Today’s question comes to use from the general TTAG reader base. I recently did three articles with the P365, M17, and Colt M45A1. These reviews weren’t so much out-of-the-box write ups, rather they were 15,000-25,000 round updates. The comments in these articles yielded some confusion, so let’s take a look at how long you can expect a pistol lasts.
The first thing that I need to address here is that some people thought that the guns in those reviews weren’t ‘used’ enough or didn’t have what they believed to be enough wear. I don’t know how to answer that except to say that I don’t treat my guns like sh*t and you shouldn’t either.
What counts as used “enough?” Is firing a gun 25,000 rounds enough to somehow wear off all the finish? Is it enough to wear out the rails in the slide? What about the springs?
The question here comes down to the fact that wear is relative to the gun and the wear on the slide and frame is usually unrelated to internal wear.
The finish of a modern gun is usually quite durable. I’ve had some I was less than impressed with, however I’ve never had a gun scale up wear in direct correlation with use. Guns that are carried are typically subject to humidity and sweat, and if in a leather holster, this moisture is easy to trap against the metal of the gun, causing corrosion. Many modern guns don’t have too much of an issue with this, being made of polymer and extremely durable surface coat finishes.
Guns are like anything in that they wear the most on raised edges. Just like that countertop you constantly bump at home, the high points will begin to wear. That’s normal depending on the finish.
Some of the most durable metal finishes I’ve seen out there are on GLOCK brand GLOCKs, especially the Gen 5. I’m extremely impressed with mine and it has stood up to everything I’ve thrown at it, looking brand new. The Gen 5 has a slick, almost Teflon-like coating on it that’s somewhat shiny. This is different as compared to the older generations with more matte finished slides. I always found those would wear a bit faster.
For the most part you can expect a very, very long service life from most modern pistols made from high quality materials. I expect my Colt M45A1 will outlast me even if I keep shooting it at 15,000 rounds a year. The .45 ACP is one of the lowest pressure modern rounds out there and I don’t doubt it will continue to function as-is for decades with no real part replacements.
This is where the numbers get messy for many people. There is more information in high-count 1911’s than even GLOCKs. Some pistols used in the military competition teams get hundreds of thousands of rounds put through them with no ill effect.
Most 1911’s out here just need a new recoil spring every 75,000 rounds or so, but I know many guys who change them at just 5000 or at the start of each competition season. To each their own. The actual wear there is never as much as people think.
Many high-volume competitors I know consider the lifespans of a complete gun at about 50,000 rounds, after which they begin to swap out parts, starting with springs. Barrels on handguns pretty much never wear out and a loss of accuracy is usually the result of overall wear and not wear on the barrel itself. A new recoil spring usually solves that for most people.
Frame and slide cracking is quite rare. I’ve seen bulged barrels on low-end guns more than I’ve seen cracked frames. An old friend had an early gen GLOCK 35 that he shot in matches until the frame cracked at the trigger pins. GLOCK replaced the frame for him immediately and he was back at it. As far as I know, he still has the new frame and likely has about 150,000 rounds on it.
You hear all the time. ‘Oh, this pistol had frame cracking in the military testing’ but what you aren’t told is that many of these are prototypes or early run models with specific features. There are few, if any, modern guns from reputable makers that suffer these issues. The horror stories you here are comprised of 99.99999^10% made-up forum bullsh*t.
Parts wear on your handgun is likely blown out of proportion and you shouldn’t really be worrying about wearing your handgun out at all if you’re an average gun owner, shooting something like 100 to 500 rounds a year. The majority of any wear in this case will be cosmetic and come from the holster or the bag you carry it in.
Cosmetic wear becomes functional wear when corrosion develops. If your gun isn’t looking new that’s fine. However if you can’t fire your gun because humid lint built up in the slide and frame, you are now going to have an issue.
I clean my guns more often due to carrying them than from shooting. I’m not at the range every day, but my pistols are collecting dust and sweat daily on my hip. I try to take them apart and get the lint and dust out of my carry gun at least weekly. I do a detailed cleaning every eight weeks or so. This will probably vary depending on your region or clothing choice.
Very little of the wear you’ll see on a pistol is caused by actually shooting it. Guns are meant to be shot. If you’re concerned that your gun is wearing prematurely, perhaps take it to a gunsmith and have them diagnose where the failures are happening.
Chances are any problems you’re seeing have little to do with wear and are likely associated with ammunition choice or magazines.