View Full Version : At the gun show....

Dave McC
October 14, 2001, 11:54 AM
I don't go to gun shows very much. I've seen few bargains at them, I wonder at all the folks that think it's necessary to dress like a combat infantryman to shop, and I tend to snort through my nose like a herd bull and walk away when I hear some particular bit of nonsense about guns and gunning.

But, a few questions had come up, I needed a break, and Son was anzious to go. He likes to look at the swords. Too many Highlander episodes,IMO.

So, there we were in Frederick, paying the admittance fee and getting our hands stamped. Of course, we signed up for the door prize, thus guaranteeing much more junk mail. We got the usual overdose of hot dogs, sausage, soft pretzels and soda, then browsed.

This show was mostly militaria, and table after table of milsurps going back to the French and Indian war were the main attraction.

But, there were shotguns. And a few of those shotguns were 870s.

And this is the point to these ramblings. Used 870s have seemed a bit rarer these days. Maybe we've been singing their praises a bit too much, or maybe lots of folks have figured out that buying a new one of indifferent QC or a classic that will NOT break down in a lifetime of shooting and costs somewhat less is an easy choice to make.

So, there was a WM of "70s" vintage in near new shape for $289. Fixed Full choke, great wood, vent rib, no pad, just a plate. I had to fight my conscience on this one, but for once conscience won.

And, a 870 TB similiar to mine, showing honest wear and a non-MC stock. Again a fixed Full, receiver and bbl look almost new, mag tube showing wear, for $335.

A worked over 870 Competition single shot. That's the model where a mercury recoil reducer goes in the mag tube. This one had tubes and a LH MC custom stock and showed some wear. Price seemed high for a gun this specialized, $425.

Last and maybe least, an Express Mag with two bbls, one a RS slug bbl, the other a turkey bbl of maybe 23", with three chokes and the old wood thrown in. $ 375.

By this time Son was satiated with junk food, had swung a few Japanese short swords around, and was ready to leave, so we did.

5 years ago around here, prices for those 870s would have been $50-100 less. Maybe that's a reasonable incrtease and maybe not. My guess is that fewer older 870as are staying long on the market, indicating greater demand for these wonderful old shotguns...

October 14, 2001, 12:20 PM
It will get worse Dave as you get even older.

The stuff that was truly good at a hundred bucks when newly introduced often goes for three hundred used in good shape. The only inexpensive used stuff is the ones that were either cheap to start with or never caught on with the general market. I love the sleeper exceptions tho.:)


October 14, 2001, 03:06 PM
I just don't know about gun shows anymore. I go, but the prices are mostly the product of wishful thinking.

My Wal-Mart 1100 for $328 is looking even better :) John

Bam Bam
October 14, 2001, 03:57 PM
I visited a local gunshop yesterday. A used 12 ga BPS w/ one extra choke tube was selling for $395. Got home and opened up the sports section of the paper. Oshman's Sporting Goods is selling new for $369 w/ tubes.

October 14, 2001, 05:43 PM
I've only bought two guns at gun shows--both of them Ruger pistols, both of them from the same fellow who has rock bottom prices on his Rugers. About the only reason I go to gun shows now is to buy ammo I can't find at gun shops at a reasonable price. Mostly milsurp stuff bought in bulk. Yeah, I could get it online and avoid tax, but then I'd usually have to pay shipping, so it evens out.

As far as long guns go, no luck there. Everything I generally see is overpriced or worn out. And some of these guys won't even dicker. So I just say I'll think about their price, and I mosey on down to the next table.

Still, it can be fun to look, and I've learned a fair amount by asking questions and taking note of who feeds me a line and who gives me (what appears to be) an honest answer. And I still carry a chunk of cash in hopes of running up on that deal of a lifetime so many people crow about. Maybe, just maybe, a good deal will come my way. If not, oh well... I still have a good time, and I get my ammo at a good price.

johnbt: I hear what you're saying about the Wally World bargain 1100. That's one smooth shooting shotgun. I've had a blast with mine--both on the dove field and at the clays range. I have to thank Dave McC again for the heads up on that one.

October 14, 2001, 06:22 PM
Gunshows are a uniquely American Institution.

Somewhat like going to the carnival or to the State Fair.

I love to go just to see whats there, look at the occasional truly rare or special piece. Buy some jerky, and I usually buy ammo in bulk at the gunshow.

But that is about it. Especially when the frenzy is on. Prices just go plain stupid and theres plenty of new bees to pay em.

I have purchased one Pistol at a gunshow, a BHP. Thats it. All the rest of my guns have been through a dealer.

You got to love the gun show though. I can't say I have ever failed to hear some evangalist speaking about anything from proper carry caliber to back yard bar b que conspiracy, fringe around the flag don't ya know. And there is always the fellows in camo gear, God love em.

