Out With The Old, Maybe In With The New? Here Are The Ways To Legally Dispose Of A Firearm


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.


Route 3:  State/City & Non-Profit Gun Collection Programs


Sometimes non-profit organizations or a local police department will hold a drive to collect up used guns.  Often times they trade something like food cards or some other incentive.  If you legally own a firearm and are not starving, there is no incentive to pursue this route.  That said, if the firearm has a cracked barrel and is more a lump of rusted steel than anything else – might as well get a free sandwich out of the deal?

PROS:  Legal custody is turned over to a third party where they are usually obliged to destroy the old, broken weapon.  Free food.

CONS:  If the gun is still functional, there are probably better ways to get rid of it.

Route 4:  Private Sale Of A Used Firearm


Private sale, for the purposes of this conversation, can be defined as either selling a firearm to a private party or selling it at a gun auction.  As it stands currently, most states allow you to sell guns as a private party at an auction – which provides a lot of potential buyers in short time.  It would be very nice of you to let the party who is buying it know of any defects that may inhibit proper function of the firearm.  All applicable State and Federal guidelines apply.

PROS:  You may get close to the face value (or more) for a firearm in used condition.  You will certainly get more than if you tried to sell to a gun shop owner.  Additionally, you release yourself from legal ownership of the firearm once the bill of sale is furnished.

CONS:  It can be time intensive to find a buyer of a used firearm – especially one that is in poor or inoperable condition.

Route 5:  Render Inert & Sell As Scrap

Okay, some firearms are just beyond repair.  And some just simply aren’t worth the time or money to properly restore.  If this is the case, it’s safer to simply render them inert.  This is done by ensuring the firearm is completely unloaded.  Then, taking a welding torch, sledgehammer, and any other demolishing tools – go to town!  The barrel must be sufficiently messed up enough that no one would even think of trying to put a bullet through it.  The lower receiver – especially – must be slagged, melted, and/or busted.  Once that’s done, follow your state’s procedures for selling it for the nickels and dimes it’s worth as steel slag.

Some gun dealers will accept your destroyed, inert firearm and thereby help furnish some record of proof that it was destroyed.

PROS:  If it’s so bad that destruction is a good option, you’re doing everyone a service.

CONS:  Complete financial loss on investment.

Conclusion: If You Can Sell Your Old Firearm – Sell

One man’s trash is another man’s gold.  If you’re able to turn any return on investment from selling an old firearm – do so.  Of course, always comply with all applicable State and Federal laws and regulations governing the sale or purchase of a firearm and above all – it’d be nice if you told the buyer what he is getting himself into.

The legal disposal of firearms can be a great way to trade what you don’t want for something you do.  More importantly, it’s getting rid of something you won’t use.

About James England | View all posts by James England

James England is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has served as a defense contractor in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His daily concealed carry…

James England is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has served as a defense contractor in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His daily concealed carry handgun is a Glock 36 in a Lenwood Holsters Specter IWB or his CZ-75D PCR in an Alien Gear MOD holster.

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