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· Diamond with Oak Clusters Bullet Member
23,078 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The following is a post originally by MGMike:

A description of "90%" (presumably finish remaining) doesn't really tell much about the two most important things that determine value: CONDITION and ORIGINALITY.

The first condition issue is: Is the gun mechanically sound? Is anything broken, cracked, missing, or buggered up in some way? Has somebody been using vise-grips on the barrel bushing? (Sorry, EB, I couldn't resist that!) Look for signs of hard use, or abuse. Field strip the gun and look inside. Is there heavy peening or deformation of the surfaces that absorb recoil impact or stress with every firing cycle? Are any metal-to-metal contact surfaces flanged or excessively burred from wear? Look for anomalies. Any obvious sign of alteration or kitchen table-gunsmithing (especially Dremeling) is not a good sign. Are the L-shaped pins that hold in the firing pin and extractor intact? (If the little tab is broken off the pin, it may be nearly impossible to remove it to clean or change the firing pin or extractor). Is the bolt face in the slide smooth, without pitting, and without an oversized or ragged firing pin hole? Push in the rear end of the firing pin (noting if it moves smoothly against its spring) and examine the tip protruding from the bolt face. Is the tip of the firing pin smooth and hemispherical, or rough, pitted or undersized compared to the diameter of the hole? (And if you can't see the tip, it's broken off.) Is the extractor claw chipped? Is either of the sights mashed?

Examine the feed rib on the underside of the slide; is it chewed up from the hammer? Inspect the corresponding top corner of the hammer. Some degree of chattering can be corrected by stoning them smooth, but if it's too deep and you go through the surface hardening, the slide is toast.

Be sure to check for slide cracks at the holdopen and safety notches in the rails; use a magnifying glass. A gun that has a visible crack in the slide should be rejected unless you already have spare slide. Hold the slide up to the light at an angle to catch its reflection; a slide that has a slight depression or wrinkle in the exterior surface opposite those notches has stretched, and is on the verge of cracking. With the barrel out, carefully examine the bore from the chamber end. More often than not, you'll find pitting in the lands and grooves; a pristine bore is rare, and a value plus factor. But that is far less important than the chamber, which is vital. Is the chamber bright and shiny and without scoring, pitting or other visible defects? If it isn't you'll have extraction problems.

Reassemble the gun and check for function. Drop the mag out just enough to deactivate the holdopen and run the slide back and forth. The only resistance you should feel is from rocking back the hammer, and perhaps some slight feeling from the disconnector. If the slide sticks or "wedges" at one end or the other of its stroke, something (probably the slide) may be bent. Let the slide snap forward and dry fire it a few times. Does the sear always engage, or does the hammer follow the slide down? Pull the trigger to see. If the hammer doesn't stay cocked when the slide snaps closed, it WILL go full auto. This has caused, to my personal knowledge, at least one fatal accident.

Do the mag and grip safeties work? Try them by cocking the gun, removing the mag and pulling the trigger; then recock, replace the mag and pull the trigger without depressing the grip safety. At the same time you can check the trigger pull: reasonably smooth, or crusty and ragged? Dangerously light? See full-auto warning above.

Is the magazine good, lips straight and unmangled? Look for cracks in the corners of the lips, especially at the magazine backstrap. When they break, that's where. If you find a crack, or plier chew marks on the mag lips, deduct the cost of a new magazine.

If the pistol passes muster on mechanical condition, THEN go to cosmetic condition. I'm always amazed at the number of buyers who scrutinize for any scratch and nick in the finish, but just ASSUME the mechanical condition inside is commensurate. Bad practice.

Now for originality: Do the numbers match, especially the barrel, which is the most commonly replaced part? An un-numbered or mismatched barrel is a replacement. Not a big deal but a minus factor. If it's a FAC aftermarket barrel, examine the bore VERY carefully and don't buy the gun without a return privilege if it won't work.

Astra 400s were originally rust-blued, and left white inside. If the gun is blued inside, it's been refinished. That's not necessarily bad, but it's another minus on value. One glance at the underside of the slide will tell you. The small parts were mostly nitre-blued (e.g., the extractor--which was originally peacock blue, not dark purple-- and the mag catch) or polished white (e.g., trigger, safety and holdopen). Guns in the 90,000 s/n range will have coarse-checkered wooden grips; do they match in color and checkering LPI? Is the Astra crest sharp and undamaged? On refinished guns the crest is often partly or completely washed out. The crest is like the teeth of a pretty girl. If they are ugly or some are missing, it spoils the effect. Also, while patches of pitting under the blue do not mathematically reduce the "90%", they sure look like hell, and detract from value.

Likewise the condition of the finger serrations on the slide will tell you a lot about the handling care the gun has received during its life, because refinishers seldom take the time to clean up any damage there. If the serrations are straight, sharp and unbattered, it's a good sign. Are the grip screws buggered up? If not, you'll need new ones unless you have a knack for restoring screw slots. Another minus on value.

In brief, the above are the things I personally go through in evaluating an Astra 400. A very clean gun, mechanically sound, with original 90% blue and minimal nicks and scratches, with sharp grips and an excellent bore and magazine will fetch more than $275. I have several, and I would not sell one of mine for a hundred more. But then I am fond of Astra 400s. Many people don't appreciate them, so there are some bargains out there. On the other hand, there are some clunkers awaiting a buyer who, if he is wise, will not pay half that, or decline altogether.

Edited by - MGMike on 02/03/2007 07:51:03 AM
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