Is it a Big Deal If a Gun is Particular About Ammunition?

failure to feed

One of the criteria that some in the gun media as well as end users judge a pistol by is whether it digests a diverse array of ammunition. Brass case, steel case, multiple brands of FMJ, JHP maybe even flat-tops, JSP, hard cast and so on.

It’s a decent predictor of reliability, as a gun that reliably cycles lots of ammunition well will work well if you have to use a different brand than your usual stuff. That means the gun runs well to a greater degree than a gun that’s more finicky about what it’s fed.

Or is it? Is it really that realistic an indicator of reliability? Is that actually something that most people look for or should even worry about? Any sort of qualitative measurement of anything is going to have an inherent flaw somewhere. The “multiple ammunition” criteria has some too.

Guns are machines. Simple machines, but machines all the same and like other machines, they function best within certain parameters. Car guys have their preferred brand of oil whether it’s Castrol GTX, Valvoline, Quaker or whatever it may be. It’s generally well known that it’s a good practice to find the brand or brands of ammunition your gun likes best and shoots most accurately and stick with those.

For instance, my 1911 loves Remington UMC and Herters brass more than other brands of FMJ, and Speer Gold Dot over other brands of JHP. Ergo, I buy UMC or Herters for practice ammo and Gold Dot for carry ammo and leave it at that. If it ain’t broke, there’s no reason to think about fixing it.

The gun industry doesn’t have (or seem to have) the sort of publicly available consumer survey information that so many other verticals do. Therefore, it’s difficult to determine for sure what brands of ammunition the gun-owning public uses most. However, what seems to be the case is that most people tend to find a brand or two that works for their gun and stick to those.

The modern gun owner will do almost all of the shooting they do in their lifetime on a gun range, and what people use most there is FMJ. And most often it’s one of the cheaper versions like Winchester white box, American Eagle, Herters, Blazer and so on.

Most of these are incredibly common and widely available. Very few gun stores only carry obscure surplus ammo that nobody’s sure about. Most of these are very affordable. In my observation – and your mileage will vary – shooting steel-case TulAmmo only saves about a dollar (maybe two) over WWB, or American Eagle. 

In short, it isn’t really important to buy a gun that shoots any and all ammo. If your gun fits you and you shoot it well, and you identify the one or two brands your gun loves to shoot…what else really matters?

What about you, though? How many different brands do you actually buy and use on a regular basis?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

comments

  1. avatar Jon in CO says:

    Glocks are fat kids. They’ll eat anything and everything. So I buy what is cheaper/est.

    Generally, Federal, Fiocchi, and S&B of all things. Not a fan of WWB, and I have nothing against steel cases, I just don’t buy them.

    1. avatar Neil says:

      Any yet of my 181 malfunctions, 180 were in one Glock G34. You do know for the Gen 3 Glock opened up tolerances to cut manufacturing costs (more allowed manufacturing variability). Mine came with a very high end spring (19 lb, top of the new tolerances, old top was 18lb, yes, I have a spring measuring tool at work) and it had issues. When I replaced it with a 16 lb spring (bottom of old tolerances), it became the fat kid.

      I’m sorry, but any 9mm that has issues with 115grain should be scrapped. My SP2022 eats any 115 grain, 124 grain, all 128 grain hollow points I’ve tried, 135 grain FMJ (sold as a defense round simulation), and 147 grain hollow points. 21,800 trouble free rounds. That is how a gun should be. Also recall the Gen 4 9mm issues at launch (hence need for a Gen 5) and G42/G43 issues at launch. Glock isn’t what they used to be. Companies were the founder takes a mistress (like Gaston) tend to go downhill (see Douglas aircraft).

      1. avatar Bruce says:

        Not quite as prolific as you, but the only problem that I have seen with my Gen 4 G17 have been failures to feed with one brand of aftermarket magazines. No problems, whatsoever, with maybe 10k rounds using Glock or Magpul magazines.

