Shooter Ready: What’s in Your Mag?

An IDPA Newbie’s Journal

Well, hello Snowmaggedon ’12 – how nice of you to drop by and stay for a week.  We had some great times, didn’t we?  Remember how you dropped all of those trees at Renton Fish & Game Club so that the January IDPA match was canceled?  Ah, that was the best!  I’ll miss you.

Since the elements conspired against those of us here in Western Washington, my grand debut (or, more likely, inauspicious beginning) at the RF&GC IDPA match was postponed.  This was a letdown – I had been preparing for the match, running dry-fire drills at home and hitting my range for practice.  It turns out, though, that the delay was advantageous in one aspect, however.  My choice of ammo would have severely impacted my match performance.

When I was purchasing my initial equipment, I scoured the Web for cheap ammo.  I knew that I’d need 1000 rounds to get through practice, matches, and an Insights class over the next 3-4 months.  I ended up ordering BVAC remanufactured practice ammo at $190 for a case, which was $20-30 cheaper than the prices I was seeing for factory-new practice ammo.  At the time, that price difference was significant to me, and I had heard from fellow shooters at work that they had shot BVAC through M&Ps without issue.  I figured I could use the BVAC for the bulk of my shooting and maybe pick up some Federal Champion at Wal-Mart for matches.

At a Thursday night range shoot two weeks before Renton’s match, I was running through my second course of fire.  The first engagement consisted of 4 cardboard targets, 2 no-shoots, and 2 poppers.  As I was working through the first 4 targets, I had a malfunction.  I applied immediate action – tap, rack…no round ejected.  I double-racked the slide and saw a round lodged in the chamber, so I dropped the magazine as the Safety Officer stopped the shoot.  We field-stripped my M&P and tried pushing the round out of the barrel without luck. That round was solidly stuck!  Our last effort was to shove a pen into the barrel and ‘gently tap’ (read: ‘whack’) the other end against the range’s concrete floor.  After an escalating 4-5 whacks, the round was finally dislodged.

As I reassembled my pistol, I noticed that the next round in the partially depleted magazine had the bullet seated too deeply in the casing – I would have likely had a squib or a failure-to-feed on my next shot!  The Range Officer bumped me down in the firing order so that I had time to reload and settle down.  I went back up to the firing line three minutes later and ran through the course with a score that ranked in the bottom-quarter of the limited-class shooters.  I’d like to think I’m a better shooter than that, so I’ll say that the stoppage had my mind occupied and thus poorly impacted my run!

That night I ordered 1000 rounds of factory new PMC Bronze on the advice of a fellow M&P shooter.  I decided that the BVAC would become my practice ammo until it was shot up; I needed some more reliable (and safer) ammo for match duty.  Over the course of the next week, I spent several evenings dropping the remaining 800 rounds of BVAC into my stripped-down barrel, one at a time, to ensure that they were properly sized.  I had 46 rounds get stuck – a 4.6% failure rate on the batch.  That’s a lousy failure rate!

Image courtesy of 9KXLH

How was the snow advantageous then, you might ask?  As my new ammo order was transiting across the country via UPS, the train was derailed in Montana on Thursday night prior to the match.  The ‘delivery exception’ was updated with a brief summary of the derailment Friday with the note that damaged orders would be triggering emails from UPS, while intact orders would be re-routed within the next 72 hours.  Fortunately, my order was not damaged and the ammo arrived the Wednesday after the Renton match’s original date.

I’ve now fired 250 more rounds of the BVAC and 150 of the PMC.  Neither brand has had any issues, so I’m hoping that the BVAC has been sufficiently vetted with the barrel check.  While the reloaded BVAC ammo seemed like a good cost savings at the time, I’ve changed my stance on that.  An extra $30 (or an hour’s drive to a local surplus ammo merchant) for factory new ammo is worth my peace of mind.  To be clear, I’m not saying remanufactured ammo is evil stuff, but if you do pick some up, be aware of what you are purchasing.  Take the time to research your options and verify that the ammo feeds through your gun cleanly and safely before staking a match on the result.

Next time – shooting my first two matches and debugging a slide lock failure.  I’ll be back soon!

Jeremy Snook is a resident of Seattle, Washington and works in the video games industry.

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4 Responses to Shooter Ready: What’s in Your Mag?

  1. Its definitely good to make sure your ammo works in YOUR gun before any “big” matches. I shoot most of the IDPA matches in western Washington using a XD9 and I think my favorite factory ammo is Magtech followed closely by Federal Champion from Walmart. After that probably Winchester White box and S&B being tied. The Magtech and Federal have less snap more push to the recoil, so it feels softer. I think it help me get follow up shots faster. Of the two, the Magtech has just a little less “push” then the Federal. But I happily use either one and will be using the Federal in the match tomorrow in Renton.

    • Jeremy says:

      Are you shooting 115gr bullets, Damon, or going heavier? I’ve heard the 124s and 147s also soften the recoil a bit. I shot a couple dozen 147gr JHPs through my M&P and thought it was a little easier.

      • I use the 115gr, they are the easiest to find. I have also heard the 124gr feel a little softer but haven’t shot enough of them to really compare. A lot of the local guys reload with the 124gr Montana Gold bullets or the Bear Creek moly-coated lead 135gr.

        Didn’t see your name on the results from today at Renton. Interesting weather but still a fun match!! Next Saturday, IDPA at Paul Bunyan!!

        • Jeremy says:

          Once my current stockpile of 115gr dries up, I’m going a-huntin’ for 124gr at SAA. Will be curious to compare that to the BVAC / PMC Bronze I’ve been shooting so far.

          Unfortunately it’s been a tough start-up season – too many schedule conflicts. I’m not hitting a weekend match until April’s Renton outing.

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