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The most common reason semi-automatic handguns suffer catastrophic failure: hand-loaded ammo. The main reason they have an FTF (failure-to-fire)? Magazine-related issues. Then it’s operator error, including poor maintenance. After that we’re into the realm of freak accidents. And then mechanical or materials failure. It is, of course, the last item on that list which worries so many gun owners. Before we assign blame in this case, let’s not forget that neither we nor the gun’s owner know why this Springfield XD-M cracked. All we have is the owner’s description of events, which is as follows (courtesy . .

The crack looks small, but when you disassemble the weapon, it doesn’t want to go back together. I also think that the extractor is bent or damaged. It felt like someone slaped my open palm with a 2×4, but no blood…thank goodness. As you can see in the images, the case “appears” to have been about 1/8th inch out of battery when it went off. I had fired two mags of the “Cor-Bon” ammo without any problem, the third mag fired the first two rounds without any problem, third round misfired. I cleared the weapon and it fired the next round, had a misfeed on the next, cleared it and then it fired one more round, and on the next shot, KABOOM! I had cleaned it the night before. I am a PPO, (Personal protection officer). I would hate to think that it might happen in a gun fight protecting a client.

Excellent question. You might hate to think that your gun may fail when you need it most, but it behooves you to do so.

A gun is a mechanical device. As I learned when the lock on my Smith & Wesson 686 locked itself, even the most rudimentary of firearms is susceptible to failure. Some are more prone to it than others. But as the old expression goes, shit happens. Try to prevent “it” by purchasing a high-quality weapon and maintaining it properly. But if it worse comes to worse, there it is: the worst. Deal with it.

As the rabbi reminds us, there’s no such thing as a gunfight, only a fight with a gun. If you think your gun is The Mother of All Solutions to a violent encounter, you’re wrong. While the chances of your gun malfunctioning are low, there’s plenty of other ways that a firearm might prove completely ineffective.

You might miss. You might hit but only wound. You might score a telling blow—but the bad guy might live long enough to kill you anyway. The bad guy might take your gun away from you. He might hold a friendly hostage. There might be multiple bad guys. You might get blind-sided. As John Lennon would never have said, life or death violence is what happens when you’re planning on drawing a weapon.

So have a plan B. And C. D’s good. E’s excellent. And so on. The idea of a back-up gun may sound crazy to TTAG commentator magoo, but it just might work. You can always justifying carrying a spare revolver by saying it gives you the option of lending the second gun to a friendly, should you take one for the team.

As for reliable vs. unreliable guns in general, you gotta see things in their proper perspective. You gotta play the odds in a calm, rational manner. Is this gun well-made? Is it considered reliable by people who test it and carry it? If I Google search “Springfield XD failures,” how many hits do I get? Are they credible stories?

Actually don’t. Humans are hard-wired for weighing evidence in accordance with geographic proximity. In other words, the amount of fear we experience is often determined by how close to home a frightening anecdote appears to be. The Internet is wonderfully informative and particularly insidious.

If you read about a stranger’s gun failure, that’s bad (especially given that you’re not reading about millions of non-failures). If it happens to a best bud, that much worse. If it happens to you, that’s proof positive you should bail.

We should approach any personal experience of bad ballistic karma with the same panache as the protagonist in The World According to Garp. When a plane crashes into a house Garp’s viewing with his wife and real estate agent, the writer cries”We’ll take it! It’s pre-disastered!”

If we were all Vulcans, we’d investigate the causes of a firearms failure and then . . . carry on (literally). But we’re not so we don’t. Dammit Jim, I’m an armorer, not a psychologist!

Truth be told, we want to be confident that our self-defense tools will work first time, every time. We want to be comfortable with our gun on the deepest possible level. So we ditch common sense, buy a weapon that we “know” is the most reliable and take the blue pill provided by Dr. Feelgood.

Anyway, that’s my justification for trading a post-lock 686 for a pre-lock model, despite calling for left brain thinking.

In my own defense, I recently purchased a Performance Center Model 67 Carry Comp with a lock. And my Springfield XD-M 3.8 is my main carry piece. I reckon the odds of my be able to hit my target with the XD are a LOT higher than the odds of the gun failing. So I’m keeping it.

In over 10,000 rounds, my Springfield XD-M has never failed to fire. But one thing’s for sure: if it does quit in a fight, writing about it on the internet won’t be my first reaction. But it may be the second.

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    • I feel the same way Joe but if either one of us started looking around I think we’d find plenty of documented catastrophic failures for metal framed pistols too. So it’s a judgment call.

  1. Looks like this is going to be another plastic gun/metal gun debate which will end up nowhere. That being said, as a long time IDPA SO, I’ve never seen ANY gun “blow up” at a match. The only constant I can count on: Everyone shooting a match with any flavor of Kimber 1911 WILL have some kind of failure during the match.

    • Rick,
      I’ve carried my Kimber Gold Match for years and put at least 5000 rds down range without
      a single miss-fire.. Could you share your dislike of Kimbers?


      • if you’ve carried your Kimber for years and haven’t put but 5000 rounds through it, then send it to me. I put about 15,000 rounds /year through my XD and have done so for the past 5 years.

        I am also an IDPA SO and have seen failures in all types of guns, but most were shooter problems.

  2. Anything mechanical can fail unfortunately. That’s why manufacturers constantly strive to make their weapons more and more reliable, no matter what you throw at them. The XD is a very reliable firearm. I would put my life on the line with it any day, but I’m sure the internet (especially the glock boards) are afire with “told ya so” XD bashing right now. The sad thing is, people will see this one failure as an example of what to expect from the whole line up without finding out the truth for themselves.

