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A Guide to Gun Buying at the Grand American
10-15-10 - John Morgan

If you're in the market for a new trap gun, then the Grand American is the place for you. The Grand American ATA event at the World Shooting and Recreation Complex in Sparta, IL is a fantastic place to shop for a new trap gun. Where else on earth can you find so many gun dealers and manufacturer showrooms all in one location? If you're looking for a specific brand or model of trap gun, it's not a question of whether you will be able to find it at the Grand, but how many you will find and which one you will choose to take home with you. I and a couple of other club members each purchased new trap guns at this year's Grand. We each went about our purchases differently. And, we each had different goals and expectations. Here are our stories along with our advice for anyone interested in gun shopping at a major shooting event like the Grand American.

Buyer #1
Let me begin by telling you that this shopper was me. So, this story is first hand. When I arrived at the Grand, I had no intention of purchasing a new trap gun. I decided to shop after consulting with a gunfitter about the cost of customizing my old trap gun. That conversation convinced me that I would be better off starting from scratch with a different gun. I did quite a bit of window shopping before buying. Even if you don't buy anything at the Grand, it is a fantastic place to look at, and try out, a wide variety of trap guns. You won't find a better selection anywhere. I purchased a used Winchester 101 Diamond Grade from Lynn Gipson Quality Firearms. Although this gun is nearly 25 years old, it's in almost mint condition and came with the original paperwork and factory hard case. It appears to have spent most of its life in a gun cabinet. The wood has a very nice grain with a semi-gloss finish and the fit, finish, and engraving are high quality, but not overdone. I was looking for a used, but not abused, Browning Citori XT. The Winchester 101 uses the same design as the Browning and, at the time, was built in the same factory in Japan as the Browning. I chose this particular gun because it was in almost perfect, untouched condition and the price was slightly lower than that of the Brownings that I looked at. Besides, there are an awful lot of Brownings sitting on the gun rack at the club. The Winchester 101 Diamond Grand stands out just a bit. This was a consignment sale. So, the dealer had to contact the owner via phone to handle the negotiation. Despite this complication, the deal went very smoothly. I'm no master negotiator, but even I talked the owner down a few bucks from his asking price. Eventually, I will need to do some stock work (adjustable comb and butt plate), but I'm already very happy with this purchase.

Buyer #2
This shopper travelled to the Grand with the intention of buying a new trap gun. He chose to buy at the Grand because of the great selection available. He was looking for something specific and knew he could find it at the Grand. He purchased a Perazzi MX14L Combo from Fairchild's Gun Sales. This is a used gun, but the buyer graded it at around 90%. It has exceptionally nice wood, matching serial numbers, Luxury package engraving, and a factory hard case. He was specifically looking for an MX14 Combo because he already had an MX15 unsingle and wanted another Perazzi for doubles shooting. At the Grand, he found three MX14's, so there was plenty to choose from. He Had a Browning BT100 to trade. This gave him a bargaining chip. Negotiating the final price and trade value required three separate visits to the dealer. But, in the end, the buyer got more for his trade-in than expected and paid half the price of buying a comparable new shotgun. After the original purchase, the buyer paid to have an adjustable butt plate added. Although he hasn't had the opportunity to shoot the gun very much, so far, he's happy with it. But, he's already considering selling if the right deal comes along.

Buyer #3
Like Buyer #2, this buyer travelled to the Grand with the intention of buying a new trap gun. He chose to buy at the Grand because he was looking for a new (showroom new) gun and he knew that the gun manufacture would on-site. He purchased a brand new Cesar Guerini Impact Combo. He 'window shopped' for a Cesar Guerini for two years before the release of the new Impact model. He decided on the Impact because the proportions of the gun fit him well and because this model features the same adjustability and customization as many higher priced trap guns, but a mid-level price point. He opted for an over/under/unsingle combo set because he was looking for a dual purpose gun that could be used to shoot Doubles as well as Singles and Handicap. He began his trip to the Grand by visiting the Cesar Guerini showroom to arrange a demo session. They did not have the barrel set that he was looking for, so he had to settle for test firing a similar model that they had on hand. Because the Guerini company showroom doesn't actually sell shotguns at the Grand, the buyer was sent to Gray's Shotgun Cache to buy the gun. Gray's was very helpful, but neither they, nor Guerini, had the over/under barrel set, in the desired length, on-site. The buyer had to pick up the barrel set a few weeks later at the Missouri Fall Handicap. To make up for this inconvenience, Gray's spoke to a Guerini representative and negotiated a free wood upgrade. This buyer approached financing a bit differently than the other two buyers. Before he made the trip to the Grand, he sold seven other guns via auction and private sale to thin out his collection and offset the price of the Cesar Guerini. He also took along a Browning BT 100 Stainless as trade bait. Considering the free wood upgrade and fair trade-in price, he was very pleased with how the deal turned out. And, the trip to the Missouri Fall Handicap to pick up the barrel set gave him the opportunity to have the gun fitted and the barrels ported. So far, he's very happy with the Guerini. But, since the fitting, he's been working on correcting bad habits he developed while shooting his old poorly fit trap gun. This just goes to show that even with a good trap gun, fit and technique are key to success.

Our advice for gun shopping at the Grand American
  1. Do some shopping before you head off for the Grand. Have an idea of what gun model and condition you are interested in. Do enough research to know what is a fair price for the gun that you are looking for.
  2. If you plan to trade a gun, take it with you and have it cleaned and shining. Any dealer will want to see your trade-in before giving you a trade value. Showing a clean gun will help your chances of getting top-dollar for your trade.
  3. Take your checkbook with you. This may sound obvious, but many of the vendors at the Grand aren't setup to take credit cards. So, you'll either need to carry a boatload of cash or your checkbook.
  4. Plan on staying for at least two days, longer is better. Illinois' state gun laws require a 24hr. waiting period for shotgun purchases. It's no fun to wait a few days and make a second trip to Sparta just to sign a form before you can take your new trap gun home.
  5. Listen to other shooters' advice, but don't let them cloud your judgment. After all, this is your gun, not theirs. The final decision to buy is up to you.
  6. Don't let emotions get in the way. Seeing all of those beautiful shiny trap guns on display is very tempting. But, in the end, fit and function are more important than flash and prestigious nameplates.
  7. Don't be afraid to haggle. This is very much like buying a used car. The dealers are there to make money and you're there to save money. It's a two way street. With so many dealers in one location, you (the buyer) have the advantage.
  8. When you negotiate price, keep in mind the cost of any customizations that you will need to perform after the purchase. For Example, if you will need to have an adjustable comb installed, that adds about $250 to the price of your new gun. Don't blow your budget on the initial purchase price.
  9. Be patient. Look around and get a feel for the market before you jump into a gun purchase. Once you choose the right gun, remember that patience when negotiating. Not all deals go smoothly. So, keep your eye on the prize. The dealer wants to make a sale as much as you want to make a purchase. If you are persistent (and realistic) you and the dealer will come up with a compromise that makes you both happy.
  10. Use your head, but have fun. Spending a lot of money on anything can be stressful. But, remember to enjoy the purchasing experience. You don't get to buy a new trap gun every day.

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