Some Gun Problems from Last Weekend’s Class

Written by Greg Ellifritz

Topics: News and Tactical Advice

  • SumoMe

Written by: Greg Ellifritz


Everyone seems to love it when I write about the guns and gear I encounter in my classes.  Last weekend I taught an extreme close quarters handgun shooting class at FPF Training down in Virginia.  I had 18 students in the class.  Three of them had some fairly significant gun problems.  Here’s what I saw:


1) Short-barreled 1911s often have problems (especially if they have “Kimber” written on their slides).

I know I’m going to get some hate mail for this one (Don’t send it. I’ll just ban your silly ass), but I’m going to say it anyway…


I see more problems in my classes with Kimber guns than I do from any other manufacturer.  I’ve certainly seen some Kimbers that work well, but they are rare.  I encounter problem guns so regularly that I cringe every time I see a student break out a Kimber for my class.


Let me summarize what I have learned in more than 15 years of teaching commercial firearms classes:


1) 1911 guns as a whole are less reliable than modern striker fired pistols.

2) Although some Kimber 1911s run perfectly, as a whole, Kimber 1911s are some of the worst performing 1911s I’ve seen.

3) Any 1911 pistol with a barrel shorter than the factory original five-inch version is less reliable than the longer barreled models


The student I had Saturday was truly the perfect storm.  He was running one of the compact Kimber 1911s with a three-inch barrel in .45 acp.  The students fired about 150 rounds in my class (the class was mostly fighting with a little live fire added in).  I personally saw this student’s Kimber 1911 malfunction at least five times.  No doubt it jammed more than that as I had almost 20 students to watch.


Recreational shooters think that if they have one or two malfunctions during each box of ammo they shoot their gun is “reliable.”  After all, it doesn’t jam on every shot.  This is a huge mistake.  Why would you carry a defensive gun that won’t work 3-5% of the time when perfectly reliable handguns are available?


Here’s the problem most folks don’t understand…


Almost all guns will work pretty well when clean, well lubed, and shot slow fire with two hands on the gun in a climate controlled indoor range.  Problems start popping up when we have sweaty hands (class last Saturday was in the blazing sun during 92 degree temperatures with over 80% humidity).  Problems start popping up when shooting from retention or when shooting with a less than perfect grip.  Under these conditions, your “reliable” 1911 shits the bed.


Here’s my advice.  Stay away from Kimber.  Stay away from the 1911 as a defensive firearm.  Really stay away from the compact 1911s.


2) Some guns do not work for some people.


A USP with an ambedextrous safety/decocking lever...what this student DIDN'T have

A USP with an ambidextrous safety/decocking lever…what this student DIDN’T have


I had one student who was shooting a traditional double action (with decocker) H&K USP Compact.  He had two problems.  The first is that he didn’t truly understand the operating system of his pistol.  A gun like that requires regular practice to run correctly.  People who carry these guns have to practice decocking after every string of fire.  This student didn’t understand this procedure and was regularly reholstering a cocked gun.  That’s a recipe for an accidental discharge.


As soon as I noticed him holstering a cocked gun, I ordered him to stop doing it and forced him to decock after every string of fire.  He seemed annoyed that I was forcing him to be safe.  Folks, IT ISN’T SAFE TO HOLSTER A COCKED GUN  WITHOUT APPLYING A MANUAL SAFETY FIRST!  His gun didn’t have the “cocked and locked” option, so he couldn’t just apply a safety before holstering.  He should have been decocking.


When I made him decock his pistol, we found another problem.  He was a lefty and he didn’t have an ambidextrous decocker.  He had to transfer the pistol to his weak hand, decock, and then transfer the gun back to his strong hand to reholster.  No wonder he wasn’t doing it right!  What a pain in the ass!


Some guns just simply don’t fit some shooters.  There’s no reason to put up with this nonsense when so many ergonomic, quality handguns are available on the market.  Find a gun that works for you.  Don’t automatically trust the gun store commando’s advice about what gun is “best.”


3) Even high quality guns can break.


Glock slide lock spring

Glock slide lock spring


On the last shooting drill another student’s Gen 4 Glock 19 puked.  It was a relatively new gun and hadn’t been shot much.  During a string of fire, the slide moved forward and off the frame.  The descending leg of the slide lock spring had broken off, allowing the slide lock to fall out of the gun.  With nothing holding the barrel to the frame, the slide moved forward and came off.


This is a fight stopping malfunction.  There is absolutely nothing anyone can do to fix the gun other than to replace the spring and lever.  I’ve seen this same malfunction several times.  Glock will tell you that it happens because the recoil spring assembly isn’t inserted into the deeper notch on the barrel and its edge rubs on the spring, thereby damaging it.  I don’t believe them.  I had it happen on one of my own pistols numerous times and I always ensured the recoil spring was properly seated.


