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Technical: Condition of Surplus firearms (a buyer's guide)


Evil Moderator, , Silver Contributor
FALaholic #
Jul 21, 2000
Kennesaw, GA
Feedback: 5 / 0 / 0
Condition of Surplus firearms (a buyer's guide)

Consider this when shopping:

FACTORY NEW: All original parts; 100% original finish; in perfect condition in every respect, inside and out.

EXCELLENT: All original parts; over 80% original finish; sharp lettering, numerals and design on metal and wood; unmarred wood; fine bore.

FINE: All original parts; over 30% original finish; sharp lettering, numerals and design on metal and wood; minor marks in wood; good bore.

VERY GOOD: All original parts; none to 30% original finish; original metal surfaces smooth with all edges sharp; clear lettering, numerals and design on metal; wood slightly scratched or bruised; bore disregarded for collectors firearms.

GOOD: Some minor replacement parts; metal smoothly rusted or lightly pitted in places, cleaned or re-blued; principal letters, numerals and design on metal legible; wood refinished, scratched bruised or minor cracks repaired; in good working order.

FAIR: Some major parts replaced; minor replacement parts may be required; metal rusted, may be lightly pitted all over, vigorously cleaned or re-blued; rounded edges of metal and wood; principal lettering, numerals and design on metal partly obliterated; wood scratched, bruised, cracked or repaired where broken; in fair working order or can be easily repaired and placed in working order.

POOR: Major and minor parts replaced; major replacement parts required and extensive restoration needed; metal deeply pitted; principal lettering, numerals and design obliterated, wood badly scratched, bruised, cracked or broken; mechanically inoperative; generally undesirable as a collector's firearm.


NEW: Not previously sold at retail, in same condition as current factory production.

PERFECT: In New condition in every respect.

EXCELLENT: New condition, used but little, no noticeable marring of wood or metal, bluing perfect, (except at muzzle or sharp edges).

VERY GOOD: In perfect working condition, no appreciable wear on working surfaces, no corrosion or pitting, only minor surface dents or scratches.

GOOD: In safe working condition, minor wear on working surfaces, no broken parts, no corrosion or pitting that will interfere with proper functioning.

FAIR: In safe working condition but well worn, perhaps requiring replacement of minor parts or adjustments which should be indicated in advertisement, no rust, but may have corrosion pits which do not render article unsafe or inoperable.


Well-known member
FALaholic #
Apr 4, 2002
Feedback: 21 / 0 / 0

Nice post, this is a good guideline.

As long as an item isn't advertised by the seller as being in better condition than it really is, and the buyer doesn't have unrealistic expectations, there shouldn't be as many problems.

Last edited:


Well-known member
FALaholic #
Dec 2, 2002
south carolina
Feedback: 1 / 0 / 0
as a rule I ALWAYS underrate anything I sell.
That way the buyer is always happy.
Not that I sell alot of guns.. mostly I just buy, and buy and buy :angel:

I kinda of wish that everyone else would follow the same rule. Then EVERYONE would be happy.

BTW Good post


Well-known member
FALaholic #
Sep 27, 2000
Feedback: 13 / 0 / 0
Re: Condition of Surplus firearms (a buyer's guide)

I want this thread on my self-search list. Therefore, I post here.

Thanks, Ted.


Well-known member
FALaholic #
May 1, 2002
Iowa City, Iowa
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HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! Why didn't you put that that was humor?! I nearly died laughing!

Here is how it goes through the SGN~

New-only slightly beat
excellent - works
fine- fine, fine, I'll let you see it first
very good- stock broken in one place
good - bore rusted shut, stock broken in two places
fair- bore rusted shut and barrel bent, stock not included, but may have piece of fire wood thrown in on deal
poor - gun shaped lump of rust found near what was proven to be a firearm

Hope this REAL WORLD condition helps!:shades:


Well-known member
FALaholic #
Jan 2, 2001
Feedback: 34 / 0 / 0
The first set of condition descriptions (above the NRA set) looks like the ones that Interordnance uses. That's why so many people dislike IO. IO's good = NRA fair (of course, there are lots of other reasons to dislike IO now, such as their fine demill procedures)


Active member
FALaholic #
Jun 11, 2003
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How bout arsenal refinished? Is that any of the above but covered up with finish? I got a G1 that is arsenal refinished. Everything looks good so far with exception of the rear sight screws and around them. All the part numbers match as well.


