If you have more than about one failure to eject in three hundred rounds with a particular pistol, you need to read on.
I will assume that you thoroughly clean the action and chamber of your pistol at least every 300 rounds. I will also assume that you are using commercial ammo or that you are a careful reloader.
Contrary to popular opinion few "stovepipes" are caused by the wrong recoil spring strength; but letís eliminate that possibility first. Fire the gun several times paying special attention to whether the slide cycles fully. It should come all the way to the rear with a light thud on each round. If it does you have eliminated the recoil spring as the culprit.
Next letís jump to the cause of more than 95% of stovepipes. This is improper extractor condition or tuning. To check this out, you can conduct a simple test in your home. Load an empty unswollen case into the chamber and slowly pull the slide backward while observing the case. The case must come out remaining horizontal and snug up against the face of the slide or bolt. If it falls before it contacts the ejector you will have many stovepipes! If it droops, even slightly you will have too many malfunctions for bullseye competition. This test should be done with and without an empty magazine in the pistol. The empty case must clear the magazine in its way back. (unless you have certain european guns that have the ejector built into the magazine near the rear.). If your gun doesnít pass this simple test go through the following corrective steps, or have a pistol mechanic do it for you.
- Check the extractor spring for dirt and tension. It doesnít have to be strong but it must provide enough force on the extractor to pivot it to the left to bite the empty case holding it against the opposite ledge without drooping. If you are working on a .22 you can usually correct the problem with a slightly longer spring or a short spacer at the back end of the spring. I have fixed several using a cut-to-fit bic® lighter spring. If itís your .45 government model you can correct the tension by slightly bending the extractor in a gentile curve to the left. Be careful about too much spring pressure because the side effect of this is feeding problems caused by excessive drag on the rim as the loading round moves up under the extractor hook.
- If your empty case still droops or drops you may be able to correct the problem by filing a small amount of metal out of the throat of the extractor. This will let it pivot or move inward a little to bite the case.
If your .22 still doesnít hold the case snugly in a horizontal position, you may then need to sharpen the point of the extractor to get the necessary bite.
Your .45 acp doesnít work exactly the same... Donít sharpen anything on its extractor. The flat part just behind the hook holds the case rim correctly and the nose of the hook must not touch the case at all. (if you old timers like me have ever broken a .45 extractor it was undoubtedly caused by the nose riding up on the tapered part of the extractor groove in the round.) Many, if not most of the non-Colt® extractors have too much nose on them that should be filed off as part of the tuning process. Check your cases for small dings in the tapered part of the groove.
One other test is required to prevent that occasional piece of brass from being trapped between the slide and barrel. That is, the brass must have a clear path away from the gun. It canít hit your scope or mounts on the way out. If you are a lefty, it canít hit your thumb either.
When you get your pistols in shape to pass the simple tests above, you will find that you wonít have to select a special brand of commercial ammo to make your .22 have minimum stovepipes. You wonít have any! Your .45 loads will not have to be too hot either.