Even reliable guns like Glock will break sometimes.  In fact, I think every Glock I’ve ever carried has broken at some point in time.  If you run your guns hard, they will break.  It’s best to be able to fix your own guns and to make sure you have a plan when the inevitable happens!



One last piece of trivia…


This particular post is article number 750 on my site.  That’s a lot of writing in just over three years!  Thanks to all of my readers for their continued attention and support!








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27 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Eric says:

    I have had the identical part break in two different Glocks, gen 2 and 4. Very disconcerting to have the slide fall off at the end of a string of fire.

  2. caleb says:

    Hey Greg!

    I had a great time at your class in VA.

    I must say that I saw all these things with my own eyes and Greg is not joking.

    The craziest — to me at least because I am packing a G19 Gen 4 as well — was the Glock breaking. Greg did a great job showing the entire class what went wrong and explaining that even “reliable” guns like Glocks can break.

    Greg, I don’t know if others are interested but I’d love to hear the story about the Glock you had where you encountered the same problem multiple times …

    Speaking of that, brings me to “what is reliable” … when do you know?

    I have full faith in my G19 because … it hasn’t not worked … yet **GULP**

    I’m bad at keeping track of my round counts, but a conservative estimate since I got this Glock in October of last year is about 4,000-5,000+

    Dr Roberts says “make sure you fire at least 500 and preferably 1000 failure free shots through your pistol prior to carrying it. If your pistol cannot fire at least 1000 consecutive shots without a malfunction, something is wrong and it is not suitable for duty/self-defense use.”

    ToddG has a long answer: “For me to be comfortable carrying a new gun, it needs to shoot at least 200 rounds of the same JHP defensive ammo that I’ll carry when CCW’ing without a single stoppage. Ordinarily, I’ll put at least 500 rounds of practice ammunition through the gun first… ”

    1. Maybe you have a post on this I haven’t seen yet?

    2. If not, what do you consider reliable or how do you test it?

    3. I think from class I recall you saying you’ve had over 20,000 rounds through your Gen 3 Glock?

    4. Finally (sorry for the long post lol) how long in or after shooting the Glock that malfunctioned with the parts breakage for you (multiple times) did you start seeing problems?

    It would suck to put 2000 trouble free rounds through a gun, trust it and start carrying then one range day it breaks — I guess that’s my fear 🙂

    Anyways, Great class and great post as always! Congrats on breaking 750 articles — next stop 1,000!

  3. Steve W says:

    Great article. I have seen a few Kimber’s come into my shop for work. None of them were repairable: Frame cracks, slide cracks, barrel exploding from factory ammo. Anytime a customer comes in with a Kimber, there is a good chance he is walking out with a different gun. Keep up the good writing.

  4. Collin says:

    i remember Kimber being thought of as the best. What happened?

    • Tierlieb says:

      The story of Kimber reliability is similar to the story about Ruger Mini-14 accuracy posted earlier, it depends a lot on the date of production:

      Kimber started out as solid maker, then became famous (I think the LAPD SWAT started carrying them or something), then had to keep up with the increased demand, stumbled over a bunch of cost-saving measures (the attempt at an external extractor being the most famous failure), then lost their good reputation, then started regaining it (giving up on the external extractor, for example).

      I can not say where they currently stand, though – I heard good things from a friend handling most recalls in my country. But when I recently bought a 1911, I still decided against Kimber.

  5. Steve Choy says:

    Spot on with this article Greg..I was a newb once..and unfortunately started out with a Kimber Ultra CDP II…took it to a Dave Spaulding class..started acting up just like you explained..when it started to jam and throw 230 grain ball like a Trebuchet..I knew it was time to get rid of that POS…Certain students must have you vapor locked on them when show up to class with a certain pistol….like the DA/SA with decockers…I bet you watch every time if that student will decock before he accidentally “de-cocks” himself when he re-holsters AIWB…but hey..that’s a whole other debate. I had number 3 happen to me at TDI…on my Bowie Tactical 4th gen G19…you can tell Dave that..entire slide came off because that stupid slide spring wasn’t seated correctly…or was it due to Dave’s stippling?? Haha..either way..great article..look forward to training with you sometime in the future.

  6. Gina Garduno says:

    wondering if I can get your opinion. Just bought the Sig Sauer 320c 9mm. What kind of ammo should I carry in it. I was thinking hollow points.
    What do you think?? Thanks

    • Greg Ellifritz says:

      I don’t honestly have that much experience with the 320. My friends who shoot it more than I do seem quite happy with it. For defensive purposes, buy a Federal HST, Speer Gold Dot, or Winchester Ranger hollowpoint. All work well.

