by Tiger McKee
When I hear the statement, "My pistol never malfunctions," it makes me worried. The problem is your pistol may never malfunction, but the pistol itself is only a part of the whole package. What people often fail to realize is that for the semi-auto pistol to function it has to have ammunition, magazines, and be fired properly by the shooter.
Obviously ammunition is essential to the equation. Your pistol may be in working order, but when you come across a bad round that will create a malfunction, or worse a jam or breakage that can't be cleared or corrected. I have a collection of rounds with bad primers, fired in multiple weapons to confirm the primer is defective. I have rounds that have deformed cases, a small lip at the mouth of the case that prevents it from being chambered. There is also a 9mm round which was fired in a .40 caliber pistol. Then there's the 'too much or too little powder in the case,' which needs no explanation. The point is when you get a bad round of ammo, you have a malfunction.
Magazines feed to ammo to the semi-auto weapon. They have to work properly, especially if we're talking about fighting. Things happen to magazines. The follower gets stuck in a cock-eyed position. A small rock gets inside it creating a stoppage. When you were rolling on the round trying to keep from getting kicked in the head, the mag got bent. A bad magazine will create a stoppage. This is the reason I have training/practice mags, which get abused during drills, and my operational mags, which I carry to fight with, after a thorough testing of course.
The semi-auto pistol, at least most of them, are recoil operated, which means it has to have resistance when fired to cycle properly. This is especially true for small pistols with small frames and big bullets. .40 calibers, which have sharp snappy recoil, also require plenty of resistance or you'll have failures to eject empty cases or problems chambering a fresh round. Providing the resistance necessary for the weapon to function may not be a problem on the range, until you start doing one-hand drills. On the street you may be firing from a compromised position that prevents you from getting a good two-handed grip on the weapon. In a fight, the unusual and unexpected are constantly occurring. This is fertile ground for malfunctions to pop up.
Knowing how to clear malfunctions is essential to being prepared to fight with a weapon. Understanding that you may have a jam or a breakage as opposed to a malfunction is also important. When your weapon breaks or jams, you ain't gonna clear it during the fight. This is a good reason to carry, and know how to use, a backup weapon. And, who knows, you may find that going to your backup is easier and more efficient than reloading an empty weapon or clearing a malfunction.
If you weapon has never malfunctions, then you're not training and practicing enough.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama, author of The Book of Two Guns, a staff member of several firearms/tactical publications, and an adjunct instructor for the F.B.I. (256) 582-4777 www.shootrite.org