failure to feed
The Truth About Guns
failure to feed
The Truth About Guns

One of the criteria that some in the gun media as well as buyers use to judge a pistol 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 different kinds of ammunition well will work well if you have to use a different brand or type than your usual stuff. That means you can expect the gun to run 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 State or whatever. 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.

rifle chronograph accuracy
You need to test your gun with a number of brands and types to find what ammunition is most reliable and accurate in your gun. (Michael Arnold for TTAG)

For instance, my 1911 loves Remington UMC and Herter’s brass more than other brands of FMJ, and Speer Gold Dot over other brands of JHP. Ergo, I buy UMC or Herter’s 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 they stick to those.

Ammunition Double Feed doublefeed double-feed
Most failures have more to do with the magazine than the ammunition. (The Truth About Guns)

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 target ammunition. And most often, it’s one of the cheaper versions like Winchester white box, American Eagle, Herter’s, Blazer and so on.

Also keep in mind that when a semi-automatic gun has feeding problems, the magazine is most often the problem. 

Most gun stores carry a range of ammo to choose from. Very few only carry obscure surplus ammo that nobody’s sure about. In my observation — and your mileage will vary — shooting cheap(er) steel-case stuff like TulAmmo only saves about a dollar (maybe two) over Winchester White Box, Remington, or American

Eagle. Range ammo is generally affordable…well, it used to be, when you could find it. It probably will be again, some day. 

Buy Now Button

In short, while it’s nice, it isn’t really important to buy a gun that shoots any and all ammo. Spend some money buying a range of different ammunition. Then take the time to try them out at the range testing both function and accuracy. Even if your gun will cycle and shoot everything under sun, there will definitely be some brands and types it shoots best. It’s well worth finding those. 

In the end, if your gun fits you and you shoot it well, and you identify the one or two brands and types that work best in your gun…what else really matters?

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

 

59 COMMENTS

  1. Not minding a picky gun sounds like first world privilege to me.

    During times of ammo scarcity I would be thrilled to have a gun that ate whatever I could get.

    • My Glocks gobble up anything I feed them, but the feed ramp on my M&P for some reason won’t reliably feed Perfecta ammo due to a slight “sharpness” to the edge of the casing where the bullet is seated. Not smooth enough to slide up into chamber, so half result in FTFs. The Glocks and 1911 have no problem, however.

      Highlights the oft-said advice to know your guns and train regularly.

  2. There is no excuse for any modern pistol to choke on Brand x and digest Brand b just fine. Consider that you’re carrying your ammo sensitive 19Whatever and shtf when you’re not at your doomsday bunker with its stockpile of preferred ammo for the picky eater. Brand x may be the only resupply available.

    Any weapon that is ammo sensitive is a range toy, nothing else.

    • I totally agree. There is no excuse for gun manufacturers to put out a gun that won’t consume all of the major brands of ammo assuming you are using OEM magazines.

      The oil analogy is poor. While people have their own oil preferences for their car, the fact is that any brand with the proper weight/spec will work.

      Years ago, I bought a new Colt .380 handgun. It stovepiped almost everything I fed it. This is pre-internet and I was young and didn’t think about taking it up with Colt. I sold it shortly thereafter and never bought another Colt.

    • @jwm,

      A gun should indeed be able to reliably feed all sorts of ammo within the same caliber, but remember that ammo is created by different manufacturers in different factories located in different countries, and to different levels of quality. SAAMI specs should always be expected, but I found that my Glocks and 1911s eat up Perfecta ammo no problem, but my M&P’s feed ramp hangs up on the sharp casing ridge. Buffing the rounds one by one on a wheel to soften the edge fixed the problem. My ARs eat up brass cased ammo all day long, but don’t like Tul-Ammo steel case that much. My semi-auto .22LR rifle gobbles jacketed ammo perfectly, but doesn’t like lead bullet, while my .22LR bolt action sees no problem with it.

    • At the range on the weekend we had a rimfire match. My no8 trainer likes Winchester Power Point but that is getting expensive and some ranges don’t like the high velocity, so I’ve been using standard velocity ammo instead.

