By Bob Walsh
BREAKING IN YOUR NEW HARDWARE
New guns are like new cars used to be. They really benefit from some sort of break-in period to work reliably, especially semi-autos. The same is true of holsters, and therefore the combination thereof.
You should never bet your life on a new gun unless you have put a box of ammo through it. With a semi-auto, more like three or four boxes (except maybe Glocks). A surprising number of people will buy a new handgun, new holster, a box of rounds, combine them all and go off as happy as if they had good sense.
Revolvers are not ammunition sensitive. Semi-automatics are, sometimes very much so. They are sensitive to the shape of the bullet and the pressure of the load. Some semi-autos will not feed anything reliably except military ball. Older Walthers are notorious for that. Some designs, especially Lugers, work well only within a very narrow pressure range. Some high-tech bullets are problems for some weapons. Your pistol may work fine with most conventional ammunition but not cycle reliably with Glaser ammo or similar light-weight high-velocity rounds. Finding this out on the street when somebody is trying to kill you is not good planning.
Revolvers are pretty simple. Buy a box of ammo. Shoot it. Clean the weapon well, lube it according to the manual, load it up with whatever carry ammo you choose and you are good to go. Make sure to try it out a few times UNLOADED with your holster to ensure that it fits well, doesn’t wiggle around, any safety catches or straps work and don’t interfere with things, etc. Retention straps and other safety devices can be very tight or hard to operate the first few times around. Finding this out under stress can be bad for your health.
Semi-autos are another beast entirely. A good practice is to buy a box of ammo at each end of the spectrum and run it through the gun to see if it feeds and ejects, plus a couple of boxes from the middle of the range just for the heck of it. If you have a .45 auto buy a box of 185 grain semi-wadcutters and a box of +P 230 grain JHP (jacketed hollow points). If you have a 9mm, try some 147 grain subsonics and some 115 grain milspec ammo. With a .40 cal go down to 135 grain and up to 180 grain. Then run a box of whatever ammo you think you will probably actually carry thru the gun. If it cycles properly you are probably OK. Fieldstrip, clean and lubricate your pistol and you can be pretty confident that you are all set.
If the range will allow it (many won’t) run your pistol in and out of the holster while you do this. Do NOT try for speed. You are looking for hangups. How about mag pouches? Do not carry a loose magazine in your pocket where it can get crudded up with pocket lint and cough drop wrappers. Most semi-automatic functioning problems are actually caused by the magazines and not by the weapon itself.
When the CHP went to semi-autos they did a smart thing. They supplied each officer with two batches of magazines with different colored magazine followers. Carry mags were carried on duty and shot only once or twice a year when the officer also shot up his issue carry ammo. (Ammo is not reliable forever. Handling is bad for ammo. The crappiest ammo you own will probably be the stuff you are actually carrying. It should be rotated AT LEAST once a year.) The other magazines are the ones that went out for routine range practice and got dropped in the dirt, stepped on, etc. It is a pretty good system.
When you guy your semi-auto, buy some spare magazines. If you don’t buy them from the dealer (where you may pay top dollar) find an internet supplier. Compare prices. (I personally have had very good luck with CDNN on pricing and availability.) If you do this, five years down the road when you have a couple of funky, unreliable magazines you won’t have to pay collectors prices to replace them or make due with dubious quality aftermarket magazines. Trust me; you will be glad you did.
NEXT TIME: Custom alterations.