You did your research, watched or read every available review and then purchased, what for you is, the perfect handgun. If you are like me, you made your wife drive home from the gun store so you could ride along while foundling your new loved one. Nothing is more frustrating or disheartening than to put a few rounds through your new, perfect for you pistol, only to discover that your gun does not work. This is more common than you might think.
You did your research, watched or read every available review and then purchased, what is for you, the perfect handgun. If you are like me, you made your wife drive home from the gun store so you could ride along while foundling your new loved one. Come on guys, admit it, you do the same thing.
Once you arrive at home, you, like all responsible gun owners detail strip and clean your new gun before firing… right. These newly manufactured guns tend to be full of all manner of junk including metal filings, dust, and grit. I once had a new striker fired pistol that had and extreme gritty feel while pulling the trigger. What I discovered was a large metal filing inside the slide striker channel. This caused the striker to bind and grind while the trigger was being pulled.
You really ought to clean your new gun before firing it. I recommend the following procedure for a first time cleaning. Detail strip the gun. This means disassembling the slide to remove the striker and other major components. Then, use a can of WD-40, with the straw applicator attached to carefully flush out the slide, paying particular attention to internal cavities where foreign objects tend to collect. I like to hold the slide over a bowl to catch the dripping WD-40 and all junk that is flushed from the gun, so that I can see what was in it. I repeat the process, flushing out all internal parts of the frame. It has always amazed me to see the size and number of significant chunks of junk that fall from a shiny new gun.
WD-40 is not an acceptable gun lube so I grab a cloth, some cleaning patches and completely dry the gun. The next step is to apply a suitable lubricant to all moving parts. I have tried all kinds of expensive specialized gun lubes and in the end… found a better and simpler solution. In my gun cabinet, I have one quart of Automatic Transmission Fluid. This is a high quality lubricant that is designed to withstand heat and pressures that a gun will never experience. I figure that since it can protect a hot and continuously running transmission worth many thousands of dollars, it will faithfully serve my handguns, which are worth much less. Additionally, this fluid includes a detergent that works, for me, as good as any gun solvent I have used. I love the stuff, it works great and it is cheap.
Speaking of alternative lubricants, I recommend one other working solution. A few years ago, I and a friend were on the range shooting our ARs. His gun began to short cycle, failing to lock back on and empty magazine, failing to eject spent cases, etc. Neither of us had lube in our bags. I walked to my truck, pulled the dip stick and wiped the exposed oil on my fingers. I then began wiping the oil on his bolt and bolt carrier. His initial reaction was to freak out a bit so I assured him that no laws were being broken. His gun ran without a hitch for the rest of the day. Standard motor oil is also an excellent gun lube. In my gun cabinet, there is a second quart bottle, filled with synthetic motor oil, which I have used with great success for many years.
These two quarts of automotive lubricant will see to my gun lube needs for the rest of my life and only cost me a few dollars. It’s your money, would you rather spend it on expensive and specialized gun lubes or more ammo?
Once your gun is reassembled, it is time to head to the range. Nothing is more frustrating or disheartening than to put a few rounds through your new, perfect for you pistol, only to discover that your gun does not work. This is more common than you might think.
I recently purchased a new FNS9 and after the initial cleaning, it ran flawlessly. It ran so perfectly that my wife took it from me. Hey! It was obvious to me that I would only get my gun back if we bought one for her as well. A few weeks later, we went to the store and picked up an FNS9C, which is a slightly smaller version of my full sized pistol.
After the initial cleaning, we took it to the range to check it out. Immediately, it was obvious that the gun was short stroking. This means that for whatever reason, the slid was not fully cycling. Because the slide was not traveling fully to the rear after every shot, it sometimes failed to pick up a new round from the magazine and would therefore close on an empty chamber. Other times, it would move to the rear far enough to strip a new round from the magazine but lacked the energy to fully chamber that round. When a gun is short stroking, it will often times fail to lock back on an empty magazine. This is a common problem with a new gun. Thankfully, the resolution is not difficult.
The problem is typically caused by surface areas between the frame and the slide that are not properly polished. These rough surfaces tend to drag and slow everything down to the point that the gun will fail. This necessary polishing will generally occur with a little bit of use. In the case of my wife’s gun, it meant many cycles of the slide on the rail. This can be accomplished by shooting the gun, but this method is a bit expensive and… it is never fun to shoot a gun that won’t run. So instead, each evening when I sat down to watch the news, I grabbed her gun and rapidly racked the slide until my arms burned. This is good exercise and it polished the gun. A few days later, we went back to the range and little gun functioned flawlessly.
Last summer a young lady came to my range for some training. The gun she brought was totally inappropriate for defensive firearms training. She said that she would be purchasing a new gun soon so I let her use my FNS9 and a holster. She progressed through the one day course without any problems.
A few weeks later, she returned for more training and brought a brand new H&K VP9. Just as soon as she began shooting, we discovered that her new gun was short stroking and producing the same errors that my wife’s FNS9C had experienced. I asked to shoot her H&K and the gun ran flawlessly. This illustrates an interesting point. The smaller the shooter, the more likely it is that short stroking will occur with a new gun. I, being roughly 200 pounds with bigger hands, arms, and shoulders produced a more stable platform for the gun. I was being pushed around much less than this girl who I would estimate to weigh little more than 100 pounds. Because she was smaller, when the recoil drove her slide to the rear, the frame in her hand followed the slide more than it did when it was in my hand. This is commonly know as limp wristing.
Because she, in a previous training session, had shot my FNS9 without any trouble, I knew that she was not the problem and suspected that her gun only needed a bit of use to correct the failures. Later, she reported that after a week of racking the slide and after firing 150 to 200 rounds, her gun is is functioning with absolute reliability.
I have listed striker fired pistols that I easily recommend. I do not have a preference, so I present them to you in alphabetic order. I think you can buy any of these with confidence. But, remember, all are subject to the new gun failures we have discussed. Don’t panic, just apply the corrections described. In the end, I think you will have a gun that you can trust to defend those dear ones, that you love most.