Monday, August 11, 2008

The $0 pistol repair...

...or, "Doctor, it hurts when I do this."

My Glock 30 didn't like 200gr SWC ammunition from Georgia Arms. After a very brief moment of being stumped by this failing, I fixed it for no money and with no swapping or modification of parts, despite not being a gunsmith or engineer: I stopped trying to shoot 200gr SWC Georgia Arms ammo in my Glock 30. You run into this all the time in the gun world:

Customer: "My BlastOMatic 2000 has started jamming a lot."

Helpful Employee: "Wow, you never had problems with it before. What kind of malfs are you having? Failures to feed? Failures to eject?"

C: "Well, it's started not getting the round into the chamber sometimes, and sometimes it stovepipes the empty case."

H.E.: "Have you changed your grip...?"

C: "No."

H.E.: "What about ammo?"

C: "I'm still shooting that Blammuntion-brand 225gr FMJ from those five cases I got a good deal on last year."

H.E.: "And I know you're anal-retentive about cleaning and lube... What's changed?"

C: "The only thing different is the 19# TacticalCo recoil spring I put in the gun."

H.E.: "Huh? The BOM2k ships with a 13.5# spring. Why'd you change? Had it stopped working with the factory spring?"

C: "No, but my friends said the TacticalCo spring was better."

H.E.: "Yeah, but why?

C: "I dunno. It was just... better."

H.E.: "Try swapping the old spring back in."


C: "Hey, that worked!"

H.E.: "Imagine."

Two bits of common wisdom that are common wisdom for a reason:
  • "Doctor, it hurts when I do this!" "Well, stop doing that."
  • If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

(PostScript: Not that there's anything wrong with Georgia Arms .45ACP 200gr SWC; it's still my favorite .45 practice ammo. Just not in that particular Glock 30. With literally hundreds of different types of ammo available, which is easier: Getting a particular gun to shoot the one kind it doesn't like? Or shooting the hundreds of kinds it does?)


Kevin said...

But, but, but . . .

Glocks never fail!

I hear it all the time! Glocks always work! (Except if you limp-wrist them. Or use lead bullets. Or shoot .40S&W which Kabooms.) You can dip them in mud and they work!


J.R.Shirley said...

Aren't the SWC's lead?

Tam said...

I use the plated kind; they usually sell both varieties.

DJ said...

The world is FULL of people who will tell you [something] is better, and the only reason they have for doing so is that someone else told them that [something] is better. This phenomenon tends to validate a friend's observation that the average intelligence of the world is so close to zero as to be indistinguishable.

jimbob86 said...

The only Glock Kaboom I am aware of on a personal level (not intarwebz hearsay) involved a .40, using lead bullets. Handloads, no less. He went for the trifecta of Glockness No-nos...... I wonder if he golfs on hilltops during thunderstorms.........

TJH said...

Yeah, but sometimes it's good to know exactly what is causing malfunctions. Is it the gun or the ammo that's the major factor? If it's the ammo, then there is the possibility that the shottist might run into the same problem with another brand, and be once again stuck with an expensive mistake.

For example: I have a well-worn old S&W 4506 that tends to produce FTFs with a certain magazine--or so I surmised that this was the major issue. I bought a bulk box of plated 200 SWCs, and I thought I was being a smart guy by loading out the bullet for a "better" cartridge OAL. This worked with a medium-burn-rate propellant--no malfunctions and good accuracy.

I ran out of that powder, and now I'm trying to burn up a pound of a faster one. The first batch produced three failures to eject per 100. Unacceptable, so I upped the charge. The last batch produced one. One would think that since the two powders are producing similar velocities, the two loads would produce similar reliability. I've shot lighter loads with faster propellants and cast bullets, and haven't had any malfunctions.

I speculate that plated bullets are a different animal, and may require separate loading data. A plated gilding material lacks the rigidity of a swaged jacket, so the plated bullets likely have the characteristic greater friction of the jacket, but are as easily deformed as a lead bullet. I don't have the precision pressure testing equipment needed, but a simple hardness test reveals my plated bullets to be the equivalent hardness of lead wheel weight alloy. That's on the softer side, but in the right range to handle 45 ACP chamber pressures.

In terms of the safety of hand loads with a Glock, it would seem that my measured hardness of plated bullets would make them just as much of a risk as lead, yet no one seems to complain about an unusual number of kabooms with plated bullets. Could this be Osterrphobia? Glock is no different than other manufacturers with respect to the liability concerns of hand loaded ammunition. Some gun makers replace under warranty regardless, because they're just swell folks who would like your continued business. Glock probably doesn't want to be sued back to the Stone Age.

The danger with reloading "glock-ized" brass is pinched case webs. I bought a can full of used, primed brass in 9mm Luger, and so far have picked three glock-ized cases as rejects. The previous owner wasted time resizing them, wasted a primer, and was apparently intending to fire them. Definitely a case head blow-out in the making.

This brings me full-circle to the issue of low-cost plinking ammo. Because Glocks eject brass that is mostly unsafe to reload, hand loading is not economical--reuse of brass is what actually makes reloading cheaper. That means Glock owners are going to have to consider cheaper ammo to stay sharp. It would appear that cartridges loaded with plated bullets fill that niche. Perhaps someone at Georgia Arms will do some testing and adjustment for Glock firearms. Glock owners need lovin' too.

Tam said...

