May 2003

Police Trade-In Pistols: Bargains, Busts or Buyers Beware?

Worn-looking but none too weary, Smith & Wesson’s 4046 might be a bargain at only $290. But night sights inflate the cost of some otherwise good used guns.

One of the alternatives to the high cost of a new pistol is to buy used. In lieu of finding a creampuff that was only fired by a little old lady on Sundays, one source of used pistols is the police trade-in market. Through firms like Interstate Arms (978-667-7060), pistols formerly owned by active law-enforcement personnel are available to dealers at a wholesale price. The catch for the typical consumer is that a dealer, i.e. an FFL holder, must arrange for transfer. This also means that retail price can vary according to fees, typically 10 to 15 percent of the gun’s cost with a $25 minimum. The prices we list are a dealer’s cash price, or the prices we paid to get the guns without FFL fees.

Keep in mind, however, that not every dealer is willing to go through the hassle of ordering a gun of unpredictable condition which may result in you rejecting it, which can cost return shipping charges and possibly a re-stocking fee. Be that as it may, we decided to order four .40 S&W pistols that have been commonly found in uniformed service. They were the Ruger KP94DAO, the Glock Model 22, Smith & Wesson’s Model 4046, and the SIGArms P229.

We felt buying these guns was a calculated risk. We were able to ascertain their age by checking the serial numbers with the manufacturers. New, each pistol was good enough to be chosen for police departments nationwide. But why were they traded in? Did the design of these pistols become outdated or were they beginning to show their age with more evidence than mere holster wear? Let’s look under the hood and take them for a ride.

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