Self-Defense Tip: Don’t Neglect Your Gear

“One of the biggest no-nos when it comes to holster care is leaving your holster in a hot car,’ Randi Rogers blogs at comp-tac.com. “Your average car, left unattended, closed up and not running, will reach an interior temperature of roughly 140° Fahrenheit after just 90 minutes. This is not only dangerous for anyone who may be in your car, but this amount of heat can severely damage your holster or magazine pouch if left out.” Randi’s talking about Kydex holsters, specifically, that can warp in the heat. She recommends wrapping them in a towel or suchlike and stashing them as low in the car as possible. But let’s face it, there are lots of ways your guns and gear can go bad . . .

Switching to knives for a second, if you use your everyday carry knife for everyday chores (e.g., opening packages and eating) it’s going to lose its edge. By the same token, whether you use them or not, ammunition magazine springs can weaken over time, creating an unfortunate malfunction at a time when unfortunate malfunctions are most unwelcome. Leather holsters and gun belts wear out. Flashlight batteries die.

In general, as Nigerian author Chinua Achebe pointed out back in 1958, things fall apart. The trick to keeping your gear up to snuff: perform preventative care where possible and regularly inspect your gear for wear and tear.

Square ranges suck, generally, but they’re a good place to make sure your gun(s) can fire your ammo from your various magazines without hesitation or deviation with repetition (bite the bullet; test fire expensive carry ammo). And every time you put on your gear, inspect it.

Does your holster have cracks, foreign objects or general damage? Is it gripping the gun with insufficient gusto? Is your knife sharp and lint-free? Is your flashlight beam weakening?

There’s no need to get paranoid. There is a need to be prepared, remembering that things can go wrong with your firearm and other gear even if you’re meticulous about its care and feeding. Have a plan B, but don’t neglect the tools that enable your plan A.

comments

  1. avatar Dracon1201 says:

    That was a really crap book, btw.

    1. avatar Rokurota says:

      Things Fall Apart? Disagree, sir. I was very moved by it.

  2. avatar The Best Chris says:

    Springs only wear with use. Magazine springs will not weaken from sitting there compressed.

    1. avatar Gene says:

      +1 – It’s cycling that wears them out over time.

    2. I read that on the internet and the sources seemed reliable, so I train with the two 10 round magazines that came with my Glock 19 and I have three 15 round mags that stay loaded with my defensive rounds and I have three 17 round mags that I use sparingly. With my AR, I have the P mag that came with the rifle loaded for defense and I have six spares that I train with. My wife has worn out two Nano mags already but the guys at the range/ shop where we bought them have replace them for free.

    3. avatar DJ9 says:

      While the cycling-wear claim may be true (difficult to isolate and test under real-world conditions), it is not the only factor to consider. Most magazine springs are made out of high-carbon steel, and as such, can be very vulnerable to basic corrosion. Even a small spot of rust can cause a failure point when the spring is later flexed in either direction.

      A loaded magazine also has a lot of nooks and crannies where dust, debris, and even critters (I’ve seen spiders take up residence in a loaded magazine during long-term storage) can gather. It doesn’t take much of a dust bunny or clump of medicated anti-monkey-butt powder to interrupt the feeding cycle of a mag. Yeah, you could manually unload each mag, but why not test it under live-fire conditions and give yourself some peace of mind (or a rude shock) under controlled circumstances? It’s also a good time to check your sights/zero to confirm nothing has been knocked astray during unintended rough handling.

      For these reasons, all magazines should still be used periodically. Yeah, shooting up your high-speed/low-drag/fang-toothed self-defense bullets every 6-12 months can get a bit expensive.

      I think I’m worth the cost.

      Are YOU worth it?

  3. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Another thing to consider is how the smokeless powder in your ammo changes after being left in a hot car.

    After years of being in the door of my pickup, I decided “Hey, let’s use those five ‘spare’ rounds of .338 ammo up.” This was five rounds of Federal premium hunting ammo, 210gr Noslers at about 2900+ fps from the factory. I got done with a hunt in Nevada, slipped the five-round “on the belt” holder from the box into the door tray and left them there in, I dunno, 2006?

    What I found when I lit them off was that they were a might bit spicy after years of being heated/cooled in a car, showing flattened primers and one even showed some flow over the tip of the firing pin.

    1. avatar Gene says:

      Setback can be an issue, too.

  4. avatar g says:

    Things Fall Apart is a classic.

    But as for heat warping holsters, who leaves their kydex sitting open in a car anyways? If it ain’t on my body, it’s in a bag.

