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Friends, this essay will deal with little understood causes (and a couple fixes) of firing any weapon and having the fired cases extract from the chamber with difficulty because they are stuck in varying degrees.


First, let’s establish some parameters: Any double action revolver, with its swing-out cylinder, is more prone to this condition, because you are extracting all the fired casings at once. A single action revolver (as one example) extracts only one casing at a time, (so does any rifle or pistol that has the chamber in the barrel) so if extraction is slightly sticky, you may not notice, but if you try extracting that one slightly sticky casing, times six, (like you would with a double action revolver) or whatever the cylinder capacity is, you’ll notice that sticky extraction and it may be gross enough to impede or stop your ability to extract the fired casings altogether.


Let’s discuss the various causes of sticky extraction. If the problem is purely ammo related, it will be caused by over pressured ammo and this is very possible, but rare. However, this cause gets blamed all too often, when the issue is really with the gun. Over pressured ammo can be caused by a number of dynamics, which I will not get into here, except to say that it is very possible for ammo, all by itself, to be the cause of sticky extraction, due to being over-charged or over-pressured. When this occurs, the fired brass has expanded with such force, that it grips the walls of even a mirrors smooth chamber, with enough tension, to extract with difficulty. There can be other ammo related causes dealing with the metallurgy of the casing, bullet construction that raises pressures, etc., but I’ll save those details for another article.


Generally speaking, I see far more mechanical causes of sticky extraction, than I do ammunition related causes. As of this writing, (01-16-16) domestically produced revolvers are often being mass produced with roughness/tooling marks in the chambers. This happens when reamers chatter or wear and leave roughness in the chambers. This is purely a manufacturing flaw. When you fire a revolver or any firearm, the brass will expand under pressure—how much it expands depends on the manufacturing dynamics of the brass and how much pressure the fired cartridge produces and how big the chamber is…………when that brass expands into rough chamber surfaces, it grabs those rough spots and will not extract very easily………if the very same fired brass, fired at the same pressures, had expanded into a mirror smooth chamber surfaces, it would have nothing to grab and would extract easily, unless it was way over-pressured.  Because we make and sell millions of rounds of ammo directly to the public, I get to see all types of manufacturing trends in popular mass produced firearms…In the last few years, Ruger and Taurus have been mass producing revolvers, with slight to horrible tooling marks in the chambers. This can and does happen with every make of firearm, but Ruger and Taurus have been extremely bad about this in the last several years. Of course , the fired brass is stuck, so folks assume the problem is being caused by ammo, so I get the phone calls or emails telling me about my faulty ammo sticking in the chambers. When this happens, I investigate the causes, including having the guns sent to me for examination. A short story will best illustrate; Two months ago, I bought one of Rugers new Super Blackhawk revolvers chambered in 480 Ruger. This model in this chambering is looooong overdue and shooters have been asking Ruger to make a Super Blackhawk in this 480 chambering for 15 years, so I was excited to get the revolver. I wanted to test it and use it, but I did not want to f*&$$% around with getting it to function properly! I don’t with any new product I purchase for actually using! It had such rough chamber surfaces, I could even see them with the naked eye and my eyes are 57 years old! When firing our single low pressure/power/recoil load, the brass would extract with great difficulty, but when firing our full power loads, the brass was desperately stuck in the chambers and of course this is a single action revolver and therefore extracts one fired casing at a time, not several, so the chamber-wall roughness was extremely excessive. In this particular case, I returned the revolver to Ruger and they put a new cylinder in it, which solved the problem.

If you have only minimal roughness on the chamber walls, you may shoot standard pressure ammo of one manufacturer, with no sticky extraction, but if you use +P ammo or another makers standard pressure ammo, you may then experience sticky extraction in that same gun. Your first impulse will be to blame the ammo because brand X did not cause sticky extraction, but the case may be that brand X was under-powered/pressured and did not generate the pressures required to cause sticky extraction, while another makers ammo, was more powerful, but still within industry specs., and did generate enough pressure/power to cause sticky extraction against those rough chamber surfaces. In my experience, if typical +P ammo is generating enough pressure to cause sticky extraction, you have at least some, if not a gross amount of chamber roughness.


The simple and normal fix for tooling marks/roughness in your chamber is to have some metal polishing compound, a dremmel tool and some swabs on hand. I’ll normally start with some bigger grit polishing compound, work it into the swab and proceed with polishing out all the chambers. Afterward, I repeat with the finer grit for a mirror finish. 99% of the time, if done correctly, this will polish the chambers sufficiently to solve the problem completely. I have done this fix and/or seen this cause of sticky extraction many hundreds of times over the decades…..not to pick on Ruger and Taurus exclusively, I will repeat that I have seen this problem with literally every make of mass produced firearm, but currently Ruger and Taurus are plagued with it…… all manufacturers of anything, they will get their act together and this will stop happening with such regularity……sooner would be better than later.

Sticky extraction of the fired casing can also be caused by user error….. this may be a good place to read my article on “Dangerous Pure Lead Cowboy Ammunition” as it discusses several types of user error (rain water, bugs, dust and pine-needles, etc. inside your barrel) that can raise ammunition pressures to the point of causing sticky extraction or worse.

As with all these short “Technical Articles”, I am not wanting to discuss any of these issues to every definitive and comprehensive possibility or circumstance……I am trying to open the door to these issues in a general way that includes only the major portions/causes/solutions of the issue. There is much more on this subject that could be discussed, but by reading this, you are getting the general points. I hope this information is of some use to our customers and to the shooting industry in general, which itself, is plagued with rumors, misunderstandings, urban legends and seriously gross ignorance.

My best to you—Good shooting and God bless,