Thursday, August 9, 2012

Workin' The Bugs Out...

In the comments to my post about the Heizer DoubleTap, commenter anonymous (that dude gets around, man), said something that really jumped out at me:
And I can make the argument that the none of the small pocket .380's and 9's have been around long enough to trust your life with them, too. They malfunction, and do it fairly frequently, especially when they are new.
It jumped out at me because up until a couple of years ago when I started getting T&E guns, all I had ever owned were used guns. The Snubbie from Hell™ was bought new, and that's the only gun I can recall buying new in the past 10 years. Everything else had been used - in many cases for quite some time. It wasn't until I started getting brand new guns that I realized just how important that breaking in period - be it months, years, or decades - was to the functioning of a firearm.

Just about *every* semi-automatic that I received had teething issues of some sort. The Ruger LC9 would occasionally light-strike certain ammunition (the SR9c did, less frequently, on the same ammo, RWS 124 grain). The Bodyguard 380 even had one incident where the round failed to ignite. Even the vaunted Smith & Wesson M&Ps had issues with certain types of ammunition not always chambering properly. The lone exception to this, ironically enough, was the oft-maligned SIG SAUER P250 compact, which digested everything from steel cased 230 grain Tulammo to 185 grain Winchester +P frangible ammo with nary a hiccup.

The important thing, getting back to anon's comment, is that it takes more than a box ammo or two in a range session to establish a firearm's reliability. I don't think it takes years and tens of thousands of rounds, but it can't hurt to run a couple boxes of several different kinds of ammunition - including your favorite JHP carry load - through your firearm before pronouncing it reliable. When I've tested new guns, I've tried to put a minimum of 500 rounds through them before the review, and feel most comfortable after 750+ rounds.

Always remember that a firearm is a simple machine, and machines can and do fail. Finding out that the defensive ammo you heard was the greatest thing since sliced bread in the magazines hangs up on the feed ramp of your new carry gun is annoying at the range - but it could be deadly in that one-in-a-million chance you have to use it. Ammunition is expensive - and personal protection ammo is the most expensive kind to shoot - but it's worth a little expense to find out what works.

And, more importantly, to find out what doesn't work.

That is all.


libertyman said...

It is my considered opinion that a firearm, or other mechanism, should work right when new, and not have to be "broken in". Do you have to wear the burrs off? Are the surfaces too rough when new? Those are all manufacturing issues, that should have been addressed in the factory.

Balloon Goes Up said...

That same guy mentioned in one of my recent posts that recommended Glocks, M&P's, Ruger LCPs, and the M&P shield that only Glock has enough rounds through them to trust defensively!

For me the number is somewhere between 250-1000 rounds for a specific gun.

Not millions over thousands of guns over multiple decades for examples of the breed.

Dave H said...

I haven't tested a lot of new guns, but I've bought two small carry pistols this year, both brand new. The -only- malfunction of the P238 was a round that wouldn't chamber, and that was a remanufactured round that had the bullet seated at an angle. Hardly the pistol's fault. But the other 49 rounds of reman, and the 200 rounds of other factory brands, loaded and fired flawlessly.

The other pistol, an LC9, has shot 350 rounds in 3 different brands with no malfunctions at all.

I don't know where anonymous is getting his data, but it sounds suspiciously like Internet conventional wisdom. When you get a dozen bloggers linking to one guy who had a bad day at the range, suddenly it's an industrial-sized problem.

I do think you need to wring out your own new gun to make sure it's not one of the 0.1% that will fail out of the box before you trust your life to it. (Especially if your warranty has a time limit.) But that's not a break-in period.

Jay G said...


You are absolutely, 100% correct - those issues *should* be addressed at the factory before the gun ever leaves. Agree completely.

What I'm saying is that you should always check to be sure that your gun wasn't checked at 4:45PM on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend/vacation/Christmas/etc. where something small might get overlooked.

My experience has been that *no* gun is 100% perfect right out of the box from the factory. Better to discover those glitches right away at the range than in the field, right?


Exactly. That's pretty much the metric I use - 250 - 1000. Figure 250 rounds for a revolver - not much gonna change there; maybe 1,000 for a .22LR rifle.

Dave H.,

I don't know that we need to toss that advice on the pile with the rest of the "gunnie conventional wisdom" like "you don't have to aim a shotgun", but to use as a springboard for more discussion. There's a lot of truth to the advice to be careful with something new like the S&W Bodyguard, for example - Smith & Wesson's *last* foray into the small 380 ACP market wasn't exactly slathered in awesomesauce... ;)

Fortunately, they learned from their mistake there...

