Clack, clack, clack, clack… Crunch…
If you’ve owned firearms for a good long while, you know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you pull the trigger of a gun only to feel some spring or pin come loose.
It can happen to anyone. Guns, like any other mechanical device, are subject to failure. If it happens during routine practice, count yourself lucky and thank your stars.
However, when is it time to crack open the gun and try to replace a part or take it to a gunsmith?
Before we dig in, I’ll ask you a few questions and you answer them honestly:
- What is your experience fixing firearms?
- Are you naturally mechanically inclined?
- Do you know the correct part numbers to order?
- Are those parts commonly available?
- Do you have the proper equipment to make modifications to your firearms in a safe and controlled manner?
If you answers a lot, yes, yes, yes, and yes, you’re probably in a position to fix your own gun without any oversight. When in doubt, carry on with this article to find out your next best course of action.
There’s nothing wrong with admitting you don’t know how or why your gun broke. Do not try to shoot a gun after it has repeatedly failed to fire, load, or chamber a round.
Guns sometimes need repairs just like cars do. If they get run ragged or maybe just skipped past the QA/QC table at the manufacturer’s bench, there’s a time and a place where a gunsmith can help.
Check Manufacturer Warranty First
Before you take that gun to the gunsmith, assess the following:
- Were you firing the correct ammunition type for that gun?
- E.g. Shooting 9mm out of a 9mm handgun
- Was the ammunition you were firing rated to pass through that gun?
- E.g. Not shooting overpressurized (+P) rounds out of a gun specifically not rated to handle overpressurized loads.
- Did the gun fail during normal operation?
- Did you modify the gun in any way prior to it breaking?
- Did you lubricate the gun to the manufacturer’s specifications?
- See OWNER’S MANUAL.
- Was the gun new in the box (NIB)?
- E.g. You are the first owner of this particular firearm and it failed during initial break-in (<5,000 rounds).
If you answered yes to all of the above, check with your manufacturer’s manual and contact their customer service department to see if you qualify for a manufacturer’s warranty.
You may be able to forgo a visit to your local gunsmith entirely so long as your pistol broke under normal operation. Some manufacturers are much more lenient than others. You may just end up getting an upgrade in the process and, often times, either free of charge or just at cost of shipping.
When In Doubt, Talk To The Experts
Ideally, you should deliver a firearm to a gunsmith in an unloaded state. If a round is caught in the chamber, you should make reasonable accommodations to store the gun in such a way that it cannot discharge that round. I’ve seen people store a badly jammed gun in a barrel of sand. I’ve seen a lot of weird work-arounds. Transporting a broken gun with a jammed live round in it is dangerous to all parties involved.
A seasoned gunsmith may be able to talk you through unloading a live fire jam. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes there’s a few hard steps in between.
Once you have the gun in a safe condition, you can take it to a gunsmith and he can assess what parts may need to be repaired to get that gun back into optimal condition. Gunsmiths may also have access to microscopes to check for cracks or abnormal chips in the steel or polymer components.
This is important.
The human eye can only see so much. A microscope can show you where the gun will break before it becomes evident to the human eye.
Taking a gun to a gunsmith may entail having it out of your custody for a week or longer — depending upon that gunsmith’s schedule. Don’t fret. It’s worth the time and expense to fix up a broken gun.
…Or you could always use it as a trade-in at the local gun shop and get a new gun.