When I am on the range with new shooters and they have a malfunction they almost always blame the gun and get frustrated. I understand totally, you pay a lot for a firearm, and want to depend on it to function 100% of the time – especially if you plan on using to defend your life. If it keeps malfunctioning, you start to wonder if you bought a lemon.
However, it is been my experience that mechanical problems are not the leading reason most semi-automatic handguns malfunction.
There is an acronym that goes over the reasons for handgun malfunction, and it just happens to be in order or likely hood – so when you are on the range and “gun don’t work” try this first
Semi-automatic handguns are amazing things; they are designed to contain and channel explosions, push projectiles at hundreds of feet per second, extract and eject spent casings, push fresh rounds from magazines and then chamber them in the handgun. All this has to be done with a single input of energy and timed and balanced so that everything is done.
The shooter is a variable in the design. If the shooter does not provide a steady platform for the gun to recoil against, then the laws of physics make the whole gun want to recoil equally instead of just the slide. If the slide is not able to move farther and faster than the frame of the handgun you will get failures to extract, failures to eject, double feeds, and failures to load.
In my experience with new shooters, the greatest single cause of handgun malfunctions is the shooter not holding the handgun properly.
Ammunition malfunctions are another cause of firearms failing to function as designed. I have no issue with reloads, and done properly by a skilled individual hand loaded ammunition can function much better than factory ammunition. However, there are a lot of variables in ammunition manufacture, and reloads tend to have a greater than normal incidence of misfires, hang fires, and squib loads. Some guns (like my Walther P22) are very finicky about the ammunition it will digest, and ammunition that does not have a lot of pressure will cause the gun to double feed or fail to extract.
Remember, that with a semi-automatic, the round is part of the firearm operation, and it moves inside the firearm. If the nose of the bullet does not smoothly engage the feeding ramp then the firearm will not load smoothly. There is a reason for the recommendation that you practice with the same type of ammunition you choose to carry for defensive use.
If you have malfunction after malfunction, especially with chambering, you may want to switch ammunition brands or styles.
Most, if not all, ranges offer rental guns, and most of those ranges do not spend a lot of effort in ensuring that their rental guns are cleaned properly.
One range I use rents an old red label Sturm, Ruger & Co .22 pistol. I doubt that gun has been cleaned since Mr. Sturm passed in 1951. These guns are popular handguns, and known for their great design, but that particular firearm will not shoot more than 2 rounds before it has a jam. It is simply too dirty. I have thought about cleaning it myself, but I have a side bet to see if it will ever get so dirty it won’t except a magazine….
Glock’s torture test is legendary, but as their armorer course instructor said, it’s a test – not a daily routine.
Just because you CAN drop you loaded gun in the mud, let it sit for a month then fire it without cleaning doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Clean your firearm, lube it according to the manufacturer specifications, hold it properly, and feed it what it likes to eat and your gun will work 99.9% of the time
There is a reason Mechanical is last. Stock guns maintained properly very rarely break on the range. It does happen, and I have had front sights work themselves loose after thousands of practice draws, but it is not routine enough that it is front of my mind when diagnosing why a new shooter is having malfunctions on the range.
Typically, even most mechanical malfunctions I have seen come from shooters using aftermarket parts on their guns. If the designer wanted a titanium firing pin for a lighter quicker primer strike, why did they not put a titanium pin in the gun? It seems to me, that in today’s litigious world, especially with the competition between gun manufacturers, if a part made the gun better, faster, or stronger, the manufacturer would sell it – either in the gun or as an option.
This is just my two cents, it doesn’t butter my biscuit either way – if your gun is stock, or you hung everything but Christmas Lights on it. I am just trying to pass on what I have seen, and what I have learned through the years.
A priceless education for new handgun owners. An important refresher for experienced carriers.
If you own-or are considering owning-a handgun, this book is a must, covering:
- Tips for selecting the right gun for you