When you buy anything secondhand, you typically want to take even more time to go over that item from end to end, ensuring it's in good working condition and is the right choice for you. This is especially true of a used handgun; if you're buying it for personal protection, you want to know that it won't jam or otherwise fail right when you need it and know that it will be easy for you to maintain and clean as needed. Note a few things you must look for when you're in the market for a used handgun.
Look down the barrel
Of course you want to ensure the gun is unloaded, the clip is removed, and there are not rounds in the chamber of the gun. Once you do those things, look down the barrel from the outside and note if it seems level and even and that there is no bulging. This will help to ensure you get a straight shot every time you fire the weapon.
Check the grip
If there are cracks or chips in the grip, this can interfere with how you hold the weapon and if you can grip it securely. You can often replace old, worn grips but this also means added expense for your used gun. Along with checking the condition, note if the grip fits securely and easily in your hand without having to stretch your fingers too much and if you can easily wrap your finger around the trigger and pull it. A gun that is too large for your hand may cause muscle fatigue when at the firing range and can also mean not being able to easily reach the trigger, interfering with your ability to fire it as needed.
Check the magazine
Rack the slide a few times and note if it moves freely and easily. Put the magazine into the gun and check if it stays in place easily; if not, this usually signals damage to the gun's interior. Release the magazine more than once and ensure it slides out easily so you know the release works. Remember that these parts will need to work easily if you should need to reload your weapon quickly.
After checking the condition of the gun, be sure to hold it out as if firing it to note if the weight is too cumbersome for you to keep straight. If it puts stress and tension on your arms and shoulders, you may not enjoy yourself at the shooting range and may find it's difficult to control the gun when firing.