Tips on Buying a Machine Gun
By John Brown

So you finally are going to listen to your friends and take the leap of faith and buy a transferable machine gun. We want to give you some tips and information that should help you buy; whether it’s your first machine gun or just another purchase.

On May 19, 1986, Congress passed legislation that prohibited the future sale of any new machine guns to the general public. In the simplest of terms that meant that the number of legally registered, transferable machine guns in the United States was frozen from that point on. No one really knows the exact number on the registry at that point but the number was probably close to 250,000. To make matters seem even more pressing the last check on the number of transferable machine guns that was conducted in November of 2007 revealed that at that moment in time there were only 182,619 transferable guns. How did that happen? The truth is that legally registered machine guns come off the registry for a variety of reasons almost every day, whether it’s a widow having the guns cut up or someone doing something stupid causing the gun to be confiscated, never to return to its owner. What that number really means to the general public is that anyone that did not have a felony record, lived in a state that permits the ownership of machine guns, was eligible to buy one of those guns.

When you take into consideration that the number of machine guns available was frozen in 1986, a lot of interesting things started to happen. First the law of supply and demand took immediate effect and prices for machine guns started to move slowly upward. Take into consideration that in 1986 you could buy an M16 for less than a thousand dollars, as compared to today, that same gun will cost you at least fifteen thousand.

The next important factor that starts to play into this scenario beyond pricing is the time since these guns were actually manufactured. Given the fact that May of 1986 was over twenty five years ago, you must keep in mind that most of what you will be looking at will be at least that old, even if it is advertised as new in the box. If it is advertised as new in the box keep in mind that gun had to be registered prior to May 19, 1986. That instantly means that your new purchase is at least that old. In many cases you may find that the gun you are interested in purchasing may even date back to WWII, or even earlier and really have some interesting history to it. Although this all seems really neat, the one important thing is there is a lot in the history of this gun that you will never really know. Even if you invoke the Freedom of Information Act and secure as much information as possible there are many things about the gun’s history or it’s pedigree you will never be able to find out. The gun that you are buying is “used” in most cases, pure and simple. Even if the buyer represents that gun is in excellent condition you will still not know the true history behind the piece, especially when it comes to the wear and tear the gun has experienced. No matter whether it’s a MAC 11 or an FN 240 always keep in mind; the gun is at least 25 years old. What does all of that mean? It means that you want to take whatever steps possible to insure that you know as much about the gun as possible. Talk directly to the seller and make certain that you ask the right questions and get the assurance necessary that you will get what you are paying for. Some dealers will offer a three day inspection period where your local dealer can receive the firearm and if it isn’t up to the description, transfer it back to the originating dealer. A better choice would be if a firearm is an expensive one, it’s worth the airfare to hop out and inspect it, then there’s no question.

The one thing to ALWAYS keep in mind is that what you are buying is used goods, no matter how you slice it. If you are expecting perfection on a 25 year old item I have some bad news for you, even brand new in the box items will break unexpectedly.

One thing to make certain that you do is to get some assurance from whom you are purchasing the gun from that they will stand by their product, as advertised, once you receive the goods. In any circumstances you want to make assurances that your dealer stands behind your purchase with whatever support you may need. Obviously many sellers are a little reluctant to offer these types of warranties as it is difficult if not impossible to know what actually happens to a gun, once in the hands of the recipient. Most sellers maintain a very high level of integrity and will stand behind their sale.

Another issue to keep in mind is to remember that not all sellers are experts at the platform they may be selling. Even the most senior of sellers can’t know everything about every gun that they sell. This makes it all the more critical to get the right assurances from the seller in the process of purchasing your gun.

One thing to always keep in mind is the right expert can find anything wrong with any gun be it new or used. Once again be clear that you are buying a used gun, no matter how it is advertised. On the other hand if you are that concerned about the purchase be certain that you ask all of the right questions, get plenty of pictures, and whatever other assurances you need when making your purchase. Remember, something as simple as an extractor, fired or not, is at least 25 years old. Expecting perfection in any machine gun purchase is just not a reality, in most circumstances.

In one recent case a rather expensive gun was sold in “excellent condition.” When the buyer actually tested the gun with his local dealer there were many items discovered that were not represented in the sale, nor was the seller experienced enough to discover the problems. Even though the gun was sold in “excellent condition,” there were still problems when dissecting the entire platform. In this particular case the seller did the right thing and negotiated a repair order to put things right.

Here is an analogy about buying transferable machine guns. If you go out and buy a new, no mileage 1986 Corvette that had only been started a few times, and if you think that because you were paying a premium for that car that it will run perfectly, think again. Like anything else on the market, that is that old, it too will experience unanticipated issues.

In short if you are buying, realize several things in the process of getting a transferable machine gun.
  • A transferable machine gun is going to be a least 25 years old
  • Get several references on the seller
  • Ask the seller about assurances on what they are selling, e.g. do they have a return policy where the transfer dealer you are using can transfer it back immediately if it isn’t as described? Better yet, go inspect it.
  • Ask all of the right questions about the history and condition of the gun
  • Get lots of pictures of the gun, inside and out
  • Get help from someone that knows the gun you are considering

Most of the dealers and individuals on the market today want satisfied customers and want to avoid the news flash on many of the internet sites of, “Beware of this person!” You’re going to spend a good chunk of change on your new investment. Like any investment, do your homework and make your investment count.

And, by the way, join the only organization on the planet that is willing and able to help you safeguard your venture. Come visit us today at www.nfatca.org.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V15N2 (November 2011)
and was posted online on November 1, 2011


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