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Friends, I continue to get emails and phone calls regarding ammo “hang-ups” and multiple other issues from folks using match-grade pistols or carry pistols with match-grade barrels installed. Understand that so-called “match grade” pistols, with their tighter chambers and barrels, are in most cases more accurate than a standard carry pistol, but “Carry” pistols generally have generous dimensions/tolerances, so they will function with all brands of ammo, under dirty or unfavorable conditions. Glock was one of the first of the mass-produced pistol brands (40 years ago) to become famous for ALWAYS functioning under a wide range of field conditions. However, today, if a modern auto pistol is not extremely reliable, out-of-the-box, it simply will not compete well in the firearms market. You should have seen the unreliable and finicky pistols we had 40 years ago. 

 If you install an aftermarket barrel with a “minimum spec” (Match-grade) chamber into such a carry pistol, you’ll probably see an increase in accuracy as a general rule, but you’ll also get an unforgiving pistol, which may not feed or chamber all types of ammo and not cycle reliably when dirty or after being dropped in dirt or mud, not being lubed, etc.… can be troubling.

Another issue that match-grade or minimum-spec chambers will cause is that the smaller chamber leaves less room for the brass to expand under pressure, and this causes the very same condition as adding more powder to the cartridge—you’ll get higher pressures, which will result in higher velocities……this sounds good, right? Well, it’s not good, in fact, it is very bad if you are shooting full-powered type ammo as that ammo already features high pressure and that match-grade chamber/barrel will likely drive pressures higher than the casing is built to withstand, and you can get blown and pierced primers or worse yet, blown case webs. As you step up in ammo performance/power/velocity, you’ll need to pay attention to these types of details. If you stick with ordinary ammo with ordinary power, your “match” pistol will be more forgiving of this type of detail. Again, bigger ammo companies simply water down their loads so that such things as match-grade chambers will not affect pressures enough to interfere with firearm function.

“Match-grade” pistols are made for, well, shooting matches, where no person’s life is at stake, under foreknown and controlled environments/conditions, with individually tuned ammo and sighting systems. THESE ARE NOT “CARRY” CONDITIONS AND NOT “CARRY” PISTOLS. Carry conditions are unknown and can involve all sorts of circumstances that a tighter tolerance match grade pistol will fail under. Never mind that stock carry guns from any of the big makers (Glock, S&W, Springfield, Kimber Sig, etc.) are plenty accurate for self-defense and hunting purposes; in fact, in some instances, stock production carry pistols will shoot as well as more expensive and finicky match grade pistols. Most shooters cannot shoot to the accuracy potential of their carry pistols, not even close, especially in an emergency!

To make matters worse, I see that Glock is now making “match grade” pistols, and folks are going to think something like this…. “wow, if it is match grade, it is more accurate and more accurate is always a good thing, right”??? I’m pretty sure that Springfield and Kimber are making match-grade carry pistols as well….I know because I get phone calls about high-pressure signs or feeding issues with our ammo in these “match grade” models from both makers, but the normal (non-match grade) carry guns from Springfield and Kimber have no like issues.

Friends, carrying a pistol is serious business. As a lifetime gun guy who has killed most of the animal species on this earth, designs ammunition for a living, and owns about 500-600 firearms (some of them are match-grade pistols), I suggest that reliability of function is far more important than shooting one-inch pistol groups at 50 yards with your carry gun. If you need your pistol to function in an emergency, it is best not to carry a gun made for shooting matches. 

Good luck, have fun, be safe, and God bless.

Tim Sundles