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JP Tech Tip #1: How to Talk to Your Gunsmith 2009-11-01
Often, we get calls from customers wanting to know what to do about a malfunction issue with a rifle they own (usually not ours, thank goodness). When we ask what the problem is, many times we hear something like, "It jams every so often." Well, it doesn’t get any more vague than that, now does it? So, as a lead-in to our JP Tech Tips, I’d like to get you up to speed on how to communicate either to us or your gunsmith or gun "doctor" about a malfunction problem so that you can actually get valuable advice in return.

Information about malfunctions needs to be as specific as possible, and I realize that this is not always easy. If you have a malfunction while in a fire fight or a practical rifle match, you’re probably too preoccupied to examine the condition of the weapon before clearing it and bringing it back into action, which is another topic altogether.

If you are just shooting recreationally, though, and lives and scores are not at risk, then STOP and LOOK when a malfunction occurs. Take a moment to figure out what really happened. Did the last case extract from the chamber? Did it clear the ejection port? Is it stove-piped with the bolt pinching it to the front of the port? Where is the next round? Partially in the chamber? Still half in the magazine with the bolt on top of it? Pay attention to every detail, and if you can’t remember, keep a notebook and take some notes about the exact situation as near as you can tell.

Many times, a customer will say the rifle fails to eject when what he really meant is that the rifle failed to extract—a big difference when seeking a diagnosis from the doctor. If the fired case is still in the chamber, and the bolt is attempting to feed a round behind it, this is not a double-feed but a failure to extract.

If the fired case is fully out of the chamber but stuck in the upper receiver in combination with the next round trying to feed, then you have a failure to eject. If the fired case has ejected and is somewhere on the ground, the rifle did indeed fire, extract and eject. This means we’re looking at where the next round or rounds are in the scheme of things. Is the bolt on top of the next round in the magazines and putting a big dent in it? Did the bolt pick up the rim of the next case and attempt to strip it from the magazine? Is it still partially in the magazine, stopped with the tip on the feed ramp? Is it half in the chamber? Is the next live round actually in the chamber with another round stacked behind it?

The point here is to first understand the full sequence of events in the firing of the rifle and try to SEE and UNDERSTAND at just what point this sequence is interrupted. In so doing, and by relaying this information accurately to your “"doctor," you are much more likely to get a useful diagnosis and an effective solution.

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