    1. I overheard a gun shop worker explain to a customer “if the gun is plastic, it goes in a plastic holster”. He carried a metal Beretta. I appreciate natural materials but Glock never made an all metal gun. I bought a leather holster for it and I have to keep it in my car at work because I go through screening to my work area. I leave the windows cracked but when I get back in my car and clip that IWB holster to my belt in the appendix area, that front part of the slide that protrudes is quite hot against my lower abdomen. The leather holds up though.

  5. avatar flatfootedman says:

    Achebe’s inspiration:
    The Second Coming
    (W.B. Yeats)
    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again; but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

    1. avatar Jim Krieger says:

      Thank you for including this. One of my favorites.

    2. avatar Ralph says:

      Yes, and Yeats wrote this poem in 1919.

  6. avatar Larry says:

    I have dozens of magazines dating from before WW1 to the last 10 or 20 years including a pair of 1911 magazines, the kind with a lanyard loup, found loaded with FA42 ball ammo that I found in a trunk of my fathers after he died in the mid 80s they al work perfectly including the ones that spent half a century loaded and in a leather GI belt pouch. In fact I use them and their US stamped pouch almost weekly in SASS wild bunch matches or practice for same.
    Now I know that just as you say mag springs can go bad. I have a 2002 vintage Glock that will not fire the last 2 rounds from its orignal magazine. But my 96 broom handle .30 Mauser has had several thousand rounds through its 10 round internal stripper clip fed magazine ( and the Germans thought so little of its magazine reliability that the. Leather harness that holds the wooden shoulder stock holster has a pouch that contains a spare magazine spring and a cleaning rod clipped to the side as well. But since my Dad brought it back from WW2 it has never failed to feed… Failed to fire a few times due to bad ammo but never a feed problem and its serial number dates it to 1908.
    Why some springs fatigue to the point of feed failure after just a few years and others go on for a very long time is an interesting question and perhaps someone has researched the problem I know I modified some 1960s vintage M16 magazines to work with my old AR18 and they do not like to feed after about 17 or 18 yet the 2 magazines that came with it in 1970 are just fine.

  7. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    “Does your holster have cracks, foreign objects or general damage? Is it gripping the gun with insufficient gusto? Is your knife sharp and lint-free? Is your flashlight beam weakening?”

    Let’s call it what it is… Finding a reason to fiddle with your toys.

    1. avatar DJ9 says:

      When done in public, maybe.

      When done in private, not so much. The military calls it “preventative maintenance inspections”, or PMCS (Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services). It can uncover budding trouble spots before problems become critical, and it also encourages familiarity with your equipment.

      Like checking tire pressure and fluid levels in your vehicle every now and then. You can probably get by without doing it, but if a problems DOES pop up, it may end up being much more serious and at a less-convenient time for correction.

  8. avatar Bruce L. says:

    Another way to say it “entropy happens”.

  9. avatar Michael says:

    I keep a spare loaded magazine and an extra 50 round box for my carry gun in each car. Is this a good/bad idea? Anyone else do this?

    1. avatar Appalachian American says:

      I keep a few extra loaded magazines in my vehicles, as well. Every few years I shoot up that ammo and haven not had any problems yet.

  10. avatar Appalachian American says:

    After a decade and tens of thousands of rounds, I have yet to come across a magazine spring that became weak enough to cause malfunctions. I am the type that keeps mags loaded and I do not rotate them out. Not that excessively weak mag springs don’t exist, but the issue is just about moot if you stick with quality magazines.

    I agree with Robert, though. Don’t neglect your gear.

    1. avatar Michael says:

      I had two Glock magazine springs go bad, would not hold open the slide after the last round was fired. I thought it was the gun (my first pistol BTW). Sent it back to Glock, they retured the pistol and mags with new springs. Sent back by UPS, who left the box containing the pistol by the front door. This was over 15 years ago.

  11. avatar Lolinski says:

    If you don’t take care of your gear don’t be surprised when it doesn’t take care of you.

  12. avatar Z says:

    Living in southern Arizona, I have had a holster with a kydex clip warp to the point of being unusable after being left in the car for a few hours in August.
    Another thing to consider is how hot the gun itself gets in these conditions, a gun left in the glove box of a car all day this time of year will be nearly too hot to hold. I haven’t found a good solution to this problem yet.

  13. avatar Omer Baker says:

    I have a 47 Preon for my edc. I write the date I replace the batteries on the batteries and I try to remember to change them monthly. I have the 2 AAA body & a single AAA body that I use on weekends & long holidays from work. When I use the AAA in the single body, I give it a tick mark & swap the battery out the next time I go single body. It’s not perfect but it helps keep the batts about equal & fresh in case I NEED the flash light.

