Malfunctions Happen: What’s an Acceptable Rate?

By on August 20, 2014

It finally happened! I had a malfunction with my M&P 9mm.  Last weekend I was shooting an IDPA competition with Texas Tactical and had my ultra reliable M&P malfunction.  I don’t think it was the gun, but the ammo.

I was running through the stage at break-neck speed, trying to catch the leader (yes someone was shooting faster than me).  I was on the move, I went to engage a target with a double tap when it happened, BANG-CLICK! The loudest sound you’ll ever hear in a gun battle happened.  The other match attendees said it looked flawless.  Like I had put a dummy round in the magazine for practice and knew it was there, but on the click I felt like a monkey doing a math problem.  It only took a second to figure out what was going on and clear the problem, but it feels like forever.  After the incident, I kept going to finish the stage.  One of the nice things about IDPA is there are no do-overs.  You have to finish the stage even if you have a gun problem.  But what caused the gun to malfunction?

I went back and found the ejected round.  After looking at the round, it appears that I had a dead primer from a box of Monarch ammo purchased from Academy here in San Antonio.  If you don’t know Monarch, it’s steel cased, dirty, and the cheapest ammo I can find locally.  Academy Sporting Goods imports the stuff from Russia.  I shoot it because it’s cheap.

So the question is, how reliable do we expect our guns to be.  That was 2,108 rounds before I had one malfunction (50 self defense rounds, 1,768 brass fodder, and 290 steel cased crap).  And this one, I’m 90% sure, was the ammo.  I couldn’t test it by putting it back in the gun to be sure, but the primer looked completely dented (I planned on pictures but lost the round in the excitement of the competition).

If you haven’t had a malfunction, you haven’t shot enough.  Go shoot your gun until you have a malfunction and then figure out how reliable your gun is.

I’m perfectly content carrying my M&P for self defense if it will run over 2,000 rounds between malfunctions.  What’s your limit? How reliable do you think your self defense gun should be?

If you only use practice ammo to shoot, you may find that your gun isn’t as reliable as you think.  I read an article once that said ammo companies are held to a 1:1000 ratio of good ammo.  Or every thousand rounds they manufacture there can be a bad one.

If you think that it’s only crap made overseas that malfunctions, then I’d say get some Winchester White Box in the 100 round boxes.  Lately I’ve found a bunch of bad ones in the boxes.  In fact, someone at the competition found a Winchester round with the case partly peeled back in a 100 round box.  I don’t know if it’s the packaging because all the rounds are loose and destroyed during shipping or if the ammo is being manufactured that way.

I really don’t have a good answer for how many times between malfunctions.  The only thing I can say for sure is the gun needs to be able to go through all the ammo you normally carry for self defense.  I also know, the less malfunctions I have the better I feel.

What’s your answer?

Stay Safe,


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