        1. avatar Bruce says:

          Whoops. Forgot that that G17 wouldn’t cycle .380 Auto the other day. It was weird, because it wasn’t a solid failure, but maybe every other round. The box looked just like the 9 mm I was shooting, and was using a new loader that loads 10 rounds or so at once (which grabs the bottoms of the rounds of an entire row at a time, so wasn’t looking close enough). It was only when I tried to top off a magazine that I noticed the screwup. Making things worse – the stubbier .380 was more expensive than the 9 mm I had made the mistake with.

    2. avatar Mikial says:

      Agreed. I have never yet found any brand or style of ammo that my G21 will not shoot utterly reliably, and shoot to an excellent standard of accuracy. Let the Glock haters spew their venom and tell their “I knew a guy” stories, the bottom line is they work. Period.

  2. avatar Donkey Lips says:

    Yes, it is.

  3. avatar Mark H says:

    My hi-power does not like 115 grain ammo, or in general underloaded ammo. No big deal, because heavier bullets are readily available.

    I had a failure in a 1911 once. The old Speer Flying Ashcan rounds. Those haven’t been made in 20 years though.

    As long as a firearm is good with 2 or 3 brands of gen-III holowpoints I don’t really care if it has issues with crappy ammo.

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      What vintage is your Hi Power? My Mk III eats everything.

      1. avatar Bob Jones says:

        Older or heavily worked action springs may lose some of their power over time and upset the mechanical balance..
        They don’t last forever. Fresh high quality springs may (and may not) help a balky weapon.

        1. avatar tdiinva says:

          Recoil springs are cheap. I change them every couple of thousand rounds.

        2. avatar Mark H says:

          I put in new Wolfe springs already. Think it actually made it slightly worse. Since it works fine with heavier bullets, or higher pressure ammo I suspect it’s a timing issue.

          Could try a lighter recoil spring I suppose.

  4. avatar Greg says:

    As a prepper I want a weapon that feeds everything.

    1. avatar TruthTellers says:

      This is why I prefer revolvers and single shot rifles. When it comes to autoloaders, I buy what is common. I’d hate to get a $1000 Sig that only works with Sig ammo.

      1. avatar MLee says:

        I have carried Sig exclusively for decades now. First the 226 and now the P229. Neither has EVER failed even once. No failure of any type. Maybe if I was shooting every type of ammo, hundreds every day, I’d have a failure, but I’m big on maintenance and only buy premium range or self defense ammo.
        If I had a weapon that was fussy, I’d get rid of it. I wouldn’t trust it as a daily carry that much is sure.
        That’s why my main battle rifle is a milled Arsenal AK47 I like my things to work.

  5. avatar New Continental Army says:

    Yes it is. This is a rule I very much agree with. The only exception I’d make to the rule is truly garbage ammunition. But personally having had a gun jam in a life or death situation once makes me one of those people that would agree with this, and also how important the mag pul AR mag follower is. For strictly hunting or recreation guns that’s different. But a gun you intend to carry or fight with needs to be able to eat anything and eat it reliably.

  6. avatar rosignol says:

    Any firearm marketed as a service/carry/SHTF gun should be able to use any ammo that is within spec for that caliber without reliability issues.

    If the gun is marketed as a target or competition gun (~range toy), it being picky about ammo or high-maintenance is much less of an issue.

  7. avatar Kahlil says:

    My revolver doesn’t tend to like the 158gr 357 rounds so I tend to use 125 or 142, although 158 will work something just feels a little off. I thought originally it was due to PPU being cheaper but I see the same thing in other 158 rounds. In a 2″ snubbie I’d rather have a slightly lighter and faster round anyway. My Berettas eat anything though I am picky about what I use, in bullet weight and in powder cleanliness. The aluminum case federal .40 is just dirty, and while it is cheap I spend more time cleaning my gun afterwards than if I use something else that might be a couple dollars more expensive.

    1. avatar Ed Rogers says:

      My 686-6 would somehow seize up with 158 grain ammo. I sent it back to Smith and Wesson. It now shoots everything just fine.

  8. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    I have no need of a firearm that wont digest any common,to swipe a favorite term of Ms. Feinswine,ammunition.
    I can source a paper weight cheaper than a ammunition finicky firearm.

  9. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    it’s no fun clearing gun jams at the range either.

