New Carry Gun Testing Procedure

Have you ever bought a gun and immediately loaded it, put it in a holster and then relied on it to be ready and able to run if a defensive situation were to arise? I know I have … and I know that I shouldn’t have!

Image of a Glock 261 gun

No matter how cool your new gun is, don’t carry it unless you have tested it. This Glock 26L Custom sat waiting for three days after I took delivery until I could test it.

While there are certainly more foolish things you could do, such as choose to carry a gun that you know is not reliable, carrying an untested gun is pretty high on the list. Regardless of how you acquire a gun or what you have been told of its history, I implore you to personally test it with several hundred rounds, all the magazines you are going to use with it, the holster you intend to draw from, and the exact ammunition you will be loading for carry.

Here is my recommended procedure:

1. Examine the gun for any obvious flaws/defects/damage. If the gun doesn’t look safe to fire or there is any obvious damage (beyond cosmetic), don’t shoot it! Take it to a qualified armorer for that gun design.

Image of a tested gun on top of ammunition

Only after thorough testing should you rely on a new gun for defensive use.

2. Confirm that the firearm is unloaded … again, and preferably have someone else check as well. Then function check any and all buttons or levers, including the trigger.

3. Check that all the magazines you intend to use will seat easily and drop free (if designed to).

4. Ensure that the gun goes into and comes out of your intended carry holster appropriately, and that the trigger area is completely covered when the gun is holstered. Be sure to check this while wearing the holster.

5. Slow fire one magazine of practice ammo.

Image of gun and boxed ammunition

Gather both practice and carry ammunition when you head to the range to test a new carry gun.

6. Rapid fire one magazine of practice ammo.

7. Check sight alignment/sight picture and point of aim/point of impact. This session will also give you a chance to get used to the finer points of the trigger.

8. Work through several magazines of rapid fire on plausible sized targets (torso/chest/head) at plausible defensive distances (seven to 20 feet).

Image of a firearm inside a new carry

Be sure to test your new firearm with the intended carry holster, magazines and specific ammunition!

9. Work through several “downloaded” magazines to check that you are definitely recognizing slide lock.

10. After 100 to 150 rounds, begin practicing from the holster. Start slowly at first, with single shots, then build up to rapid presentations and rapid strings of fire. Add in startle response and lateral movement congruent with your current training and practice for defensive shooting situations.

Image of a gun with a colt malfunction

Any malfunction during your testing period needs to be specifically accounted for as an anomaly or be taken as a sign that the gun is not ready to be used for personal defense.

11. When you have successfully fired at least 200 rounds of practice ammunition, load at least 50 rounds of the exact ammunition you intend to carry and run through drills from steps 8, 9 and 10. If at any point in this testing procedure, you encounter a malfunction, you must identify the source of the problem before carrying the firearm for personal defense. There are any number of reasons you might have a malfunction during these tests and yet still have a perfectly acceptable carry gun, to include a bad magazine, bad ammunition, or user error (not caused by overcomplicated gun style!).

It is very important when analyzing the cause of a malfunction that you not rationalize away a real problem. Rationalizing problems with reliability is a sure sign that you are more of a gun collector than a person seriously interested in personal defense. There is nothing wrong with being a gun collector, of course … as long as you don’t rely on your collectibles for your safety!

Following this advice may not be easy. It takes some discipline and you will be forced to delay some of the satisfaction that comes with acquiring a new gun. Trust me, I know! This very week, I took delivery of a new carry gun that I was very excited about … but I didn’t carry it until I’d taken the time to be a big boy and actually follow my own advice. I have often given students, friends and even random acquaintances grief for getting a shiny new gun, loading it, sticking it in a holster and then relying on it for personal defense without testing it. So I waited until I could head to the range and actually test it. I mean really running the gun through its paces. A couple hundred rounds of practice ammo, with rapid fire and reloads. Some higher-level precision shooting to verify sight alignment, and of course a minimum 50-round 100% reliability check with my intended carry ammunition (Winchester PDX1).

