People who talk about these things—and I am one of those people—will discuss what level of reliability is mandatory when it comes to a defensive pistol.

You’ve heard the old saying, “Accuracy is negotiable. Reliability is not.” That’s a good saying. I like it a lot. But there has to be a measurable level of reliability that really instills confidence.

For me it is 200 rounds. My defensive firearm must fire my chosen defensive ammo 200 times without malfunction before I call it good and set about my daily business with that gun/ammo combination.

You may choose a different number. Not that you needed my permission. I just like to remind folks disagreement is acceptable. It works best if I do that before some of them take to the internet to rant and rave.

So, what do I mean when I say “200 rounds” determines reliability? I will fire 200 rounds consecutively from a fully cleaned and properly lubricated firearm. During the reliability test, I will not stop to clean or lubricate the gun and I demand no malfunctions of any kind.

When I pull the trigger I want to hear a bang!

Should I encounter a malfunction, I will stop the reliability test and move into what I call troubleshooting mode. I recently did this with a co-worker’s pistol. The brand and caliber doesn’t matter. I don’t want people thinking I am bashing a particular brand of pistol. He handed me the gun and said he’d had eight malfunctions in 100 rounds—mostly failures to feed.

So I took the gun, bought a couple hundred rounds of ammo, and went to the range to see what was up. After four rounds the magazine came unseated. The only reason it didn’t fall to the ground was that my little finger was holding it in place.

Slap. Rack. Back in business.

This time I paid attention to ensure I was not bumping the magazine release. Things went well. So, I started intentionally trying to induce malfunctions by “limp-wristing” the pistol. For those who don’t know, limp-wristing means you are not holding a pistol in a stable shooting platform and some of the energy that is supposed to run the slide gets used up as the pistol moves around in your hands. Basic physics. If you are holding the bottom of the gun firmly, the slide moves briskly to eject spent cases and reload the chamber.

I limp-wristed that pistol to the point that I almost dropped it. Only on the last round did it fail to fully chamber a cartridge. And at that point I was holding the gun so loosely I actually feared it would jump out of my hand. I basically discounted limp-wristing as the cause of the malfunctions. I did notice that during all the limp-wristed shooting, the magazine never once fell out.

So, I acquired a proper firing grip, fired three rounds as fast as I could, then paused and fired three more. I got a click instead of a bang on the seventh round. And the magazine was again unseated.

Slap. Rack. Back in business—this time with one-handed shooting so as to ensure my support hand was not hitting the magazine release. Four rounds into the second string of fire, the magazine hit the ground. I must have looked like a monkey with a math problem. I could not figure it out. I started looking very critically at EVERY aspect of my grip. Three rounds later, with the magazine on the ground again, I had my answer.

As I squeezed the grip, my little finger was pressing down and back on the front lip of the magazine plate. This was apparently enough to dislodge the magazine from the internal locking mechanism.

To test my theory, I fired without allowing my little finger to touch any portion of the pistol. Over and over the little gun barked and sent rounds downrange. Four magazines later I felt I could tell my friend with certainty that our hands were too big to be firing this gun effectively. Sure, it might be a bit of a design flaw, but it is also a great lesson in gun fit and reliability testing.

And yet another reason to get to the range and make every round count.