There are hundreds of guns, with hundreds of people swearing how good their guns are. There are thousands of people writing on gun forums everyday attesting to the superior gun in their arsenal . . and then there are even people who profess any gun will do. Will the only consideration I have when looking for a gun that I am going to bet my life will work when it is called upon. A known history of reliability.
I can read the forums and reviews, I can ask the guys at the gun store, I can ask old Uncle Joe and I can even talk to the manufacturers but in the end, every single of them is offering their opinion, generally based on what they like. I need something more if I am going to bet my life on a gun. States and local agencies believe it or not base their purchases to some degree on cost. That does not work for me because my life is priceless. I do not care what the gun costs, my only concern is that it never, ever fails to fire.
In 1986 I had made the decision that I was going to carry concealed. At that time there was no permits required so I just started carrying a S&W Model 60 Combat in .357 Rem Mag. It is a great gun, fun to shoot, dead accurate if fired in the single action mode and seemed to be pretty reliable as many LE agencies were carrying that exact gun. One day on the range I cocked the hammer and the trigger would not budge. I banged the cylinder hard into my palm and kept trying to fire or uncock the gun. NOTHING would work. After calling my friend Tim and TJ’s Gunsmith in Aurora Colorado I took the loaded and cocked gun to him. He grasped the barrel holding the gun upside down and grabbed a rubber mallet off his bench. Now I’m looking at him wondering what he was going to do with that mallet and he started wailing away on the trigger guard. I quickly looked around the shop for someplace to hide expecting that 357 to go bang at any moment.
So Tim would hit it a few times and then try to uncock it, hit is some more and try again. Finally after several whacks with said mallet he was able to uncock and unload the gun. I’m standing there with my mouth hanging open and said “what in the heck did you just do”. Time replied that there had been some firing debris, most likely copper jacket, which had gotten into the cylinder lock. I stated that I had never seen that happen in over 35 years of shooting revolvers. Tim said, oh ya, it happens all the time, you probably just didn’t realize it. He then looks at me and says, did you bang on the cylinder when it first locked up? Standing there, mouth hanging open nodding my head up and down, and Tim was right it had happened before. That very night the Smith went into the safe and out came an S&W Model 3914, never again did the revolver ride my hip in self-defense; I had lost all faith in its ability to save my life in the time of need.
The 3914 was a sweet little gun; carried it into 1988, never seemed to fail me but I had been studying a Miami shooting the FBI had been involved in and was very concerned about the 9mm being able to stop the bad guy in that moment of need. The FBI had recently changed to the Sig Sauer P229 chambered in .40 S&W so I thought I would give it a try, bought that and a H&K USP Compact the same day and started shooting them. As a quick side note, any gun I carry I have shot at least 1,000 rounds through and have owned them for at least a year before I ever bet my life on it.
The competition between the Sig and the H&K went smoothly over the next year and I started carrying the Sig. I carried that gun almost full time, collected a lot of holsters for it, watched it wear a hole in the liner of my sport coats AND as of today it has fired over 104,000 rounds without one single hiccup. From this experience I learned something about reliability. The FBI does not care what a gun costs, they will test the gun to the extreme for they have only one concern, when the trigger is pressed it will go boom, every single time. That is a zero failure rate gun.
In 1984 the Sig P226 passed the XM9 Service Pistol Trials but the Beretta was chosen due to cost. The Navy Seals in their independent fashion picked up the Sig then, due solely to reliability. Much like the FBI, the Seals only concern is reliability.
From this I have learned, if I want to know about reliable guns I will go to the people who use those guns daily to save their lives, and who better than those who do not care about cost, the Federal Government.
Since that time the FBI switched from Sig to the Glock in 2002 although agents may use the Sig if they wish. There is my reliability standard.
We have added another maker to our own EDC list, that is Kahr, they make great guns, the slimmest around and come in a variety of weights and sizes.
Well what about the latest and greatest hot new gun from S&W or Springfield . . . or maybe even some cheap little Ruger? I would hate to buy a new gun and have to take immediately to a gun smith to have the trigger replaced with something other than OEM equipment. I will be willing to give these guys guns a try after they have had a decade to two in service with the FBI and USSOCOM.
Imagine coming home and you see an email that the gun you have been betting your life on has been recalled? Or you’re at the range shooting with a friend and the trigger on his little cheap pea-shooter just breaks off? Would you really want to bet your life or your loved ones life on something that is not the most reliable gun made?