Group of students practicing at the shooting range

Taking a potential new carry gun through a class is probably the best way to test it before relying on it.

The next time you get a potential carry gun, be sure you do some testing with it before you count on it to protect yourself or others.

Discussion
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29 Responses to “New Carry Gun Testing Procedure”
  1. ERNEST WHITE

    I have 2 sidearms I have not fired as yet. I have yet been able to test them out. Hope to be able to test them both while on vacation in early November.

    Reply
  2. Bob

    So true! Even for revolvers. My magic number is 300 rounds. I once had a revolver, bought new, that failed first at 60 rounds and a third time at 180 rounds which sent it back to factory repair. Don’t take anything for granted.

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  3. Mick

    I agree. The cash outlay for ammo might be off-putting, especially the performance ammo intended for carry; it doesn’t take long to put $100 downrange for insurance with magazines, feed ramps, recoil impulse, etc. I’ve personally had almost nil problems with revolvers (big S&W fan there) but have had a few sighting and function issues with striker-fired Taurus 709; it has always run, but I ran out of windage; the company was kind enough to replace the slide and zero problems since.

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  4. Tom

    Sounds like good advice…I just bought a Glock 19 gen4 this week and will be following what he said.

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  5. Gene1001

    So true. Fixed my favorite gun and tested some. But not enough to feel comfortable to carry it.

    Reply
  6. Bill Kelly

    Can we go back to Number One?

    1. Read the owners manual. Ensure you are familiar with all functions and safety features of the firearm.
    2. Research your firearm with as many Internet message boards as you can. If you search for your firearm, you will find a Forum for your weapon. See what previous owners have experienced about the various functions.
    3. Clean your firearm per your manufacturer’s instructions, and, see Number Two for additional tips.

    Return to the list, other than acknowledge you will go through at least four holsters, and perhaps add-ons or customizations. Keep practicing.

    Reply
  7. TenRing

    Great tips, greatly appreciated. I have encountered one problem, and maybe it’s because of the highly anti-gun state I live in. We are forbidden from drawing from the holster on the range. Even with no magazine, drawing from holster is a no-go.
    Only alternative for me, and I recommend this highly for anyone who is considering concealed carry, are courses offered by my range for CC and defensive carry. There they let you shoot hundreds (if not more!) of rounds, from the holster, in the dark, off hand, and provide situational awareness and a thorough understanding of local law. The more knowledge and practice you have, the better shooter you will be. Oh yeah, and join the NRA and support the Second Amendment!

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  8. liz

    Excellent information. I am new to gun ownership and have been getting what I need to be safe, eye, ears, gun safe etc. I am just ready to buy THE gun and holster. Perfect timing to read this. Thanks again

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  9. Rufus Peckham

    My CCW is an American Tactical Titan in .45 ACP. I’ve test fired it into doubled, thick, wet phone books with Hornady Critical Defense loads and am well satisfied with both penetration and expansion.

    Reply
  10. Oh45

    For my first concealed service weapon, I purchased a new Colt Officers ACP in .45 When testing it, found it handled practice ball ammo with no problems but would FTF on every third round or so with defensive ammo. Had the ramp polished and no problems for over 30 years now other than the occasional magazine that goes bad. Testing any new firearm with the steps listed, and reading the owners manual, is a must for anyone depending on that weapon for their life. There are no excuses in this issue. Just because it’s new and expensive doesn’t make it 100% operable.

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  11. Tony D.

    I put a gun issued to be by the armory in my holster and then relied on it to be ready and able for a month. I asked for ammo to go practice but was told they test fired it and we had a qualification in a month. I worked the road as a motorcycle officer for the next month. At the range when we lined up and the shoot was started, the cylinder in the gun would not turn and the gun would not fire. There was a piece of shell casing between the cylinder rod and cylinder. The armory Tec thought it was funny, I did not, there was just about a fist fight when he laughed. Always test a gun as soon as you get it. At least dry fire it to make sure it functions.

