GUNSMITHING: When fixing a gun will cost more than its value
Many will have experienced the heart-wrenching decision process upon discovering that repairing a gun will cost more than it is worth. Jonny Carter tells us about two such occasions
The last few weeks have been full of non-viable repairs. Every gun has a value, of course, and this value, for the most part, is monetary; its sale value, retail value, and insurance value will usually be in a similar ballpark. A quick online search will give you an idea of what people are selling a specific make and model for, and give you a guide price. For true prices, specialist forums and auction houses are the most honest place to look (within reason, of course).
Other values, particularly sentimental value, are something a little harder to gauge. Usually, the figure it would take to make you forget the loss of a treasured object is the right amount. For example, I have a Miroku MK38 that would auction for around £700. I have some great memories with it and figure around £4,000 would make me part with it – not that anyone in their right mind would pay that!
The exchange rate between actual pounds and sentimental pounds varies from person to person, and hence the true value of a gun cannot be defined by anyone but the owner. So when a gun comes in broken, and the repair outweighs the retail value of the gun, there is not always a logical conclusion drawn, as sentimentality and perhaps individuality plays a part. The individuality aspect comes into play with the first gun I will talk about.
Take a punt
This gun is a Victor Sarasqueta sidelock 28" side-by-side; we had it for sale at £450 because, for the most part, the market for cheap Spanish guns is non-existent, and this old girl (although in virtually unused condition) had been finished in a relatively out-of-date manner, given that it was finished 30 years ago!
Gun fashions change over time. Most people currently like long heavy guns with an oil-finished stock, but back then, dyed lacquer wasn’t looked down on by the oil finish brigade (of which I am part) but viewed as a more solid and weatherproof finish. This brown lacquer was not complimented by a very thick, almost paint-like blacking job.
A customer, a much braver man than I, saw something in this gun that I could not, and we began discussions about the purchase of the gun subject to refurbishment. A deal was done and the work commenced: a full strip and re-oil, a sharpening up of the chequering and the barrels re-blued. The cost of the work equated to most of the cost of the gun! When the gun was finally complete, and reassembled, I must admit, it looked superb and would compete with any other sidelock that was built closer to home. The oiled stock made the case colourhardened locks stand out and gave their colour new depth,
‘There is a point with old, cheap guns where the parts are no longer available – one great reason to buy into a known brand’
and the bluing was just perfect, with high-quality lustre. The gun was still only worth £450, but it looked more like £1,500 worth, and the customer, fully accepting this, stated: “Well, you couldn’t buy a gun like this for £450”.
Can’t let go
A few years ago, I sold a gentleman a 35-year-old Italian over-and-under from a very unexciting Italian maker that you will probably never have heard of. It was not in great order when he bought it, but it was cheap, so that was ok. This gun and I were reunited last week when it came in, refusing to open.
Luckily, the gun was empty when it graced the workbench. It was one of those Italian delights with the locking cross bolt through the top of the action, (somewhat like a DT10, but absolutely not of the same build quality) and this had seemingly jammed halfway.
I tried the top lever and this wasn’t jammed, meaning the two had become disconnected somehow. Pulling the stock off uncovered very little, apart from that the way this gun was built was not so sophisticated! The top lever simply has a thin arm reaching forward into the cross bolt, which had sheared off. With some soft jaw grips, I grasped the small section of cross bolt showing itself and, manipulating it just so, managed to pull it out, allowing the barrel to come away. There is a point with old, cheap guns where the parts are no longer available (another great reason to buy into a known brand) and with this gun it was the case. What it needed was a complete top lever assembly, and dropping a new one in would have cured this gun relatively inexpensively and pretty quickly. The options left before me were this:
1) Ask around the trade to see if anybody has another from this maker, or a gun branded differently but in fact the same. And if they do, whether they would sell me the complete gun for spares, have spares in their collection or know of anyone with a spare that isn’t worn out.
2) Fabricate a new part: likely the best outcome although the most expensive. This would get this gun working again with a better-than-new part fitted.
3) Weld the broken part back together. There are multiple options for welding, in terms of welding types and fixing procedures. These range from the ‘stick the two broken bits together with weld’ to ‘cut the main body and replace the whole arm with new, quality metal’. Both ranging in time, cost and resources needed.
The problem is that this gun is worth around the £150 mark fixed, and short of finding a spare part by the grace of god, the cheapest weld option would be £140. The gun has relatively low sentimental value as he has had it for just a few years, so what does he do? What would you do?
I would write it off if it was mine. It has provided its money’s worth in fun, and this day is always going to come if you purchased a low-budget gun. But who knows! I’m still waiting for a decision with this one… it isn’t mine to reason why, just to do and fix guns.
New age of gun fit
The method of fitting a gun is a wonderful thing, and has changed dramatically since gun fit began.
I was recently introduced to the Marksman ST2 shooting simulator, and was left amazed by its abilities. Here is a machine that you can use to shoot multiple pattern plates with indoors! This is the new age of gun fitting, utterly scientific in the way it performs. You can also analyse shooting style to ascertain the best type of fit, given that everyone shoots and mounts differently.
I was so amazed that I have bought one for the shop, hopefully allowing us to give an even more complete service.
Go and have a play on one, you will be amazed what you learn about your shooting!
The gunshop transformed a cheap Spanish side-by-side to the delight of the owner Once completely refurbished, the gun could compete with any other sidelock by a British maker.
Sometimes, more than a squirt of oil is needed!
Disassembling this over-and-under revealed a broken locking cross bolt
Complex repairs can cost much more than the value of the gun