Magazine Blooper Reel -or- Don’t overload your magazines

I sent my 1911 back to S&W. I asked them to address a “failure to eject” issue. They estimated a 2-3 week turnaround. I shipped it 4/29. I haven’t heard from them. So…

I decide to start shooting an H&K USP Compact I bought a few years back. It’s mostly been sitting beside the bed since that time. Not any more. I started dry fire practice a week before the 4/29 Action Pistol match and took it to PDHSC for live fire practice. This gun has a sweet trigger in single action mode.

I started the match with my mags downloaded to 10 rounds each. It’s what I’d shoot in IDPA so I figured that would be a good approach. After Stage 1, one of my shooting buddies encouraged me to top them off and plan my reloads, so for Stage 2 I did that. Here’s the result:

I think I loaded that gun 5 times before the reload “stuck”. I had the same issue loading for Stage 3. I think I said to the RSO, “This won’t go well..” but I had no further issues.

When I got home I reloaded all the magazines and counted the rounds. I managed to cram 14 rounds into one of the 13 round magazines. BINGO.

I’ll be counting when I load and probably keep it to 12 rounds in the future. Another lesson learned at a match and another reason to shoot matches.

How many rounds in a 10 round mag?

Five 1911 magazines – fully loaded

I shot a match in Oxford on March 9, 2013 (my 7th match ever).

I continue to have malfunctions with the 1911. At a previous match one of the guys suggested I might be limp-wristing but I really didn’t think I was. If so, it would be happening more frequently.  I think everyone felt my frustration as I had magazine malfunctions in two stages: rounds jam at the top and the magazine starts to fall out the bottom.

At this match, one of the RSOs was shooting the exact some gun that I’m shooting: the S&W 1911 in 9mm. I have slimmer grips but that’s really the only difference. He stopped to talk with me after the match. He asked if I could be hitting the magazine release? With my small hands I think not but it was a good question to ask on the way to solving the problem.

Then he asked a question I didn’t expect: How many rounds are you loading in the magazines? Huh? They hold 10 rounds and division capacity is 10 rounds so the obvious answer appeared to be: 10 rounds. Not so…

He told me he loads 9 rounds in each magazine. These magazines are so tight that having 10 rounds creates too much pressure, causing the slide to drag and “voila!” the appearance of limp-wristing. Almost everytime I’ve had a malfunction it was on the 2nd shot so I think his logic may apply to my situation.

I’m shooting ESP. The consensus was that I could do this. I need to shoot the entire match this way and inform the RSO up front. One of the folks we consulted seemed to think this might be in a gray area as far as the rules, but since I’m nowhere close to competitive at this point, I don’t think this will cause anyone any anxiety.

And I want to see if it makes a difference. So the next match, I’m downloading to 9 rounds and we’ll see if that reduces the annoying malfunctions.



The 1911 Saga: Cost

I took a defensive shooting / beginner competition class last October. The instructor insisted my gun did not fit my hands well. I really liked that gun (Springfield XD9) but I agreed. The same reasons are spelled out in these blog posts:

  • From the Cornered Cat: “Big” excerpt: “When a handgun is too large for you, it does not mean you cannot shoot the gun at all. Obviously, you can! And you can enjoy it, too. But a self-defense gun should fit your hand as perfectly as possible.”
  • From When the Balloon Goes up: “How to know if a pistol is too big (or too small)
I don’t like to spend money. I set financial goals for myself and a buffer that will let me ride out multiple months of unemployment is a requirement in my life. I rode the boom and bust in San Francisco for 10 years. That buffer helps me sleep at night.
The instructor recommended I purchase a 1911. If I couldn’t afford that, I should look at a S&W M&P 9. I’m very invested in learning to shoot well, so after agonizing over the decision, I opted to look at the 1911 options. Then I had to shop for one. For competition I wanted a 5″‘ barrel (more accurate) in 9mm (more affordable to shoot). I looked a local shops, online, asked friends about options and, about a month later I  snatched up the S&W 1911 in 9mm that appeared in the shop where I normally shoot. I paid cash to save about $40 in credit card fees.

Brand new 1911

Here’s the total so far to switch to the new gun:
  • $1290 –  for the gun and 2 magazines
  •     $90 –  1 Holster in green by Daranich Tactical (offset and dropped)
  •     $70 –  2 mag carriers in green by Daranich Tactical (offset)
  •   $129 –  3 additional Wilson Combat magazines (for a total of 5)
  •     $80 – 4 hour class on complete take down for a 1911
  •    $90 –  specialized cleaning tools and supplies from the take down class
  •   $156 – new grips, installed + two tools for take down + A Wilson Combat Take down Manual
Total: $1905

All the new gear.