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  12. DR

    Retired from U.S.Navy. While on active duty I was qualified as a Range Master by a Chief Warrant Officer U.S. Marine Corps. After that I had to qualify all the men who would carry weapons while on watch on board the ships.I can tell everyone from my experience on the range that your training ideas are spot on. I still go to the range twice a month. The key word here is steady reputation. You do the right thing over and over again the same ways, in time it will become second nature to you and you can do it automatically. PRACTICE, PRACTICE and PRACTICE. GOOD SHOOTING EVERYONE. DR

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  13. Usmcguy

    Also be aware of any new gun grease, lube you are not familiar with. I picked up a demo tube of a product at a gun store, put it on one of my carry revolvers. Two months later I drew it on the range and the cylinder would not turn as the lube had for some reason hardened in to a crust and was dragging on the cylinder. I now note on a tag what I put on a gun before storage in the safe so I know what product caused the issue or did not like, cold, heat or humidity. Only ever happened once in 20 years of carrying, but sure would have ruined my day in a gun fight.

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  14. Chad Gray

    So true. I purchased a used Kahr K40. Everything looked good. Took it to the range the next day and the trigger spring broke after the 2nd shot. Sent it back to Kahr who took care of the matter with great customer service. The gun is my primary CCW tool so it pays to test, learn and train with every weapon you depend on.

    Reply
  15. Jack Wingerter

    Very good testing procedures, step by step safety checks. Making sure a new or any weapon is working the way it was designed is paramount! Thanks for the refresher course!

    Reply
  16. burns

    A gun can malfunction at any time, it’s like walking out of your doctors office with a clean bill of health, and droping dead from a heart attack later that day. I shoot 1 or 2 boxes of ammo then 2 mags of my carry ammo through as many mags as I own for that gun. If it works it works, there is no guarantee after 500 rounds that 501 won’t work. It’s not like the more the better, 100 rounds of shooting 50 out of 2 mags, is all you will need. It’s going to fail within that framework. Unless it’s a 1911 like a Kimber that supposedly requires a 500 round minimum. I would never own such a pistol. It should work out of the box. 50 years of gun carry and ownership has taught me if a gun is finicky more than once, it will screw up again 2 years later. It ain’t worth it. Don’t sell guns for 2 grand that don’t work until the owner spends another 500 in ammo on it. I grew up carrying a revolver and back in the 60’s and 70’s no one ever fired 500 rounds of anything to break in a gun. I have owned a hundred pistols, and never owned a Glock that didn’t work the first time and every time after, why would you carry anything else. You may own exotic guns but not for carry.

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  17. Henry

    I do one step further. I sweeten the pistol I’m carrying by firing 3 to five rounds after cleaning. With the new powders and primers the chance of corrosion is very very small. There is always a chance of an internal piece falling out… some obstruction. Learned the value this some 40 plus years ago when in law enforcement my partners weapon misfired. My father taught me this .. it also gives weapon more accuracy

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  18. Chuck

    Great article! I agree with all with add’l tasks: Pre-clean new weapon and mags, factory dry lube ok for shipment but not wear in use. Apply correct amount of wet lube over sliding, rotating points. Have learned to check for mfg burrs not removed and take care of them before they damage mating parts. Brand new S&W SV40DE failed FTL/FTF on first round out of box, deburred and lubed, then ran 4 mags through 100%. Found 115’s and 124’s ran fine in a SigSauer P938 yet 147’s too long for mag and FTL. Freedom 50 grain .357 Mags seized in all cylinders on a dependable Ruger, had to use shothead mallet to remove stuck cases. Same results with different gun and another box. Won’t buy it again. ALWAYS check the ammo you are going to carry.

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  19. Garrett Opolko

    Excellent article, I personally run 500 rds. threw my gun before carrying but agree 250 – 300 and if there is a problem it will show up. Of my 2 carry guns the 3″ has 600 threw it and my main carry a 4″ has 1500

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