An accurate description of a gun's condition is essential in evaluating a firearm and estimating the value of any gun. Differences in condition can easily halve or double the value of a collectible gun. The terms used in evaluating firearms condition have specific meaning. The most widely used set of standards for grading firearms condition is that defined by the NRA many years ago.
Here are the standard gun condition rating terms, as defined by the National Rifle Association. It is vital to note that there are separate rating systems used for Antique vs. Modern Firearms.
NEW: Not previously sold at retail, in same condition as current factory production.
PERFECT: In New condition in every respect. (Many collectors & dealers use "As New" to describe this condition).
EXCELLENT: New condition, used but little, no noticeable marring of wood or metal, bluing perfect, (except at muzzle or sharp edges).
VERY GOOD: In perfect working condition, no appreciable wear on working surfaces, no corrosion or pitting, only minor surface dents or scratches.
GOOD: In safe working condition, minor wear on working surfaces, no broken parts, no corrosion or pitting that will interfere with proper functioning.
FAIR: In safe working condition but well worn, perhaps requiring replacement of minor parts or adjustments which should be indicated in advertisement, no rust, but may have corrosion pits which do not render article unsafe or inoperable.
FACTORY NEW: All original parts; 100% original finish; in perfect condition in every respect, inside and out.
EXCELLENT: All original parts; over 80% original finish; sharp lettering, numerals and design on metal and wood; unmarred wood; fine bore.
FINE: All original parts; over 30% original finish; sharp lettering, numerals and design on metal and wood; minor marks in wood; good bore.
VERY GOOD: All original parts; none to 30% original finish; original metal surfaces smooth with all edges sharp; clear lettering, numerals and design on metal; wood slightly scratched or bruised; bore disregarded for collectors firearms.
GOOD: Some minor replacement parts; metal smoothly rusted or lightly pitted in places, cleaned or re-blued; principal letters, numerals and design on metal legible; wood refinished, scratched bruised or minor cracks repaired; in good working order.
FAIR: Some major parts replaced; minor replacement parts may be required; metal rusted, may be lightly pitted all over, vigorously cleaned or re-blued; rounded edges of metal and wood; principal lettering, numerals and design on metal partly obliterated; wood scratched, bruised, cracked or repaired where broken; in fair working order or can be easily repaired and placed in working order.
POOR: Major and minor parts replaced; major replacement parts required and extensive restoration needed; metal deeply pitted; principal lettering, numerals and design obliterated, wood badly scratched, bruised, cracked or broken; mechanically inoperative; generally undesirable as a collector's firearm.
PERCENTAGE OF ORIGINAL FINISH SYSTEM - This system is widely used by collectors and dealers, and has been popularized by Fjestad's excellent price guide, Blue Book of Gun Values. It's important to note that this system usually refers to the PERCENTAGE OF ORIGINAL FINISH REMAINING ON THE METAL SURFACES. Note that if a gun has no original finish remaining this system does not really apply. Also, if a gun has been refinished, it would not be ratable under the Blue Book system, although a percentage description may be used such as "90% of factory refinish remains". This is an accurate description, but if using the Blue Book as a price guide, remember that it applies only to ORIGINAL factory finish.
STANDARD CATALOG OF FIREARMS SYSTEM - The Standard Catalog of Firearms by Ned Schwing is an excellent price guide, especially useful since it's photo illustrated. It uses condition rating terms that use the same words as the NRA system such as "Excellent" "Very Good", etc. However:
* WARNING!!! - Std. Cat. of Firearms Definitions are very different than the widely accepted NRA standards. Their definitions are roughly similar for Modern guns, but their Antique gun standards are radically different. For example, an antique firearm that rated "Excellent" under NRA Antique Standards might only rate "Very Good" under the Std. Cat. of Firearms definitions.
OTHER PRICE GUIDE SYSTEMS - Any time you refer to a price guide, the first thing to do is to check the definition of firearm condition standards, to see if it's the same as the standard NRA system, or has different definitions.
Generally, Supica's ratings are based on the NRA condition definitions. In Richard Nahas & Jim Supica's book, Standard Catalog of S&W, they expanded the NRA definitions.
NEW IN BOX (NIB), or AS NEW: NIB means in the same condition as when the gun left the factory, with accompanying box, literature, and accessories. This is important to note, as older boxes may have substantial value in themselves. Purists will want the box to be the original box which that particular gun was shipped in (serial number was often penciled on the bottom or marked on the end of the box by the factory).
As to the condition of the gun itself, the gun must be unfired and unused. Comparable terms expressing the same gun condition when not accompanied by box might include “AS NEW”, “MINT”, “PERFECT”, or “100%“. Even if the gun has never been fired, if the action has been worked to the extent that wear is visible, the value may be less that “NIB“ or “AS NEW“ to a collector. For example, the faint drag line that appears on the cylinder of a revolver that has been “dry-fired” a few times will reduce the value to less than “AS NEW” for a condition purist on an out of production revolver. This sort of general “shop-wear” to an otherwise new, current production gun will not matter to a buyer purchasing the gun to shoot. It rapidly becomes more important to a “condition collector” who wants a truly pristine example of an out-of-production piece.