    As to the point of having a plan, the Rabbi’s comment about gunfights is spot on. Have other options. If your gun fails, know what the next step should be. Whether it be as simple as clearing or jam or as catastrophic as structural failure. If you don’t at least somewhat prepare for these eventualities, a gun malfunction is going to be your worst nightmare and it may be your last.

  3. Now, this just might be me, but a bit of a red-flag went off in my head reading this..

    The owner describes two significant malfunctions within three rounds. Why not drop the mag, bench the weapon, and do a quick inspection of firearm, magazine, and ammo?

    After 1 misfire, clearing the weapon and coming back on target to re-engage seems reasonable (hell, in the case of my old Para Slim-Hawg it was more often than not a “limp wrist” issue. After a FTF almost immediately following the misfire, bells should have been going off. ESPECIALLY shooting Cor-Bon; which the manufacturer specifically calls a “hot load.”

    I understand that the owner is a PPO, and must rely on his weapon. Progressing through the issues and continuing to fire is most likely exactly what he’d need to do in a “SHTF” situation with one of his VIPs. However, in a range setting there’s nothing saying a little extra care / attention to detail is a bad thing.

    I’m personally not a fan of the XD series of pistols, or polymer pistols in general.. but would advise caution before jumping on the “look, look .. I told you so!” bandwagon of “XD unreliability.”

    I believe if the weapon had been cleared and benched after the second malfunction, something would have been evident in inspection that would have prevented the shooter from firing the “ka-boom” round. Maybe it was something simple .. maybe it actually WAS a materials failure.. either way, I don’t believe that this gun “had” to be blown up (ie: this was probably avoidable)..

    Mechanical devices fail, most often due to operator-error. I’m curious to see more regarding the events surrounding the catastrophic failure experienced here. Was there a mis-seated round? could some debris from a previous round have obstructed the seating of the “ka-boom” round? Before faulting the construction of the XD, I’d like to see more details..

  4. “The guns appears to be 1/8th inch out of battery when it went off” – doubt it! I will check later anyway, but I’m pretty certain that the XDM won’t allow the striker to release when out of battery, especially 1/8th out. As someone pointed out earlier, 2 consecutive misfeeds on a gun that was over 99.999% reliable means a problem! Either it be the gun, or the ammo, or whatever, something is wrong. Just by the description, the ammo seems to have been the culprit. This wasn’t a stress fracture or long-term abuse that cracked the frame. It was a single shot (or perhaps a few shots) that did the XDm in. The back of the case blew out, which can suggest an overloaded round, or plugged/constricted chamber or barrel.

    • I absolutely believe it. My XDs used to frequently get stuck just slightly out of battery. The striker and trigger would still work, and it would light strike (still dent the brass but typically not enough to ignite the primer and fire the bullet). I never had a bullet go off that I’m aware of when it wasn’t quite in battery, but I can completely see this happening. The amount it’s out of battery is about the amount you’d expect if the brass ejector clip didn’t hit the ammunition hard enough to clip around it but stayed behind it.

      My issues were resolved with a full strip down and cleaning (more than field strip). I haven’t had it happen since, knock on wood.

  5. Any mechanical devise can fail at any time. The space shuttle is a perfect example because even the best engineers in the world can build a product that fails

  6. “So have a plan B. And C. D’s good. E’s excellent. And so on. The idea of a back-up gun may sound crazy to TTAG commentator magoo, but it just might work.”

    Thanks for another name check. See how I get inside your head?

    On the contrary: If you are going to carry a gun at all times even inside your own home, you may as well carry two. I mean, what the hell. The reasoning that suggests one firearm practically demands a second one.

    And as you say, what about plan E? If it doesn’t include a Second Amendment remedy, it’s not a real plan, more of a wishful afterthought. So sure, I can see how a fifth firearm would make perfect sense from within this logical framework.

    And as always, the plan must be tailored to individual needs. For example, the fellow in this story might well need to carry three weapons to ensure he has one in ready firing condition. We can’t all be firearms experts. And obviously, the less you know about handguns, the more of them you will need to carry.

  7. i had a blowup with my glock 22 factory ammo and it fired not 100% in battery
    i played around with it and proved that IT WOULD FIRE NOT 100%
    glock says its not the gun but if you look close at the chamber cut you will see that if the chamber was cut just few thousands deeper that would correct the problem
    however glock will never addmit that they have a problem with the chamber look at how many millions of BBLs they would have to replace

  8. The most common reason semi-automatic handguns suffer catastrophic failure: hand-loaded ammo.
    I would have to disagree with this statement. It is not the intention of any hand-loader I have ever met, or talked to develop the hottest load on the planet. Rather they are seeking a list of things:
    1) the most accurate load for their particular firearm,
    2) the most reliable round for their particular firearm,
    3) Specializing components(bullets, cases, powder, primers) for a particular purpose.
    4)economy in being able to shoot many more rounds for the same cost,
    5) Being able to shoot a firearm for which ammunition is no longer available.

    • VERY few hand-loaders are irresponsible. They’re probably more responsible, as a group, than most non-hand-loading gun owners. More safety conscious. But when hand-loading goes bad—again, an extremely rare occurrence—bad things can happen. And again, shooting is a safe activity. Guns are safer than scooters, chainsaws, hammers and (I’m guessing) yodeling. So don’t take it personally.


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