  7. Robert says:

    Nice thing about the HK USP series, is that you can have change yourself or have HK Service swap righty to lefty or ambi, or get a DAO trigger setup. No need to get a different gun if it otherwise works perfectly.

    Personally I advise running a few mags per range tip decocking after every shot, then follow with doubles to keep familiar with the transition if you want to carry DA/SA.

    As an almost set in stone DA/SA guy, I have moved to carrying with the HK LEM trigger still get my hammer along with same trigger pull shot after shot.

  8. chefjon says:

    Sharing to Primary and Secondary on fb. I think you’d like it there.

  9. Shooter1911 says:

    With a name like mine, you know I’m going to take issue with what you just said about 1911s. Seriously speaking though the reality is I shoot a Professionally Customized Colt Series 70 that is proving to be as reliable as my son’s G19. The problem is I could have bought three Glocks for the price I paid for that kind of reliability in a 1911. My experience has been the same as you indicated with three inch 1911s, but I must say some manufactures have nailed the reliability issue on some of the new four inch 1911 compacts. I have a Springfield Armory Range Officer Compact that is proving to be very reliable right out of the box. With its ramped and fully supported barrel and duel captive recoil spring the gun shoots everything, but I will admit I have not shot it under the conditions you mentioned. I think those issues have a lot to do with the shooter, and not the gun itself. By the way I also have an M&P 45C that shoots like a bandit. At this point I could never take one of your classes, because if my 1911 choked I could never live it down.

    Thanks for the opinions, and keep up the good work. I really enjoy your articles.

  10. C.W. Sayre says:

    Yes, unless you know how to work on a 1911, they would not be a good choice for a novice. Whenever I get a new 1911 I run it through a tune-up procedure that, during USPSA shoots (at 100 degrees/90% humidity, right and left handed, handloaded and factory ammo, etc)runs with superb regularity.

    Here are a few great articles on how to accomplish this:

    Know your gun!!

  11. thebronze says:

    Kimbers are shit guns. Do some of them work? Sure they do. But why would ANYONE stake their life on such a problem-plagued pistol??

    It’s funny how SO MANY of the “1911 Guys” (Vickers, Hackathorn, Yam, etc.) are running away from 1911’s as fast as their feet will take them.

    Let’s all just realize that the 1911 is a sub-par combat pistol for the majority of people, in 2015.

    The gun was great 50+ years ago, but we’ve certainly made much better strides and much better guns in the past 20 years.

    It’s past time to retire the 1911. Its time has come and gone for any serious combat pistolman.

    • Tierlieb says:

      None of the three you mentioned are running away from the gun as fast as their feet take them. All three make a point of not recommending the gun for the average user or even the professional user who is not willing to spend a lot of time learning gunsmithing. Point in case:

      Hilton Yam: “if training, shooting, and performance is your primary goal and you lack the resources, time, patience, or knowledge to keep after a 1911, then be realistic and choose something more modern” in “my personal path away from the 1911”

      Vickers: “Make sure you tell guys that the 1911 is a pain in the ass. If they don’t like messing around with the pistol and spending a grand to really get it tuned, then they should forget it” in the hotly debated Airforce Time article.

      Ken Hackathorn: “My 1911 pistols work and I know how to maintain them and keep them in top form. For the ‘non-gun guy’, it is a bad choice; they’re much better off with a Glock or S&W M&P” in a “Gunfighter Moment” article.

      Personally, I agree. I’m a Glock guy for serious use. I still recommend getting a 1911, because it does something really nicely, even awesomely. Running it will teach you a lot about using other guns (support hand slide-lock release will start to make sense, for example), maintaining it will teach you about mechanics a lot and being safe with cocked & locked carry gives you a whole new perspective. But I am not willing to spend the time on making a 1911 that works for IPSC Classic (= feeds FMJ RN reliably for 500 round between cleaning) combat ready (twice the round count and hollowpoints).

  12. cjohnson44546 says:

    I’ve noticed small barrel 1911s in 9mm work MUCH better than 45, and are much cheaper to shoot. I have a RIA 1911, 3.5″ barrel 9mm that has had 0 malfunctions in 1000 rounds, with no modifications, but have noticed more issues with 45s this size.

  13. Mike says:

    How do you feel about springfield armory xdm in 9mm and .45? I have both in the 3.8″ barrel. I know you have seen them in action more than my every other saturday shooting. Anything I should be aware of or watch for? So far they have been very reliable accurate weapons.

