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Hello. On gun boards and in conversations concerning autoloading pistols, the question of reliability often comes up, as well it should particularly if the pistol is being considered for serious purposes. Tangential to this is the question that is often phrased, "How many rounds before you trust a gun?" and so forth.

After 30 years of regular shooting, 11 as a police firearms instructor and now 10 more as a CHL instructor, I've seen quite a few pistols that seem to do better than others in this regard, but understand that even so, statistically my observations are probably insignificant. I also am cognizant that it's more than a little disappointing if a fellow's coughed up hard-earned cash for a pistol that has 99.99% rave reviews and his falls into that 0.01% that isn't.

So don't take any of this as "gospel." That said, it might be of some use albeit to a small degree.

Starting with the .380 ACP, the top two that I've seen with regard to reliability with the widest number of ammunition types have been the Bersa Thunder and CZ-83. I've seen some mighty reliable Walther PP, PPK, and PPK/S pistols, but not usually over as wide a selection of ammunition.


Bersa's inexpensive .380 has proven reliable in my experiences with it and I've visited with others relating the
same thing. That said, this is an inexpensive handgun and a few folks have reported some problems, but for the most part, they do seem to work reliabily, I believe. Though larger and heavier, I think that the CZ83 is possibly a better choice if the user anticipates shooting lots of ammunition on a regular basis over several years.


Moving up the ladder, I have seen very, very few Makarovs that didn't run 100% of the time, assuming that the somewhat poor ammunition actually fired. Much of the
imported and inexpensive 9x18mm Mak works fine, but I've seen some that would not. That's not the gun's fault in my view.


I've had at least a thousand rounds each through these two Makarovs. Some was JHP while the other was ball. The only hangups I ever experienced were with Brown Bear 115-gr. JHP. That round is considerably longer than the very commonly used Barnaul 95-gr. JHP. A bit of rounding on the bottom edge of the feed ramps took care of the problem and these Maks gobbled up the 115-gr. JHP with no more problems. These are tough little guns if you are comfortable with the caliber.

In 9mm, of course the Hi Power comes to mind first...at least for me. All of mine have proven utterly reliable and I trust no gun more in this regard. This is not to say that I've not had to replace a part or two along the way, but to say that when this was done, the gun was good to go for thousands of more shots.


The Browning/FN Hi Power and particularly the Mk II and Mk III versions have proven exceptionally reliable for me over the years. This is not to say that the earlier versions are not, only that they could sometimes be finicky when some JHP ammo was used. When minor work was done on the feed ramp, they normally worked fine with the "new fangled" hollow points. This Mk III has digested many, many rounds w/o complaint and I trust it completely...as I do its stablemates.

I've also found that the SIG-Sauer P225 and P226 are usually reliable performers. I have seen several used over the years that were reliable as sin. I do not have any hands on experience with later versions of the 9mm SIG-Sauers that extends to 1000 rounds, but assume that such is probably the case with them as well.


I don't shoot it much and bought it very lightly used, but this little P225 has done a bit over 1200 shots as far I remember. I saw one more of these that was used by an officer where I used to work and he carried and qualified with the poor thing for years.


This is an unaltered CZ-75 that I've never shot, but two others have easily passed the 1K mark using both factory and handloaded ammuntion. Both the Pre-B and B versions are usually very reliable. There was a flurry of complaints concerning broken slide stops a while back, but I think that perhaps some defective parts got into some guns. Mine are still on their original parts other than springs after over 20 years of shooting.

I have also had 100% reliability with both my Glock 26 and Glock 17. I don't shoot them as much as others, but each has probably digested in excess of 2500 shots. The 17 is frequently a "loaner" for folks qualifying for Texas CHL carry.


This G17 has never missed a lick, nor has its smaller version, the G26. Over the years, I have seen a part or two fail in Glocks, but the same can be said for other makers' guns as well.


The HK P7 and P7M8 have proven utterly reliable in my experience with factory and jacketed bullet handloads. I don't shoot this one much anymore, but it has never malfunctioned.