  10. avatar Fudds Mckenzie says:

    If a gun is finicky the payoff should be awesome. Like it should be a cool antique, or really small, or high performance in some other way. Practically nothing in the case or on the rack at a local gun store will qualify. No excuse in a duty gun or PCC.

    1. avatar 4808 N says:

      Great moniker, Fuds.

  11. avatar Nanashi says:

    Steel case only goes in Soviet guns, which were designed for it and steel case is all that’s cheap. Too many problems and long term wear with anything else.

  12. avatar Pete says:

    The only guns that I own that are picky about ammo are my .22 LR ones.

    1. avatar kahlil says:

      I have an old .22 rifle from my grandfather than is picky about ammo as well, but I think that will be solved by a trip to the gunsmith and perhaps some TLC on the extractor.

  13. avatar Timothy says:

    I buy reloads and do some reloading myself. Tula may only be a couple bucks cheaper per box, but my reloads are half the price of factory and the reloads I buy are usually halfway between factory and my own reloads. If my gun was picky, I wouldn’t keep it.

  14. Make sure you buy a quality gun that can take Plus P rounds or any DoubleTap ammo. Spend the extra money to get quality. Read the manual before you buy a gun to make sure there is no disclaimer about high pressure rounds.

    1. avatar Manse Jolly says:

      +P why?

      going there!

      1. avatar kahlil says:

        just buy a sufficient caliber like 40, 45, or 357 and ditch the +P BS 😉

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Capacity?

      2. Because it is a better quality gun, if it can handle plus P. Shoot whatever ammo you want, but get a quality gun.

    2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      Nobody makes a +p in .357 magnum, but I do carry Double Taps.

  15. avatar former water walker says:

    I too like Herter’s ammo. Never a problem with thousands of rounds and I usually get a discount at Cabela’s. …no local gunrange allows anything but brass. Good cheap shotgun shells too!

  16. avatar VicRattlehead says:

    I don’t necessarily need my gun to eat every single brand of ammo ever created but I expect it to be able to cyle a WIDE range of commonly available ammo reliably and predictably.

    I rely on my weapon to literally save my life if the excrement ever hits the fan so I want the full peace of mind that comes from knowing it will go bang no matter what. After probably 700 rounds so far (of various brands and weights), my 9mm Shield has not failed on a single round and because of that it has my full confidence as an EDC.

    Now, I certainly have preferances on ammo and I tend to buy (or re-buy) ammo that shoots clean and is affordable (in that order). There are at 2 or 3 brands I buy repeatedly because they shoot well, are priced affordably (even for a cheapskate like me) and they require minimal cleanup after running a box or 2 through my gun (I clean after every time I shoot, no matter how many/few rounds I went through).

    1. avatar Neil says:

      My one Glock had trouble with 115gr (main recoil spring was high at 19lb, replaced with a 16 lb and no issues since). Because of this, I cannot trust it even after 1200 trouble free rounds.

      So yes, it must be. The fact Russian brass had a light strike in my P226, meh. Finished off that thousand and I won’t buy again. My SP2022 has 21,800 trouble free rounds. My P220, S&W sheild, and H&K USP eat any brass.

      So yes, everything in spec. Off spec (Russian, in my case), doesn’t phase me and steel is just punishment. I fire 115gr, 124, 135 (defense load FMJ simulator), Hornaday THX, Federal HST.

  17. avatar Scooter says:

    My Nazi marked High Power eats 115 grain Federal, but hates Winchester white box. It’s a range piece, so no biggie. I’d prefer a carry piece that wasn’t picky, but if it’s a SHTF, grid-down, game-over survival siuation… I want a gun that will eat ANYTHING I can scrounge that looks like the right caliber. And that’s where revolvers shine!

  18. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    If it won’t cycle SJHPs or SWCHPs I don’t have much time for it.

  19. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    Probably the best argument for carrying a weapon that cycles everything is that most of us don’t shoot a lot of our carry ammo since it’s usually 2 or 3 times as expensive. So you may have run a couple thousand rounds through it but only a box or two of your carry stuff. Not much of a sample size to pass judgement from. If it feeds everything you can probably feel a little more confident that it doesn’t jam every 200th round with your carry stuff.

