Buying a Gun from a Stranger on the Internet

Armslist Ad for M&P Pro

Armslist Ad for M&P Pro

For several reasons, I became interested in purchasing an M&P Pro in 9mm. The short version is that it is fairly narrow on the grip up near the tang and I’ve been struggling with keeping my grip consistent when I shoot. I loved my 1911 when I could get it to run. It was very narrow with super slim grips, but I’ve given up that battle. I wanted to find a gun with a narrow grip that has a reputation for being reliable. The M&P Pro fits those requirements.

I have a friend that bought the M&P CORE. It’s almost the same gun except for the option to swap optical site on/off the slide. The fixed sites are higher to ensure they will co-witness if the optic is installed (ie: you can use the fixed sights along with the optical sight), but the frame, trigger, and magazines are identical. He’s been making some upgrades and I really like how the gun handles. So I started doing some research to determine cost and purchase options.

I started with gunwatcher.com. This site will give you a quick overview of current new prices, auction prices and classified prices. In this case the lowest new price was $551. Assume you’d also pay shipping and FFL fees. I found a used pistol in the “Classified” section that pointed to Armslist.com. The pistol was in a city about 2.5 hours away from me. The price was $475. The seller did mention the gun had a scratch and showed that in a photo. The price was good but not good enough to schedule 5 hours of driving.

A week or two passed. I planned a trip to a beach in South Carolina to visit family. I checked the ad again and the price had been dropped to $425. I checked the map and a detour through Wilmington added no significant driving time to return home. Although I was somewhat hesitant to make the purchase, because I always think twice before spending, this looked like a good opportunity and good timing. I contacted the seller by email.

First I asked for the production date on the gun. I wanted to upgrade the trigger using an Apex trigger kit. After some google-fu I determined that, most likely, pre-September 2010 guns had the older 1/16th inch sear plunger and sear spring in the sear housing block. After that date, they changed the size to 1/8 inch. I needed to buy the newer model to avoid even more cost in upgrading the trigger. The seller said the production date was December 2013.

I emailed back and said, “I’m interested. I have a NC concealed carry permit. I’m in Myrtle Beach today and will be driving back to Raleigh tomorrow. I can route through Wilmington but I’d want to shoot the pistol. I have factory ammo in 115gr. 10 rounds through each magazine is sufficient. Are you available tomorrow and is there a range where we could meet?” I included my cell number.

Part of me was hoping the seller would refuse to let me shoot the gun. Then I could walk away from the deal and still have my cash. I wouldn’t buy a used car without driving it and I didn’t want to buy a used gun without shooting it. He was very reasonable. He offered two options: a local indoor range or his parent’s house. I let him pick. The fact that he offered to meet me at an indoor range made me feel safer, but I didn’t want the additional cost and potential wait time if we met at the indoor range. I agreed to meet him on Sunday afternoon at his parent’s house.

I emailed my friend with the M&P CORE and let him know all the details: the seller’s name, cell #, email address and where we were planning to meet. When I left the beach I told my mom I was stopping on the way home to “see a man about a gun”. I was excited and scared.

I had packed: eyes & ears, my uplula loader, a box of Remington factory ammo, some IPDA targets, and an envelope with $425 in cash. I was wearing a high necked shirt. I punched the address into the GPS and hit the road.

Around 2pm, I turned off the highway at the address listed. It was a dirt road. I figured that might be the case if I was going to shoot. I drove past a building that looked abandoned. It had a sign that said “Upholstery” on it. The dirt road kept going around a corner and into a pine forest. I briefly thought this might not be a good idea, but if it went wrong, at least someone new the details.

I finally came around a corner and saw a house. Unlike the shop I passed, it was in good repair. A tall, lean man was walking through the yard holding a toddler. This was isolated but didn’t look threatening. I got out of the car. I told him who I was looking for and he told me that was his brother. He’d been delayed and was on the way. After a 15 minute wait and some laughs at the antics of the toddler, the seller came driving up the driveway.

Things went very smoothly.

  • I asked if he minded putting on the small backstrap. He did that for me.
  • I asked if he was OK letting me field strip the pistol. He looked a bit surprised but said he was fine with that. I could tell the pistol had been shot but the feed ramp had some shine to it. It came apart and went back together with no issues.
  • I asked where I could shoot the pistol and he pointed me to a huge pile of wood chips. He asked if I wanted to judge the accuracy and I said yes. He said he’d go look for some cardboard but I pulled out an IDPA target. He propped it up in the wood chip pile while I loaded magazines.
  • My friend happened to call to check on me and the seller heard me say, I”m getting ready to shoot the gun now. I’ll call you when I’m done.” I did want him to know I was checking in with someone.
  • The pistol shot flawlessly. I collected the target.
  • I told him I was happy with what I saw and wanted to buy it. He pulled out a form he’d downloaded from the internet. I found it here. He filled out two copies. We each kept one.
  • He asked to see my driver’s license and CCW. I asked to see his and asked to take a photo of each with my cell phone. He wrote in the DL # for the buyer and the seller. I read through the form and signed. He said he never put names on the form. I verified the DL # he listed for himself matched what was on his DL.
  • I gave him the envelop with the cash.

We chatted a bit about IDPA, concealed carry (he showed me his), and what he was now shooting (a Glock). I got in my car and headed home.

I called my friend to let him know I was safe, I’d was on the road driving and that I’d bought the pistol!. We talked about upgrades after I got home.

I called my gunsmith on Monday and told him I’d bought a gun. He replied, “Uh oh, what did you buy?” followed by “How much did you pay?” He told me I’d gotten a really good deal assuming it was in good shape. Time will tell, but I wanted to document the experience. I’m pretty excited about the new gun.

I found magazines under $25 apiece, with free shipping, at Arms Unlimited.I placed the order Monday night and they arrive Thursday evening. They were S&W magazines, not aftermarket knock offs.

Next is a holster and magazine pouches.Then the Apex Trigger Kit. And possibly an extended magazine release. And, of course, much, much more practice.

6 thoughts on “Buying a Gun from a Stranger on the Internet

    • Paul, Thanks!

      So far I picked up 6 additional magazines from Arms Unlimited for $24.95 each. Free Shipping.
      Link here: http://www.armsunlimited.com/Smith-Wesson-SW-MP-9mm-17-Round-Pistol-Magazine-p/19440.htm
      The free shipping was fast. I think I had them in 3-4 days. They are not aftermarket, they are S&W magazines.

      Then I ordered an extended magazine release. Here are the details: http://21cg.us/shop/index.php/catalyst/m-p-catalyst-pre-order-special.html
      although I ordered it from Brownell’s. I will install that this weekend. Then I may get a friend to ground it down just a bit to avoid popping out the magazines on a table start.

      I have a kydex holster and mag pouches ordered from a local supplier and should have then the weekend before Christmas. Then I can start working on dry fire with my draw.

      The Trigger Kit is definitely something I’m considering. Another friend put one in his gun. He also put in the curved polymer trigger initially, but recently decided to try the newer Flat faced trigger that is more like a 1911 found here https://store.apextactical.com/WebDirect/Products/Details/191834. He likes that setup on his gun best.

      I seem to have lucked out and gotten a trigger that was done right or well broken in as I have no complaints about what came with the gun. I will compare what I have with the gun that now has a flat faced trigger and I would like to compare what I have versus what you’ve done with yours, so thank you and I’d love to take you up on the offer next time we are both at a match.
      –Sadie

  1. You got a great deal on the magazines. I clicked on the link and they were out of stock. I already have 10 mags so it was no big deal but I would not pass them up at that price.

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