Of all the theories advanced by various engineer and gunsmith types, the most plausible one for polygonal barrels (not just Glocks, but HK and others, too) is lead bullets + high-pressure/velocity loads = severe leading in the throat area which leads to serious pressure spikes.

I know folks who shot tons of unjacketed bullets in .45ACP polygonal bores and didn't experience much leading due to using harder alloys and keeping the velocities low (easy to do in a low-pressure round like .45). They were diligent about scrubbing after range sessions, but no more so than many magnum revolver shooters.

Somewhere on the web was a study done by an engineering guy named Mark, who I used to know from my Glock Talk days, and he had some interesting numbers on how quickly lead buildup could lead to dramatic preassure spikes using unjacketed bullets in a .40 cal Glock...

Matt G said...

I performed a similar "fix" with my KelTec P3AT- I don't shoot Winchester ammo through it. For whatever reason, my particular specimen of pistol has shown a propensity to fail to extract ONLY with Winchester. Supreme, Silvertip, white box... I get FTE. Anything else, it works fine. Simple solution.

I've no beef with Winchester ammo, and I loves me some Georgia Arms ammo. But sometimes mating ammunition and firearm is like playing matchmaker to your buddies-- if it doesn't work, it's silly to try to push it.

jimbob86 said...

The manufacturer says "Don't do this. Or This. Or that." Other users of the product did this and that,and the other, and it turned out badly. Why then do folks insist on doing the same, thinking it will turn out differently?

I was over at THR today, and a guy was recomending lead bullets to handload for a Glock 9mm..... I guess they think they are special, and the Gods of Sploedey dare not frown upon them........

BA Moonshadow said...

I had the same issue with a 9mm Taurus, so I quit using Winchester, every thing else works fine. Simple solution.

TJH said...


Is this the fella?

Both the 9mm and .40 S&W--popular chamberings for the Glock--skirt the bottom end of typical rifle chamber pressures at 35,000 psi. There is no appropriate alloy (at that pressure level) available among the six most commonly used in bullet casting. The page I linked mentions a "24BHN" alloy; this alloy would sufficiently obturate at around 34,000 psi. The alloys in the hardness range of linotype (22 BHN) are brittle.

I personally wouldn't want to cut it that close. Cast bullets are used in rifles, but that is usually in conjunction with a gas check. It is better to use a softer alloy and load down for lower pressures. (Still, the alloy and size must be appropriate for the pressure and chamber dimensions.) That is the standard approach with cast lead and rifles. Some people have discovered the formula for their personal weapon. The issue may be making it work for all of them. I note that none of the popular mold makers produce a gas-checked bullet in .401" diameter. I take this as an indication that the .40 shottists are looking for high-volume and low-hassle.

There is an enormous amount of misinformation about lead bullets out there, wrapped in a blanket of safety anxiety. I won't deny that some of it is justified, because shooting cast bullets takes time and patience to find the right load. I've produced many loads that could have resulted in a dangerous accumulation of lead fouling had I not stopped and inspected the bore--and those were shot in revolvers with conventional rifling.

The critical factors are size, alloy and pressure. Provided that the lead bullet is oversize yet not too much to chamber, size is presumably not an issue in hexagonal rifling--at least from the standpoint of the bullet being swaged to the shape of the bore. If it were, I would expect reports of BIB conditions with stiff jacketed bullets (up to 100 BHN), due to gas blow-by. I wouldn't worry too much about velocity unless the bullets are leaving the bore at 2,100 fps or more.

I also question just how fast the lead fouling accumulates. The worst fouling load I ever produced put lead from forcing cone to muzzle in only six rounds. The typical recommendation is to clean after 50 rounds. I'd certainly recommend checking at least every 50 rounds, but a load that makes that much of a mess gets a big 'X' in my loading log. Plated bullets can also make a mess in the bore since the plating doesn't have the integrity of sheet metal used with pressed, jacketed bullets. It accumulates slower than with poorly-constructed lead loads, but after having restored the bores in two Enfields, I would rather remove lead than copper fouling from a bore.

Thanks for taking the time to read my (unnecessarily?) encyclopedic comments to the post. I hope that you find a suitable replacement that is just as inexpensive as the GA ammo.

Rick R said...

But, but, Ms S&W and 1911 Herself shoots a GLOCK!?!?!?! Say it isn't so. I hear hoof beats! The End is nye!!!

Those G30's sure shoot well though....


TJH said...

In some Middle-eastern countries, it is illegal to import a Glock without first marring the finish.

If this step is not performed, then the weapon would be perfect, and therefore an affront to Allah; for only He is perfect.

Mad Saint Jack said...

"Helpful Employee"

How do I get that job?

I just started delivering pizza again. At least I have Richard Davis to look up to.

Mark Alger said...

If I may lend the gun world a tangential bit of snark, here...

In peer-supporting software online, I have run across... shall we call them "features"? ... of a program which may or may not have been logged by the publisher as bugs, but nonetheless exhibited most of the other earmarks of bugs.

They would present upon the following of a certain, set procedure. You do THIS... the software glitches. A bug.

But, in the interests of a workaround, until the publisher made and distributed a patch or fix, all we could tell the inquiring end user was the punch line for the joke:

"Doc, it hurts when I do this."

the punch line:

"Don't Do That."

That is, the best remedy for bugs is -- you got it -- DDT.

Seems entirely apposite in these circs. You-all may have and use the expression with my blessing. (As I originate the term, I think I can get away with gifting it to you.)