I had a few malfunctions recently in matches that culminated with my last match having malfunctions on every stage but one, with every magazine I had. Up until this last match, the malfunctions which were fail to feeds, were intermittent at best and difficult to replicate. The matches I’ve been shooting were all outside matches in some pretty dusty/sandy environments, so initially chalked it up to dirty guns/mags.
I had a chance to get to the range for some testing this week so I will share my process in making a proper determination of the cause.
There are no shortage of variables available that can really leave you scratching your head when your gun starts giving you grief. Especially in a match setting. Dirty guns, dirty mags, worn springs, inconsistent ammo, shooter induced issues such as “limp twisting” and so on. So the best approach is to start eliminating variables one by one and see what you end up with.
One piece of advice, keep a marker, either a paint pen or sharpie in your range bag. If a particular magazine or gun part is suspect, Mark it and set it aside.
In my case, it seemed to happen with every mag I had at the last match, but didn’t happen at all during practice the day before. Since I shoot an HK VP9L during competition, and carry the standard VP9, I wanted to make sure the new longslide kit wasn’t the cause of the malfunctions.
Step one. I cleaned all my magazines(which I continually did throughout the last match) and my gun. This should eliminate dirt, dust or contaminated lubricant as a potential issue. I also visually inspected both
the magazines and gun for any obvious issues.
I started with what I had known to work, which was my carry slide, and a carry mag. This test provided no malfunctions so I changed the slide to the VP9L. No malfunctions with that slide or magazine combo. I was concerned that the feed lips on my competition magazines were bent, although nothing was visible. Using a magazine I had known to be in
good working order allowed me to single out that variable.
Step three. Keeping with my VP9L slide I moved on to Test a suspect magazine. In this case, one of my competition magazines with a HK parts +5 basepad. The first mag produced several malfunctions from failure to properly feed(nose of the round pointed up, not going into the chamber) to failure to feed at all, with the rounds not being picked up by the slide. I continued to test this mag with my carry slide. The result was the same malfunctions with both slides. This is good. This showed that a good magazine functioned in both slides and a bad magazine functioned in both slides. I could reasonably remove the VP9L slide ( the recoil spring and feed ramp being my worry) as being suspect and have
narrowed it down to the magazines.
Step 4. Determine if it was a feed lip issue or spring/follower issue. I was concerned that clearing previous double feeds had caused my feed lips to bend so I wanted to narrow this down next. Bent feed lips meant a whole new magazine where as spring or follower issues could be replaced for less $$$.
For this test I used the mag body from a known functional magazine, and swapped in the spring follower and basepad from the +5 extensions.
The malfunctions continued just as before.
Good. This lead me to believe that it was a spring/follower issue from the extensions, and not the feed lips. To verify, I put the known, good spring/follower in the mag body from the suspect magazine. No malfunctions whatsoever.
Step 5. Rinse and repeat.
I continued this strategy with the other suspect magazines with the same results.
The good news is, I determined that it was the follower/springs from the magazine extension kits that were the issue, and not the entire magazine or worse, the gun. Magazines are expendable items and do need replacement every so often. Feed lips get bent, followers get worn, and springs loose tension with repeated use.
Typically, most feeding issues are from the magazine, which was my initial idea. But what was interesting was that all 3 magazines, that were purchased at different times and therefore had different round counts, started inducing malfunctions at pretty much the same time. And failing to the point of being unusable at the same time.
This is why I found it pertinent to go through this process of eliminating variables on by one until the issue was found and solved.
Inconsistent ammo could theoretically cause issues as well, which is why I used the same 147gr 9mm FMJ ammo that I have been using in competition, for this test. And all from the same batch as well. This should have eliminated that variable, though if it did not, there could be further testing with that, such as measuring overall length(O.A.L.) .
So to wrap things up, if your gun is giving you grief and you aren’t certain of the exact cause, Do some research to identify the possible causes. Then start eliminating variables one by one to narrow down your search for answers. If you want to know the true cause, resist the urge to just swap parts and hope for the best as you can just end up chasing gremlins forever. This whole process only lasted about a half hour and about a hundred rounds, which I also used for accuracy practice. So it was a win win.
I hope this helps.
See you on the range,