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Smith & Wesson Shield Failure

I was finishing up my testing of the FNH FNS-9 at the range yesterday, and decided to put another 100 rounds through my Smith & Wesson Shield before packing up and heading home. I like to shoot in round number increments on test guns so that I can more easily keep track of my round counts. Yeah, I know, I need to sign up for Range Log…anyways, 100 more rounds would have taken my round count to a nice even 1,000. I didn’t make it.

My first magazine, which was loaded with Fiocchi 115 grain XTP hollowpoints (just so that I’m clear, this is NOT my carry load – my carry loads are here and here), is where the failure occurred. The first round went bang, the second round did not. Since I was at the range and I wanted to catalog the failure to report it, I sat the gun down and took a photo with my cell phone. Looking at the photo (above), you can see that the slide failed to return to battery. At this point I’m thinking, well that sucks, my first failure with the gun.

I then dropped the magazine, and attempted to rack the slide. I wanted to inspect the round and see if something was wrong with that round. Racking the slide did not work. The slide was completely locked up.

My next move was to smack the back of the slide to get it fully into battery. I tried to rack the slide again, same thing. It could (and can) get to the point you see in the picture above, and then stops. No amount of force seems to be able to move it either. I then counted the rounds left in the magazine and confirmed my suspicion that the round in the chamber is live.

With the gun locked up like this, I had two choices – I could pull the trigger and see what happens, or I could take it to a gunsmith and have them remove the round. Normally I’d go the “pull the trigger” route (this is not advice), but my fear was that if there is something jacked up, this could cause further damage to the gun, and potentially hide the actual cause of the problem. So I decided to go with the gunsmith option.

I will of course be contacting Smith & Wesson first to see what they want me to do. In the meantime, I posted a photo of the problem to Facebook last night, and had a good discussion as to what the problem could be. There are two main theories:

  1. Strange ammo problem
  2. Parts breakage/misalignment of some kind

At this point I lean toward number 2, but I admit I’m stumped until we get it apart. I will post again once I have a resolution, in the meantime, watch Facebook for updates.

Oh, and when I got in my truck to drive home from the range, A Gun That I Used to Know was playing on the radio. At least those were the lyrics I heard.

Update 6/25/2012 – it appears to be an ammo related issue. Once I determine exactly what the issue was, I will post a follow up and link to it from this post.

Update 7/2/2012I’m sending the gun back to Smith & Wesson.

Update 8/3/2012My Shield is back from Smith & Wesson.

10 Responses to Smith & Wesson Shield Failure

  1. Steven Cline June 25, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    Dollars to donuts you’ve got a bad cartridge wedged in the chamber. Brace the slide on a non-marring surface and go to work exerting pressure on the grip. Push, “punch it” with the palm off your hand. The slide should pop back extract the offending round. Inspect it.

    Maybe the extractor slide off the case and you might have to otherwise remove the cartridge from the barrel.

    At worst you might break the extractor- not likely though. It’s cheap easy replacement if you do and S&W ought to send you a new one for free.

    • Brandon June 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

      Thanks for the advice Steven, hopefully you’re right, but I tried this last night and it was a no go. It appears (kinda hard to see exactly) that the extractor is off the case. I’ll know more this evening when we get it apart.

  2. Ebbs June 25, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    No bueno, Brandon. Thanks for posting this. So far most of the data on the web about this pistol is about everyone loving it so much they’re adding another pillow to their bed for the Shield to sleep next to them at night. My guess is ammo, but I’ll be interested to hear the final scoop.

    • Brandon June 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

      Thanks Ebbs, I’m really hoping it’s ammo too.

  3. Ben Branam June 25, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    I agree with the others that it’s probably ammo. If it where something else most of the time you can see something out of place that’s broken. Slamming the butt with your shooting hand and holding the slide with the other hand generally works on bigger guns.

    Talk to your gun smith, but most would prefer that you hadn’t put it all the way into battery. With it out of battery it gives him more options. If you are going to push it into battery you should probably continue all the way to firing it to make it safe.

    I hope we are right in that it’s a bad round, it would suck to have broken your new gun at 1,000 rounds.

    • Brandon June 25, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

      Good call Ben!

  4. Steven Cline June 25, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    I saw the Facebook update; glad it wasnt broken. Look for a bulge at the base of the case.

    I dont understand why S&W would suspect a bulged barrel unless you expeienced a squib and shot it out.

    • Brandon June 25, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

      Thanks Steven (you were right by the way) – it was an interesting jam and a first for me. I’ve had this happen a time or two before, but in those cases I was able to brute force the slide open. This time it took more proficient coaxing to come out.

      I don’t see a bulge, but I will take some measurements, shoot some more of the same ammo, and try to determine what the actual problem was.

  5. Devon July 15, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    But the barrel is warped… That looks like a parts issue to me, that possibly could be the result of out of spec ammo…

    • Brandon July 15, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

      I’m not ruling out anything at this point, but I’ve shot an additional 50 rounds through it since the failure trying to repeat it and had no problems.