Police Handgun Trade-Ins & Used Law Enforcement Pistols, What To Know Before Buying

By Sam Hoober,
Alien Gear’s Sam Hoober describes why getting a police handgun trade-Ins or used law enforcement pistols can get you a decent gun for the money & what to avoid.

What to know before buying police handgun trade-ins or used law enforcement pistols.
What to know before buying police handgun trade-ins or used law enforcement pistols.

Ammoland Shooting Sports

U.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- A police trade-in gun can be a way to get your hands on a serious handgun for not a whole lot in terms of cash expenditure – depending on whom you buy it from – and put a gun in the safe or in the home for defense, or in a gun holster for daily carry.

However, there is a certain amount of due diligence, a certain number of things to know and things to look for before plunking down the cash on a police trade-in.

Police Handgun Trade-Ins – Just Like Any Other Used Gun

There really isn’t anything about a police trade-in that’s any different from buying any other used gun. A gun isn’t nearly as complicated as, say, a police cruiser (stick to highway patrol cars; highway miles and fewer hours idling) so really a used law enforcement gun is a used gun. Basically, you want to look for the same things.

Inspect the frame. Look for any cracks (most police these days have some sort of poly striker gun) in the frame, especially anywhere near the firing mechanism itself. Likewise inspect the frame and see if there’s any obvious damage. Also check for any rust, especially anywhere in or around the firing mechanism and/or the barrel.

Have a look at the magazines. Does the spring seem worn? Are there any cracks in the magazine follower, the magazine itself or the floorplate? Is there any rust visible? Granted, you may want to replace the magazines anyway – more on that later.

Pay attention to how the slide cycles. Does it offer sufficient resistance and does it return to battery as it should? Granted, this is actually the least of your worries; recoil springs are easily replaced and, as it happens, exceedingly cheap.

That all said, what can you expect from a police trade-in?
That all said, what can you expect from a police trade-in?

What To Expect From A  Police Handgun Trade-Ins

First, expect that most of the models are going to be familiar enough, as there are only a few common service pistols. Common service pistols in police service include the Glock 17, Glock 22 (.40 S&W), Beretta 92, Sig Sauer P226, Smith and Wesson M&P9 and M&P40. You’ll also get the odd S&W DA/SA pistol like the 5906 and so on, but these are getting rarer and rarer. The odd Ruger GP-100 or S&W Model 19 might be around as well.

Cosmetic damage is all but assured. Holster wear is going to be evident, and expect some nicks, scrapes and scratches in the finish. These guns are carried for hours, bump into things and so on. So if you’re expecting a show-room finish…it’s just not going to happen. You may need to do a bit of cleaning and lubricating, but it will be a working gun.

What about hours on the clock? How much shooting will have been done with these pistols? Actually, not much. Police rarely use their pistols in the line of duty (few officers will be involved in more than a few shootings in their careers, though there are certainly exceptions) and a lot of them actually do less shooting than a good number of civilian carriers.

GLOCK 21 Police Handgun Trade-In Pistols Used Law Enforcement Pistols
GLOCK 21 Police Handgun Trade-In Pistols Used Law Enforcement Pistols : IMG Aimsurplus.com

A police pistol will often enough only go through a few boxes of ammo per month. Some are only fired a few times per year for qualification shoots. It really comes down to the officer who had the gun previously.

What you don’t know, of course, is how fastidiously it was maintained by the armory. It may have been stored with the action locked back and magazine(s) fully loaded at almost all times. As a result, you may consider replacing the recoil spring and the magazine springs (if not the magazines) as a matter of course.

One thing to look at, however, is the trigger. A number of departments only issue DAO pistols, which have a tougher trigger than you like. Granted, this can often be cured with a trigger spring kit, which – again – are cheap.

Sam Hoober
Sam Hoober

So, overall, you can actually get a lot of gun for the money. Usually, you’ll get a magazine or two and night sights are incredibly common. You may also get an accessory light in the bargain, which isn’t unheard of. Police trade-ins routinely go for less than $400, which is not a bad deal in the least. At most, you may want to throw in a few springs…but those are cheap, and you get a solid handgun in the bargain.

As one final bonus, finding a concealed carry holster shouldn’t be a problem for all police handgun trade-ins.

About Sam Hoober

Sam Hoober is a contributing editor at Alien Gear Holsters, as well as for Bigfoot Gun Belts. He also writes weekly columns for Daily Caller and USA Carry.

