If you're shooting your handgun regularly, some parts are going to wear out and some might even break. Just like any other piece of mechanical equipment, handguns need some TLC every once and a while to make sure they're functioning properly.
While it's a no-brainer to replace a part on your gun that breaks, which parts require preventative maintenance and how often should you replace those parts? Here are some of the most common items that need to be replaced and when it's a good time to replace them.
First, Give it a Thorough Cleaning
it’s important to give your handgun a detailed cleaning from time to time. Most of us clean our guns by doing a basic field strip (separating the major components), but you also need to get into all the nooks and crannies to make sure that you’re getting rid of the debris that builds up which can make your handgun unreliable or unsafe.
Depending on the type of gun you own, a thorough cleaning may mean a detailed stripping where you come close to completely disassembling the gun. If that’s sounds (understandably) intimidating, you can find a gun store or gunsmith that does detailed cleaning and let them take care of it for you. Another option is using an ultrasonic cleaner with a formula specifically designed for use with firearms. If you do go the ultrasonic route, make sure that you get all the liquid out of the gun, or you could end up with more issues than you started with.
The Spring’s the Thing
The recoil spring is a part of your handgun that will need to be replaced. While there’s no exact round count for when you should replace it, many shooters use 3,000 to 5,000 rounds as a general guideline. Over time, the recoil spring loses its “spring” and that can lead to cycling issues. Recoil springs are inexpensive, so it’s good practice to buy one or two before you need it and toss it in your range bag so you remember where it is when it comes time to replace it.
Trigger springs are a little less predictable on when they will wear out or fail, so if you’re shooting on a regular schedule, it’s a good idea to have one of those handy as well.
Most shooters will never have to worry about replacing a barrel, but they may eventually need to be replaced. After about 50,000 rounds, the rifling will be worn down and that causes a dip in performance. If you’re not shooting past 25 yards, you may never notice the decrease in accuracy, but it’s still a good idea to replace the barrel to extend the overall lifespan of the gun.
Parts that May Break
Firearms have lots of little metal parts that cycle and rub up against each other, so with time and heavy use, it’s inevitable that something is going to break. Extractors (the piece that flings the spent brass out of your gun), slide stops, and any internal levers are some parts that see the most common failures. While breakages like these may be temporary show stoppers, almost every part on a gun can be replaced, meaning you don't have to say goodbye to your favorite handgun because of one part.
Modern handguns are generally reliable and built to last, but they do need some attention to keep them running properly. To maximize the life of your gun, make sure to inspect it on a regular basis (while you’re cleaning it is a great time) and confirm that all the parts are in good working order. If you do find a part that you think needs to be replaced or looks broken, don't shoot it until you have it figured out.
If you're unsure about doing any kind of work on your gun, or just want to make sure the part is replaced properly, please consult a gunsmith.