How Many Rounds Do You Need To Fire To Break In Your Handgun?

There’s no general rules when it comes to the number of rounds you need to fire to determine if your handgun is worth its salt. The more complex a machine, the greater the risk of failure. The simplest handgun is probably a single action revolver. Pending some great abnormality, a single action revolver can last a person their entire life. In practice, however, it’s not a very useful choice for concealed carry.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to find out if the pistol you’re carrying can really stand the test of time.

Part 1: The Honeymoon Phase

As a consumer of pistols, I typically run 1,000 rounds of full metal jacketed non-overpressurized ammunition to break in a pistol. Every pistol will get hot after a couple hundred rounds or so. Just let it air cool until it is no longer warm to the touch and continue along. Because I don’t have ten or more magazines for any given pistol — usually just two or three to start — I usually fire through those magazines, reload, and the gun is close to being cool enough to shoot again. Do what works best for you.

Don’t spray down the gun with lots of lubricant. This will just make it smoke up a lot and bind more carbon and grit into the finer parts of your pistol. It’s better to go light on the lube and follow your manufacturer’s suggestion for lubrication points.

Remember: when it comes to lubricating a pistol, less is always more.

After I finish that 1,000 rounds, I break down and clean the pistol to see if anything is coming undone. It shouldn’t be.*

*If your pistol does fail you within the first 1,000 rounds, don’t immediately decommission the sucker. We’ll get into what you should do further on down in the article.

Because the price of ammunition fluctuates, that first session can cost anywhere from $150 to $300. You can buy bulk ammunition if you want, just know you’ll have to clean your gun more regularly because bulk ammunition kicks off a lot of powder.

After that 1,000 rounds, I break down the pistol and do a quick clean.

You will learn a LOT about your everyday concealed carry pistol in 1,000 rounds.

Typically, you’ll learn a few hard, honest truths about yourself and your gun such as:

  • Do you really like the grip?
  • Can you take the recoil?
  • Is the gun rattling more than it should?
  • Are those new custom sights you added really going to hold up?
  • Are you having issues with failing to feed or failing to eject?

Keep in mind on that last point, with bulk ammunition, there’s a chance the ammunition may be contributing to that. Just make a note of any failures and keep going.

If you find your dominant shooting hand is sore or you develop a few blisters, don’t fret. That’s bound to happen with any textured grip or surface on a pistol’s handle. Use a decent pair of tight mechanic’s gloves if you find your hand is getting too tore up to comfortably shoot.

Things To Test On Your Gun After The ‘Honeymoon’ Is Over

After that 1,000 round test, there’s some basic functions you’ll want to inspect on your pistol to make sure everything is up to snuff. Obviously, if you didn’t encounter any significant failures over the course of 1,000 rounds, that’s a really good sign that you shouldn’t be expecting any big upsets.

Pre-check considerations:

  • Pistol is clear (inspect chamber, extractor, magazine well)
  • Pistol is pointed in a safe direction

After those two things are done, do the following:

  • Dry fire
  • Keep the trigger depressed after dry firing and rack the slide again
  • Check to see if the trigger resets

Does the trigger have the same amount of tension as it did when you began testing or do you notice it starting to ‘loosen up’?

  • Inspect the front sight post to ensure that the dots are still visible.
  • Check the recoil spring assembly (different for different pistols).
  • Take the barrel out of the upper receiver and take a look down the bore.
  • Look at the feed lip on the barrel.

Is the feed lip worn or showing gouges?

Are you noticing any hard wear such as deep gouges or scrapes?

Is anything starting to come loose?

Assuming nothing significant comes from Part 1, go on to Part 2.

When in doubt, take the gun to a certified armorer or gunsmith and have them inspect it. Their trained eyes will be able to tell the difference between normal wear and tear after 1,000 rounds and actual things to worry about.

Part 2: Rubber Meets The Road

After letting the pistol cool down, I typically load another 100 rounds of whatever ammunition I intend to carry on my person. For instance, I usually carry a Glock 36. That’s a single stack .45 ACP. My usual defensive carry ammunition is Critical Duty Hornady 220 grain +P. That’s an overpressurized soft-tip bullet designed to expand when it hits soft tissue. Because I carry overpressurized ammunition in a slim single-stack Glock, I need to test to ensure I can handle the extra kick.

Critical Duty Hornady 220 grain typically runs about $20 for a box of 20 rounds. I’ll dump $100 into a test to ensure that I can actually use that ammunition effectively. Otherwise, there’s no point. If I discover I can’t handle the kick of the overpressurized round or it does something funky to my pistol, I need to switch.

My choice for daily carry ammunition runs hot. My pistol is also rated for +P. If your pistol is NOT rated for +P or +P+ ammunition, don’t use it as your everyday carry defensive ammunition. Also, don’t fire it.

After four magazines of Critical Duty Hornady 220 grain, I usually have to let my pistol cool for 10-15 minutes. A smaller pistol will retain more heat than a larger pistol and there’s less metal to dissipate the heat. You will inevitably discover some interval that works well for you.

The point of the exercise isn’t to push the pistol to break. You are trying to see how your pistol operates under stress. If 100 rounds breaks your pistol, that’s probably not the ammunition you want to carry.

If Part 1 and Part 2 both go off without a hitch, you have successfully answered two questions: your gun is ready to work and your choice of defensive ammunition is probably good to go for your everyday carry gun.

If you find you’re running into issues, check out this article to find out what to do.

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