Test your gun, magazines, and ammo before you need them


I have the opportunity to see people come through CHL range qualification with a number of different handgun make and models.  I’ve seen what works well and I’ve seen some varieties that seem to consistently have issues.  Most people who have difficulty passing the range qualification don’t suffer accuracy problems.  Most problems stem from handguns which don’t operate reliably enough for the shooter to complete the course of fire within the time limits.  It’s hard to get a 5 shot string off in 10 seconds if you have 2 or 3 malfunctions in the mix.  The frustration that results from such problems during the qualification also can lead to stress, agitation, or even unsafe behavior.   So, consider these helpful tips:

1. Lubricate your gun.  Especially where the slide and frame meet.  This metal-to-metal contact point needs some manner of oil or grease for optimal performance.  You might get by with little or no lubrication with SOME guns, but even there it is going to increase wear and reduce the life of your gun. You don’t drive a car without oil.  Don’t operate your semi-auto without lubrication, either.

2. Take it to the range before your CHL qualification.  Shooting your CHL qualification as the first time you’ve shot a particular firearm can result in unexpected issues.  Murphy’s Law is often at work.

3. Use the same ammo in your testing as you use for the qualification.  By the same logic, test the hollow point ammo that you will carry before you carry it.  Not every gun reliably and consistently feeds every brand of ammo.  There are differences in projectile shapes (especially in defensive ammo). Test your gun with your ammo before you use it. This is important with the target/practice ammo for the CHL qualification, but a matter of life and death when it comes to defensive ammo.

4. Magazines are a common failure point.  Springs wear out.  While I think that leaving magazines loaded with the springs compressed causing fatigue is a myth, repeated compression and expansion of any spring reduces the spring tension over time. Sooner or later, you’ll need to replace the magazine spring.  But in the meantime, take the magazine apart periodically and clean them as part of your cleaning and maintenance to remove carbon build-up, dirt, pocket lint, or any other gunk that builds up over time.  Sometimes magazines will have manufacturing defects like burrs or snag points on the inside. Test your individual specific magazines to be sure they function reliably before you depend on them.

I can say with certainty that I see more problems with some manufacturers than others.  I don’t want to be a brand snob here, but if you’re going to protect your life with a gun, consider the reliability of what you are buying.  If cost is a key decision factor, consider a quality used firearm over a new gun of questionable quality control.  You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get something reliable, but keep in mind that new doesn’t automatically translate to reliable.

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