      After using Federal, I could only buy CCI standard velocity. I used the CCI through the No8. Result was 150 and 22 centers out of a possible 150 and 30 centers. A win in the open sight class. I would have placed 4th in the scoped rifle class with my score.

      Course was 5 prone at 100m in a minute. 5 sitting, 5 prone at 75m in 2 minutes, and 15 sitting at 50m in 3 minutes.

      • Congratulations, that’s some fine marksmanship. I’ve found that scratching 6.5 on the back of any cartridge improves it’s accuracy

    • My Sig Mosquito always jams at least once every magazine unless I use CCI. Remington green box is the worst. Glad it’s a .22, I’d be really upset if it were a carry gun that I couldn’t carry.
      Anyone else have a Mosquito?

      • I have a mosquito, and it’s easily the worst gun I have. Ludicrously heavy trigger (I haven’t weighed it, but it’s got to be at least 20 lbs, it’s THAT heavy,) jam factory no matter what ammo I feed it or how clean I keep it, light strikes with some ammo, and I’m pretty sure it slamfired a round at one point. Clearly a lemon, but if that’s an example of when they aren’t built right, it surprises me not at all that when one works at all it’s unreliable.

        Always meant to send that thing back to Sig but I always ended up just taking my Rugers out for rimfire day instead of dealing with it.

      • I made the mistake of buying a SIG Mosquito for my son. It was his first firearm. I let him pick it out. I haven’t found any ammo that will run reliably through even one magazine. My son and I have both written it off as a CPOS. I will never own another SIG.

  3. When I was a new owner I had a finicky LC9. In hindsight it probably did not like the Freedom Munitions 9mm ammo, but it killed my confidence at the time. The same thing happened with my Taurus 1911, though it seemed to dislike everything. Then I got a G19 and haven’t had a malfunction since.

    • Funny how that works. My G19 Gen4 eats absolutely anything. My new G19x same, so far. That’s a great quality, as you find out when you have to by what’s available as opposed to what’s preferred. So far true for my e-Series 1911, had an FTF on the first mag of HPs and 1,000+ round later has never had another.
      OTH, I have a Sig P250 in .45 that is 100% reliable–as long as you’re running brass. It can’t get through a mag of steel or other cased ammo. It has a loooooooong trigger pull, but I shoot it well and Ima keep it.

  4. This is a problem for people buying cheaper and shorter ARs. If your pistol is picky, sell it. If you’re building a PSA 8.5in AR, Don’t expect it to run every ammo flawlessly. Do your research on what you’re buying.

      • .300 Blackout has the advantage of being designed for shorter barrels, so even across different loadings by different manufacturers the pressure available for cycling is fairly predictable. In .223 however, tend to be either for 20″, 16″ or 14.5″ (military carbine) barrels. Rounds made for the latter may cycle a shorty correctly, but rounds for the former will just make a huge flash and short stroke as the powder meant to be burning in the next 10+ inches of barrel burns in front of the muzzle instead. When loadings range for intended barrel lengths between 8 and 12 inches instead, as is the case with .300 blk, you have to get to a super short barrel like a 4.5 before you’re as mismatched as an 8 incher firing loads meant for a 20.

        • Spot on, Mercury.

          I have both 5.56 and .300 BLK, in 16″ carbine and 10″, respectively. 5.56 was originally engineered to generally perform best in 20″ barrels for optimum powder burn, while .300 BLK was designed for 10″ barrels. These 5.5″ goofball guns I see (and I know someone who has one) are just stupid. Sure, there’s plenty of muzzle velocity to spare even with a 20% loss when going down to the shorty 5.5″, but the flame ball and dubious cycling aren’t worth it. If someone really wants a short barreled AR with punch, get an 8.5″ PSA pistol kit for .300 BLK.

          If you can find them in stock nowadays, lol…

  5. One of the many reasons GLOCK brand glocks became so popular is because it worked with all types of ammo. It was the only gun I would recommend to new gun owners to buy and load up and be able to defend yourself walking out the door. If a gun is finicky with ammo then I’ll pass, thank you very much. You may have to use whatever is available at some time.

    • Texican,

      Yup. My Glocks eat anything. But so does my Ruger.
      All go “bang” every time. Well, once, on a 111 degree day, my G17 overheated after about 220 round and refused to rack. Fine after it cooled.