I also spent $80 on a dropped offset holster for my Springfield XD9 to use until I got the 1911 purchases sorted out and $75 on a Woolrich Concealment vest. That brought my total expenditures, ignoring ammunition, to $2060 for October/November of 2012.

It took about 6 weeks to get the slim and get them installed. I basically had to start over learning to draw and to work the gun (because of the safety). I shot matches in late July, mid-September, and late October with my XD9. Due to these purchase and the new learning curve I didn’t shoot another match until January.

I haven’t taken any further classes and won’t until I can replace the cash I spent to switch guns. I still practice or shoot about once a week but no private or group lessons for now.
Was it a good decision? I’m not sure.

The down side: This gun is very finicky. The safety requires thinking about even more new things. It malfunctions easier. I have wasted lots of time at matches figuring out what’s wrong with my gun.

The upside: It’s thinner. More importantly, it’s heavier. I’m now able to shoot without re-positioning my hands on the gun between shots. When I’m ready to start shooting faster, the reduced recoil will help. The trigger is much lighter. I’m starting to take that for granted but it has surprised the friends that have shot this gun.

For now: I’m determined to learn as much as I can. I’m going to shoot with this gun for the rest of this year and then decide if I should be looking for something else.

The Label Project

The last competition match I shot almost cost me a holster. The day after the match I dumped out my range bag and was doing a quick inventory when I noticed: no kydex holster for the XD. That was bad, very bad. The holster set me back $80 and I really, really did not want to buy another one.

I was headed back to the shop for a class that afternoon so I went early. I checked out the room where we hung out between stages and where I’d packed up my gear. The table was pristine and clean. My heart sunk.

A couple was filling out forms, probably their first visit to the range. I was looking through every box and container around them when the gentleman asked, “Are you looking for something?”. I explained and he glanced into a large box on the floor next to him that contained VHS tapes and was labeled, “Free – Please take”. He said, “Is this want you are looking for?” The cynic in me thought he was messing with me, but hallelujah!. He picked up my holster and I gave him a huge grin. I told him he’d made me a very happy girl. I must have knocked it off the table when I was packing up.

Lessons learned:

  • Pay attention
  • Label your gear so that an honest person will know who to return it too
Tonight I did just that:

All gear labeled! Hopefully I won’t misplace anything again but if I do there is hope for it to be returned.

Included: belt, ear muffs, custom ear plugs, 4 holsters, 3 mag pouches, glasses, and 3 sets of magazines.

I also numbered the individual magazines. An instructor advised me to do that. Why? If you start having problems with a magazine you can tell if it’s always the same one or if it’s randoms (ie: an issue with the gun).

And yes, I know using a label maker is kind of nerdy, but I really like the results. It will be interesting to see how the labels wear and if they stay attached to the gear. I have a small concern that the magazine labels will be scraped off when I load then stick in the magazine well, but that easy enough to fix. Each set has the labels in a different location so I can see what works best.

Magazines: More Lessons Learned

Here’s a bit more on the magazines I swaped by accident yesterday:

Single stack 1911 on the left. Double Stack XD9 on the right.

These are very different magazines. This photo shows the width difference well. The other difference is the capacity. The 1911 maxes out at 10 rounds. The XD9 will carry 16. So why did I buy the 1911? A single stack magazine results in a narrower grip. And I have very small hands.

Extractor from my 1911.

Since I had my gun, but no magazines, one of the guys working at the shop joked about, “taking the time to make lots of single shots” and I jumped on that comment. I’d always wondered if you could load a semi-automatic by placing a round in the barrel.  (Note: if the terminology is incorrect please do correct me in the comments!).

Since none of the classes I’ve taken has mentioned this I thought it might be a dangerous practice but if I’m ever in a situation where I have a gun, no magazine and a pocket full of rounds I would want to know the answer. So of course I asked.

The answer: it’s possible but can damage your extractor. Typically the round slides in from behind the extractor and the rim slips into the lip of the extractor. If you hand load the round and then close the slide, the lip of the extractor is forced over the rim of the round from behind the round.

Long story short: you can do this but it may damage the gun over time by breaking the lip off the extractor. I found more discussion here.

