After yet another handgun parts breakage, I wanted to share some tips about how to avoid running into reliability issues with your defensive firearms when it matters most. Details in the video below, or scroll down for the full transcript.

A few weeks ago, I shared a video about my Ruger GP100 Match Champion that had stopped working. I used that as an opportunity to talk about the importance of testing the reliability of your self-defense guns and how you can’t take anything for granted — that any gun can break no matter what the brand or what type of gun it is. Well, since then, I’ve had another gun give me some serious problems. I’m not going to rehash all the things I went over last time, but I do have a few other thoughts relating to the reliability of these guns that we depend on as life-saving equipment.

In this case, the gun I had a problem with is my Beretta PX4 Compact. This gun has been extremely reliable. I don’t have an exact round count, I lost track of that, but I’m pretty close to about 9000 rounds through this gun with only two issues. I had two ejection failures within about 100 rounds of each other when the gun was under-lubed. Other than that it, has run flawlessly… until a couple of weeks ago. I was in a two-day handgun class and after the first day, I took the gun back to the hotel room and I was doing a little dry practice and the trigger started to feel kind of weird, like it wasn’t resetting properly. So I dry fired it a couple more times and it just went “snap.” this little leg on the trigger that connects the trigger to the rest of the action had just kind of snapped, giving me a dead trigger and, basically, a useless gun.

This metal aftermarket trigger for the Beretta PX4 Compact proved to not be as durable as the factory plastic trigger.

The trigger that broke is actually not a Beretta part, it’s an aftermarket part. So I don’t hold this against the gun itself — I still think the PX4 is a fantastic weapon and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anybody. But it does bring up a couple of other issues I wanted to talk about. First, if you’re going to a shooting class, always take a backup with you. This gun breaking was not really a huge deal for me because I also brought this along with me: a PX4 Compact Carry with an almost identical setup to my PX4 Compact. So, all I had to do was just stick the other gun in my holster in the morning and I was ready to go. If you’re going to have a problem with a gun, it almost always seems to come up during a class when you’re shooting a lot of rounds in a compressed time period. You don’t want to have to finish out the class with a borrowed gun, that’s no fun. Bring a second gun with you.

Another important lesson here is that you should always be very reluctant to trust aftermarket parts. A lot of problems we have with handguns can be traced back to aftermarket parts, whether it’s magazines or triggers or action parts. Any of that stuff can seriously impede the function of the weapon. We see this a lot with Glocks in particular. There are a lot of different Glock triggers out there. There are some good ones and there are some really bad ones that can cause the gun to not work or to become really unsafe. So be careful with that stuff. Don’t be the beta tester or the guinea pig for a company that’s making aftermarket parts. Talk to people who know the gun that you’re going to be carrying and understand how it works and ask them what parts are good and which parts are not recommended.

In this particular case, I didn’t actually know that this trigger was an aftermarket part. This was being sold on the Beretta website. It’s a trigger that is functionally identical to the factory trigger except it’s metal and the factory trigger is plastic. I just stuck it in the gun to see if it would make any difference in how the trigger felt. It didn’t really feel any different so I just left it in there. What I didn’t know is that Beretta doesn’t actually make it. I found that out after the trigger broke and I also found out that they are prone to breaking. I’m not the only one who has had an issue, so hopefully, now that Beretta knows about the problem, they will stop selling the metal trigger or they will make sure the problem gets fixed. But usually, it’s clear who’s making the parts that go in your gun, and if it’s made by anyone other than the company who made the gun itself, I would eye it with some skepticism before you trust your life to it.

One more thing I wanted to mention is a suggestion I heard from Tom Givens a few years ago. And that’s the idea that if you’re shooting your self-defense gun a couple thousands rounds a year or more, it’s probably not a bad idea to buy a second gun that’s identical to that gun so you have a designated carry gun and a designated training gun. The training gun is the one you take to the range and you do all your dry practice with it. And the carry gun, you might test fire it occasionally, but you kind of try to keep the miles off of it. And the idea is that all of these guns are going to fail eventually and we don’t know when. If they’re good quality guns with good quality parts in them, then hopefully they won’t fail for a long time, but you never really know. There are always those crazy outliers where something just spontaneously breaks. So if you’re shooting the gun a lot, you’re kind of getting it closer to that failure point. If you carry a gun that you’re not shooting a whole lot and you’re protecting it, you’re keeping the miles off of it so you can rely on it to work if you ever need it. It’s really disconcerting to show up at the range with your carry gun in your holster and you pull it out and go to fire it and it doesn’t work. Or you go through a couple of rounds and something breaks. I’ve had that happen before and it’s not a good feeling.