I've seen perhaps 4 Taurus PT92/99 pistols that were used regularly and heavily. Mine PT 92 has never malfunctioned and a really good shooter used a couple of PT 99's in informal competition for several years. He said the same thing. Likewise, in police service/qualifications, the Beretta Model 92F usually worked fine despite the problems being reported in less "civilized" environments of late.


This PT 92 has never malfunctioned. It has probably digested about 2000 rounds.

In .45 ACP, I have had excellent luck with SIG-Sauer's P220 so long as factory 7-shot magazines were used. When Texas DPS went to 8-shot magazines, reliability dropped in some pistols and not in others according to what I was told. I just stayed with the seven-shot magazines.


It's been my observation that the P220 is normally stone cold reliable with 7-shot factory magazines and a wide selection of bullet shapes, but this gun doesn't "like" cast SWC's if more than 5 are loaded in the magazine. With ball or JHP ammo, it has never malfunctioned.

With 1911 pistols, results have been more mixed. Some worked fine and some needed help. That said, it's been my observation that a stubborn one can be made a paragon of virtue without too much trouble.

1911's that have worked fine for me out of the box have been:


This STI Trojan has never missed a lick. A friend has one that was not entirely reliable with SWC's until he worked over the feedramp a tiny bit, but this one has run 100% so long as full power or stronger loads have been used. It is sprung for them and light loads don't have the power to overcome its recoil system.


These Caspians were "built" slowly and at home. The Long Slide had one hang up with Golden Sabers in the first magazine. It has never malfunctioned since. The 5" gun has had zero malfunctions at all. It has just over a thousand shots through it while the 6" gun has roughly twice that many. These two are "babied", but they are shot.

At the other end of the cost spectrum is this Springfield Mil Spec.


Though not always the case, this particular Mil Spec ran perfectly out of the box. Some of the internal parts were replaced with some that triggersmith, Teddy Jacobson, worked over for a better trigger, but this gun worked fine out of the box. It's now has about 2800+ shots fired through it and has yet to malfunction. The design is sound in my view, but sometimes with so many companies making the guns not to mention parts, problems can crop up, but when a fellow gets hold of a reliable 1911 pattern pistol, he has one of the very best in my view. I saw some that worked flawlessly at police qualifications over the years and some that never did work properly. I think that they could have been made to, but their owners either didn't know what to do or didn't try.

Will each and every example of the guns mentioned here always work in all examples? I doubt it, but if you happen to be looking for one that is likely to, these might make a starting point.

Best.
 

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Hi Stephen,

Thank you for the excellent thread!

It is certainly most informative and the issue of reliabiliy has certainly been on my mind quite a bit lately since I have bought "used" handguns.

What parts wear the fastest and need the most attention when reliability becomes an issue?

Chris
 
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sheesh! if an individual isn't careful he could really get an education around here....

thanks Stephen.
 

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It's funny, but I didn't notice who started the thread 'til Carolina's first response. I should have known. Two of my all-time favorites are HPs and Makarovs and I was so happy to see them there. Any day now I'm entering the 1911 world and I hope for the same fun and reliability.
Another good read.
 

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Excellent read Stephen, as usual.

I love it when a gun can go a thousand rounds without a malfunction. That in my opinion is what is needed for a personal defense weapon.

My Ruger P95 has fired somewhere between 5 and 7 thousand rounds, without a single malfunction. That's a testament.

My 1911 unfortunately hasn't quite gotten there yet. Teething problems with magazines and limp wristing have kept it from reaching 500 rounds trouble free. But, I suspect that she'll get there soon as she gets broken in.

Chris (carolinaman), parts that tend to wear out, in my experience are springs. Recoil springs and magazine springs tend to be the things that wear out first and most often, followed by extractors and firing pin springs. On a used gun, I'd fire it and if problems arise replace the recoil springs and check the magazines. After that problems tend to be extraction related.

-Rob
 

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Excellent article, Steve. I was very happy that you included two of my three favorite carry guns: the BHP and the Glock 26. I was a little surprised that the SIG P230/232 didn't make it into your list, but I guess that your Bersa fits that bill.
 

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Hello. I never kept my P230's long enough to do a thousand! They just were not comfortable to me as some other similar guns in that caliber and I don't shoot much .380.

