How to Check if a Gun is Clean/Stolen

How to Check if a Gun is Stolen
How to Check if a Gun is Clean

Whether you want a gun to defend yourself or to hunt game, there are a few things you need to be certain about beforehand. One of your key concerns should be whether the gun is clean. The gun needs to be legal for you to be able to register it to your name. If your gun is found to have been stolen, you’ll have a host of problems.

Do not worry if this is the first time you are purchasing a gun. We have a few tips on how to verify your gun purchase and some other things you should know!

First and foremost, be absolutely certain that you need a gun. If you are choosing to own one for defense, understand the implications of owning and storing a gun safely. We will revisit this topic later in this post. If you are purchasing to hunt game, make sure you understand the legal aspects.

Investing in a good firearm is the next step. That brings us back to the question of ensuring your firearm is legitimate. You may choose to buy it online or in-person; either way, you must be sure that it is not stolen property.

Is Your Gun Clean?

Purchasing stolen or hot gun is a rampant problem. Most times, the buyer has no idea that the gun is illegal. Always be cautious about procuring guns second hand. Here are ways to ensure that the gun you are buying is clean. You will need the gun’s serial number for most of these.

Check the Records

You need the gun’s serial number for registering the firearm in your name. You can also use it to check if the gun you have is wanted or “hot”, another word for stolen. The serial number can be found in the owner’s manual that comes with the firearm. If you do not have the manual, it can also be found on the body of the gun. Sometimes the number is on the handle or inside the gun since different manufacturers have their own way of marking this information. You can even call the manufacturer to give you the serial number. That’s the first step. If you see visible signs of tampering, then that’s a red flag. Report it to the police immediately.

Check with a Trusted Dealer

Check if Your Gun is Clean at A Dealer

All pawn shops and dealers should be able to provide you with the licenses and registrations for the guns they are selling. By law, every gun dealer in the USA must keep a record of every firearm’s manufacturer, model, caliber, date of sale, and other vital identification details. It is illegal for them to sell guns without proper documents and records. After purchase, if the dealer has gone out of business, you can contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The organization stores the firearms sales records of licensed dealers who are bankrupt or closed.

You can also take the gun to a trusted gun dealer. They are usually very happy to inspect it. For a small fee, they are also able to run a background check. Just like a human background check, a gun’s history is comprehensive. It has all the details of its past owners and even any issues on the gun itself. Gun dealers are experts and provide good guidance not only on gun purchases but also about its maintenance. This method is simple and quick.

Manufacturer’s Website Search

Now, if there are no apparent signs of any tampering, use the serial number of the gun and run a search on the website of the manufacturer. Some sites have it, and some sites lead to other pages with the search function. On the other hand, if you do not have the serial number or if you do not have access to the website, this method will not be of use to you.

The manufacturer’s website also offers one other way of checking the legitimacy of your gun. Price is a huge aspect when it comes to second-hand guns. Purchasing a gun with a price tag close to that of the manufacturer is much better than any shady dealings with a seller in a dark alley. Comparing prices between dealers will further tell you how each dealer is valuing the gun and a lower price tag should immediately be questioned.

Online Search

Technology has come a long way to help give us a peace of mind for our pressing concerns. You can use your serial number and look up on different databases that have gun registrations and other related information about a gun. This online method is also useful when you use and The concept of these websites is the same. You take the serial number and put it in, to check if there is an alert out on the gun you possess. The catch is that these websites only put alerts out on guns reported stolen by their owners on these sites. If the previous owner was not aware of the website, then he/she would not have posted an alert on these websites, even if the gun was stolen.

Police Verification

The final option is to check with the police. Any time a gun is stolen, the police initiate detailed records of the gun, make and model. So if you suspect that your gun is not clean, you could approach the local police department. Their tools and databases are more extensive than anything you can find online. They can also run a search on your serial number. They will be able to verify if the gun that you have is stolen, or wanted as a part of a crime.

However, use this option with caution. When the police department runs a serial number of a firearm that is wanted, the database will send alerts to other members of the agency, the people who reported it stolen and other crime adjacent departments. Be sure to carry all purchase-related documentation with you when you approach the police for help. In case it turns out that the gun you have is stolen, these will help you and also the police in locating the source of the stolen firearm. Sometimes, the local police may simply refuse to run the search for you. Prepare yourself for that as well.

How to Check If a Vintage Gun Is Clean

How to Check if a Vintage Gun is Clean

Now, the above steps work well for a gun that has a serial number evidently printed. If you are in possession of vintage guns, then these tips might not always apply. In order to ensure that the vintage gun that you possess or purchase is clean, you will need to follow other methods.

First of all, when procuring vintage firearms, always purchase from a trusted dealership. They are able to provide detailed records of the previous owners and primary use. You can identify the make and model by visiting the website of the manufacturer as well.

In case you have inherited a vintage gun that doesn’t have a visible serial number and would like to verify if it is clean, the best option would be to hand it over to registered vintage gun dealers and get a background check done on the firearm. These guys routinely come across such weapons and are professionals at charting the life and ownership of the gun.

What If You Identify the Gun as Illegal?

Now, if you identify that the gun you have was stolen or was part another crime investigation, you need to report it right away. Additionally, you could also report it on the websites listed above, that keep track of stolen firearms.

Online forums are a constant source of guidance. There are plenty of people that have come to know that the gun they own is not legal and they have shared their experiences and tips on these forums. There are also other sites that provide detailed information about gun laws for various states. Maintain records and keep your proof of purchase; they will always come in handy in any legal situation.

Hopefully, this article gave you a quick understanding of what you need to do if you are purchasing a gun, and on ways to check its legitimacy. Whether you purchased it for hunting or self-defense, being clear about where the gun came from, makes you comfortable owning it. Do not be hasty in deciding to purchase a gun. Do your background checks, talk to people who already own guns, and understand the different ways you can ensure that the gun is clean.

Are there any methods that we did not include in the article? As always, I encourage you to share your tips for checking if a gun is legal. What has been your go-to method to verify your gun’s provenance? Tell us in the comments below.


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