The question in the title of this article seems like the proverbial no brainer since most of us carry concealed with self preservation in mind. Even those that carry for other reasons expect their pistol to operate flawlessly when put into service. The problem is: how do we guarantee to the best of our ability that the pistol will work first time every time? Beyond that, what is acceptable as to how many shots the pistol will fire before a stoppage takes place? Pistol reliability requires sound equipment, regular maintenance, quality ammunition that has been inspected, and frequent range practice by the user to be considered satisfactory.
The pistol itself should be of a reputable manufacturer and should be inspected for smooth operation of the moving parts. As the action is being cycled, any part or assembly that binds, sticks, or exhibits rough movement must be identified and repaired. A simple function check as recommended by the manufacturer will most often fulfill the task.
The magazines should be individually checked for structural integrity. No cracks or deformities are acceptable on the magazine body, follower or the base plate. The follower should move smoothly from top to bottom of the magazine body and accept the full capacity of ammunition without unusual force to seat the last few cartridges. Each magazine should be function checked in the pistol that it is to be used in after individual inspection. This three-step process will virtually guarantee that a previously inspected magazine will perform as designed and desired.
Start by inserting the empty magazine into a previously checked empty pistol. The magazine should move into the magazine well smoothly and freely with the magazine catch fully depressed. When the magazine is fully seated, release the magazine catch and pull on the base plate to ensure the magazine is locked in place in the magazine well. Next, retract the slide to the rear to prove the magazine follower will contact the slide stop and cause it to interlock with the slide to hold it open when there is no ammunition present. This proves that the empty magazine will lock the action open after the last shot is fired, which is the signal to the operator that an emergency reload may be in order.
Ammunition in itself will greatly affect the reliability of a pistol. Some guns work better with some types and brands of ammunition than others. Buy several different varieties and shoot them for function and accuracy. If one stoppage is experienced that can be blamed on the ammunition, move on to the next choice.
Finally, the magazine should drop free of its own weight when the magazine catch is depressed to facilitate a reload without excessive manipulation.
The final proof for the magazine is for it to be cycled several times through the pistol that it is to be used in. This should be done with a full load of ammunition each time and without a stoppage or interruption in the cycle of operation. Magazines in general are relatively cheap. Proven magazines that work every time are worth their weight in gold.
When it comes to maintenance on a pistol or its associated equipment there are no set answers. There are, however, some guidelines that will go a long way to ensure the reliability of a pistol.
Cleaning the pistol means the magazines, holster, magazine pouch and any other components of the concealed carry ensemble. Dirt, lint, dust, firing residue, etc. needs to be brushed, wiped or blown off with the appropriate tools on a regular schedule. A general rule is that if it didn’t come on the gun out of the box, it needs to be removed from the gun before being considered clean. This includes the barrel, magazines, frame and slide, inside and out.
Equally as important is the lubrication of the pistol. Understanding why we lubricate goes a long way as to understanding where we lubricate and how much to use to be effective.
Lubrication is used primarily for three reasons, friction reduction, oxidation reduction, and ease of cleaning. An easy guideline to remember is that if any part of the pistol is shiny due to friction or is a natural location for collection of firing residue, lube it with enough lubrication so that it can be seen and felt on the affected surface. Too much lube will run under the force of gravity and won’t stay on the pistol, therefore con-taminating the area immediately surrounding the pistol. For concealed carry purposes the pistol needs to fire the normally available amount of ammunition without interruption. It needs proper lubrication to be protected from perspiration or other substances harmful to the surface finish.
Ammunition in itself will greatly affect the reliability of a pistol. Some guns work better with some types and brands of ammunition than others. Buy several different varieties and shoot them for function and accuracy. If one stoppage is experienced that can be blamed on the ammunition, move on to the next choice. Once a selection is made, buy as much of that ammunition as you can afford and practice with that pistol/ammunition combination to build confidence in the system you have chosen and your ability to safely and successfully operate the system. Each time a change in ammunition brand or type is made, you must go through the same process to verify the reliability of the pistol/ammunition combination.
There is no substitute for practice in handling, marksmanship, and tactical employment of the pistol, to ensure reliability when the time comes to actually use it.
Reliability is almost a given when attention to detail is paid to the equipment, maintenance, ammunition, and proficiency of the operator. When the pistol must work first time, every time, the preceding guidelines are well worth following.
[ George Harris has spent over 30 years in the field of Adult Education with more than 17 years at the SIGARMS Academy. George completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Virginia and earned his degree in Communications from the DeVry Institute of Technology. He has focused his efforts in the arenas of small arms, small arms training and combat skill development. George has evolved from an Infantry Soldier, Small Arms Repair Technician, and Drill Instructor to become the Coach and Firing Member of the Internationally recognized United States Army Reserve Combat Marksmanship Team. As a competitive shooter, George has the coveted distinction of being Distinguished with both the Service Pistol and the Service Rifle.
Rated as a Class “C” Coach by the National Rifle Association, George has a long list of Instructor certifications from Federal and State Agencies as well as private training organizations. He holds Armorer Certifications from the major firearms manufacturers currently producing small arms for law enforcement and the military.
George is active in a number of professional organizations which include among others, International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors, American Society for Training and Development and American Society for Industrial Security.
As Director of the SIGARMS Academy, George is committed to the safe and successful use of firearms by armed professionals and responsible citizens alike through using the SIG Principle of Training: Simple Is Good! ]
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