  14. avatar Ralph says:

    I’ve left leather holsters in a hot car. The result? Hot leather. No warping. No de-laminating. No problems.

    Love leather. Hate Kydex.

    1. avatar Slick says:

      Question: Why are you leaving a holster in a hot car in the first place?

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        ‘Cuz I have a car gun, in the console, if I need to fetch it I can retrieve the holster from the trunk and be saved from my LCP full-time carry piece. Not worried about the leather holster, but I guess I should “process” the ammo in the 2 mags now and then, especially here in TX.

      2. avatar Sian says:

        Some of us don’t have an option about disarming for work (even when we work making ammunition) and have to leave the piece in the car. In Florida, it doesn’t matter where in the car, it’s gonna get kinda toasty.

    2. avatar lolinski says:

      Yay, leather!

      Seriously, its way better than soulless kydex. Same thing applies to shoes IMO, if something didn’t die for it then it ain’t that good (syntethic leather is just… shitty).

      Many reasons for leaving a gun in your car, like not being able to afford a Glock 7. Besides, just make sure you have a garrote wire with you and you should be OK (worked for me in Hitman at least).

  15. avatar El Mac says:

    @RF, “square ranges suck, generally”? Really? How so?

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      He just means outdoors with a gun is WAY more fun!

    2. avatar DJ9 says:

      Rules will vary greatly with your location, but I have seen or experienced the following on enclosed indoor or outdoor ranges:

      – No drawing/shooting from a holster.
      – No “rapid firing” (defined in various ways).
      – No humanoid/silhouette targets (ringed-bullseyes only).
      – No specialty/multi-projectile ammo (doesn’t usually affect me, but folks who have a revolver with buckshot capability should be allowed to test/use it).
      – No moving while shooting (standing still = bad for multiple reasons).
      – No turning-and-shooting (reactive shooting, starting while not facing target).
      – No moving targets (advancing, swinging, or wobbling targets are realistic and useful).
      – No shooting from unconventional positions (lying on back to simulate being unexpectedly knocked down, for instance).

      1. avatar El Mac says:

        @DJ9, well if that is the case, that would suck. Fortunately, that is not the case at my “square ranges”…thus the confusion.

        1. avatar DJ9 says:

          Sounds like you are very lucky that your range has not (yet) instituted any of these restrictions.

          I forgot one of the most restrictive range rules that I’d ever seen (I probably blocked it out mentally, like a bad nightmare). About 5-6 years ago, I was visiting relatives in south-central Michigan, and they took me to the DNR-run public range to do some shooting. At that time, this outdoor rifle/pistol range had a load-one, shoot-one rule; you could never have more than one round in your firearm, including the magazine. At first I thought they were pulling my leg. Nope — dead serious.

        2. avatar El Mac says:

          @DJ9, nope…no restrictions on my range like that. The only thing you can’t do on ours is full auto. Everything else, good to go.

  16. avatar Bernard says:

    Did you leave your baby or pet in your hot car? Also, don’t forget about your holster.

    1. avatar Gunr says:

      OMG! Honey, have you seen junior anywhere this afternoon?

  17. avatar Retired LEO says:

    I was gifted w/ar Thermold mags that springs were garbage new. They are used for malfunction drills painted org on bottom so no confusion. Vietnam era mags perfect. Poor heat treatment likely cause of no spring or need Geritol.

  18. avatar Accur81 says:

    Great article. I use and inspect my gear regularly on-duty and off. Departmentally, we are required to check our long guns (ARs and Rem 870s) prior to each shift and our handguns once a week. I check my handgun before every shift. How will you know of your gun light works? Check it. We have a function check / practice shoot with duty gear at least once a month. A full breakdown and inspection yearly to make sure that tolerances are within spec.

    Holsters, recoil springs, mags, batteries, etc. wear out. Kydex holsters don’t do well in extreme heat. Batteries have a lower end operating range, and even some lunbricants have issues in extreme cold (WI deer hunter). Check your stuff and adjust accordingly for conditions. When in doubt, check with your local gunsmith, or Dyspeptic.

  19. avatar Roger says:

    I’m in the Phoenix area and have noticed that trunks are much cooler. The cabins get obscenely hot due to a greenhouse effect with the windows. I’ll leave a gun in a holster in a bag in the trunk in the summer and the gun will only get warm. If I left it in the cabin it’d give you first degree burns if not worse.

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