Thursday, September 7, 2023

Quit Blowing Up Your Pistols

Quit Blowing Up Your Pistols

In yet another example of how to blow up your pistol, a competitor in a recent pistol match very forcefully hit the back of his pistol’s slide with his left palm in an attempt to clear the malfunction. As he struck the slide, the round detonated in the ejection port.  

At one point, hitting the back of the slide was a commonly taught response to a 1911 pistol failing to go into battery. However as we see in this incident, that may not be a very good idea and indeed could be very dangerous.

The competitor was recording a video of his match so we had the ability to analyze what happened. In picture #1, you can see that there is no round in the chamber. In picture #2 you can see that a round has “nose-dived” into the magazine and was likely holding the slide to the rear. In the video, you can see the competitor pull the slide to the rear to attempt to clear the malfunction which seems to exacerbate the problem because the slide ends up stuck further to the rear.

In picture #3 you can see the competitor’s hand an instant before he slams the slide forward. Note the slide’s position in relation to the muzzle. In picture #4 we see the instant the round detonated in the ejection port—note the slide’s position. The competitor hit the slide so hard he easily forced it forward an inch or more. The competitor received relatively minor cuts since his hand was not directly over the ejection port. The pistol was not seriously damaged, but the magazine was ruined.

So what caused the round to detonate? Before everyone starts—NO, it was not the ejector. The arrow in picture #5 shows the part of the slide which strips a round from the magazine and inserts it in the chamber when the slide moves forward ( I do not know what this part is called and could not find any info identifying the part). When the round nose-dived into the magazine, it perfectly positioned the primer in the path of the slide. Picture #6 shows the detonated round’s primer. Picture #7 shows that the primer fits perfectly into this part of the slide.

As I researched this article, some additional information became available. Earlier in the video the competitor was having feeding problems with his pistol. He mentioned that he had recently replaced the magazine base pads with “+4” extensions without replacing the magazine springs. This coupled with the fact that the magazines were not new may have contributed to the feeding problems and the nose-dive. If you are going to change or add anything to your pistol that takes it out of factory specifications, make sure that the change works.

In my classes I teach that the proper response to a click instead of a bang is to tap the magazine (to ensure it is properly seated) and rack the slide—tap, rack. This will often clear the malfunction. If it does not, the proper response is to lock the slide back, aggressively strip the magazine out, and then reload the pistol and continue to fire if the circumstances so warrant. With the proliferation of striker fired pistols, beating the back of the slide is an outdated technique that is counterproductive.

After reloading, if it does not fire you probably have a broken pistol that's not going to be easily fixed on the spot. If you are under assault, the proper response at that point is to aggressively depart the area or take other necessary action.

Finally, when serving as a match Safety Officer, I have become more aggressive with stopping a shooter when I see them excessively struggling with a malfunction.  This is the fifth incident of this nature that I have direct knowledge of over the past ten years in the San Antonio area. I doubt that it is only happening here. I have noticed that as competitors begin to struggle, the chances of them doing something unsafe rises quickly. These are matches, not life or death situations. If a competitor is having problems we are better off stopping them and allowing them safely resolve the problem and then to reshoot (if necessary) before we permit something unsafe.

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