Here is a little tale that teaches a good lesson. While at the local gun show, I found a sweet deal on a new compact handgun. Having plenty of experience with the brand, I decided to offer it a home. The safe where it would primarily reside ensured it would be in good company. Due to its diminutive size, I planned to ensure it received plenty of time in the fresh air filling a role as my BUG (Back-up Gun). My new BUG looked so great, two of my buddies decided they needed to buy its siblings, so after a bit of paperwork and a few days, we walked out with three identical handguns.
About a week later, I headed to the range with a handful of different loads. I needed to proof the gun before carry. My two buddies showed up, each carrying their new guns—unfired, loaded, and concealed. I did not agree, and wondered (silently) whether that was a smart idea…
Shrugging off the worries of what others were doing, excitedly I loaded up the BUG and started punching holes in the target. I made it through the first two rounds. After that, the gun would fire the round in the chamber, but failed to eject and therefore load a new round. I fieldstripped, cleaned, and lubricated the piece to no avail. I tried my spare magazines as well as proofing my magazines in the other two pistols.
A new pistol with a failure is a shame, but certainly not unheard of. While disappointing, I discovered the problem and quickly shipped it back to the manufacturer for repair. That is not the point of this story though, neither is the particular make or model.
How many times have you heard a friend or relative talk of owning a gun they had never fired, yet relied on it for defense? They bought the gun, loaded it, and locked it away for an emergency. Or, just as bad, they carried the gun for self-defense without function firing it to ensure it would tolerate a steady diet of the intended self-defense ammunition.
In manufacturing, failure rates are a fact of life. In fact, it is such an important part of reliable manufacturing; it is represented by the Greek letter λ (lambda) and calculated during the design process. This is important when we think of carrying a new gun before properly proofing or dumping it in a handgun safe by the side of the bed for home defense.
When the SHTF, you’ll be the one whose carcass is on the line, so be sure you are comfortable with the testing you perform. If you are unsure of how to, or how much, you need to test your handgun, the following regimen is a good minimum.
First, let me back up and caution you to not give up on a new gun too soon. While most firearms today are good to go out of the box, others will require 50-200 rounds to properly break them in and work off any rough edges. For this, I use less expensive range ammunition. It has the quality I need to trust the ammunition, without the added expense. Besides, to be dependable, the gun should shoot inexpensive ammunition as well as it does premium self-defense ammunition.
I start by loading all magazines to capacity with the ammunition I plan to load for defense. I fire the first 10-20 rounds one at a time, and check the gun and my grip after each shot. Next, I fire at least 10 rounds of double taps. After that comes at least 10 rounds fired while rotating the gun from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock to ensure the pistol fires at any angle. All magazines are tested by shooting each, fully loaded, to ensure the magazine release holds when fully loaded and the last round feeds as well as the first did.
After passing, without a single failure to feed, fire, or eject, I give the pistol a thorough cleaning and proper lubrication. Finally, I fire a couple more rounds, just to ensure everything went back together properly, and before topping of the magazine and relying on the pistol for self-defense. Remember, this is a minimum. You’ll need plenty of practice to ensure you are fully comfortable with the handgun’s controls, reloading and sights. Live fire is always best, but dry fire practice is a critical element to developing these skills as well, and its free!
Have you ever carried or kept a firearm for self-defense without properly testing it first? How do you test your firearms? Share your testing procedure in the comment section.