This principle is not something I have practiced myself until fairly recently. I shoot a lot of different guns and I’m switching often depending on what I’m evaluating or reviewing, but earlier this year, I just decided I’m going to stick with the PX4 Compact. It’s worked really well for me. It may not be the perfect gun and I might find something I like better down the road, but I shoot it really well and it’s really reliable and I’m kind of holding myself back in terms of skill development by switching around a whole lot. So I’m just going to shoot the PX4 for a while and see how far I can get myself skill-wise. During that time, I’m going to have a designated training gun and a designated carry gun so I don’t run into one of those issues where I have the trigger break while I’m carrying the gun. I’m going to use the training gun for that kind of experimentation and protect the carry gun. Of course, I’ll still be reviewing guns and shooting other guns, but I might not put quite as many rounds through our test guns as I have in the past. This might not be something you have to worry about if you’re not shooting a ton but if you’re really serious about your training and you’re putting a lot of rounds through your defensive guns, it’s not a bad idea to consider adding some redundancy to your carry gear.

This is probably the last video I will post in 2017. I’m going to take a couple of weeks off for Christmas, but I’ve got a lot of stuff coming up next year that I’m really excited about. We’re going to be doing some low light stuff. We’re going to be testing a bunch of different quick-access gun safes. I’ve got a series in the works all about pocket pistols. We’re going to have more ballistic gel test results. And for those of you who have been asking, there will be a full review of the Beretta PX4 Compact Carry. So keep an eye out for that and more in early 2018. In the meantime, of course you can still buy ammo from us at Lucky Gunner. We’ve got all the most popular brands with lighting-fast shipping. If you place an order by 3PM Eastern on a business day, we will get your order out that same day. So if you’ve got any last-minute Christmas shopping to do, that might be something to think about.

Guys, thanks for following us and for all of your support in 2017. I hope you have a great Christmas and a good New Year, and I will see you in January!

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  • lookinoutforu

    Good info! Thanks! Beretta builds a great handgun. Having said that, proper cleaning, lubrication and detailed inspection can often reveal a problem waiting to happen. I shoot many firearms at the range, but I pay particularly close attention to my carry firearms (S&W 442 and Shield 9mm). They have to work 100%.

  • Toby

    As always, GREAT VID, Chris!!! I love my Inox PX4 full-size & compact… and I’ve really been eyeing the Compact Carry 😉 I’m very much looking forward to your review of the CC next year! The PX4 has proven to be a remarkable platform. Everyone I let shoot mine (D-spring swap in both btw) is blown away with how well they shoot… smooth & flat. Many have commented that they feel misinformed about DA/SAs: (1) all have been amazed at how accurate they are with the first, DA shot and few even notice the slightly heavier weight; (2) all said that the transition from DA to SA was a non-issue.

    Also, have you been following Ernest Langdon’s 50,000 round endurance test of his PX4 full-size? Last I heard, he had passed the 45,000 round mark, but I haven’t seen any updates since.

  • Dazor Schotz

    Designated training gun and designated carry gun? When I read that I though I found my excuse to go out and buy another G17 to go along with my current G17. I’ve been Jones’n for a G17G4 FDE. Sweet! One heavy-use training gun for classes, competition, and dry fire. Another lightly used twin for defensive use.

    Then I had a chance to cool off and reflect on what I do and why I do it.

    I take a lot of classes and I also shoot shoot competition. The competition activity are training reps to improve my defensive shooting skills so I am not competing to win trophies.

