Observations on Real World Pistol Malfunctions and Failures, by PPPP

Mr. Rawles,
I just returned from instructing a handgun course with 42 people on my range, and another 40 on my brother’s range. (He is also an instructor). I wanted to pass along some information on handgun maintenance and note several observations from this weekend that are typical in the courses we teach (approximately 800 rounds fired [per student] over several days).
First., the [Model] 1911 model handguns took top honors in failures (defined as taking you out of the fight, not just a malfunction). Six of the approximately 25 [Model] 1911s had these problems. (includes both ranges). This is typical! While 1911s have their merits, they are consistently prone to failures. Some are stone cold reliable, but you really won’t know until hundreds to thousands of rounds later. Often the most expensive finely-tuned 1911s have the most problems. Have spare parts on hand and know how to service your weapon.

A side note for all handgun users, but particularly the 1911 group: Be sure to check your handgun for sharp edges on the slide, controls and any other piece of the handgun and have these sharp edges removed professionally if possible… you’d be surprised at how many bloody hands we had over the weekend.

Second. The Springfield [Armory] XD grip safety needs to be fully depressed. Not fully gripping the firearm can prevent malfunction clearances and obviously prevent firing the weapon. It was unusual, but one grip safety actually broke, rendering the firearm inoperative.

Third. Recoil springs can get weak after high round-counts causing a failure to feed, so replace them occasionally (applies to all makes and models of handguns).

Fourth. There were a few malfunctions with Glocks, but no failures. Over the long haul the factory plastic sights should be replaced with the more durable iron sights.

Fifth. Use high quality magazines and have lots of them!

Sixth. SIG [brand pistol]s had no failures, but the heavy double action initial trigger pull, followed by the light single action second pull caused students to perform poorly. As a result of the two differing trigger pulls, many students [armed with SIGs] tried to “game it” by leaving the hammer cocked and re-holstering which is a big safety concern. One student narrowly missed shooting his leg when re-holstering because of this. A note on SIGs: While there is nothing wrong with SIG’s quality or reliability, remember that due to the two differing trigger pulls this handgun will require three to four times the amount of practice to master compared with any other common handgun. The exception would be their new “DAK” [double action only] trigger.
Remember safety and mindset! – PPPP

JWR Adds: I heard from another friend who is an XD aficionado (he now owns four of them), that failure to get full depression of the grip safety is only an issue for some shooters, depending on their shooting habits. Some shooters just don;t grip a pistol as tightly as others. The shape of your hand is also a factor. If you turn out to be one of the minority with this difficulty, it is easily resolved by building up the thickness of the exterior of the grip safety. This is a quick and easy modification: Simply glue on one or two thicknesses of plastic, using Krazy Glue (or similar cyanoacrylate adhesive). My friend used two thicknesses of black plastic that he cut with a an X-Acto knife from an aerosol spray can’s plastic lid. It is about a five minute job, and it is easily reversible. OBTW, do not be tempted to disable the grip safety–for example, by wrapping a rubber band around the grip, as I’ve seen done with M1911s. Disabling firearms safety features is a bad idea, no matter how experienced you are as a shooter. (With two notable exceptions: removing a “magazine” safety (such as on Browning Hi-Powers) or retrofitting a politically correct “key locking” safety (such as on the current Remington Model 870s) with a traditional safety button.)

Speaking of Springfield XD pistols, if you want to get one of these fine pistols for next-to-nothing, Front Sight’s very generous “Get a Gun” training and gear package offer is still available. However, it will likely end soon, since it is being run at or near cost. Don’t delay!