How to Break in Your New Pistol in 4 Easy Steps

Don’t wait too long after getting that new handgun to get it, and yourself, ready for use. “Right now” isn’t too soon! Read why HERE


Jason Hanson

Imagine being the victim of a burglary five times in a six-year period. Not only would you be losing personal valuables during each burglary, but undoubtedly the ongoing victimization would take a toll on your life in other ways.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to a man named Harvey Lembo. Harvey is a retired lobster fisherman who lives in a small apartment in Maine. He takes multiple medications and uses a motorized wheelchair to get around.

Most likely, the criminals who kept breaking into Harvey’s apartment knew he had prescription medications in his home. They also assumed he was an easy victim since he was only able to move around using his wheelchair.

The fourth time Harvey’s apartment was burglarized, the thieves made off with around $1,000 and several prescription bottles. It was then that one of Harvey’s neighbors suggested he purchase a gun to protect himself. About a month later, Harvey decided that was probably a good idea. So he went out and purchased a 7 mm Russian-made revolver that he kept under his pillow.

The same day he purchased the gun, Harvey was awakened in the night by a noise coming from his kitchen. He got out of bed, moved himself to his wheelchair and quietly proceeded to the kitchen with his gun.

When he reached the kitchen, he saw a man going through the cabinet where he kept his medicine. Harvey told him to sit down and wait for the police or he would shoot. The burglar didn’t listen to instructions and Harvey ended up shooting the suspect as he ran out of the apartment.

A short time later, police arrived and followed the trail of blood. It led them to 45-year-old Christopher Wildhaber, who had been shot in the shoulder. Wildhaber was arrested and charged with burglary. He was later sentenced to four years in prison.

According the Maine Criminal Code, “A person in possession or control of a dwelling place or a person who is licensed or privileged to be therein is justified in using deadly force upon another person… when the person reasonably believes that deadly force is necessary to prevent or terminate the commission of a criminal trespass by such other person.” Basically, Harvey was perfectly within his rights to do what he did to protect himself in his own residence.

But consider this: Within hours of buying his revolver, Harvey had to use it to defend himself. He didn’t have weeks or months to spend time at the shooting range practicing and breaking in his new gun. That being said, today I want to share with you four steps for breaking in a new firearm — which hopefully you’ll have time to do before ever having to use your gun.

1. Clean your gun
Even if you purchase your gun brand-new straight from the factory, it doesn’t hurt to give it a good cleaning. You never know how long it’s been sitting on a store shelf or under what conditions it’s been kept. Whenever you clean your gun, you should visually inspect each part of the firearm. Make sure there aren’t any loose metal shavings or barrel obstructions. And don’t forget to grease your gun with some sort of oil or lubricant such as Remington oil.

pistol cleaning kit

2. Practice dry-firing
If your new gun is a semiautomatic, you should definitely dry-fire and function-test your gun. In other words, rack the slide to ensure it moves properly, and then dry-fire the gun multiple times. As long as it’s a centerfire gun (not rimfire like a .22), you can safely dry-fire your new gun without damaging it to make sure it works properly.

3. Shoot an FBI qualification
The first time you go to the range with your new gun I recommend shooting an FBI qualification test. This is only 60 rounds, but it’s a good way to get started with your new firearm. Of course, 60 rounds aren’t enough to break in your firearm. Ideally, you should shoot at least 500 rounds through your new gun to break it in. This should include different drills in addition to the FBI qualification test. In short, you need to test out every aspect of your new gun. Now is the time to find out if you have a bad magazine or you need to adjust your sights — not when an intruder is barreling toward you.

4. Test your self-defense ammunition
Go to the range and run your self-defense ammunition through your gun. You need to make sure your hollow points feed properly and the gun doesn’t jam with this type of ammunition. I realize self-defense ammo is a lot more expensive, but this is very important to do. I know some people who shoot two or three rounds of hollow-point ammo and then start carrying their gun. Personally, I’m not comfortable carrying a gun I’ve only shot a handful of defensive rounds through, which is why I recommend putting at least 100 rounds through the gun. Once I’m sure my new gun functions flawlessly with my self-defense ammo, then I’ll give it another cleaning and start carrying it.

self defense ammo

If you follow these four steps to break in your brand-new firearm, you will be better prepared to use it if and when the need arises. It’s lucky that Harvey was successfully able to use his new revolver to keep himself from being robbed a fifth time, but that’s not a chance I’d want to take in my own home.

Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and New York Times bestselling author of Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life. To get a free copy of his book, click HERE.

Check out Midsouth Shooters Supply for a few products mentioned in this article HERE (cleaning supplies) and HERE (defensive ammo).


17 thoughts on “How to Break in Your New Pistol in 4 Easy Steps”

  1. Ruger recommends clean and inspect, shoot 250 lubing the key points after each range session, thoroughly clean and lube, run 250 more. If the second 250 run without malfunction, clean thoroughly and lube , pistol is ready for service.

  2. I have a gun business of repairing and cleaning guns. Your comment of dry firing your semi-autos is a bad idea. Each time you do this you are shock loading the firing pin & they do break. Not a good idea.

  3. I have recently bought a fairly expensive 9mm pistol. I thought at this price there will be no problems. WRONG. During the first 150 rounds there were several failure to fire problems due to light primer strikes. The primers were only slightly dented upon inspection. After sending it under warranty to the gunsmith it is now running fine. You should always run a lot of ammo through your pistol to make sure it functions. Don’t wait until a self defense situation happens and then say “hmmm, I guess I should have run more rounds through it”.

  4. Back in my early, stupid days, I bought a brand new semi-auto 9mm and stuffed some stuff I reloaded into the magazine and chambered a round. A couple of weeks later I went to the range and fired off the first round which was a squib load. THANKFULLY, I did not pull the trigger again. It turns out that first round had no powder in it and the primer had pushed the bullet into the barrel. Feeling completely foolish, I quietly took the cleaning rod out of my range box and pushed the bullet out. All the rest of the rounds functioned perfectly. Lesson learned.

  5. “As long as it’s a centerfire gun (not rimfire like a .22), you can safely dry-fire your new gun without damaging it….” A bit too “blanket” coverage for ALL firearms. Sometimes, the manufacturers “operator’s manual” will indicate if their gun can be dry fired – often NOT. Assuming (all know what that does) it o.k. to dry fire a gun if not specifically mentioned in the manual may accomplish that ass-u-me thingy. As an example, the Kel-tec manual states: “Do not dry fire your pistol, doing so can damage the firing pin and extractor spring screw.” Said all that to say, no matter what your manual says, unless it states dry firing is acceptable, ALWAYS check with the manufacturer before snapping the trigger on an empty chamber!

    1. Daniel, probably because some jerk at the sales counter wanted to get rid of that piece that would not sell to anybody else.

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