  6. The ONLY picky ammo I’ve used is 9mm IWI weird HP. And my Tauruses eat everything else. So I ain’t buying it again. Never shot steel ot aluminum in any caliber.

    • I’ve had issues with wolf, tula, and blazer aluminum so foregoing steel and aluminum is probably a good thing. Even though its fine for range use, it was annoying. There is also the claim steel and aluminum will cause additional wear and tear, I’ve had no broken parts but I could see where the harder metals might cause issues.

      • In addition to added friction wear, there’s the added pressure wear to your chamber and bolt face / extractor when using steel or aluminum cases. Those harder metals don’t seal the chamber as well as brass, so you get a lot more hot gas leaking back into the action when you fire. If you could get a high speed camera into the chamber of a gun firing steel case, I expect you’d be able to watch the extractor being buffeted by pressurized airflow when holding a steel or aluminum case (depending on the design of course.)

        Personally, I won’t shoot steel no matter how cheap it is. It makes my guns dirtier and it can never be cheap enough to make the extra cleaning time worth it.

        • “Personally, I won’t shoot steel no matter how cheap it is.”

          That goes for me too. Also, no aluminum in any gun I own.

  7. I hold that your defensive gun should run all new factory brass-cased ammo in the standard bullet weight range. The 9mm you trust your life to should run any standard loading of 115 to 147 grains. That’s not too much to ask for. Race guns, $3000 1911s, precision rifles, not so much. But if I have to baby a gun, I can’t trust it to defend my person or house.

  8. Other than Tula I’ve never really had a problem with ammo. I prefer S&B for my range ammo, except for .32 in my Tomcat and Federal HST as my carry ammo across the board. I’ve used Federal, Remington, Winchester, Geco and others without too many hiccups. Maybe it’s just the guns I own.

    • Tula is the only ammo that’s ever made my Springfield XDm choke. Failed to go fully into battery several times, and nothing else has done that before or since. I hesitated to use it in the AR because of that, but it being dirt cheap, I’ve shot more Tula through the AR than anything else, and it *loves* that crap. Go figure.

      I don’t figure it’s that big a deal if a gun is picky about ammo, as long as you can find a good supply of said ammo.

      • The worst jam I ever had to clear was with Tula . 223…. the rim ripped off of one trying to eject, and the next one in the mag went very forcefully inside of what was left of the fired case… ugggh, mini14 was not designed to easily deal with a mess like that—– ended up being a 2 man job and destroying a .17 cleaning rod to get it done, that lacquer on the case turns into an excellent adhesive when it melts and then cools inside of the chamber !!

  9. If it don’t run with decent ammo it don’t stay.
    If it’s just minor accuracy one brand over another it’s no biggie.

  10. Sam Hoober, at a time of nation-wide ammo scarcity where people are buying up whatever they can get their hands on and gun owners face very real threats from political extremists (illustrating EXACTLY why people don’t want ammo-finicky guns), this has to be the dumbest possible article you could write.
    We expect a gun to function properly with ANY properly loaded ammo that you can buy off the shelf, because we can’t forecast what shooting options the left’s antics will reduce us to, or when they’ll tank society next.

  11. What a ridiculous premise!
    It is ok for recreational guns such as a .22 to demand such and such ammunition.

    A service grade pistol- Glock, SIG and Colt- should feed any quality ammunition fed it.

    In times of shortage this is especially important. A heavy firing pin strike and proper magazine and recoil springs are vital. But there are plenty of poor quality firearms and railroad cars of poor ammunition in the system

  12. Once you find the particular ammo your gun likes, build up stock and save that for when it’s truly needed. Use up the cheaper, lesser grade, less accurate at the range to stay in practice.

    If your never going to use your shotgun on birds, Clay, or 3 gun then save the buckshot and use birdshot and target ammo at the range while keeping a stock of 00 and 000.

    Fire a few of the good stuff just to make sure it cycles and let that be that.

    Many guns need to be ‘broken in’ so if you only shoot 20 or 50 rounds in the life of your firearm, you might not reach the point of reliability.

  13. Yes….it is a big deal. Unless you only shoot it for fun.

    I have many pistols that are reliable with eveything.