  14. A42405 says:

    Spot on about the 1911 in general, there are good specimens that need very little work but they are few and far between. In response to the Glock issue, I have been a competition shooter for the last 17 years, shooting 1 Glock 34 for 15 of those and I have never had the problem noted in approx. 100,000 rnds through this particular firearm. I have witnessed this happen at a match …. once …. in 17 years. Not to say it doesn’t happen, but in response to Caleb’s concerns from what I have seen the spring breakage does not tie in directly to round count.

    p.s. zero parts replaced in 100,000 plus rounds over 15 years (at least one match a month)

  15. Sue Streisguth says:

    Yes, 100% on the Kimber 1911 issue. I was one of the ones who proudly produced one at my training weekend a couple of years back, much to Rob’s chagrin. But my Kimber proved him right–not 10 minutes after he bet me I’d have at least one malfunction, I had a malfunction. And another, and another, and so on. The upside, it gave me practice clearing malfunctions, and more importantly, taught me that my Kimber is not a reliable defensive firearm to carry; after that weekend, it was relegated to a fun pistol only. That lesson alone made the course worth every penny (I came away with lots more knowledge than that, though!).

  16. Sandra says:

    All good info. The thing that caught my eye was when you stated you had 20 students to watch. That’s far too many people for one person to make sure everyone is safe. Any class I have been to is 8:1 max. Thank you for the article.

    • Greg Ellifritz says:

      It was actually 18. I run the students in two relays, so that knocks it down to 9. When one relay shoots, the second acts as safety officers for their partners, giving me eyes on every student all the time.

  17. John B says:

    I have a Kimber Ultra CDP II and I absolutely HATE it. It James at least once with every mag. Replaced the factory crap mags with Wilson Combats and it helped a little but didn’t fix the issue. Far too many issues with Kimbers to be a coincidence. They just suck.

  18. Thanks. I love all information good or bad. You can never learn enough. I live in CA, what are your thoughts on using my Springfield XDS 3.3 45 acp as a CCW for reiability? It doesn’t have a traditional safety on the side just trigger and hand safety

  19. .weston.pecos. says:

    I shoot DA/SA Sig pistols, P228, P229, and P239. I am left handed. I decock with the left index finger. I’ve been doing it for so long now that I honestly do not know how you righties decock with your thumbs.

  20. Dcow777 says:

    I had dealings with Leslie Edelman’s businesses in the 1980’s. His gun store “Edelman’s Sporting Goods” sold returned guns sold by his wholesale gun distributorship.
    They had to pay the shipping back from the dealers that got defective new guns from the makers. Instead of returning them to the factory, which was more shipping costs for them.
    Instead they sold the broken guns to customers. Not all his employees were bad but some were sleazy. He was selling his “Lifetime warranties” (If your gun breaks they send it back to the factory for repair for free. I used it myself on a Ruger.) two weeks before the place was closing (With a sign in the window!).
    A lot of the business that guy gets involved in starts out okay then it’s all about getting the most money with the cheapest product available.
    Stear clear of anything “Leslie Edelman” is behind. He is “All about the Benjamins” and if he’s selling you a gun that doesn’t work right he doesn’t care. All he wants is money if you are getting a gun from him you might life depend on he doesn’t care that it will fail or doesn’t work from day one. He’s got the money.
    I’ve seen all sorts of stories about this guy when I Googled him and I’m not surprised he hasn’t changed. Buy something from someone else. For what he’s charging there are a lot better guns for the same or cheaper so don’t let cost be the only object.
    Just my opinion and experience. YMMV, etc….

  21. Eric Roessler says:

    Regarding the slide lock spring breaking, I had the same thing happen after CQC class at TDI. I suspect side pressure was applied during the weapon retention portion of the class.

    After replacing the spring, I cut a sliver of neoprene sized precisely to fit in the tiny rectangular space under the slide lock. It mechanically blocked the slide lock from dropping. I had to be precise about the fit so that it was easy to remove and replace before and after disassembly, but secure enough to stay in place during operation.

  22. Ken Goetz says:

    Great article…I can’t agree with you more. I was in an advanced class two years ago where a 1911 shooter was finally sent home for not de-cocking his firearm prio to re-holstering.
    Continue to enlighten / educate us….never to old to understand all safety / reliability aspects

  23. says:

    give them all glocks with aiwb . just kidding . when you give the command for the students to holster have them yell “weapon safe” and this will help with decocking or safeties . i own 4 H&K 45’s and beretta m1 ,it took a while but it’s now muscle memory . my usp 45c and model 36 are my CCW’s . i like carrying my revolvers and have never had one problem out of this 60yr old weapon . keep on teaching the 2A .

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