For the 1911 fans out there

Just so you don’t think I don’t like 1911s or anything.

Colt 1911 XSE Rail Gun

I’d also like to take this opportunity to address the concept of a “break-in” period for semi-automatic pistols.  If your gun requires a “break-in” period, then it’s broken.  The Colt came right out of the box and went through 3 tough days at Gunsite where it fired an unknown number of rounds in multiple hands, then it came into my possession where it’s fired over 600 rounds.  All without a malf.  Tam had a similar experience with the gun she took to Aim Fast, Hit Fast.  Right out of the box, went for 1000+ rounds.  If your gun needs a “break in” period before it’s reliable…you need a new gun.


  1. That would be the Taurus I just got. I wanted a spare for a backup gun and to be able to tinker with one while having the other to run. It’s definitely better on the tinkering end than as a backup gun. Hopefully, I’ll find out that it just hates the CMC Power Mags I use. I haven’t tried the factory mags yet.

    I suspect this will be going to my step-father before long, since he just wants a hobby 1911.

  2. Shelley Rae: ““I’ve put 50 rounds through my 1911 to break it in and it’s still jamming. You sold me a bad gun!”
    No we didn’t. Shoot it more. If you didn’t have the patience to wait for the tolerances to loosen up a bit you should have bought a polymer gun.”

    Caleb VS Shelley Rae! I’ll bring the popcorn.

    1. Not really. I agree that there are guns out there that need to be “shot in” a little bit. I just think they’re bad guns.

      1. Why does it matter? If you shoot 300 rounds in it and then it works flawlessly for the rest of the life of the gun, why is that such a big deal (as long as you know what you’re getting into). There are enough *other* things you can screw up on a gun design…

        1. That’s not the point, which I guess I should have been more clear.

          The point is that the “break-in period” is a crutch used by substandard manufacturers to build an “acceptable level of failure” into the end user’s mind. Since most people won’t ever shoot their guns enough to truly cause them to malfunction from spring failure and wear and tear, the “break-in” period becomes an acceptable excuse for “well, my gun malfed like 25 times in the first 200 rounds”.

          1. 30 years ago, when a 1911 meant a Colt or milsurp, you had to “shoot in” a pistol.
            You also had to break in a care.
            Nowadays, not so much.

          2. That sounds like my Kahr p380. Actually it’s much worse that that even and back at Kahr right now. 25 malfunctions in 200 would have been great compared! I shot a good 600+ of complete wanting to throw the gun through a wall! 😉

            When comparing .380’s my first generation Kel-tec never once malfunctioned and the Sig 238 is a dream to shoot. I think a gun should be good to go out of the box. I don’t think it should be finicky with ammo or anything. If it is, then I think that is a design flaw.

  3. I wouldn’t throw away a magazine that was too stiff to load fully when new. Why would the springs in the gun itself be any different? Break-in happens. Particularly on tight-tolerance parts that haven’t been hand fitted. Motorcycle engine break-in is still a fact of life. Whenever parts are rubbing together, performance generally improves after a little self-lapping.

    Can you get a gun that works just fine right out of the box? Sure. I’ve done it. And I’d expect that from a loose-tolerance “combat” pistol, or a high-dollar custom. But would I instantly return one that bobbles once or twice in the first 100 rounds? No. It’s barely warm. Why would I go to the trouble when I can just put another box of ammo through it, after which it will function fine?

    This ain’t “The Getaway”. I’m not Steve McQueen, walking into a gunfight straight out of the gun store. I’m going to put a couple hundred rounds at least through anything I buy before I carry it. If I can get a decent quality, reliable pistol that simply hasn’t been hand-fitted for the cost of a few boxes of ammo I was going to buy and shoot anyway, why not?

    I think there’s a little bit of “new truck” going on with guns these days. We want to brag about how reliable our guns are, and a gun that needs a break in just isn’t a contender. You get that first scratch or dent, and lose all bragging rights. I’d almost rather tap the fender with a ball peen hammer to get it over with. A gun that stovepiped once in the first box is no longer an idol, it’s just another tool.

    1. Way to miss the point – it’s not that these guns are idolized, it’s that they are tools. Tools for shooting competitions or defending our lives. Since we live in a world of guns that don’t need to be “broken in” before they’re ready to go, it seems crazy that we continue to make that excuse for people’s guns.

