The Guardian Broadcast
"Providing Concealed Carry & Armed Self-Defense Wisdom."
A podcast by Patrick Kilchermann, founder of the Concealed Carry University.
"Testing Your Gear – What Are YOUR System’s Weaknesses?"
A system is as weak as its least effective part. This simple, sad truth has crept up on unsuspecting warriors for millennia and robbed them of their lives in battle - and yet, this is a simple problem to fix. Test your gear.
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This week, I want to touch on something important, and that is: test your gear. Do what you’ve got to do to become or remain confident in it, and most importantly: put it through its paces. Find its weak points and find – if you can – its points of failure. There are a lot of things related to concealed carry guns and equipment that sound great theoretically, but those benefits don’t always translate to success at the range – and of course we must be aware that if it doesn’t work at the peaceful range, it certainly won’t work in violent combat.
This is true for guns, it’s true for holsters, it’s true for carry positions, and it’s true for the clothes you wear while you carry on an average day. We’ve got to test all things in as realistic of conditions as possible. We have to know our equipment and understand its strengths and weaknesses.
This becomes especially true when we modify any of our gear as it came from the factory. When we cut or grind or sand our holsters, we’ve changed them in a deep way. When we modify our pistols, we’ve essentially single-handedly invented an entirely new gun. A 1911 with an extended barrel is no longer a 1911. An XD with a custom ported slide and barrel is no longer an XD. A Smith and Wesson M&P with a heavy red dot sight mounted on top is no longer a Smith and Wesson. A GLOCK with a trigger job is no longer a GLOCK.
Now, this doesn’t mean we should never try to improve our gear. Gun manufacturers are businesses, which means they’re always trying to find that sweet spot between quality and affordability. If GLOCK produced the pistol that their chief engineers probably want to build, very few people could afford them and they wouldn’t be such a successful company. When you put $2,000 into one of these pistols that cost $600 new and you feel the difference, you realize just how much difference it makes, and how much more potential there is for that platform. Now I will say that we shouldn’t bother trying to upgrade our equipment until we’re certain that our skill has outpaced the capabilities of that equipment, and eventually it will: you’ll become more accurate than your sights or trigger will allow, so you’ll want a better one. And we also must realize that it’s extremely unlikely that any out of box holster or gun are going to perfectly meet your needs. So, often times gear does get modified.
This means that any time we change even the slightest thing on a pistol, you’ve got to do two things:
First, you’ve got to understand that you just put its status as a Tier 1 gun in question until proven otherwise. A pistol really isn’t the sum of its parts but is instead only as good as the absolute weakest or least reliable or most sensitive part on that gun. Now, when a Tier 1 gun leaves the factory, it’s made of parts that are known to function well together, and it’s been lightly tested. Provided your initial few range experiences don’t show any faults or failures in that particular specimen, you are reasonable to expect that your gun is as reliable as others like it. With proper maintenance that will remain true – until you change anything about that pistol.
Once you do change something about it – a new barrel, a trigger job, even a grip – you’ve then got to test it. So first, understand that a modified piece of gear demands heavy testing, and then you’ve got to actually test it.
This shouldn’t be a sterile test; ideally, you’ll test the gun as you’d need to use it in the worst possible conditions of violent combat: fast draws, bad grips, low quality ammo, and obstructions. Wrap your shirt around the back of the pistol and fire. Does it have enough power to cycle in spite of that? Grip it toward the bottom of the handle to simulate a bad grip – will it still extract? Does it appear to be more sensitive than before? Fire a bunch of low-quality ammo – 300 or 400 rounds. Is it still detonating cartridges reliably? Cycling smoothly, functioning well, and firing accurately?
You don’t need to torture your gun, but you should put it through the paces of firing several hundred rounds, adding some obstruction, running with a limp-wrist, bad grips, and on and on. You’re not just wasting ammo testing your pistol; you’re just using your next training session as a gun testing session.
The same applies to any modifications you make in your carry position and holster. Try not to let yourself change things, and then just continue carrying under ‘business as usual’. Try to really look at it as if you’ve just acquired an entirely new gun – one that’s never been tested before and one that wasn’t manufactured by people who necessarily knew what they were doing. Try to remember that the producers of after-market parts may not be brilliant, and they may have made mistakes as well.
Case in point: I recently took a heavily modified pistol to the range. There’s not a single moving part in this gun from the factory. Well, each part in itself functions with excellence in a fully stock pistol, and greatly improves its utility. But when you toss all these parts together, what you get isn’t always what you want. First, the pistol failed to detonate about 10% of the primers it struck. Once I fixed that, new failure to feed issues developed. It was a great example of how all the springs and pressures within a pistol are designed that way for a reason, and when you begin changing the weights of certain parts, those springs need to be modified to compensate. It may be worth it to you to chase these performance gains, but probably not. The best lesson here is that stock, factory or pro-shop Tier 1 guns are the best bet for daily carry and self-defense.
And as a reminder of how incredible a Tier 1 gun is, on the same trip I pulled out a polymer framed, striker-fired plain-Jane Tier 1 combat caliber handgun. I chambered a round, then dropped the pistol into the sand. With my feet and hands, I drove the pistol down into the dirt with all my force, scuffing against the gun with my boots. I then picked it up, knocked the sand from the barrel against the side of my boot, and opened fire. BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM. Sand certainly bounces off my face and eye protection, but an entire magazine flowed as if the cartridges were covered in oil going into a clean gun.
Next, I locked the slide back on a full magazine and repeated the procedure. It was so packed with dirt and sand that the slide couldn’t close even a quarter inch. So, I roughly cycled the slide while holding the pistol upside down until, in spite of the awful gritty sounds, the slide closed a very dirty cartridge into a very dirty action. The trigger felt twice as heavy, it was so packed with sand. BOOM! This time, the slide didn’t fully close on the next cartridge, so I power-stroked it. That one seated. BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM. Aside from that first failure to load, the gun fired another entire magazine without issue.
THIS is how a Tier 1 gun should perform, and they do. THIS is the gun you want in your belt – and THIS is the confidence you want in your equipment. You can only get this sense of confidence (or spot disastrous issues) if you test your gear at the range under live fire, simulating combat as well as you can.
You don’t have to torture yours, but make sure you’ve tested it enough to know just how reliable it is.