October 14, 2001, 06:32 PM
You know those "deals" that another TFL poster was asking about last week? It wasn't me, but but I witnessed a dealer getting one today. I was looking at some knives he was selling, while he was negotiating for an American Arms Silver II (12g O/U). I found out later that the dealer bought it for $200! I would have taken a wuppin from the wife, but I would have snapped that one up in a second if given a chance.

Dave McC
October 14, 2001, 07:35 PM
Thanks, folks.

Sam, IIRC, Pop paid $15 around 1956 for what's now my HD 870. Of course, he made about $30/wk then.

Sometime in the mid to late 80s I turned down a Winchester Model 37 Single Shot, 12 ga, for $25. Used lots in card shoots, this best of the cheap singles is now a collector's item. One in "Kept in the barn for a coupla decades" condition today was priced at $145 or so.For $100, a 37 in good condition would be a great carry along gun.

There were some Winchester autos and pumps there, I saw no Mossies nor Ithacas.

There was a Model 12 Military for less than $1000, but there's so many fakes these days on these, I'd want to take along a real expert with me before buying.

And while Wife may have a prob with this, next good, vintage WM I run across for less than $250 will go home with me. What will I use it for?

Damfino, maybe everything(G)...

October 14, 2001, 09:51 PM
It is so timely that you posted this. I went to a show yesterday for the express purpose of looking for 870's. Pickings were slim. I saw two of my local gunshops there and they had about the same stuff I always see in their stores plus some of the "special show stuff" that they bring out.
All in all I was disappointed. So disappointed that I popped online and bid on a "new" 870 Express which much to my surprise I won.
I really tried to buy locally but no one has what I want for what I want to pay. It is sad.
I am lucky in that there are at least six decent gun shops within a half hour of me but not one had any 870 bargains. Even with the 20 bucks shipping and FFL fee, I am way ahead (more ammo) of the game. I got a new SG but still I am sad that I could not find it locally.

cma g21
October 14, 2001, 10:02 PM
I just went to a show today, and there weren't any 870's there new or used.

It figures. I finally decide to get one and there are none to be found.

Don't worry though, 2 days after I buy one (for too much $) there will be 5 at every table...

October 14, 2001, 10:12 PM
Take a look at auctionarms.com. There seem to be a lot of 870s available and if you're careful, you might get a good deal.

I've had pretty good luck with auctionarms. Your results may vary.

October 14, 2001, 10:20 PM
I've played the gunshow game and have even rented tables a couple of times when I had things to sell. It was a learning experience being on the other side of the table. I don't think I could do it on a regular basis. Too many jerks on all sides of the equation. :rolleyes: What has changed is that I'm a little more polite to the dealers even when they are trying to hose me. Just smile, wish them well and move on.

I see various 870s for sale and they are second only to the Winchester Model 12s in the price category for pump guns and they aren't getting any cheaper. :(

Dave McC
October 15, 2001, 05:47 AM
Thanks, folks. A coupla things....

In general, it looks like the days of bargain 870s are past, and will never return.

Having said that, a vintage 870 would be a great investment if a decent deal can be found. I expect old 870s will get the kind of attention Model 12s do now, and will continue to appreciate somewhat.

More horror stories of slipshod QC at Big Green continue to surface. Trapshooters.com has a thread up about this now.


There were a couple tables at this show dedicated to shotguns, mostly classic doubles. Prices on these were high.Even "Hardware" guns like Crescent and Essex were priced over the $400 mark.
This is pure Caca Del Toro. These were not very well built, cheapo shotguns meant to appeal to those folks who knew no better and shot them little.Slipshod parts temper means sears and locking lugs wear out PDQ. The standard fix for this is to clamp the bbls in a vise and bash the lug tighter with a BFH.

There was one decent Fox 16 gauge field grade at a table with a $1500 tag. It was a good $600 shotgun.

Want to feel like a shipwrecked sailor who sees big fins cirling the raft? Stop and look at one of these closely. Very shortly thereafter someone smiling like a used car salesman will be telling you how these are classics and they do not make them like that anymore. Oft the bores look great, which means that some $%^&* has run a brake sylinder hone up them to remove pits, and weakened the bbl to the point that it's a grenade, not a shotgun.

I expect "Beater" 870s will get this treatment soon. So, Caveat Emptor....

