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Reliability of a Defensive Firearm

The absolute #1 requirement concerning a defensive handgun is – It must be 100% reliable.

In a defensive situation, you need the handgun to function when you need it to function RIGHT HERE & RIGHT NOW!

You don’t know when that’s going to be –
You don’t know how long you’ll need it to work –
You don’t know what conditions you’ll be under when you need it to work…

One handed –
Weak handed –
In the rain –
From the holster –
From the ready –
From an off-balanced shooting position –
From the quick access safe –
The only thing you can say about the use of a defensive handgun is it’s going to be a LIFE & DEATH SITUATION!

The very nature of a defensive situation is you need to use it when you have no other option.
The option of waiting for the police to arrive is gone –
The option for running away is gone –
The option for talking and reasoning is gone –
The option for some lower level of force is gone –
Whatever the case, you need the handgun to work the first time and every time.

If the handgun doesn’t function reliably –
If it doesn’t come out of the holster reliably –
If it doesn’t get into action quickly and fire the first shot reliably –
If it doesn’t continue to fire reliably until the threat has stopped –
YOU ARE POSSIBLY GOING TO DIE and the people you are trying to protect are going to die!

Reliability MUST be at the top of the list.
That list is going to include a number of things –

  • The handgun should absolutely fit your hand correctly.
  • It should be one that you can operate both one-handed and two-handed conveniently and efficiently, even under concealment.
  • It should be consistent with other handguns you use so you don’t have to learn multiple types of handguns.
  • Naturally, it should be one that you like to shoot and that you can shoot well.
  • It must be of a caliber that’s capable of stopping someone so they can no longer hurt you.

In determining the reliability of a defensive handgun and before you have to use it in defense of life, Make sure the handgun can operate as expected.
Before you even load the handgun;

  • Make sure all the buttons and levers operate as they are supposed to –
  • Make sure the trigger is operating properly –
  • Make sure any safeties or de-cockers are working properly –
  • Make sure the magazine release is operating properly and that any and all magazines you have for the handgun properly drop free when released –
  • Make sure the slide stop operates properly and that it locks open on an empty magazine.

If it’s a revolver, make sure the cylinder release operates properly and that the ejection rod ejects the spent rounds cleanly and efficiently.

Once you get the handgun loaded, you want to make sure it functions properly and is actually safe to use. When you press the trigger, the handgun should be controllable as the bullet goes out the muzzle, the empty case should fly from the ejection port cleanly and freely and the next round should come from the magazine and load into the chamber without any hang up’s ready for the next shot.

Once you are comfortable that you know how to use the handgun and that it’s working properly, you want to set a benchmark. Budget and time are going to be a consideration here but a good starting point is 100 full-metal jacket rounds and 50 rounds of the defensive hollow-point rounds you are planning to carry in the handgun. Fire all 100 rounds of the FMJ non-stop then follow-up with the hollow-points right after, also non-stop. Reload your magazines as needed. Do not let the handgun cool down in between magazines! If you have not tested any defensive rounds in your handgun, buy small amounts until you find some that will feed reliably for the test. They are expensive.

A very important part of this process is to use all the magazines you might use with the handgun and make sure they work repeatedly. Make sure you can go through several reloads and multiple loading and unloading of the magazines without any failures. Make sure that unloaded magazine fall freely of the handgun.

If the gun fails during testing, especially with hollow-point rounds, try a different hollow-point. There are many guns out there that will function just fine with one brand of hollow-points but not so with another. If the gun continues to malfunction, DO NOT CARRY IT! Have it checked by a qualified gunsmith or contact the company and return it to them for repair. If it continues to have problems, get a different handgun altogether.
DO NOT try and rationalize that the handgun is ok and that it might be able to be fixed. I would never carry a handgun I thought might even remotely have problems with reliability.

Holsters are also a very important part of a defensive handgun. If your handgun doesn’t smoothly go into the holster, could possibly fall out when carried, or if the trigger can be exposed at any time, the holster is not reliable enough to be used for personal defense. Similarly if you can’t get the handgun conveniently and efficiently out of the holster and present it into a good shooting position or at least into a ready position (if you have enough warning), the holster is not going to be reliable enough for personal defense.

There is no greater attribute than reliability when it comes to a defensive handgun. Your life and the lives of those you protect hang in the balance when it comes to your defensive handgun that must be ready right here and right now!

Be sure to put reliability at the top of the list!

Be Safe and Stay in Condition Yellow,

Rick Cross
Be Safe Firearms Instruction
Las Vegas, Nevada.

Be Safe CCW

Mobile: (702) 275-1625


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