What If My Gun Breaks At The Range?

By Larry Weeks

A trip to the range involves work — time to pack, drive, set up and tear down, not to mention paying range fees. You sure don’t want a broken gun to cut a day short. Guns today are pretty tough, clean ’em and keep ’em lubed and they’ll go a long time. When you really start using them hard, though, things will give up, they may not actually break, but might fail to the point of stopping the gun. I asked some pros what they carry in their range bags to help keep their guns running, and what I learned makes perfect sense.

Tony Barnes, the pistolsmith who builds some great 1911/2011 and Glocks. When asked about all the common pistols like the 1911, Glock, M&P, Springfield XD, what he said makes a lot of sense.

“Recoil springs would be good to have along, as would magazine springs. Extra pins are great too. I see people drop them when cleaning their gun at the range and they disappear forever in the grass or gravel. You could add in a mainspring or striker spring, a trigger spring — the leaf spring in a 1911 — and a Glock firing pin spring and cup. Most Glock parts are pretty inexpensive, and I know people who carry one of everything.” These recommendations also apply to any pistol.

I called on Monty Crain, supervisor of Brownells Gunsmith Technical Support group. If you weren’t aware, Brownells offers free tech help and if you have any question about any of their products or “how to” do something, they can likely help.

Monty told me, “The XD and M&P require recoil spring/guide assembly changes at around 2,000–3,000 rounds for most calibers, and the Glocks about every 4,000 except the .40. For those they recommend around 3,000 rounds in Gen3 or lower and 4,000–6,000 in Gen4. Cocked and locked 1911’s require a new mainspring every year or so, and recoil springs every few thousand rounds depending on the spring rate and bullet weight, and the power of the ammo used.  There are a lot of variables with 1911’s due to clones, calibers and ammo though.”


A tool kit/fishing tackle box filled with basic tools and your spare
parts should be part of your range-day pile of goodies.

What’s In My Gunbox?

Next to springs giving up, what I see “broken” most at competitions are front sights, especially fiber optic rods. So, for my Tony Barnes-built 2011, there’s a replacement 1911 leaf spring, a recoil spring, mainspring, both pins, two magazine springs and a package of replacement fiber optic rods. If you’re really paranoid, a spare plunger tube spring and detents are a good idea. Brownells has a little kit for that, #078-450-234.

For the Glock 34 I’ve been using lately in 3-Gun, a complete recoil spring/guide rod assembly, all three pins, along with a replacement front sight and fiber optic rods ride with me. Fiber optic rods can make you a hero to fellow shooters, so my supply has a couple of different sizes and they get used to fix other folks guns all the time. You should also carry basic tools to install those parts and a simple cleaning rod, patches, brushes, bore cleaner and plenty of good oil.

Where do you get these parts? Lucky for me, Brownells is close by so they’re the source for almost everything I need. They carry parts and tools for the 1911, Glock, M&P and XD. Then there are specialty parts suppliers like www.xdgunparts.com or www.springerprecision.com for the XD. Glock parts are all over the interwebs: www.glockparts.com, www.lonewolfdist.com and www.glockmeister.com are just a few. For the M&P, check www.cpwsa.com or www.speedshooterspecialties.com.


Not a lot of parts are needed to save a day at the range.
Larry says the fiber optic sight parts are his most-used spares.

Fixin’ It

Now you’ve got the part, how the bleep do you fix the thing? There are tons of videos out there on replacing parts in all of the subject guns. The quality ranges from terrible to excellent. The go-to place for this hobby gun-butcher is, again, Brownells. Their HD videos have multiple camera angles, are well lit, with close ups and they know how to show you everything. Go to the “Learn” tab on their homepage, then type in “1911 Maintenance, Glock Maintenance”, etc.

The American Gunsmithing Institute has lots of DVD’s available on popular guns. You can find them at www.americangunsmith.com or their videos are available at Brownells, Amazon or other internet retailers.

If you’re a print guy, or can’t take the computer to your shop, the Gun Digest Assembly/Disassembly books by fellow Handgunner writer, J.B. Wood, are available on Amazon. For the 1911 shooter, you can’t beat The Colt .45 Automatic Shop Manual by Jerry Kuhnhausen, (Brownells #924-200-045) or The 1911 Complete Owner’s Guide by Walt Kulek (Brownells #261-000-007). I haven’t found books on the M&P or XD but there are volumes on the Glock. The Complete Glock Reference Guide (Brownells #100-001-884) and The Glock Handbook (Brownells #100-004-987).

Hope this helps you solve any problem which might hit on range day. Fore-warned is fore-armed, eh?

For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index

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