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 thefirearmsblog.com). . .
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.