    1. avatar Dave M says:

      Have a huge array of Rugers (plus a couple of others) and not one of them is ammo picky, not even the .22’s. I did have some (non were Rugers) that were ammo picky and they went down the road. Absolutely will not tolerate an ammo picky firearm, period. It must fire any type/brand fed to it.

  20. avatar CCDWGUY says:

    The only guns I have that are ammo picky are my Kel-Tec’s. My PMR 30 likes Gamepoint V-max the most and just about any other CCI 22 WMR and Winchester WMR 40gr. My CMR carbine will only reliably digest CCI Maxi-Mags. I also have a Kel-Tec RDB Survival and so far it has taken anything except steel ammo and some old/cheap Federal that I had laying around. All the others shoot just about anything but I don’t buy any steel case ammo for any of them.

  21. avatar Emb says:

    Depends on how many other guns in that caliber I own. A gun doesn’t have to eat a wide variety of ammo, but it damn well needs to eat what every other gun in that caliber does.

  22. avatar retmsgt says:

    My $149 Hi-Point C9 doesn’t much care what 9mm it’s fed, brass or steel case. I pull the trigger, it goes BANG and cycles the next round.

    1. avatar Aaron says:

      one of these days i’m going to have to get a hi-point just to see what I’ve been missing…but the real question is: does it still shoot reliably holding it sideways out of the window of your lowrider??

    2. avatar Chris T from KY says:

      My HI Point 45 is a fat kid. It eats anything. Its heavy like a fat kid. But I love her!

  23. avatar Matt says:

    During the obummer ammo shortages, it was nice to have guns that weren’t picky about ammo. Simply bought what i could find at the store and I knew it would work.

  24. avatar Jonathan Speegle says:

    If your gun is picky, get a different firearm. If it can’t cycle anything and everything, it can’t protect you. Ive had a px4 storm compact for years, and it has performed without issue, even baked dry after thousands of rounds. I have zero doubt regarding its performance. Same thing with my Shield. Both stone cold reliable with anything. Now maybe I havent run the full gamut of ammo options out there, and new into a 45acp as well. However reliable is what protects my family and those around us. Can’t even imagine fielding a weapon that has a question mark attached to it. Makes a good case for revolvers.

  25. avatar oldlt43 says:

    In theory, I agree with the author but my problem is trying to even find two or three brands that will work
    consistently in my Kahr P380. On a good day, I can get one or two mags through without a jam or, much
    more likely, a failure to go into battery (easily solved by a strike on the back of the slide, but, still….) but
    I’ve yet been able to get a full box of 50 rds. of anything yet to through it. Bought it after a lot of research
    but all the glowing reviews back when it first came out hadn’t mentioned the pickiness of the gun when
    it came to ammo. Since then, with the help of Kahr forums, I’ve found out a lot about issues such as
    the steep feed ramp problems and extractor dimension issues. Specifically purchased the Kahr due to
    its robustness and the fact that, unlike the Ruger LCPs and such, it was designed to take frequent range
    use and deal with multiple rounds during its lifetime. Love the compactness of it and the overall feel of
    quality but still looking for the magic combination of gun and bullet.

    1. avatar N says:

      Your experience with the p380 is a lot different than mine, the only issues I’ve had was with really wide mouth hollow points And one brand of steel case. I carry Hornady Critical Defense and every time I go to the range I mag dump what’s in it and its never had any issues.

      To answer the question of the day, I would say it depends on how picky, if it shoots most common brands, then fine. But if it only likes a certain brand or only high or low powered rounds, then I would probably get rid of it.
      My wife has a Ruger sr22 and it likes CCI mini mags, anything weaker than that and it has issues. If it was up to me I would probably get rid of it and get something more ammo friendly.

      1. avatar Dave M says:

        My SR22 fires any damn thing without malfunction.

    2. avatar What would Spock say says:

      Same experience with my p380. One round out of maybe 3-4 mags would stick on the feed ramp. Love the small size but now it collects dust in my safe. Would do it with light copper stuff as well as buffalo bore hollow points. Can’t have it.

