Saturday, December 21, 2013

The 500-Round Handgun Break-In for Self-Defense...

As a long-time firearms instructor and even many more years as a firearms enthusiast, I am often asked about breaking in a new gun... is it needed, what ammo, how many rounds, etc. Over the decades, I've read a lot of information, spoken to dozens of instructors, heard from many gunsmiths... and there is no single answer, or even overall consensus... so I have developed my own recommendations, and what follows is my recommendation for breaking-in handguns for self-defense.

First of all, I am always amazed at how many people I've met that are carrying guns for self-defense that have less than a hundred rounds of ammo through them. I am further astonished at how many folks have shot their handgun, but never with the personal defense ammunition they've selected, often because it is too expensive to shoot.

You need to understand that the 500-round handgun break-in for self-defense I recommend is as much about breaking-in the gun as it is about breaking-in the shooter to the new gun. Not only will you break-in the gun, but the you will have had significant practice with the new handgun before trusting your life with it.

The 500-Round Handgun Break-In for Self-Defense requires 400-rounds of practice ammo for your gun, usually some FMJ or "Ball" ammo and 100-rounds of your selected ammunition for self-defense, often some type of hollow-point or other personal defense type of bullet and cartridge. Usually, by the time you've fired 500-rounds of the ammunition I suggest, you will either trust your life with the handgun or be parting with it as soon as possible.

This is not an inexpensive undertaking, but what is your life worth? Depending on your caliber, you are probably looking at $100 to $150 of practice ammo and $100 to $150 of your personal defense ammo. You don't have to do all the shooting on the same day.  Here are the basic steps I recommend:

  1. Thoroughly clean your new handgun as recommended by the manufacturer... yeah, read the manual. Most folks over-lubricate their handguns and many semi-autos only need a couple of drops of lubricant in strategic places.
  2. Use all your magazines and speed-loaders... number or mark them so you know which is which in case you ever have a problem.
  3. Shoot the first 100-rounds of practice ammo practicing loading and reloading. Get to know your gun. Adjust the sights if needed. Try a few shots one-handed with each hand. Learn the operation and manipulation of the gun.
  4. Shoot the second 100-rounds of practice ammo. Load your magazines to capacity if you haven't yet done so. If you haven't had any malfunctions, try randomly loading an occasional dummie-round and practice clearing some malfunctions to better acquaint you with the gun. If you've had a couple of malfunctions with the gun, not the ammo, at this point, I'm usually not too worried because the freshly machined parts of the new guns are starting to wear and work together.
  5. If you haven't cleaned your gun thoroughly since you started the break-in  process, give it a good cleaning at this point. Just like that first oil-change on your new car, this cleaning will get rid of any initial build-up of grime, residue, and/or left over gun-grease you missed with the first cleaning and and grit or microscopic shavings left over from the manufacturing process. This is also a good time to do a thorough inspection of the gun. Anything coming loose? Screws needing tightened? Something needing some blue-medium thread locker to hold it in place? Any pins backing out?
  6. Fire 20 to 25-rounds of your personal defense ammo to check feeding, function, reliability, and accuracy. You don't often see a lot of change for the point of impact when switching between a lot of handgun ammo, but sometimes you do. Adjust sights accordingly if needed. If you have feeding problems, you may want to try some different personal defense ammo. I have seen some semi-autos that just do not like feeding hollow-point bullets.
  7. Fire your third set of 100 rounds of practice ammunition. Practice drawing and reloading from concealment if you can. Use a timer and start really refining your accuracy and precision with your new gun. If you are having significant reliability problems at this point (like a malfunction every few rounds), then it's time to contact the manufacturer and send it in.
  8. Fire your second set of 20 to 25-rounds of your personal defense ammo. Check your accuracy and precision against the clock. If you're shooting 9mm 115gr. FMJ for practice and switch to 9mm+P 124gr. JHP for personal defense... is the recoil affecting your accuracy and precision? Your handing of the gun and follow-up shots?
  9. Now comes my final test. I like to be able to run through the last 100-rounds of practice ammo and then the remaining 50 to 60-rounds of personal defense ammo with no, make that ZERO, problems or malfunctions that are gun-related.
  10. At this point, you and your gun have had plenty of time and practice to adequately break-in and get used to operating with reliability and consistency for every-day use and carry. If you've reached this point and are still having any regular or periodic malfunctions that are gun-related and not ammo related... it's probably time to have the manufacturer take a look at it, if that didn't occur at step 7.
I have numerous handguns, like our multiple Ruger SR9's and SR9c's, SR1911, LCP's, LCR, and Glock 19, that have passed through this break-in process without a problem.  We're currently working our Glock 26 and Ruger LC9 through the process. On the other hand, I've had some handguns, like our Kel-Tec 3AT, that can't make it through this process reliably... even after two trips back to Kel-Tec.

