Carry Gun, Training Gun

20-Mar-14 – 08:48 by ToddG


Probably the worst habit I’ve adopted since beginning the annual endurance tests back in 2008 was a policy of using the endurance test gun as my carry gun. There was a certain rationale behind it: if I didn’t trust the endurance test gun enough to carry it then the test was over. When approaching gun companies about the test, there was a certain panache about the idea of carrying one of their guns that had over 50,000 rounds through it.

But during the tests held so far, all five guns suffered significant enough problems that, had I needed that high round count gun for self-defense,  I’d have been in trouble.

  • The M&P9 suffered a broken trigger return spring at around 37,000 that rendered the gun severely less shootable (trigger had to be pushed forward manually to reset each time) and also had a sear spring issue that wasn’t even identified as such until thousands of rounds after it caused a couple of nearly back-to-back stoppages.
  • Without doubt the worst example of this behavior was how long I kept carrying the P30 even 5,000 rounds after a chunk of the frame had blown off. Within the course of just a few rounds (from 91,300 to 91,322 to be fair) and without any other warning it went from being perfectly dependable to being completely unreliable. Over the course of those 91,000 rounds I also broke two trigger return springs, a sear spring, and had the Heinie rear sight begin drifting around loose in the dovetail.
  • At just over 38,000 rounds the HK45 had a light primer hit on the first round I tried to fire that day. Just a few thousand rounds prior to that I had a freak trigger return spring breakage on a spring that had less than 4,000 rounds on it.
  • During the Glock 17 test, I had multiple breakages of the slide stop which resulted in premature lockback, broke an aftermarket connector that essentially deadlined the gun completely until a toolkit could be found, and luckily discovered a chipped extractor during a (rare) gun cleaning.
  • For the Springfield Custom Shop 9mm 1911‘s tenure, the ejector broke twice, but more troublesome I had two instances where my carry magazines failed right out of the gate at the beginning of a practice session.

All in all, those first five tests recorded almost 340,000 rounds of shooting, 51 stoppages of some kind, and 17 parts breakages. I probably averaged 5,000 rounds between gun cleanings, further adding to the abuse of the guns I was carrying every day. In particular, multiple times the stoppages or breakages affected the gun within the first few rounds of a session… meaning the problem would have occurred if I’d needed to fire even just a few rounds in a fight.

To appreciate the situation fully, you also need to remember that I had an identical spare/backup gun with me all the time. The whole reason I insisted upon having that spare gun, in fact, was to have something in case my test/carry gun failed!

So beginning with this year’s SIG P229-1 test I’m adopting a new, smarter policy. The endurance test gun will be my training gun, and the “backup” will be my daily carry gun.

ishotgurkha-holsterThe great folks at I-SHOT have even sent me one of their revised Gurkha range backpacks to help. There is a lot of modularity built into the Gurkha and one option is a “holster kit” that can be placed in any of three locations in the bag. This allows me a quick access, dedicated location where the test gun can be quickly and safely swapped with my carry gun at the range and then switched again when I’m ready to leave. Because the trigger guard is covered and the gun is secured in place, it’s perfectly safe to leave my carry gun loaded 100% of the time.

The carry gun will of course will go through my normal reliability testing routine (500rd of practice ammo followed by 200 rounds of carry ammo) at the outset. And it will get shot occasionally after that just for the sake of function checking as well as the combined mechanical & mental check of being sure the endurance test gun and the carry gun are working identically. But I doubt the carry gun will see much more than two or three thousand rounds, total, through it during the entire SIG endurance test.

Perhaps it’s not as cool as having a carry gun with 50,000+ rounds through it, but it’s a heck of a lot smarter and a policy I should have stuck with from the beginning.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 26 Responses to “Carry Gun, Training Gun”

  2. Brilliant post, Todd! I’ve been *ahem* guilty of the same practice, and have since checked myself. Keep up the excellent work!

    By Fred on Mar 20, 2014

  3. A much better way to do business IMHO

    By Chuck Haggard on Mar 20, 2014

  4. But this blog is the whole reason people are walking around with EDC guns that haven’t been cleaned in 10K rounds and are on the brink of falling to pieces with every trigger pull.

