There is nothing wrong with buying a used handgun. Assuming, of course, that there is nothing wrong with the used gun you are buying. But how to tell?
The process is simple: look, feel and listen. Look for things out of place; wear that is odd, or signs of abuse. Feel for the way it functions, compared to a new model or a known-good used one. (Obviously, experience helps, and already owning or having owned a similar handgun also helps.) Listen to the noise of the springs, the clicks, the slide cycling. They can all tell you something.
And ask. What does the owner/merchant know about it? Its history, previous owners, performance or reputation? Buying a competition gun can be good, and it can be bad. Was it the backup gun of a Grand Master that spent most of its time lounging in his range bag waiting its turn? (Can you say “tuned, low-mileage cream puff?”) Or was it the experimental subject of an aspiring gunsmith or competitive shooter? (Can you say “ridden hard and hung up wet?”) Be careful, ask, listen, and get the return policy in writing.
Etiquette of Buying Used
There are a few things you have to know about buying a used firearm. First of all, remember that until you hand over the money, it is someone else’s firearm you’re handling. It is entirely within the performance parameters of many handguns to be dry-fired from now until the end of time and suffer no damage. However, some people don’t believe it and will be very grumpy if you dry-fire their handgun. Ask before you dry-fire. If they refuse, then you have to either move on, or do your pre-purchase due diligence without dry-firing.
Ask before you disassemble, as, again, some people just don’t like having their handgun yanked apart. They may be cranky, and they may simply have had too many bad experiences with people who didn’t know what the frak they were doing.
Also, keep in mind that everything is negotiable. Point out details that ngiht lower the price. If the price can’t be lowered, ask about extra magazines, speedloaders, ammo, holsters, anything that improves the deal for you. Properly done, a purchase and negotiation is a social event, and not a dental visit.
This article is an excerpt from Gunsmithing: Pistols and Revolvers by Patrick Sweeney. For more information, Click here.