Thursday, June 05, 2014

Maybe Its You

*** Editor's Note:  This is the first guest post by Athor Pel.   Enjoy.***

I didn't grow up with lots of guns in the house and no pistols at all other than air guns. We didn't have the money for it and my Dad didn't hunt anyway. So as I was growing up the only exposure I had to guns outside of what my Dad owned, long guns all, was to read about them. And about all I read was Guns and Ammo. It was all I had. No internet back then.

The first pistol I ever fired was my uncle's .22 magnum revolver in my teens and I didn't hit a thing. That we were using shot shells probably didn't help. But I did learn something, it's harder to hit stuff with a pistol.

I was an adult and well into my thirties before I owned my first pistol. In shooting it I found that yes, I was still a terrible shot with a pistol. This was a little discouraging. Shooting long guns all my life meant that I was used to being able to hit my point of aim or at least get very close to it. Having a short sight radius makes a huge difference.

I did get somewhat better in time but I'm still not anywhere close to an accomplished shooter with a pistol, auto or revolver. This article is about what I have learned, about pistols and about myself. For all those with much more trigger time, this article really isn't for you. That's the background.

I own pistols in most of the popular pistol calibers. I can't remember whether the first one I purchased was the Browing Hi-Power in 9mm or the Berreta Model 96 in .40 S&W. I bought them both new. I've put more rounds through the Hi-Power and I've had more problems with it too. As I explain things you will see me come to many false conclusions.

The Hi-Power would reliably have a failure to extract a fired case toward the end of the second magazine within one shooting session. It would have seemingly random failures to feed as well.

My first thought was that the chamber was too rough and that roughness was retarding the extraction of the case. I ran some emery cloth over the chamber walls and the feed ramp with finger pressure only, didn't even change the appearance of the tool marks. I thank God I didn't get too serous about this 'fix'. Oh my the ignorance.

My second thought was that the extractor spring wasn't strong enough. I was so certain of it that I bought another spring though I have yet to install it. My immediate next thought was that it was the main spring. I did replace that. It didn't really change anything.

After a few more boxes of ammo and more time I found about limp wristing and yes, I had been limp wristing. For those that don't know, for a semi-auto pistol to cycle reliably it needs a firm foundation. Simply, the shooter needs to strongly grip the pistol and actively resist the recoil. After learning this my failures to extract or feed went down in number but did not stop.

After more reading and more shooting I began to think it was my mags. They were factory 10 round magazines with a very rough finish on them. I thought the finish had to be something of a factor and sure enough it was. My proof came after I bought some aftermarket magazines. I got some shiny new 13 round Mec-Gars, they had a very smooth finish. I had been wanting to replace the legally mandated 10 round mags for some time since the Hi-Power was originally designed with 13 rounders.

I loaded up the new mags, put one in the pistol and proceeded to fire all 13 rounds without a failure. I then did the same with the next mag and the next and next. All four mags shot without a problem. It was like a new gun.

What you've read condensed here in one narrative literally took me years to live through. It wasn't the chamber roughness, it wasn't the extractor spring, it wasn't the main spring, it was my limp wristing and the crappy factory magazines.

Bottom line, that bum pistol that just doesn't work like you think it ought to, it might not be the pistol, it might be you.. or your magazines.

***Editor's Note 2: We should applaud Athor's courage for confessing publicly to limp wristing. Lots of guys have done it when they were younger and didn't know any better. Don't judge. He probably didn't even like it.  And obviously the moral to the story is... Dad's...  if you don't keep guns in your house and teach your kids to shoot correctly... you may raise a limp wrister.  Don't raise a limp wrister.  ***


WaterBoy said...

Good article, Athor Pel. My son ran into the same problem with bad magazines, albeit with a long gun.

I'll certainly keep this in mind in the future, too.

Res Ipsa said...


EVERY SHOOTER has a learning curve. The only way to shorten that curve is by good instruction and great coaching. That's just the way it is, for everybody. Guys like to think that because we are guys we automatically should be great with guns. We're not.

Male shooters tend to focus in on one aspect of the game at a time. Sometimes we search for the answer in the equipment (like you did at first). Sometimes we focus on technique and performance. It's real easy to do one and forget all about the other.

Everybody makes these kinds of mistakes until we get enough experience to solve the problem faster. The way we get the experience is by making the mistakes. It's just the way it is.

Eventually you will be able to diagnose the problem on the fly.

I've made lots of mistakes. I only have a couple of good scopes and I have to change them from gun to gun. Once when I was getting ready for a competition I was shooting to check my drops. Nothing was hitting where it was supposed to. I mean the shots were off by FEET. I was so focused on my form and rest set up that I had totally forgotten to torque the front ring in place on the scope. It looked fine because the back was hand tight but it never shot the same place twice. It took me a 100 rounds of comp ammo and two other guys shooting my gun before I figured out how much of a dumb azz I was.

As far as limp wristing goes, its easy to do. There are only a couple of techniques that keep it from happening and those were not commonly taught when I started shooting. I didn't learn about isometrics till about ten years ago.

Shooting is a hobby, enjoy it.

Allabaster said...

Great post.

If there is an issue with a device as complicated as a self loading pistol it can be any number of things, either on their own or in conjunction, which are causing the problem.

The loose scope rings/bases can catch lots of people out and have caught me out in the past as well. The great thing about the shooting fraternity is that there is a huge pool of accumulated knowledge from which to draw. A man may leave this mortal coil but his wisdom can be passed on well beyond his years.

Athor Pel said...

Thanks guys

Stilicho said...

Never had problems with my factory mags for the Browning Hi Power in .40. Where were yours made? IIRC FN outsourced various parts/assembly over the years.

Athor Pel said...

These 10 round Browning provided mags were made in Italy.

My Hi-Power is a Mark III.