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Phillip Cleary

I bought my P-226 many years ago for $400. Yes it was a bit surface worn, but it was in very good cosmetic condition other than the grips. I changed out springs, as recommended, the first week, and it has functioned flawlessly, and accurately every time I have used it. I have bought many hand guns since but I hold onto this one for my daily user.

Donald Coxe

((Sportsman’s guide warehouse.com)) has Glock trade in’s all the time.. I’ve never purchased one myself but have a few friends that have and they all were very satisfied with the firearms​..


When and where are the best locations to get access to police trade-ins? Is there an auction or some other forum?

Bob Knight

there are quite a few, check out Sportsmans Outdoor Superstore in OH.

Florida John

I have picked up a couple of Sig’s that were trade-in’s. A P229 in.357Sig and a P225 in 9mm. Great buys, but condition varies from one to another. I have also found used S&W revolvers for really low prices. Apparently corrections departments sometimes get the old police guns, so they were still using 38spl model 10’s and model 65’s that were sold off. Best if you can inspect them and choose your own.

Raymond B. Camara

So Where exactly does one get to these auctions? How does one know where and when they are? Details please, Links to Web Sites, Etc.?

Dr Dave

I get all my LEO trade ins (all Glocks so far) from Ben at https://www.classicfirearms.com/
GREAT company and good prices. They even grade them honestly as to condition and will hand pick thru the lot for something special (for a small extra fee)
All in all a good company and they have long and short military and LEO as well
Dr D



go to firearms, then used guns, then police trades.

If you don’t like the firearm after your FFL received it upon your inspection,
decline the sale and Bud’s pays the return shipping, repeat, do not do the transfer.

Never been disappointed.


Many of the LEO Trade-ins, especially Glocks and Sigs that are being sold by online retailers are .40 S/W caliber due to many Departments going back to 9mm. If you already own a pistol or two in .40 S/W, and have lots of that caliber stocked up, this is a great way to pick up a Sig for significantly less than new. Many of them are first sent back to Sig Sauer for inspection, clean up and new springs, etc. replaced, then sold as Certified Pre Owned (CPO). I picked one up awhile back, and it looks and functions like… Read more »


Chambering is not an issue for me, as I stock considerable in all the common handgun rounds. I like the three main pistol calibers, as well as .38/357. So when I find a clean solid handgun in any calibre for a good price, the calibre is simply not an issue. I did see a whole fleet of well worn Browning High Powers in Nine a while back, I asked, yup, all police tradeins. Priced low… and rightly so. All were pretty tired old horses. I love that gun own a number of them, but did not buy any of that… Read more »


Snapped up a S&W M&P 9 with three mags and the three backstraps in original case with 4yr old night sights
from Buds.

Liked it so much I grabbed the .40 S&W and then I just had to have the .45 to make the set complete!
All three appear to have been hardly used, perhaps they were issued but officers carried another firearm.

Keep looking for these great trade ins, except in Hawaii where they destroy them instead of trading the guns in.

old retired guy

Our dept required us to qualify monthly and encouraged us to shoot the course twice whenever possible. Some departments are quarterly and departments whose managers are really stupid require ONCE A YEAR. A few of my fellow LEO did not qualify on the first try each month but very few. We even had a few that did not care or even attempt to improve. These were idiots who were not respected by others. Whenever you as a worker have a tool that you use to save your life or anyone else’s common sense tells you to know it, rely on… Read more »


A used gun is a used gun is a used gun – regardless of where it came from. The author’s basic premise to inspect and/or replace any worn parts is the key. Much like his ‘hint’ about buying a used car (especially a highway patrol cruiser vice a city squad) – a thorough inspection will most likely prevent buyers remorse.

Clark Kent

Actually, highway patrol cars spend MORE time idling than city police cars because troopers use radar from a fixed location FAR more than city police.


I bought a Ruger P95 police trade in years ago. The cop who carried it shot it a lot but never cleaned it. The powder residue in the stainless slide was so thick I had to dig it out with a screw driver. Otherwise, once it was thoroughly cleaned, lubed and reassembled, it worked great. A testament to the durability of the Ruger.

Andy Buckmichael

Again, my point. The cops have to be trained to clean their guns or if it is too complicated for them, hire someone to do it for them.

Clark Kent

The biggest point is on the top of your head. Police departments DO NOT hire people to clean issued weapons. And just because a pistol is a police trade in does not mean it has not passed through other hands. How old are you; twelve?

Andy Buckmichael

Sober up superman.