    All my revolvers will also shoot any load.

    Life is too short to trust your life to a picky gun…..unless you only have the one.

  14. I think it depends a fair bit on what the gun itself is and how you plan to use it.

    Older semiautos may be picky about JHP because they really were not designed for it.

    A few years back we got semi-deep on this in relation to the Star BM because one of our then-resident “I’ve owned everything” trolls made some claims about it which he/she/zir had copy+pasted from message boards.

    IME, Star BMs don’t like certain JHP ammo and it has nothing to do with the mag but rather the split feed ramp design and barrel-to-slide tolerances that were meant for FMJ. Those design features mean the gun tends to fail to feed “wide mouth” JHP rounds where the bottom of the hollow point gets caught on the lower edge of the barrel portion of the ramp. However, the guns will IME, feed certain JHP rounds just fine. Remington Golden Saber and anything running a Hornady FTX bullet should be good to go and very reliable.

    So, if you have one they can be quite reliable with common ammo but if you’re going to make this a primary or even “regular” SD gun then you’ll want to think about that. Or just run FMJ, which contrarybto popular belief can and will take people out of the fight if you do your job.

    Personally I leave one of mine in a drawer loaded with Golden Sabers and a spare mag of the same. It’s not meant as a primary but rather, if I didnt have a gun on me for some reason, something to get me to another gun if I end up needing more than 16 rounds for some crazy reason. As such I consider it an “option gun”.

  15. I had a old Ruger P90DC in .45ACP.
    It did not like the cheaper white box ammo or American Eagle.
    Did a feed ramp job and polished it.
    Then it would run with out an issue.

  16. Guns that are finicky eaters are guns that get left at home. Especially in times of panic buying and hoarding when the gun’s preferred diet simply is not available.

    Hell yes a gun’s ability to feed, fire and eject varied brands and loads is important.

    Unless you are wealthy and can afford to buy precisely what you want anytime regardless of cost.

    In which case, hey, nobody was talking to you!

  17. My 3913 eats everything.
    My Para Elite Commander has NEVER failed.
    My S1 Kimber Compact failed to reliably lock the slide after the last round. A slight tweak of follower tabs fixed this.
    My PPK/S chokes on Blazer aluminum.
    My buddy has a 50’s era Belgian Hi Power that will not feed hollowpoints. My MK II BHP does fine w/ any type of ammo.
    We tried swapping mags, all functioned in mine, none in his. So, not a mag problem- more likely the early feed ramp.

    YMMV. But it pays to test.

    • On PARA USA, here’s another vote of approval!

      Mine is a PARA Expert 1911 in stainless steel. Not that I prefer stainless, but these were clearing out on a Black Friday sale at Sportsman’s Warehouse for $299 and I could not resist it. I believe they were among the last guns fully under the PARA USA brand before Remington destroyed the brand.

      As for my PARA 1911, it simply has flat out worked flawlessly with all ammo I have fed it. All FMJ, all JHP. To be fair I do not go in for the more exotic stuff, staying in the 115gr to 124gr loads mostly. I do have some 147gr I have never gotten around to trying.

      The loss of the PARA USA brand is a sad one. A good make of firearm done in by the financial shenanigans of Wall Street robber barons who sucked the life out of the companies they pulled under one roof, saddling them all with massive debts for which those companies received no benefit.

      Every time you think about what went wrong at Remington, stop and think about the high finance trickery. Remington was a victim of that, not the instigator. As such, Remington did not fall apart of its own accord.

      Remington was murdered.

      • My .45 ACP Elite Commander was a closeout after Remlin acquired Para USA. (I wonder who gets the Remington pistol lines now?)
        Black Nitride over stainless slide and frame, green FO front and white dot rear sight. Fully supported match barrel and two MecGar 8 rd mags. Machining, fit and finish are impeccable. Decent trigger break out of the box, even better after a little touchup. These were selling for $1000 a year previously at my LGS, w/ a $200 fact rebate. I paid $500 and consider it an exceptional deal.

  18. For carry guns, I would never have a gun that was ammo sensitive. Too many available choices of guns that run flawlessly with everything to settle for something that won’t.

