Safety and Training

Carry Gun Reliability

Pulling out a gun from the holster on belt, close-up.

Day at the Range takes a look at a Les Baer 1911 that’s had 15,000 rounds through it. You’ll see a lot of guys talk about how this or that gun has been reliable for “400 rounds” or something like that, although the truth of the matter is that you don’t gain any kind of significant reliability data on a semi-automatic firearm until you’ve fired several thousand rounds through the gun.  The bare minimum industry standardsfor reliability is one malfunction every 1,000 rounds.  The military demands the guns it accepts have a failure rate of 1:2500.  To really know just how reliable your gun is, you have to shoot a staggering number of rounds through it.

Or you could let someone else do the testing for you. The great majority of gun owners live in towns that have police departments with SWAT teams or live in an area serviced by a SWAT team.  Take a look at what those officers, SWAT and patrols are carrying in their holsters.

There is a good chance that whatever gun they’re carrying is a gun that has a proven reputation for reliability, like the S&W M&P40 pictured.  The Internet can be a great resource as well, and you must be careful when researching reliable guns online.

  • Look for posts like the one from Day at the Range, where they have data. Lots and lots of quality data on rounds used, parts breakages, maintenance cycles, etc.
  • Pistol-Training.Com is an excellent source for good gun data as well.

You will hear lots of people say “this gun isn’t reliable” or “this gun is reliable” based on minuscule numbers or Internet hearsay.  If people online don’t back their claims up with data such as “I fired X thousand rounds and experienced malfunctions of type A, B or C” then skip ’em and look for someone with facts. If you’re shopping for a carry gun, you’re looking for a piece that you could be betting your very life on and your life is far too valuable to not vet the data yourself.

A shockingly good source of information on reliability is gun ranges that rent firearms.  The guns in rental ranges go through thousands of rounds with cleaning cycles that are not always super predictable.  If you have a rental range near you, go down there and talk to the range staff.  If it’s a good range, they’ll be happy to tell you what’s reliable, what they have to send back and what is a piece of junk. Then rent the reliable guns.

The reliability of your carry gun is far too important to leave up to chance.  Do your homework. Don’t buy a gun with no reputation or a poor reputation—there are plenty of proven guns out there from GLOCK, S&W, SIG, Beretta and HK so there is no reason to end up with something that has a failure rate greater than 1:1000.

Once you get your gun, go shoot it a lot.

How do you choose what gun you’re going to buy? Do you use one of the methods in this article or have another way? Share in the comments section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (3)

  1. If your rental range is attached to a high end gunshop however be wary. I stopped into a high end store with rental range and the gentleman behind the counter tried to steer my friend clear of The S&W M&P and the CZ’s because he claimed they were unreliable. In reality he wanted him to look at the higher priced Sigs and H&K’s.

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