For those of you considering the purchase of a used Browning or Winchester 1885 High Wall BPCR, especially one listed for sale via an Internet web site, it might be helpful to share some of my experiences while buying and selling close to 200 of the rifles to date. Although the Winchester BPCRs are relatively new and produced in much smaller quantities, they are identical to the Browning BPCRs. Therefore, the same issues and comments will apply once used rifles come up for sale.
For the most part I have found that firearm sellers are honest, but there will always be unscrupulous sellers, and Internet-based sales does not provide the opportunity to handle and check out a firearm prior to sending substantial funds. Since BPCR shooters tend to know, or at least know of, each other through matches and the several online discussion forums, there’s less likelihood of dishonesty, but I can attest to the fact that it does exist.
The Browning & Winchester BPCRs have rather complicated actions, meaning that many rifle owners, buyers and sellers do not have the expertise to disassemble and adequately determine its condition. And many of these firearms are repeatedly purchased and sold prior to ending up in the hands of an actual shooter; therefore the seller may be unfamiliar with the intended purpose of the firearm being sold and also not aware of the correct accessories that originally sold with the rifle. A good example is a firearm retailer selling a rifle on consignment.
A few years ago, when first buying and selling firearms, I purchased two Browning BPCR rifle from separate sellers via two of the well-known Internet firearm sites. After receiving the rifles it quickly became clear that the condition of the rifles were intentionally misrepresented. Both sellers refused to accept the rifles back, issue a refund or admit to false representation. One rifle had the forearm bedded (glued) to the forearm hanger and barrel. The rifle had been represented as like new and required a lot of work and a new forearm to return it to original condition. The other rifle had a “ringed” chamber. The seller had specifically indicated the chamber and bore were like new. The barrel had to be “set back” and rechambered. Afterwards, after taking plenty of photos and documenting the problems, at every opportunity over a period of several months, I identified the sellers by name and address on various Internet firearm discussion forums. By the way, although they may advertise otherwise, do not expect the firearm listing sites to aid buyers in these situations to any degree. They may make a weak attempt to resolve the situation, but their main goal is to cultivate a relationship with sellers and continue to collect sales fees.
Following is a list of conditions and problems I’ve run into while purchasing used Browning’s for resale; conditions that were not identified by the sellers. None were factory problems, but the direct result of, shooter abuse, ignorance or intentional misrepresentation by the seller.
• The ringed chamber mentioned earlier. • Pitted bores – one was obvious. The other required a bore scope to identify. • Forearm bedded (glued) to the forearm hanger and barrel – mentioned earlier. • Both mainsprings shortened, which resulted in the hammer intermittently catching in the ½ cock position when fired. Required time and work to identify problem and mainsprings were replaced. • Damaged front sight required some machine work and replacement of the spirit level vial. • Cracked front sight spirit level vial, and vial housing end cap missing (very common). • Front sight insert nut forced into the housing and cross-threaded. The threads were cleaned up and nut replaced. • Front sight insert nut epoxied into the housing, ruining the front sight. I can only imagine this was done because the nut was cross threaded and the threads destroyed. • Dings and scratches, some very deep, in the metal and wood which were not described in the listing or mentioned by the seller. • Cracked stocks, usually around the wrist and tang. Although I’ve received at least 5 rifles with stocks that were clearly cracked or broken during shipping; a couple were clearly cracked prior to being shipped. Unfortunately this is somewhat of a common problem and one of the worse to run into since the shipper resists accepting blame and the seller resists refunding the rifle fee and shipping costs. To have the factory replace a stock costs over $500. • Several with “McGee” trigger modification, which were not mentioned by sellers. Some resellers were most likely not aware the modification had been made by the previous owner. • “McGee” trigger modification incorrectly installed that damaged the threads for the stock through-bolt. • J&B trigger modifications which were broken off. Required drilling out the modification and replacing with an original trigger pull adjustment screw and spring. • A couple of rifles with stocks that were crudely coated with a shinny varnish or lacquer. Had to strip and properly refinished. • Several had filthy actions and some internal corrosion which would have been impossible to clean without completely disassembling the action. Routine proper cleaning would have prevented this. • One broken sear spring. • Many damaged rear soule sight base screw heads. • A couple of damaged rear soule sights with missing parts. • One rusted rear soule sight required disassembly and some parts replaced. • Rusted rear soule sight base bottom, which was still attached to the tang with banged up screws. • Scope base mounting screw twisted off in the hole. Had to be drilled out & threads cleaned up. • Rear soule sight base screws staked in place. Had to cut off the heads & drill out the screw shanks. • And this one really caught me by surprise. Barrel was loose and rotated in the receiver while disassembling the action and trying to figure out why the lever and extractor hung up. Barrel was removed, threads checked, barrel installed properly and headspace checked. No more problems. Assuming the rifle did not leave the factory in this condition; most likely someone switched out and did not properly install the barrel.
If you are seriously considering a Browning or Winchester BPCR, it’s a good idea to become as knowledgeable as possible about the rifles prior to purchasing one. As many of you know, I’ve written and published a book on the rifles. Although it does not discuss the many “owner created” problems noted above, it provides a complete history of the Browning BPCR and covers in detail the functioning of the action, including design and manufacturing issues. A large section of the book also discusses the complete disassembly and reassembly of the action. More book details and ordering information are available on this site at Browning BPCR Book and Book Ordering Information.
Hopefully your BPCR will arrive in the condition you expect? I can guarantee you that some will not. In this business just like any other there will always be a “shyster” or two attempting to separate you from your hard earned money by intentionally misrepresenting a firearm or, more likely, someone lacking the knowledge to properly evaluate and describe the condition of the firearm being sold. Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) is certainly a term to keep in mind when purchasing firearms over the Internet.