Anonymous said...

I haven't had a single issue with my M&P 9 or 9c (except a fellow shooter who limpwristed the 9c once and got a FTE) in thousands of rounds of all sorts of ammo. No issue either with my S&W 438. I trust all my S&W guns completely. My Remington 1911R1 has had a few issues, mostly due to cleanliness (there's a joke in here somewhere about cleanliness and God's Own Caliber) or magazines.

Making sure the guns are clean and lubed, the mags are in good shape, and the feed ramps are nice and smooth will go a long way.

Bubblehead Les. said...

"....and I can make the argument that none of the small pocket .380s and 9mm's have been around long enough to trust your life with them."

Hmm. Well, under that criteria, I guess those DoughBoys who fought in WW1 couldn't bet their Lives on that new-fangled Colt 1911, because it was only 6 years old.

Of course, the fact that Keltec has been making small plastic pistols for over a decade, and if one looks closely on how many of the current Pistols are surprisingly similar when one opens them up, well, I guess we just have to throw them all into the Trash Bin,eh?

Granted, Keltec has some Quality Issues that could be easily rectified, but the Design seems to just fine, or why did so many others copy it.

Of course, like a new car, one shouldn't take a new gun and NOT give it a Break-in. And ANYTHING that is made by Humans can Break. And some designs are just poorly thought out. But to throw all the Polymer Frame Guns into the Trash Bin just because they're Polymer-Framed, well I have just one reply.


Weer'd Beard said...

The two big issues I can figure out is smoothing of the bearing surfaces, and breaking in the springs. Inside the first 200 rounds of my Kahr PM45 the spring was so tight it was a chore to lock the slide its still a strong spring, but reasonable to manipulate.

Sure they could get everything fitted up at the factory....but that would take man-hours, which would raise the price. Why not just let the user run some ammo through the gun than pay somebody to essentially do the same thing and pass the price on.

Especially when modern manufacturing the gun comes out pretty darn close.

Anonymous said...

I tried this once and the interwebs lost it, hopefully I can recreate it.

Since I think I'm that "anonymous" mentioned both times, let me explain my thought process a little more fully.

All of the guns reviewed, with the exception of the Glocks, have been around for a very short period of time on the gunnie time line. Most of them for less than 5 years.

If you go back to their beginning, each had some easily seen teething issues, including the M&P, the LCP, etc. The others, well, they may be so new as to not even have had those teething issues identified yet, like the Shield and the new XDS.

To trust YOUR life, and more importantly, the lives of your loved ones, to such a weapon seems a bit strange in my mind.

All, and I mean ALL, of them have demonstrated that they have some glitches, or bugs, or whatever you want to call them. Where do I get my data? From reading the gun rags and blogs, and sites on the web. EVERY single one of them has had some such problem identified in the articles written about them. If they can be found in the relatively small number of rounds fired for those reviews, what will happen 1000 or 3000 rounds down line?

The big problem is that you simply can't predict it. I'm in medicine as a profession. We have seen a HUGE number of drugs which had no significant problems identified in trials, but once there were millions of people on them, we found major issues with them. Guns are no different. They are not so simple that I'm comfortable simply saying, "this one is new and cool and it seems to work, so I'll carry it."

The 1911 wasn't really a new design, but an evolutionary one, derived from several previous designs. Using soldiers as guinea pigs for new weapon design is an old and tried plan. The AR came out fo years later and we did the same thing, and we lost a bunch of soldiers with it in their hands because it wasn't what they said it was.

My point, is simple. ONLY carry a gun you believe to be 100% reliable, 100% of the time, then practice as if it won't be. Some of these guns will be carried without any such thought or practice, and some of them probably should never have been.

Every firearm has issues, and some designs are inherently harder to use under pressure. Those weapons need to be weeded out.

Trust my life to one of those newer guns? Nope, but you can if you want.

Of those, only the Glock has enough history to convince me of its dependability, and the new Gen 4's have their own issues!


ScribblersDad said...

You know what I trust? I'm not a fan of plastic guns. I like steel framed 1911's and CZ's. But... I have a Springfield XD with which I did ALL of my qualifying, and it has NEVER, as in never ever, failed to go bang. No FTF's, no FTE's, no light strikes, just bang. Every. Single. Time. Guess what I want on my hip just in case?