  26. avatar Jean-Claude says:

    A gun I’m going to carry only needs to function with my chosen defensive ammo and cheap range ammo. Whenever I get a new one, I run 100 rounds of WWB or Remington FMJ and a box of whatever JHP is the round of the day. If it works, I’m golden. I actually haven’t found a pistol that won’t run WWB and my JHP(as of now, that is Hornady Critical Defense in 9mm and Remington Ultimate Defense in .380.

    I am likely going to start carrying FMJ in the .380. It is just as effective, apparently.

  27. avatar Greg says:

    From my earlier post. When I test guns for a review I run different brands and bullet types for my tests. I mix all the ammo together.
    I find writing spreadsheets on ammo and group size boring. Most guns built now are mechanically more accurate than the person shooting them. I agree for competition everyone has their favorite loads.
    For survival your primary weapon should eat everything put into it.

  28. avatar daveinwyo says:

    None of my 3 10/22s will digest WWB .22lr truncated tip. Other wise any and all.

  29. avatar Docduracoat says:

    My wife’s Walther PPK/s is reliable with WWB .380 truncated cone target ammo.
    It has worked perfectly with that inexpensive Walmart brand.
    As another poster said, hollowpoit mat not reliables expand in the relatively underpowered .380 cal.
    So many authorities suggest non expanding ammo for .380 to get the needed penetration.
    So we practice and carry that gun with that ammo.

  30. avatar Hank says:

    Sorry, one of my pet peaves. It’s Hornady not HornadAy!

  31. avatar jtsmall says:

    To oldlt43… Ditched my copy of essentially identical CW380 after four return trips to Kahr and over 800 rounds downrange. Only reliable round was my preferred Hornady Critical Defense. I too only carry or keep what’s reliable.

    1. avatar oldlt43 says:

      I’m still hoping not to have to come to that point as I love the size, feel, shooting of this little gun. Still have some CCW rounds to check out. I may yet give up but will try a few more brands. Big issue is that I’m used
      to the reliability of both my Glock 21 and 19 that I carried for almost 20 years and keep looking for something
      close to that. Could just take the easy way out and pack my old S&W J-frame Bodyguard or Ruger LCR but I
      get kind of stubborn at times and need to beat my head against a wall for a while before deciding there’s a better way.

  32. avatar Parnell says:

    All my guns run on S&B, Herters, American Eagle and WWB. Don’t run steel so I can’t say.

  33. avatar little horn says:

    i would say no, on most cases. now if you have a gun that is known to only accept one brand, thats a different story.
    kinda like the glock grip. if you MUST hold this specific gun a specific way to make it function properly, thats a problem with the GUN. but it may be more than that. like glocks case, its not the design, its the materials they used. ANY polymer gun will fail if “limp wristed” just like any polymer gun will release the slide if you hit on the butt slightly hard. yet i own one anyway. nothings perfect because if it was perfect, it would be the only one of its kind. thats kinda how perfection works.

    1. avatar oldlt43 says:

      First I’ve ever heard of an apparent specific way to hold a Glock other than the traditional “firm grip” so as to prevent limp-wristing. I remember when my agency transited to Glock 21s and I was the firearms instructor and would demonstrate to newbies that you could hold a .45 caliber pistol upside down between your thumb and forefinger and pull the trigger with your pinky finger and the gun still would’t fly out of your hand. I had some female officers and dispatchers who shot the 21 and I don’t recall ever having one malfunction due to apparent limp-wristing. Now it’s possible this was due to the difference in recoil impulse and totality of the frame size and such compared to .40 cal. Glocks. My 19 has always worked for me also but then I am very aware of the potential for limp-wrisitng and have always insured that my grip is firm.

  34. avatar Chris T from KY says:

    The Beretta 21a my wife uses cycles best with CCI Stinger ammunition. A great real pocket gun.