Bob Knight

I have bought 4 of these, three Glock 23’s and a Glock 22. One of the 23’s was like new, and you could barely tell it was used at all. All the others were in very good condition with some wear from the holster. All four shoot well and they all hit their targets at 25 yards. I also purchased 10 or 12 extra magazines, all trade-ins as well. No issues with any of them, and as before a few of them appeared to be practically new and only a little over ten bucks a piece. Overall I have been… Read more »

Andy Buckmichael

Why in the world do cops need new guns so often? Most cops have not mastered the use of the old guns and will not master the use of the new guns. Waste of money. Train them if possible.

Lloyd Dumas

I was wondering the same thing, seems a waste of money only sometimes keeping the model for sometimes less than a year. It doesn’t take a wine sniffer to smell a rotten rat here, I feel someone’s pockets getting lined.


Nope, I wondered it myself, it’s the budget line item and if they don’t squander the money on something like new weapons, the budget will be cut by that much neat time!!! Welcome to the world of nitwit government reasoning!!

Mik Malski

Usually, it’s not the cop on the street’s decision to make; it comes from the higher ups. And there are plenty of reasons to change guns; higher capacity, different caliber, style advancements (integrated picatinny rails, etc), to name a few. Even our military has changed sidearms several times in my lifetime. If cops didn’t advance with the times, they’d all still be carrying .38 revolvers.

Andy Buckmichael

The gun does not make the cop. Training makes the cop even if using .38 revolvers.

Clark Kent

WRONG! The firearm chosen DOES help insure the long life span of an officer. All the training in the world does not change the fact that a .38 revolver holds 6 rounds and that is a SERIOUS disadvantage when faced with multiple suspects armed with semiauto firearms that hold (at least) twice as many rounds. You have no clue what you are talking about.

Andy Buckmichael

Sober up superman.

Wild Bill

As with all things the real world incident pivots on several things: training, equipment, cool head, dumb luck just to name a few. I think good training can make even a substandard individual seem smart. Good training with the best equipment is even better. There is no substitute for God’s gift of a cool head, although that can be learned to some extent by personal practice. The then there are a thousand unforeseeable uncontrollable factors that go into the category of luck. Only after action analysis determines if it was good luck or bad luck.

Andy Buckmichael

Thank you Wild Bill. I hope “Clark Kent” reads and can understand your comment.

Don Bailey

Andy, I’m not sure where your point of view is coming from, but from my perspective, a firearm such as the Glock 21 in 45 cal. is one that many law enforcement agencies have adopted as their standard. The reason I say this is because they are highly reliable, can be made to fit in just about anyone’s hand, is easy to train just about anyone on, accurate out of the box, and have proven themselves over and over. My son’s LE agency requires them to qualify quarterly with their duty weapon as well as their off duty weapon, so… Read more »

Dave R

A lot of times when a new chief, sheriff or other “high ranking” official comes on board they have their own likes and dislikes of certain weapons and gear. I’ve seen it happen a few times in my career plus some of the grant money an agency or dept receives has to be spent on training, gear, vehicles, etc (I’m sure you get the picture) in their fiscal year but if there is a surplus that’s how much less they’ll receive the next year. Purchasing new weapons nor only is a good way to use up that grant money but… Read more »


That was the case in my old department. The Chief approved the weapons carried. No Rugers, only Smith’s and Colts!! No auto’s,only wheel guns. No .357 ammo in your .357’s…..ugh!!! So you can see it was a throwback to the days of Bonnie and Clyde, which we actually had a couple of their Thompsons in our corporal wagons. Getting the picture for you to see how antiquated it was?? I carried a 1911 off duty and was called on the carpet for it. I was told that in a firefight I would not be able to use anyone else’s ammo.… Read more »


LIABILITY. For both the Agency and the officer. There firearms are not for the hobby shootist hitting paper, they are used for life and death circumstances with no room for malfunction. There for agencies use a determined life span then recycle to either a replacement of same or a new approved. When that firearm is unholstered and the need arises it MUST go bang!!!!


Most Police Departments do train their personnel, but over 55% can’t shoot, even at close range. I am a Range Safety Officer and different Departments shoot on our Range (we are not allowed to be in attendance) and I have seen the aftermath of there attempts. Re the AR, they shoot at 25/50yds. to qualify in single shot….many misses on man sized targets.

Colonel K

My comment is directed to the author of the article, Sam Hoober. Sam, your statement “…a lot of them actually do less shooting than a good number of civilian carriers.” is inaccurate. Police officers also are civilians. Only the active duty military are not. We should not draw lines if separation or class distinctions between law enforcement and all other citizens. Referring to them this way only perpetuates a dangerous mindset that already infects the thinking of too many people.