    Now you’re saying this isn’t the cool new way to be a real operator?

    Come on…

    By Dave on Mar 20, 2014

  5. Of course you could also . . . ahem . . . go to the completely crazy, and almost unthinkable, extreme of cleaning your pistol each time you shoot it, which allows you to examine many of the parts on a routine basis.

    Admittedly, it is an exteme suggestion, but . . . .

    By SteveJ on Mar 20, 2014

  6. Always wondered why you didn’t do it this way all along. I’ve been doing it this way for a few years as it made more sense to me, good to hear your rationale for the way you did it though.

    By Nick on Mar 20, 2014

  7. About time.

    Good for you, and even gooder for the people following your tests and mimicking what you do.

    By GJM on Mar 20, 2014

  8. No excuses from me, it was not a smart thing to do and not something I’d ever have recommended to others. I simply let myself fall into the commitment with the gun manufacturers in the beginning without thinking it through, and then felt like I had to do all the tests by the same rule.

    Of course, now the question becomes, how do I determine when the SIG test is over? Odds are I’ll use the same basic criteria: frame, slide, or barrel is no longer trustworthy enough to rely on the gun.

    By ToddG on Mar 20, 2014

  9. Everyone has to grow up some time, I guess. 😉 I’ll also be interested to hear about the durability of the Gurkha bag.

    By MDS on Mar 20, 2014

  10. MDS — I have quite a few I-SHOT bags that I’ve used extensively over the years and they’ve done pretty well. I’m far from a nylon gear expert but the Gurkha looks pretty well put together.

    By ToddG on Mar 20, 2014

  11. I understand why you run these pistols as hard as you do. But I also think that it probably inspires some folks to unwise behavior, and that it’s pretty far from what an experienced gunfighter would recommend.

    How much do you think the stoppages would have been reduced by more regular cleaning and maintenance, even if that’s just a quick field strip, toothbrush massage, wipe-down and inspection every 1k rounds? Might you have spotted more potential problems before the pistols in question ceased to function in a potentially dangerous situation?

    By Okie John on Mar 20, 2014

  12. While it’s actually an artifact of having so few places where I can run the gun from the holster, for probably five years now I’ve used my carry gun for matches and classes and have kept a dedicated “range bag gun” I use for regular weekend shooting.

    By Tam on Mar 20, 2014

  13. Thanks Todd! thats why I read this blog: info!!! and thats what you give us, Gracias for the hard work! Really looking forward for the 229 test, just sold one 229 ELITE 9mm I used to own to my Cousin, and it never failed me in 5000+ rounds I fired thru it, I sold it because it was my Competition gun and I Bought a M&P 9 Pro for IPSC and IDPA, in long distance shots the 229 was not helping me, specially in IPSC official competitions down here in Central America, for example our good friends from Nicaragua sometimes go Ballistic about target distances, here in Costa Rica our outdoor Ranges are not that big…
    I Carry a M&P9C and the idea is: “Carry something similar to the gun you compete with.. kind of theory”… any thoughts on this statement Maestro ToddG ?…. lets see how your 229 goes, I have a feeling it will break some records…
    Good luck and best regards! nice Bag by the way!

    By svega on Mar 20, 2014

  14. Okie John — In fairness I don’t think anyone can say definitively that more cleaning would have made a difference. I know folks want to believe that a clean gun is a happy gun but even if we counted every parts breakage as a stoppage you end up throughout the tests combined with 340,000 rounds and 68 stoppages which is an amazing 5,000 Mean Rounds Between Stoppages… with guns that were lubed maybe once every 1-2k rounds and cleaned every 3-9k rounds.

    For a little point of reference, when the “SOCOM Gun” project was bouncing around, the draft procurement documented asked for a minimum of 2,000 MRBS and set as a top-end objective of 5,000… and that was with a testing protocol that involved much more regular lubricating & cleaning of the guns.