  35. avatar VieteranGunsmith says:

    In the late 1980’s I bought a brand new Auto Ordnance 1911A1 Government model. The first box of ball 230gr was a real chore to get through. I had failure to feed on 75% of the box, some miscellaneous extractor failures and a stove pipe or two along with a couple of just plain failures to pick up the top round. I bought this pistol to work on anyway, as I was an apprentice gunsmith then, and my teacher guided me through polishing the feed ramp, radiusing/polishing the chamber mouth, reforming the extractor, and refitting the barrel lugs to the slide as well as the bushing to the barrel, and within the course of doing that work all the failures were gone. I have seen this play out with nearly every manufacture and model of firearm across all types, including class III weapons. My point is this: any firearm can have problems whether it is new just out of the box, or well maintained and broken in. At any point in the life of a firearm something can cause it to fail, and expecting any factory made product to function flawlessly right out of the box is more than optimistic, it’s unrealistic. The vast majority of new guns will for the most part work well with any factory ammo which probably lends to the idea that a new gun should take any load you can stuff into the breech. Certain manufacturers of pistols, in an effort to stress fine fit and finish, will build their products to minimum tolerances which makes them feel solidly built and appear to be finely crafted, and that is nice if all you care about is how pretty it is, but if you want dead on reliability, contact surfaces need to be polished either by using the weapon, or by judicious applications of abrasives. Most factory guns get around this by loosening the tolerances. so moving parts have room to move.

    Another case in point –
    One pistol that has been notably complained about recently is a small 9mm “K” pistol, and it’s problems are due in part to lack of polishing on the frame and slide contact surfaces in addition to very tight fit between slide and frame, as well as some lawyer induced design, “features”, like springs with excessive compression weights. I have one of these myself, and it is a beautiful pistol, but very hard to operate due to the excessive recoil and hammer spring tension. When it was new, the micro bead blast finish on the surfaces of the frame also contributed to the difficulty in chambering the first round. This is also a weapon that requires lubrication to operate during break in and afterward, and a few hundred rounds of firing to wear the friction producing surfaces against each other – in essence polishing them. Once you get the slide and frame contact surfaces smoothed out, this pistol works well and is not as picky about what you feed it. Of course, this is a concealed carry weapon, and that requires it to be small, which also lends to problems racking the slide as you have that much less leverage along with that stiff set of springs.

    My experience with this small 9mm is not uncommon, if you look at the online forums. There are many stories of this gun being finnicky and not working right out of the box so I know that this is a problem. Can it be resolved, well, yes in part. There are no alternative springs for this firearm, so things like trigger pull and cocking effort are not going to change substantially, but functioning problems can be overcome by making the bearing surfaces on the slide and frame slicker. This is something you can do with a polishing stone or abrasive paper, just knocking off the tops of the high spots, without removing lots of metal.

    Polishing the feed ramp, softening the edge of the chamber mouth will also improve performance and minimize the problems of misfeeds and extraction/ejection failures, but to do that it is best to have a gunsmith perform the work. These fixes will improve the function of any semiauto pistol.

    If the pistol in question is a prize possession never fear, almost any problem can be addressed by a competent gunsmith and then your tantrum thrower will become a flawless performer. A little money invested in making a misbehaving pistol run like a champ is money well spent.

    DISCLAIMER: this information is offered as advice, and not a solicitation for services; I’m retired and I’m keeping it that way.

  36. avatar Mikial says:

    Personally, I want a gun that is utterly reliable and will digest whatever I feed it.

    1. avatar Dave M says:

      That is my criteria also, must run on anything.

  37. avatar Bruce Clark says:

    All my 9’s will shoot Winchester white box when I use it at the range including my Kimber Micro 9. But the Kimber does not regularly chamber the 115 gr very well, chronic double and failure to feed problems. It works on any of the other grains and any other brand 115gr ammo, as it does with any size hollow-point rounds regardless of the grain size. So once I figured that out I just don’t feed it Winchester White Box FMJ in 115g. So to make a long story short, no It’s not a problem. Every semi-auto has it’s idiosyncrasies, so it’s important to shoot and shoot often, feed it cheap range ammo of various grain sizes, and the best most expensive exotic ammo you can afford. Better to find out in a controlled range environment than in a life and death situation. You’ll be surprised how much of the expensive stuff isn’t as reliable as the cheap stuff.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email