        1. Look at it this way. Imagine if Ford told everyone that their new car brakes had a “break-in period” of 200 full stops before they’d work 100% of the time. No one would buy a Ford ever again. It is the exact same thing with guns. For some reason, we have accepted into the collective consciousness that it’s okay for a manufacturer to say “oh btw, your gun won’t work correctly right out of the box”.

          1. Ok, but most cars (at least until very recently) *do* have a brake-in-period, just not of the brakes. If you drive it “normally” you will do irreparable damage to your cylinder walls. You don’t take a new car and start drag racing it the day it comes off the lot.

            Also, many performance brake pads *do* require a break-in period to work at full quality. It’s just something you plan around, and you get superior performance as a tradeoff.

            In the end, if I have the choice of paying an extra $150 in ammo and labor for someone at the manufacturer to break in a gun, versus doing it myself after I buy it, it’s a reasonable tradeoff. It seems like one tradeoff among many, not an instant fail.

            I think your other point was much better – my argument is entirely assuming that the break-in period idea is honest, and that the gun does actually function flawlessly afterward. If it’s just a bull excuse for tolerating malfunctions then it’s idiotic.

          2. Just like cars, guns should work flawlessly during the break-in period if there is a need for break-in. It shouldn’t impede the major function of a gun — fire a round when needed.

          3. Actually, my S2000 did have a break in period. Again, so do motorcycles. When you have a high-performance piece of machinery, it’s common.

            Springs and metal wear. Always have, always will. You can’t eliminate that. You can hide it from the customer by either building in enough slop that it’s not an issue (commodity plastic firearms and your average sedan), or essentially doing a “pre break in” with hand fitting or other extra fitting before delivery. But then you’re paying for that service.

            I can spend $30 for an extra 100 rounds of ammo, shoot it smooth myself, and use it as a chance to practice, or I can spend an extra $300 on a gun to have the factory do it for me.

          4. If you want to buy sub-quality guns and do QC for Kel-Taurus, that’s your deal. I’ll stick with guns that work.

          5. The problem is that there are three different things that people are thinking of when they use the phrase “break in period”:

            1. Initial QC check — VERY common with aircraft. Ifn something is hosed up at the factory, it’ll probably show up in a VERY short period of intensive use. You’d be surprised how many little gizmos (which normally run for hundreds of hours without a problem) blow up within five minutes of energizing them for the first time. This SHOULD be done at the factory, but it is smart to do it yourself, in case some jerk pencil whipped it. Truly a case of, “Gun broke — manufacturer, replace gun, muy pronto.”

            Caleb should be familiar with this as the post-delivery sea trials, or the CSSQT (“C-Squat”, Combat Systems Ship Qualification Trials), which the government does AFTER accepting the ship — which is AFTER the government witnessed “Builder’s Trials” to test pretty much the same sort of stuff.

            Running 200 rounds of whatever you plan on carrying in the gun qualifies — you aren’t trying to FIX the gun so much as SEE IF IT BREAKS before you actually need it.

            2. Doing the final polish and honing of working surfaces by, well, WORKING them. This is “break in” as it is generally meant in the car world. The gun shouldn’t crap itself out, but if it hiccups, it’s ONLY an issue if the price point indicates to YOU that you were cheated, and for the price you paid it should have been done in the factory.

            This is the sort of thing where people will comment on how slick a gun’s action gets with a couple of year’s use. You know, such absolute crappy guns as the Garand, Springfield, Enfield, etc.

            3. People who assume that, sub-200 rounds of ball, the gun WILL invariably choke.

            If you fall into this categpory, I have one of two things to say to you:

            A. Stop buying the pot metal throwaways. See answer “B”.

            B. You are an idiot.

  4. Nighthawk said the 1911s I bought from them required a 500 round break-in. I don’t see why, neither malfunctioned during that 500 or since. The only 1911 I ever owned that malfed (and frequently at that) was a 10mm Kimber, but both my Kimbers are gone now.

    1. The following is my opinion: I would NOT own a Kahr for anything other than a range toy.

      I don’t think that guns that “require” break in periods are junk, just that they’re not necessarily suitable to be used as defensive or competition pistols. They are perfectly acceptable range guns though for plinking and fun.

