The Scariest Sounds Are Often the Softest

Yesterday we had a break in the weather, a nice thaw after what has been a rough winter. I decided to rearrange my schedule and get out to a public range nearby.

Mostly I wanted to test some .44 mag loads I had worked up. But I also needed to double-check the sights on my Officer-sized 1911, which I had replaced some weeks back with some fresh Tru-Dots. Bore-sighting indicated that everything should be fine, but the real proof is where the bullets hit when you actually pull the trigger. While there, I figured I would also get in some general practice. It never hurts.

The .44 loads performed as expected in both my Colt Anaconda and my Winchester lever gun. I let a couple of young guys shoot the Anaconda – they had been shooting a Glock, and were really interested in giving the old school revolver a go. And everyone wants to be able to say that they’ve shot a .44 magnum at least once.

That done, the Anaconda and lever gun put away, the .44 brass collected, it was time for me to turn my attention to the .45. I removed it from its holster (it’s my preferred carry gun most of the time), dropped the magazine and cleared the chamber. No sense in testing the sights with premium defensive ammo. I put a magazine filled with reloads into the pistol, charged it. Checking the range (I was the only one on-line at that point), I brought the gun up to take the first shot.

Pulled the trigger. It went “click.”

That’s it.

Just “click.”

Well, these things happen sometimes. I did the routine failure drill: drop the magazine, clear the chamber, reseat the magazine, rack another round into the chamber. Pulled the trigger.

Again, it went “click.”

Hmm. I waited a very long 30 seconds, then dropped the magazine, ejected the chambered round, and made the gun safe. I then picked up the two failed rounds from the shooting bench, examined them. Both had very light strikes to the primer.

One primer failure could just be a fluke. Happens with the best reloads, or factory ammunition, for that matter. But two? Well, yeah, it could happen. But I hadn’t had any problems with these reloads previously – they were a batch of about a thousand I had rolled, and the others had all been fine up to now.

I picked up the gun. Replaced my original magazine, the one with premium defensive ammunition. Chambered a round, took aim. Pulled the trigger.

Just a “click.”

I felt a cold chill run up my spine. My face felt a bit clammy. I waited, then cleared the magazine and round from the gun. My vision focused into a tight tunnel on the pistol in my hands, as the full implication of what had just happened settled in: my carry gun didn’t work when I expected it to.

Did. Not. Work.

It was like some kind of dream. Nightmare, really. Where the zombies are attacking and your gun stops working.

Except this was real. Thankfully there were no zombies around.

I stopped, thought: when was the last time I had shot this gun? It was in November. That was the last time I had taken it out for practice. I had cleaned it as usual after, and had been using it as my primary carry since.

For three months I had been carrying around a two-pound, funny-shaped, paperweight.

Suddenly, the J-frame in my pants pocket felt very comforting.

 

I don’t often carry a backup. I had brought the little J-frame along because I like to keep practiced with it – a M&P 360 in .38 special which can be a handful to shoot. But after I put the 1911 away, I ran a whole box of reloads through the J-frame, and didn’t notice anything except that it went bang every time, and all the rounds were on the paper, even out to 25 yards. Not the best groups I’ve ever shot. But they were all there where they needed to be.

I haven’t yet taken the 1911 apart to see what the exact problem is. It’s funny – I almost feel betrayed by it, though it is just a piece of machinery. I, like the gun, have had it for years and never had a problem with it before. But now, I just don’t want to touch it.

This was a relatively painless lesson, just an emotional shock out on the range. And I am not going to swear off the 1911, or semi-automatics in general. Not hardly.

But you can bet that I’m going to make sure to have a backup with me whenever possible. Me and that J-frame have just become bosom buddies.

Postscript: Well, a week after I wrote that, I took the gun completely apart – a “detailed strip”. And I found the reason for the misfires: a brass shaving somehow managed to get into the firing-pin assembly. That shouldn’t happen. No idea how it did. But that’s how Mr. Murphy’s Law works.

Yeah, I’ll keep that backup with me from now on.