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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.