Well-known member
FALaholic #
Jan 4, 2008
West Coast
Feedback: 24 / 0 / 0
Here's a guide that I think rings true, especially ARSENAL RECONDITIONED; :tongue:

NEAR-MINT CONDITION: Has had no more than 5,000 rounds fired through it and it still retains at least 60% of the original finish. Surface pitting is no more than 1/8" deep, and both grip panels are in place. If it is a .22, some of the rifling is still visible.

VERY GOOD: Non-functional when you buy it, but you can probably get it to work if you replace 100% of the parts.

FAIR: Rusted into a solid mass with a shape vaguely reminiscent of a firearm.

TIGHT: In revolvers, the cylinder swings out, but you need two hands to close it again. For autoloaders, you must bang the front of the slide on a table to push it back.

REALLY TIGHT: In revolvers you cannot open the cylinder without a lever.
Once it's open, the extractor rod gets stuck halfway through it's travel.
On autoloaders, you need a hammer to close the slide.

A LITTLE LOOSE: In revolvers, the cylinder falls out and the chambers are 1/4" out of line when locked up. There is no more than 1/2" of end play.
For autoloaders, the barrel falls out when the slide is retracted. If the barrel stays in place, the slide falls off.

GOOD BORE: You can tell it was once rifled and even approximately how many grooves there were.

FAIR BORE: Would be similar to GOOD BORE, if you could see light through it.

NEEDS A LITTLE WORK: May function sometimes if you have a gunsmith replace minor parts, such as the bolt, cylinder, or barrel.

ARSENAL RECONDITIONED: I cleaned it up with a wire wheel and some stuff I bought at K-Mart.

ANTIQUE: I found it in a barn, and I think it dates from before 1960.
Note: ANTIQUE guns are usually found in FAIR condition.

RARE VARIANT: No more than 500,000 of this model were ever made, not counting the ones produced before serial numbers were required.
RARE VARIANTS command a premium price of 150% of BOOK VALUE.

BOOK VALUE: An irrational number, which dealers consider insultingly low and buyers ridiculously high. Since no one pays any attention to it, it doesn't matter.

IT BELONGED TO MY GRANDFATHER: I bought it at a flea market two weeks ago.

CIVIL WAR RELIC: The vendor's great-great-grandfather knew a man whose grandfather had been in the Civil War.

SHOOTS REAL GOOD: For rifles, this means at 100 yards it will put every shot into a 14" circle if there isn't any wind, and you're using a machine rest. For handguns, three out of six rounds will impact a silhouette target at seven yards. In shotguns, it means that the full choke tube throws 60% patterns with holes no bigger than 8" in them.

ON CONSIGNMENT: The vendor at the show does not own the gun. It belongs to a friend, customer, or business associate, and he has been instructed to sell it, for which he will be paid a commission.
He has no authority to discuss price, which is marked 150% above BOOK
All used guns offered for sale at gun shows, without exception, are ON CONSIGNMENT, and the dealer is required by his Code of Ethics to tell you this as soon as you ask the price.
?Age, skill, wisdom & treachery will always overcome youth & arrogance.

Ron Walker

Well-known member
FALaholic #
Apr 18, 2008
Mathis, Texas
Feedback: 3 / 0 / 0
The rule is caveat emptor, and if you feel the seller is honest, buy the highest grade you can afford, and read these files for other's reports. It would be nice if someone kept a dealer rating system based on quality , service, honesty, and response to complaints time frame. The iffy ones would either straighten out or end up with their inventory as their retirement plan.