    So I’m hard pressed to look at any of these guns that I’ve tested and call them anything other than superbly reliable even under the conditions I kept them.

    svega — If anything all I’ve done is been a bad example and hopefully now rectified some of that. As for using similar guns for competition and carry I absolutely agree. Even small changes in manual of arms can really cause some people to misstep under stress. The closer your game gun is to your carry gun, the more your training with your game gun (which, let’s be honest, is probably the one you practice with the most!) will translate seamlessly to your carry gun.

    By ToddG on Mar 20, 2014

  15. Well, that in a way is a relief-you and I had a couple of conversations on this subject.
    Dare I suggest you clean the carry gun after the “reliabilty testing routine”? I mean it is a SIG, after all…
    *ducks for cover, reaching for flame retardant suit*
    Sincerely happy to hear you on range again, sir!

    By Chris Edwards on Mar 20, 2014

  16. “Of course, now the question becomes, how do I determine when the SIG test is over? Odds are I’ll use the same basic criteria: frame, slide, or barrel is no longer trustworthy enough to rely on the gun.

    By ToddG on Mar 20, 2014”

    I say the test ends as soon as WC puts a pair of 92G Compacts in your hand, or you get a decocker model CZ that you like. Shoot the Sig fast, and enlist your buddies to get those 50K rounds downrange!

    By GJM on Mar 20, 2014

  17. Looks like an interesting bag. I wonder if it will fit a 17 inch laptop.

    By Dave S. on Mar 20, 2014

  18. I’ve done this for a long time; get three identical pistols–training pistol, carry pistol, and a spare.

    By DocGKR on Mar 20, 2014

  19. Well I think the bigger picture here is that there is a difference between using your gun to do extremes stress test vs carrying it as EDC. From the tests that I read you are doing, it’s pretty extreme.

    I train and carry the same pistol. But I don’t abuse it like in you do in your tests. I do however put through it over 5000 rounds per year with numerous hours of dry fire.

    Not everyone can afford to buy multiple guns. But proper maintenance should always be used to care for your gear. I clean and inspect my weapon after every use. If need be, I change out the springs, parts, or whatever adjustment.

    Take care of your gear and your fear will take care of you.

    By Nick on Mar 21, 2014

  20. Todd,

    I agree with the logic behind “one for carry & one for test”. However it begs the question are you comparing apples to oranges? Have both guns been spiffed up by Bill Riehl? If not which one goes where?

    By John O on Mar 21, 2014

  21. John O — In the instant case, except for the color scheme, both guns will be as identical as Bill can make them. While others may feel differently or have more flexibility in their ability to pick up different guns and shoot them to full potential, I am not that guy. If I practice with one gun all the time I need my carry gun to be as close to identical as possible.

    I’ve met far too many people who spend all their effort on a competition/race gun and then under stress with their carry gun they make errors ranging from small to devastating. Something as simple as switching between SRT and non-SRT SIGs have screwed many people up.

    By ToddG on Mar 21, 2014

  22. An incident happened a few weeks ago that put me over the edge.

    A fellow shooter was at the range and was packing up when I arrived. He asked me to shoot his M&P9 before he put it away. I loaded it and the first shot went “click”. Tap, Rack, and again “click”. We pulled it apart right there and the tip of the striker had broken off on his last shot of the day.

    This was his nightstand gun, setup with a flashlight, and it would have let him down when he needed it.

    My P30 has been retired to range duty and I carry the P2000.

    By SecondsCount on Mar 28, 2014

  23. Well,that leaves me as the only guy here who carries and practices with the same gun. Based on my HK experience, I am going to tighten up my maintenance intervals, but that’s about it.

    By YK on Mar 31, 2014

  24. I kind of wish you would test a CZ P07 one of these days. Though I have to say I’m curios about the 229.

    By dhena on Apr 1, 2014

  25. Sorry for posting here but I have no other options, can anyone please send me the email address for a mod on the the pistol-forum? I am unable to access the site and need to find out why. Thanks.

    By TB on Apr 4, 2014

  26. how about some update on the P229?

    By John on Apr 12, 2014

  27. I hope that Todd is off on some tropical vacation. I worry that its his health that is keeping him from the updates though. No matter what I wish him & his family the best. Hope to see him healthy & updating us on the p229 soon!

    By Brian S on Apr 14, 2014

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