Sunday, March 17, 2013

Maintaining Your Carry Pistol

When it comes to small concealed carry pistols, people seem to fall into one of two general groups.  I call group one the Active Shooters and group two I label as the Passive Shooters.  Depending on circumstances, a person may end up exclusively in one group or the other.  I think most folks will find that they move between the two groups as their life conditions change over the course of years and decades.

Passive shooters will buy a concealed carry handgun, practice with it enough to pass their concealed carry shooting proficiency test, and not shoot again until their permit or license is due for renewal.  I was a Passive Shooter for a few years.  I wanted to shoot more, but I was living abroad and made infrequent trips back home.  When I was home for a visit, shooting wasn't a priority so I did what I had to do to keep my CHL up to date, but shot very little.

For the last several years, I've been part of the Active Shooters group.  People in this group have the time and resources available for frequent practice sessions and may run several hundred to several thousand rounds through their carry pistol annually.  People in this group tend to complain more about reliability issues with their pistols simply because they have a greater opportunity to experience problems than the folks in the Passive Group.  They also put much more stress on their pistols and need to take a proactive approach to maintaining their pistol.

In this article, I'm assuming that both the Active and Passive Shooter Groups have the same standards for keeping their pistol clean.  I may cover cleaning in another article, but for this article I'm focusing on Preventative Maintenance to keep your pistol in top shape.

When you are cleaning your pistol, make sure you look for wear.  Pay particularly close attention to the recoil system.  I shoot small 9mm pistols frequently and these light weight guns rely heavily on the recoil springs to operate correctly.  Recently, I was tearing down my Kahr PM9 for cleaning.  I happened to notice the inner recoil spring cap was getting a bit gouged up by the outer recoil spring.  Since I shoot this pistol frequently, I had previously ordered a spare recoil spring assembly and thought that I might as well change it out since the original assembly had been in the pistol since 2008, when it was purchased.   

In the picture below I have the old spring on the left and the new spring on the right.  It is quite normal for springs to shorten a bit as they take a "set", but I didn't expect to see such a big difference in outer spring length.  You can also see how neatly the inner spring coils line up on the old recoil system versus the inner spring of the new recoil system.  It appears the new inner spring is longer and under more compression while at rest. 

Did I need to change out the recoil spring assembly?  I'm not sure since I couldn't find a Manufacturer recommended spring change interval in the manual.  I shoot +P in this PM9 frequently for ammo tests or just for general practice.  It makes me feel better to have a full strength recoil spring assembly in place.  It certainly won't hurt the reliability of the pistol.

Let's contrast this proactive recoil spring change with another experience I had last year.

I received my Diamondback DB9 in 2011.  It is another small 9mm that I shoot frequently.  I estimate about 3000 rounds went through the pistol during the first 18 months I owned it.  One day at the range the slide wouldn't come back far enough to pick up the next round in the magazine.  When I got it home, I discovered the frame had chipped and it was preventing the slide from cycling far enough to complete the loading cycle.  The area circled in the photo below acts as a slide stop if the recoil spring doesn't slow the slide down during the recoil and loading cycle.

Consulting the DB9 Owner's Manual revealed nothing about recoil spring change interval.  A call to Diamondback had a new recoil assembly on its ways to me immediately.  I believe that if I had been more proactive and switched out the recoil assembly after 2000 or 2500 rounds, I wouldn't have experienced the chipped frame.

I have more examples, but I think you get the point.  If you have small semi auto pistols that you shoot frequently, take a few minutes to re-read the Owner's Manual and see if the Manufacturer has anything in the manual about periodic parts replacement.  If so, then please follow their guidance.  If they don't and you think you fall into the Active Shooter group, then consider investing some funds in replacement recoil springs, magazine springs, and magazine followers.  I consider these items to be subjected to the most stress during firing.  If you like to run hot ammunition in your pistol, consider a more frequent preventative maintenance schedule with these items.

Your pistol really isn't that much different than your car or truck.  If you use it frequently, then you need to service it frequently to keep it running and reliable.  If you get lax with maintenance, you may find yourself stranded with a broken down vehicle.  The last thing you want is a broken down pistol if you ever find yourself in a position where you most need it to work.

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