  5. Totally and completely off topic.. but I just noticed a tiny smiley face on the right border of this site. lol

  6. I never understood the Kahr break in thing. I have a friend with a K40, one with a PM9, and I have a P9 and none of us have encountered any problems. I hear that other folks do, but I have not encountered that myself.

  7. All of my guns have to go through a required break in period. That is, “this gun better shoot 500 rounds without a hiccup of I am going to be quite cheesed” requirement.

    So far, so good, knock on wood.

    Though I can make a ‘shooter induced’ jam happen with most guns on round 1 if I am of a mind. I don’t do that. I can also make a ‘shooter shoots self in foot’ on round one happen. I don’t like to do that either.

  8. I think you just like to stir up the webheads!
    I agree though. I have a full size Kimber as well as a compact. The full size is about seven or eight years old, and the compact about five. Haven’t a clue as to the round count, but on the full size it’s ALOT, schools, matches, plinking, one deployment. Hasn’t failed me yet. That said though, nothing in the lit. when I bought it said anything about a break in period. Some of the guys I shoot with, on and off the job, bought Kimbers on my platform’s laurels, and in the lit. Kimber brings up the 500 rd break in. I joked and said that sounds like a disclaimer to me. And guess what? Every single one went down with some regularity at that…

  9. There is a certain subset of customers that feel cheated if they don’t have to “break in” their expensive custom guns. Les Baer has a whole cult that has sprung up around this. We had a guy order a Premiere II who lifted it out of the box, went to run the slide, and opened his hand up like a pillowcase on the Bo-Mars when the slide wouldn’t budge. And he was happy as a clam as he stood there and bled all over his new $1500 gun…

    When Gunsmith Bob called me to let me know that the CCA gun was ready to ship, my first question was “How many rounds have y’all put through it?”
    “About 250.”
    “Running right?”
    “Of course.”

    1. OMG, I NEVER take exception to Tam’s wisdom, however, in defense of Les Baer, my Concept VIII has never had a bobble from day one out of the box. I was so excited to shoot it that all I did was check for bore obstructions and start banging away. it works fine with the two Baer mags that came with it along with all of my hoard of Devel mags that I use for carrry in most of my 1911’s. Now, I will grant you that it was exceedingly tight, but very smooth. It also ran perfectly.

      Initially I DID have to use a bushing wrench for disassembly, but after a few hundred rounds it got so that I could muscle it apart without one.

      1. Oh, Les makes a fine gun, and they tend to run just fine right out of the box (although the guns with the 1.5″ guarantee, like the Premier II I mentioned above, can sometimes not cycle powderpuff target wadcutters for the first couple hundred rounds) are just stupid tight when new because that’s what customers expect.

  10. “The Wilson Combat pistol is a finely tuned piece of equipment constructed by knowledgeable technicians to extremely close tolerances. It is tightly fitted to assure maximum accuracy and long service life. We recommend that you fire a minimum of 300-500 rounds of full charge ammunition through this pistol prior to initial dis-assembly. This break in is necessary to allow the contact surface to properly “seat”, thus insuring dependable functioning.”

    (From the Wilson Combat Instruction Manual).

    1. Gunnutmegger,

      Maybe so, but I have a 1911 that Bill worked over for me in ’80 or ’81, and part of the work was tightening up the fit. Granted what he puts out now are “custom production guns” not work on a customer’s gun. When I got my gun back it was very tight (not as tight as my Les Baer as best I can recollect in the 28 years that separated their acquisition) but he made no mention of “break-in back then and I didn’t give any, I just started using it, expecting and getting perfection from the git-go.

  11. A friend of mine had a 1911 brought back from WW2 by his dad, as far as he knew it never had any parts replaced or work done on it after that other than routine cleaning and lubing. (I think it was a colt, but not positive)
    It’s first malfunction (with both of us shooting it for several years usually putting about 200+ rounds thru it at a time) was in 1989, it went full auto for 3 rounds, After a full strip down cleaning it was fine again.

    Yeah, that’s unreliable, right.

  12. I believe all guns need a break in period. I would not trust my life to a gun I have never shot. I would not take one out of the box and put it in a holster and carry it around. All guns “out of the box” should be taken to the range and test fired. At the very least, it will let you know if you have a lemon. It happens with all manufacturers.

    1. I’ll shoot all my guns before I carry them, but I don’t think that they need to reach a magical mechanical milestone before they’re suddenly reliable. Either a gun runs out of the box or it doesn’t.

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