Now, have I ever carried a gun for self-defense that didn't have the 500-rounds of break-in through it... sure... but I have never carried a gun on duty or for self-defense that I hadn't shot enough, including with my personal defense ammo, to have confidence in it's reliability. I have one Ruger SR9 that I used for Todd Green's 2,000-round challenge.  It came out of the box without even being cleaned and ran for 2,619-rounds without any cleaning or lubrication before a stove-pipe caused the first malfunction. That is not how I recommend breaking-in a new gun.

Well, you have my recommendation for breaking in a handgun, what's yours?  Or do you have any thoughts on... The 500-Round Handgun Break-In for Self-Defense...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

One-handed work for guns and prepping...

A lot of folks who practice regularly with their firearms still forget about working with their off-hand, or weak-side and developing one-handed firearm manipulation skills. I have had the pleasure of instructing firearms for several folks over the years who have had challenges due to physical handicaps or conditions... some permanent and some temporary... that have required them to adapt and overcome to be effective with their firearms and other activities.

My wife has had a torn tendon in her off-hand arm for a couple of years... and cortisone shots were no longer effective... and she could barely use the arm and hand. So, back before Thanksgiving, my gal had surgery to repair a torn tendon in her fore-arm.  The surgeon installed a couple of metal studs in her elbow to suture the tendon to as it healed... and then put a massive cast on her arm from the upper arm to the fingers to keep her wrist and fingers from moving too much, but enough to do some manipulation to help the healing process. Aside from having to deal with a cast for several weeks, she'll be looking at several months of rehab after Christmas when the cast comes off.

This had provided a great opportunity for us to re-focus on what works and doesn't work when we lose the use of an arm or hand.  There are plenty of techniques that can be used and readily adapted to different tasks such as loading, cycling the slide, and operating your firearm.  There are many other daily tasks that a prepping-minded person should think through too.

Here are some thoughts to challenge you:

  1. Try taping up or putting a mitten on one of your hands.  Now try operating your firearm or doing other daily tasks that way.  How did you do?  What modifications will you need to undertake to make things work for you?
  2. Check your firearms and equipment for one-handed or limited strength operation. Can you make it work? Do you need modifications like sights on your handgun that are made to help you cycle the action by catching on a belt or boot? Do you need to carry or position your firearm or equipment differently? If you're right-handed and lose use of that hand or arm... do you have a left-side holster?
  3. Have you worked on ambidexterity lately? Try going through an entire day at home and/or work using just your off-hand, weak-side hand and arm... something I try to do on occasion. How do you draw your gun?  How do you shift your vehicle into drive or between gears? How do you write?

These are just some ideas to consider. I think that while there are standard procedures that work with many firearms, everyone needs to learn and adapt techniques to their own needs.  Just don't forget to think well beyond firearms... as there are many other daily, prepping, and self-defense considerations to think through.

You will find that no matter how good your physical condition is, no matter how good you think you are... that time, age, and circumstances may render you needing to adapt. I once had an elderly gal in my NRA Basic Pistol/Ohio CCW course that had terrible arthritis problems. She could do just about everything with a semi-auto handgun except cycle the action... she just couldn't get a strong enough grip on it. I suggested that she look at some tip-up barrel guns like Beretta's offerings so she could load with out having to pull the slide back... and she's now the proud owner of a Beretta 84 with a tip-up barrel which she shoots with very proficiently.

So what have you done to prepare for... One-handed work for guns and prepping...