In September of 2022, I built my current “EDC” on a PFC9 frame (serialized “100%” Polymer80 frame). For all internal parts, I used Glock OEM parts.
My threshold for reliability as a defensive weapon and qualification for EDC (every day carry) was 1,000 rounds. It achieved that without any hiccups at all. And so it earned EDC status.
The gun has been flawless and now has 7,400 rounds through it. Until today.
I brought a few guns for the range visit today. I usually like to start with some practice with my EDC. I also like to start with a few dry fires before I go to live fire. After that, I inserted a loaded magazine, chambered a round, and bang. I paused to look at the target. Drilled the bullseye at 10 yards with my first shot. Nice, especially since it had been six weeks since my last range trip.
The two loudest sounds… a bang when you expected a click, and a click when you expected a bang.
Next shot… CLICK! Huh?? This gun always goes BANG! For 7,400 rounds straight!
I know the slide cycled, ejected the spent shell properly, and it went into battery. So what happened?? I removed the mag, and racked out the unfired round in the chamber. I inspected the primer to see if it was a light strike or just a bad round (with a full strike on the primer). There was no mark at all on the primer. That’s weird!
Let’s try again. Mag inserted. Chamber a new round. CLICK! WTF?? I repeated the above procedure, again inspecting the primer. Not even a scratch on the primer!
Briefly ignoring Einstein’s definition of insanity as repeating the same action over and over and expecting a different result…. Perhaps in a fit of denial (that my “perfect” EDC could malfunction) I loaded and chambered AGAIN. A third try. No surprise…. CLICK!
OK… time to analyze the situation further. I removed the slide. First thing I did was hold the firing pin safety down and shake the slide. Yup… I could hear the firing pin shaking loosely inside the slide, like it’s supposed to. Firing pin is not frozen / stuck.
Next, I pulled the firing pin back manually with my finger on the lug to see if that spring was working. It felt normal. Then I pushed the firing pin safety again to observe the firing pin protruding through the breach face. Ummm… where is it? Nothing is poking through the breach face hole! I peered down inside the firing pin hole. Aha! The firing pin BROKE! I looked down at the bench and actually found the rather tiny piece – the tip of the firing pin! To be clear, this is 100% Glock OEM parts.
What can go wrong, will go wrong… at the worst possible time.
Yikes! Thankfully, this happened at the range. But, what if this happened at the worst possible time… in self-defense?!?? In a defensive situation, I can remedy any number of stoppages such as Failure to Feed, Failure to Eject, and even Failure to Fire in 2 – 3 seconds. “Tap, Rack, Bang!,” familiar to many of us, is one such remedy. An out of ammo condition or mag failure can be rectified by carrying a spare magazine (or having one available in the case of home defense).
But if a firing pin or trigger spring breaks… The only thing left to do is throw your gun at the perp like a big rock and RUN LIKE HELL! UNLESS you carry a back-up gun (BUG).
A bug’s life
For years I carried my EDC in an inside-the-waistband holster on my right (dominant) side and a spare magazine in a “mag-packer” in my front left pocket. That should be “enough,” right? While I was familiar with the “New York Reload” or “BUG” concept, I had never really considered doing it. After all, I’m not “Rambo!”
I realized I had a completely empty front left pocket! What could I put in it? Another gun, of course! I happen to already own a perfect candidate! So, now my S&W 642 Airweight (.38-SPL) resides there in a Remora “sticky holster” as my “BUG.” Of course, I thought “The chances of ever needing that BUG is remoter than remote!” Right? Maybe not!
Failure (preferrably in practice) is the best learning experience.
Today’s experience at the range reinforced a few lessons:
- First… guns can fail mechanically causing a malfunction, which is different than a stoppage. While most people don’t put 7,400 rounds through their EDC in 16 months time. Some (many?) gun owners won’t put that many rounds through their gun in a lifetime. But there are parts in a gun that are considered wearable and expendable just like tires, brakes, and batteries for a car.
- Consider that those parts may fail at the worst possible time. One way to mitigate that possibility is by preemptively replacing those wearable parts as “preventive maintenance” on a schedule based on rounds fired.
- Since a malfunction due to mechanical failure cannot be remedied on the fly like a stoppage, consider the value of a “BUG.” Many people find carrying a gun regularly tedious. Adding a spare bag is even more demanding as daily practice. Carrying a BUG?? Most would consider that cumbersome and even “overkill” (please excuse the tortured metaphor). There are certainly valid arguments for and against a BUG. Your mileage may vary, and only you can decide what works for you.
It can happen to factory guns, too… ask me how I know!
A few years ago, before I was a P80 builder or had any knowledge about how Glocks work, I was at the range with my factory Gen 2 Glock 19. My very first pistol, purchased back in 1996. Never carried it. It started as a home defense gun and always a favorite range gun. With about 8,000 rounds through it, suddenly the trigger went limp. I hate it when that happens. That’s what she said!
I was at the local gun store range, so I took it to the back counter and got the gunsmith out to look at it. In about 3 minutes, he replaced a broken trigger spring and charged me about $2.75. No kidding. I asked how or why it happened. He explained, “It happens. Gun parts can break over time.”
Never stop learning!
Today was an eye-opener even for someone (like me) who has been carrying for 28 years without incident. Think about regularly replacing parts like slide lock spring, trigger spring, recoil spring, firing pin spring, and the firing pin itself. Any of these breaking can “brick” your gun. Now I need to research what is a typical expected lifespan for those parts so I can come up with a schedule. If you know, comment below! If you don’t know… comment anyway!