It goes without saying that buying a firearm, new or used, is a BIG decision, both from the standpoint of cost as well as personal responsibility after the sale. New firearms are typically examined carefully by manufacturers before being shipped to retailers are usually under warranty and safe purchases. Used firearms can be, and often are exceptional values. But the same care given to making sure new firearms are functional and safe is not always given to used firearms that are auctioned or sold on-line, or that are put up for sale on consignment at a local retailer. Occasionally, something that seems like a deal that is too good to be true...is.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being certain that a firearm you are considering is (1) safe, and (2) fully functional.
So many factors go into what makes a firearm safe that it is difficult to list them all.
So much emphasis is placed on the safe function of the machine, that often the circumstances under which the machine will be used are overlooked. Does the fact that a particular handgun does not have a safety selector switch make it less safe than a pistol that has a trigger safety, a grip safety, a safety selector, any combination or all three? It depends on how you plan to use it. Concealed carry for personal protection? Law enforcement? Target shooting? Will you be the only person firing it? Safety is the result of mitigating risk...and risks along with the level of severity do change with different people and circumstances. There is no safety device on a gun that can successfully defeat irresponsibility.
When considering buying ANY gun, but particularly a used gun, if you are uncertain about something, ask questions! How does it function? Is the owner's manual included? (To me, this is an all too often overlooked question!!) Does it require any special tools to disassemble and are they included? How is it maintained? Has a gunsmith looked at it to make sure it functions properly? If the gun is on consignment, is the owner available and willing to answer questions about the gun the consignment shop cannot? Particularly with on-line purchases of used guns, is there an inspection period that you can inspect the gun or have it inspected by a qualified gunsmith before the sale is final?
Now, I'm a realist. I know that all of these questions don't automatically come to mind when you see that gun you've been looking for for what seems like an eternity. But impulsiveness when it comes to firearms is never wise. Alway shop with a friend you trust. If for no other reason than to be a calm voice of reason. Firearms are a BIG responsibility and a BIG expense. But when approached intelligently and with an appreciation for their appropriate use and the safety not only of yourself, but also of others around you, your buying experience will be much more satisfying.