Of course, you can always pay a competent gunsmith to check out a potential gun before purchase, but for most cases, following the simple steps below will save you the hassle and give you the confidence to make a decision on the spot. It might just save you some money too!
1. Check for imperfections in the finish. Are there any places that are discolored, have a thin coat, or are already scratched?
2. Look for rust on areas where the finish may have worn away.
3. Examine the grips. Have the screws been installed with care? They may be over tightened, showing tool marks and cutting into the threads or they may be coming loose.
4. Check the feed lips on the magazines so see if they are bent or if the magazine has scratches from a bad fit with the frame. Try inserting each magazine that came with the gun to check the fit and function of the mag release. Make sure each magazine holds the slide back when it is empty.
5. Look at the muzzle to see if there are any chips or dings. This may indicate the gun has been dropped on this area.
6. Check the plunger tube to ensure it is securely staked on. This is weak point on 1911 that is prone to failure.
7. Don’t be surprised if the barrel isn’t entirely clean. Even if the gun is new, typically several rounds are fired through the weapon to ensure its function before its sale.
8. Check for hairline cracks in the slide and frame. Make sure to check near the ejection port, the rails of the frame, and the stirrup cut of the slide. Aluminum frames especially may prone to cracking over time.
9. Check the play between the slide and frame. Most guns have a little bit of play in this area, so don’t expect a perfect fit unless it’s a competition gun. But it shouldn’t rattle or be excessive.