A final comment about my visit to the shop yesterday: some of the staff are becoming friends. I show up on a regular basis, I’m willing to listen to many opinions, and I always try to be upbeat and positive when I’m there. It’s a good feeling to see friendly faces when I walk in the door.






Magazines: Lessons Learned

I drove to the range yesterday to send some lead down range after work. After I arrived I realized I’d brought the wrong magazines. I’ve been keeping sets of magazines in ziplock containers.

Can you tell the difference? Clearly I could not. One of these had 4 double stacked XD magazines, the other has 5 single stack 1911 magazines.

I brought a container of 1911 magazines with the Springfield XD9. Bummer. I did not shoot on this visit.

How did I manage to do this? I’ve been drinking from the fire hose in my quest to learn and haven’t slowed down to regroup. In this case I should have dumped out my gun bag after the 1911 Take Down class I took last weekend and inventoried what’s in the bag.


So what’s the good news? I now have enough guns that I’m fortunate enough to have this problem. (I try to stay positive!).

This should work much better!

I treat every visit to this range as an opportunity to talk to knowledgeable folks and learn. Two of the guys that I see the most in the afternoons had walked me through taking my magazines apart a few weeks back on a slow day. I followed up yesterday with a final question about the direction to place the small end of the spring in the follower.

II’d taken them apart and cleaned them up, then took my best guess at putting them back together. I even shot a match with them last weekend and all seemed to go well, but I still wanted to confirm my technique. Since I hadn’t brought the right mags with me this trip, he was kind enough to pop a similar mag out of a rental gun to examine. He let me take it apart and show him the two options. He confirmed my choice was correct.

Alignment on the left is correct: it’s vertical when flush in the follower. Alignment on the right is wrong: it angles to the right of vertical.

The new Silicon cloth for magazine maintenance.

I picked up a silicone cloth to “lubricate” my magazines. In a recent class I attended I was advised that these cloths were the best way way to keep magazines working well. First take them apart and wipe off the dirt and grime with a clean dry cloth. Then run this silicon cloth through the inside of the magazines, around the outside edges of the follower, and up the spiral of the spring. The cost was roughly $5. And one the guys at the shop reminded me: don’t put them in the washer. He said you’d be surprised at how many people do that, then realize: “no more silicon“.

And finally, I stopped in to see the resident gunsmith. We are becoming fast friends. He has already fixed a serious issue for me and never seems to tire of my endless questions.

I’ve been waiting 4 weeks to get the slim grips we ordered for my new 1911. He called this week and was told they are on back order. So I asked if we could order from a different supplier. Turns out he has a dozen or so slim options in stock, but had not mentioned that as he thought I wanted the specific grips I originally selected.

I’m so glad I asked. He has several I’d be happy with, so I’ll be taking the 1911 to him next week and finally get the gun set up to shoot.

All in all a productive trip, even if I didn’t get to shoot.




Breaking in the 1911 Magazines

I bought a Smith  & Wesson Pro Tactical 1911 in 9mm two weeks ago and I haven’t shot it yet. I bought the 1911 because the instructor of one of the classes I took recently insisted that I needed a gun that could be adapted to small hands. With a single stack and modular grips, the 1911 is the best candidate. I’m still waiting on the slim grips I ordered to come in. Until they do, the gun will remain a virgin.

I ordered all the accessories I’ll need to compete in IPDA with the new gun: A Kydex holster dropped and offset, two Kydex mag holsters also dropped and offset, and 3 extra Wilson Combat magazines. Two came with the gun, so this gives me a total of five magazines: 3 for competition, 1 for a Barney mag, and one extra because, well, I was told it’s always good to have a spare.

The new news today: you need to break in the magazines. I ordered them from the instructor that advised the 1911 purchase. When I picked them up today, I found out that the new Wilson Combat mags are too tight initially and may cause the gun to malfunction. The way to address that issue is to load them to full capacity and let them sit like that for at least 3 weeks. As of tonight they are loaded and “breaking in”.

Another tip I got was to number the magazines. If the gun starts to malfunction this will allow you to check to see if it’s always the same mag. If so, it might be the mag, not the gun with issues. One of my instructors uses marker pens, another uses fingernail polish. I have had a bad experience with fingernail polish and guns, and I didn’t own a marker pen, so I opted to use my label maker. I labeled the back spine as I don’t touch that surface when I load. I’ll report back if that turns out to be a bad decision.