Lessons Learned

by GCA Member Kenneth Comer

Hello everyone, Just wanted to take a moment to share with you some “lessons” that I have recently learned. I am hoping this will keep you from making the same mistakes that I did. First of all, let me just say before you start raking me over the coals…YES, I should have known all this. I recently had a customer come in for a Concealed Carry Class. If you read my last article, you know that I do these classes not only to teach others but also to supplement my income from my firearm business.  He brought with him a Bersa Thunder, .380 caliber that he wanted me to look at. He told me that it basically was a good gun  but recently it had begun to jam on him. He told me it didn’t jam all the time, just once in awhile. Well, I took it apart and before I did anything else to it I polished the feed ramp to a mirror polish and gave it a good cleaning. I have found that a good mirror polish will eliminate a lot of problems. I had to do that to my Turkish made 1911. It wouldn’t feed hollow points. Now it will eat anything I feed it. It always amazes me how dirty customers let their guns get. Of course, I don’t complain because I make $25 just for a basic cleaning.  The customer left me 2 mags already preloaded for me to use. After reassembly, I took the gun behind my shop to my small range and fired about 5 rounds through it, no problem. It functioned exactly the way it was intended to. Every round fed perfectly and ejected without a problem. THEN, all of a sudden the next round jammed. (See photo upper left). I dropped the mag and racked the jammed cartridge out of the gun. As I was taking a closer look at the jammed round I realized, this isn’t .380 ammo, it was 32 auto. I immediately went back to the shop and emptied both of the mags he had left me. Mixed in with the .380 were 7 rounds of 32 auto. Needless to say, the jamming problem was the .32. I must say I was relieved that it did jam instead of actually loading the round into the chamber and possibly firing it which could have ruined my day for sure. Lesson learned. NEVER assume a customer has loaded the correct ammo in his magazines. From now on I will empty all mags left with me and carefully inspect the ammo to make sure it is correct for the firearm it is being loaded into. As I confessed earlier, I should have known but didn’t take the time to look. I mean, there’s quite a difference between .380 and 32 auto. Well, when I told the customer what the problem was with his pistol he was quite embarrassed. He said, “I haven’t had a 32 auto in over 30 yrs. But he DID still have some ammo. In my concealed carry classes one of the things I teach my students is to ALWAYS check the ammo that is being loaded in your firearm. Make sure it matches. Never mix ammo of different calibers or different brands in the same box. Mark things clearly if you reload. Lesson 2. I had a customer call me about a Rossi .357 mag that he owned. He told me that he had fired about 15 rounds through it and suddenly it froze up. He couldn’t cock the hammer back. He couldn’t rotate the cylinder. Nothing worked. He still had at least 2 live rounds in it. Needless to say I was extremely careful in handling it. I couldn’t tell if the round under the hammer was a live round or not. I began to disassemble it and as I started working the hand and trigger parts, etc., it finally loosened up the cylinder enough that I could push it open. As the cylinder opened, much to my surprise there was about a 1/16” of a bullet showing in the back of the barrel. That was what was jamming everything up. I was relieved to now know that the cartridge under the hammer was not live, it had been fired. I took a plastic rod and stuck it through the barrel from the muzzle and tapped the bullet out. Apparently, the cartridge fired had no powder or very little powder in it. I believe it was primer only and the primer was enough to push the bullet out of the brass and into the barrel. Again, in my concealed carry classes I teach my students about 3 possible problems they can run into at the range and what to do about each. One is a misfire, which we have ALL experienced. Second is a hangfire and third is a squib load. Up until that day I had not seen a squib load. After removing the bullet and a closed inspection and cleaning I checked the timing and loaded it up. It functioned properly and I was able to return the revolver to the customer. I explained what had happened and he told me when he fired it, it just popped. I should have known to ask him that in the first place. He went on to tell me that he bought the ammo from a place in town that sells reloaded ammo. This also could have been a catastrophic event . Had the bullet gone far enough into the barrel to allow another round to be fired, it could have been very serious with possible injury to the customer and a firearm ruined. Pass this info on to your customers. If they fire a gun and for any reason it doesn’t sound like it normally does or it doesn’t recoil like it normally does…STOP. DO NOT attempt to fire another round until you have check it out thoroughly to make sure there’s not a bullet lodged in the barrel. Well, again, just wanted to share this with you and hopefully keep you and your customers from having a bad day. Ken  Comer Sager Creek Arms