October 15, 2001, 07:34 PM
Just a few random observations.
Yeah you hear more than a little smoke and BS from the "experts". Always been that way. I just tune em out.
Gun shows are places where dealers peddle junk and some good stuff if there is enough profit in it. (doesn't mean you can't sometimes get a bargain) What is new is that shows have also become more and more about the dealers picking up bargains from the joe off the street walking in with the good stuff that a. doesn't know what it is worth b.wants to get it out of the house (wifes orders) c.needs some quick cash, or d. all of the above
The dealers that I know working shows are buying more than they sell at the shows. Picking up real bargains from folks with family hierlooms, military collectibles, etc. that will be resold at big profits. There is stiff competition for table location.
quote Dave McC
"In general, it looks like the days of bargain 870s are past, and will never return."
Wrong this time Dave.
I was witness to an incident at a show last year and saw a lady (widow?) come in the door with 2 long guns in cases and a pistol wrapped in a towel and asked the closest dealer how much he would give her for the 3 guns- a 20g Wingmaster, a 12g Auto 5 Browning and a colt mil/police .38 revolver. I heard this slimeball tell her it was only worth a couple hundred for all but he would give her $250. A couple bystanders tried to intervene in spite of the scowls and dirty looks from the dealer but she left with his $250.
My point is, the bargains are still out there- just not in the same places.

Dave McC
October 16, 2001, 05:53 AM
KC, there must be a specially hot and painful place in Hell for dealers that take advantage of widows.

As Pop used to say, "There's always some SOB that'll sell whiskey to the Injuns".

I think I'll stick to checking the ads on BBs at the ranges I frequent for bargains.

October 16, 2001, 09:29 AM
Try better shows. IIRC, the last time I was at a Frederick show with my dad, the selection wasn't that extensive. That and the lack of 30rd magazines due to MD law :rolleyes: ... but I digress. Try the Timonium show if you want a better selection, though some of the small Southern PA shows (such as the Mason Dixon show near Chambersburg) have better shotgun selections as well

Dave McC
October 16, 2001, 11:41 AM
Thanks, Poodleshooter, but I may pass on any more shows for a while.

First, I have more guns than the family and I can shoot on a regular basis.

Second,being retired and with Wife, Daughter and Son in college, discretionary income is a sometime and seldom thing here.

Third, I hate crowds.

As I said, I did this mostly to see how rare and high priced classic 870s were becoming. Alas, they are.

I went to a show at Timonium last year, but it seemed to be the same ol' same ol.

To be open minded about this, if you'll PM me for the next one, I'll try to make it. Thanks...

October 16, 2001, 06:58 PM
Went to a show with my two boys a couple of weeks ago, as mentioned elsewhere. There were only two 870s that caught my eye, one a mid-70s/early 80s one that was nice but had the look from that era :barf: for about $280. The one that did follow me home was a 1956 "Magnum," little used and beautifully refinished with Flexitab and nice wood (including the ole corncob forearm), 22" rifle sights/smoothbore -- $240. That could not be passed up...

The place was really crowded -- but based on the number of empty hands attached to the people there, no one was buying much, which was a surprise. My local dealer can't keep anything at all in stock these days.

Malone LaVeigh
October 16, 2001, 10:20 PM

I have been lurking around here for some time, and want to start by thanking you all for the reams of good info I've already learned.

This post finally motivated me to register, though and I'm going to start with what might be a dumb question.

Just how much better are the older 870's? I have the latest Big 5 ad in front of me and the "870 Express" in 12 ga. is going for $230 after the mail-in rebate. Just wondering if that's a good deal.

Dave McC
October 17, 2001, 06:05 AM
Malone, there's some dissension about whether the new stuff is as good as the old. Nobody, except MAYBE Remington, says the new stuff is better.

Remington was acquired a while back by a parent corp that seems to think of only the bottom line. Service is sometimes, QC has gone the heck, and the company doesn't seem to think private citizens are entitled to have large cap magazines, or indeed the brains G*d gave a goose. PC mods like those accursed dimples bites.

All that said, the Express is still possibly the best buy out there.The design is the same, and the legendary durability,longevity, and reliability is still there.Many Expresses need to be shot in a bit to work smoothly, but so did my oldest 870.

Horror stories abound about non concentric chokes, bent bbls, and some trigger pulls leave the factory above the 6 1/2 lb max Remington used to have. So, it's a crap shoot.

Many of us have to play QC roulette, hoping to get a good'un, which still outnumber the bad by far.Or,we look for and find older, used 870s, oft police turnins and estate guns, and use them.

Of the 5 870s here, 4 were bought used, the exception being the 20 ga Youth Model I got for the kids. BTW, it's as reliable and shootable as the other older guns.

I interviewed a gun smith recently, and posted a thread about it called "Conversation with a Smith". One of the questions I asked was about new vs old 870s. He stated, for the record, no difference.

$230 for a shotgun your great grandchildren may still be using is a decent deal.

HTH, and if you want to, ask any question you may still have.