Best.
 
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I don't have a ton of experience with semiautos, but do own two of the ones on the list, a Hipower and a PT92AF. Both have proven to be absolutely reliable for me with about 3,000 rounds through each, almost all handloads of varying types and power.
 

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From personnal experience, I doubt that P230/2s would do 1K rounds without malfunctions... and I do like them.

L.
 
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If they are built right, they have to run. Great Article, Sarge! You are right on, in that they all can be made to run 100% if they fall into the right hands. The quality of the ammo you feed them and the right magazines are very important, too.
 

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Hello. Yes, sir, I agree and continue to shoot the two Caspians quite a bit. They simply do not stutter with any standard power load. As you already know, these were built following the steps outlined for your Patriot 1911 albeit with my on deviations from your defensive handgun design. I could not be more pleased with the results. The long slide has been a great pleasure at the range and has cleanly put one deer in my freezer. I may take it out tomorrow on an afternoon hunt and see if I can "limber" the thing up on another. Though these two are not primarily for self-protection at all, I would absolutely trust either in a serious situation.

Best.
 
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Thanks Mr. Camp. I do not have the final word on the parts selection when you creat a 1911 out of class. There are many options and you used the right stuff, whatever it is! I am limited to what I can teach and and up with a good result. I am delighted that you built these two Custom Caspian's for yourself and that you got an" A Grade" on both! I know you are hooked now and the Factory Guns will never be the same for you. Some of them are very nice indeed, but they were given life by a team of paid workers somewhere. You know those two inside out, upside down, and backwards!
 
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Thanks, Stephen. I am still searching for that 100%er (and this includes my BHP). Oh, well. If there is a chance, I will make a gun malfunction (including revolvers, by the way). I must have "Murphy's" blood in my veins. I am limited to accepting "pretty close to 100%" reliability, or I would have to use a rock.
 
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I would not have one around that didn't run 100%. 1911's are a difficult gun to master. Most folks don't bother. You have to know how to load them, you have to know to hold them, you have to know how to lean into the recoil,, you have to know where to point them, and where not to point them. I have been carrying them for 50+ years and I am still here. That kind of says it all. I do not do 9mm's because I love the big boomers. I would rather have 8 rounds of 45 ACP than 36 of 9mm's.
You are absolutely right about Mr. Murphy. He is alive and well and loves this Age of Mediotricty that we live in now.
 

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It may cause teething problems to some but...

I have owned 4 (yes four!) different Beretta 92 Compact - as I have a love-hate affair with the design: 1 92 SB and 3 92 FS. All NIB.

Each has swallowed hundreds of european powerfull ammo - one more than 1k - without any problem. At the beginning, one FS had failures to stay open after the last round with one magazine. The spring was replaced as it was clearly shorter than the one in the other mag. Then the gun worked flawlessly.

In my experience, the 92 FS Compact is extremly reliable in range conditions. It is technically flawless but I don't have personnal experience about the influence of elements on the gun. Granted, a military gun is meant to be carried and used in the harshest conditions.

L.
 
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I have a Walther P-5C and have put 2,500 rounds trought it without a failure! 100% reliable. Recently bought a FN P-9 and have fired 200 rounds, no failures yet. Been very happy!
 
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Well, just to humor me, please load a few orange plastic dummy rounds into your next magazine at the range. At least I won't feel so lonely doing immediate action drills!!! :'(
 
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Have an EAA Witness that surely is past the 1k mark, never a hiccup. Apparently not a popular model,unless you lump it in with the CZ75, [I hear the gasps of the faithful from here]
but I can't find anything to complain about with it.
 
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Star bm from sog. Didnt even clean it till about 1500 rounds. CZ52 I really should clean it some day. Well over 1000. My 1911 has to be cleaned every couple hundred rounds or the cast bullet lube gums things up.

one from the opposite end of the spectrum is my wifes keltec p32. it must be spotlessly clean and lightly oile dto work properly. She still carries it when concealment is her main concern but when it isnt she carries her makarov. She even took it in the river once.
 
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8 month old browning/fn hp standard 9m is just around 3000 rounds without a malfunction.
 
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