person or on the web, use these questions as a checklist to make sure you check everything.

This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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