    I can put maybe 6000 per year on a pistol. A single class can put 300-500 rounds on a gun in one day. I shoot my carry gun in both class and competition and one of my major reasons for doing so is to instill the confidence that when I pull the gun out that it will in fact go bang.

    I protect the gun with (quoting commentator lookingforu) proper cleaning, lubrication, and detailed inspection. My guns are cleaned and lubed per the owner’s manual, nothing more and nothing less and I don’t use harsh chemicals on the bore or anywhere on the gun for that matter. My guns are cleaned within an hour or two after getting home from the range with no-exceptions and with complete religion. I track round count and replace all of the springs every 2000 rounds whether they need it or not. Recoil springs go 3000 rounds between replacements.

    My defensive-competition guns are stock-from-the-box Glock with no aftermarket parts. What I am looking for each competition and class is that the gun goes bang every single time. People freak out when, on occasion, my first two magazines are Speer Gold Dot, Federal HST, Remington Golden Saber, or Winchester Ranger-T.

    Competition and classes and the gun goes bang every time gives me the reassurance that the gun will function should I ever need it. If the gun doesn’t work (that’s never happened) then I missed some sign of trouble the last several times I field stripped it and cleaned it or when I replaced the springs.

    I am like Chris in that I have rotated through favorite guns over the years. I dry fire a lot. If there is going to be wear and tear that will cause a gun to fail I believe failure will come from the dry firing. With just 500 trigger presses per week, one can put 26,000 trigger presses on the gun in a year.

    Dry firing with a DA/SA gun will get the full 26,000 trigger presses. Depending on your dry fire drill, a striker fired gun may get one press that activates the striker pin and say…4 presses that are imaginary since the trigger doesn’t reset. (Don’t hammer me here for the imaginary trigger press comment. I do it with my Glocks and M&P. I got the idea from the lead trainer at a very large and famous Sheriff’s department who described that they may go through an entire day of training with nothing but dry fire. The technique absolutely works.)

    Dry firing a striker fired gun will have a fraction of wear and tear of a DA/SA handgun.

    I’m not sure having a dedicated training gun makes sense if you are shooting (pulling an arbitrary number here) 5000 rounds or less per year on a Glock.

    Having a dedicated training gun makes a ton of sense if you have a very high “round count” of dry fire practice, especially if you have a DA/SA handgun. I don’t have the credentials to argue advice from people like Tom Givens as quoted by Chris Baker. If your annual round count has four 0’s after the first number (10’s of thousands) then a dedicated training gun probably makes sense, otherwise it doesn’t.

    If you dry fire thousands or 10’s of thousands of trigger presses per year and you have DA/SA guns then a dedicated training gun makes total sense regardless of how many live rounds you actually fire in a year.

    P.S. Like Chris’ advice, I always have a second or even a third gun with me for a class. Two is one, one is none. And, I’ve never had to fall back to the spare(s).

    P.P.S. I think I’ve convinced myself I need a dedicated training gun, a G17Gen4 FDE because i do dry fire 10’s of thousands of times per year, per the suggestion by Tom Givens per the relay by Chris Baker. It’s not my actual rounds, it’s the dry fire.

  • RyanC

    Son of a B, I have that exact same aftermarket trigger. I don’t shoot 9000 rounds a year through it, but I’m not super happy that the most prudent course of action would be to open back up my gun, and reinstall the original part.

  • sully v

    Hi, I went back and started carrying my PX4 Storm Compact again, tried a couple of CZ’s (P-07) but didn’t like them as much as the storm (just too bulky). It’s unfortunate that there are only a few options for DA/SA, at least the PX4 Storm is very serviceable.

    I also agree with you about a second gun, been doing that for over 20 years, but thanks for the reminder. I always use OEM parts, never trusted AFTER-MARKET parts, except Magpul P-Mags, even the Glock style Magpul’s work good.

  • You are spot on about non OEM replacement parts… I will quote you: “But usually, it’s clear who’s making the parts that go in your gun, and if it’s made by anyone other than the company who made the gun itself, I would eye it with some skepticism before you trust your life to it.” This goes for most anything mechanical you own; like your -vehicle- just change out the word ‘gun’ for say, ‘BMW’ etc.