  19. Bought the Kimber Solo when it came out. It came with a long list of acceptable ammunition. Multiple brands, and various types. The “break in” was To fire 6 rounds. That was it.
    It was your long before I discovered several of the bands didn’t work. Then Kimber changed the list. Not once but twice. Then ended up with saying to only use self defense ammunition. It reached the point where I couldn’t fire a magazine without problems.
    Kimber eventually replaced the gun when it fell apart. I looked at the new one, then traded it.

  20. I have one pistol that won’t reliably feed xtp (pointy) bullets. It will shoot everything else: H&K USP in 9mm. I’m good with it.

    I think its ok. It has Federal hollow points and that is good enough.

    If something didn’t feed any mass market brass, then I would have an issue. My S&W and Sigs do fine.

  21. The only kind of gun I can think of that’s picky about ammo and would have value as something other than an antique would be an actual, genuine, sniper rifle… which is going to be manually operated and physically can’t be picky about ammo.

  22. Dad had 2 different 1911’s when I was growing up; a Norinco GI-pattern 1911, and a Springfield Armory Champion Commander. We were shooting some flat-nosed lead reloads one day through both of them. The Springfield would fail to return to battery, but the Norinco didn’t have a single issue. I remember the Springfield being really tight right out of the box, so not too surprising it would be picky with ammo. Of course being a GI-pattern 1911, the Norinco was loose as a goose!

  23. I have a Walther P22 in 22lr. Holy crap that gun is sensitive to whats going through it. It will only semi-reliably feed with hot 22lr, 1300fps or so. Under that it jams, will not eject or strip another round from the magazine. Forums are abuzz over this little gun not feeding reliably. I did all of the tricks to it and it really didnt help it

    I use it for training purposes to teach people what to do in a stressful situation and your firearm isnt cooperating.

    • My P22 was terrible out of the box, but after all the little tricks it runs great. As long as you use the recommended ammo. The manual actually says to only use Mini-Mag, Fiocci HV, and Rem Golden. Those all work great.
      What I find weird is that Mini-Mag and Aguila HV ammo seem to have about the same muzzle velocity out of my rifle (same drops at 100 and 150 yards) but the Aguila short strokes the slide on the Walther and the Mini-Mag works great. My guess is that the Mini-Mag uses more primer and less powder than many other brands.

  24. I have had a few pistols that had feeding issues, they were immediately sold. No reason to have any firearm that does not function properly. The Walther P22 and Sig Mosquito come to mind. It should have been a crime that these pistols were sold to the public. Had the same issue with a Colt Mustang .380 years ago. Got rid of it.

    Love my Glocks , never had a failure or hiccup even after over 10,000 rounds. Glock is the Toyota truck of pistols. Just work and run forever.

  25. I dig my old 3rd Gen S&W pistols, as they eat anything and do actual cycle an empty casing. Other than a revolver, they are about the least ammo sensitive blasters I’ve seen. If trekking the wasteland of a ruined tomorrow, a 5906 would make a good companion.

  26. I don’t keep it if it does eat all the different brands. I had Glocks that wouldn’t eat nothing but brass. Sold them and went back to S&W

  27. Yes, failing to reliably cycle a wide variety of ammo is a big concern.
    A ‘picky’ gun is not one I would trust my life to.
    The dimensional specifications for a given caliber should leave no excuse for a gun manufacturer to develop a firearm that is not tolerant of the remaining variations in bullet construction & profile.
    An intolerant firearm is not a reliable firearm, period. Leave ’em for the range.
    I want a tolerant, reliable workhorse by my side.

  28. If the ammo is store-bought factory ammo, then it’s supposed to be SAAMI-spec. A gun that won’t shoot SAAMI-spec ammo is not a gun to which I can trust my life. Therefore, that gun…won’t. For revolvers, this is not a concern, but for semi-autos, it can be.

    For semi-autos, therefore, I handload my practice ammo as close to what my “business” factory ammo is. This is measured by the chronograph and felt by shooting under recoil. No problems so far. Bullet types are varied–JHP, FMJ ball, LRNFP, and LSWC. If the gun won’t shoot every one of those reliably, that’s a problem. If it does, then it’s a keeper. Again, not an issue with revolvers, but it’s a good test for a semi-auto.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here