by Roy Seifert
Click here to purchase a
CD with this and all Kitchen Table Gunsmith Articles.
This article is for entertainment only and is not to
be used in lieu of a qualified gunsmith.
Please defer all firearms work to a qualified
gunsmith. Any loads
mentioned in this article are my loads for my guns and have
been carefully worked up using established guidelines and
special tools. The
author assumes no responsibility or liability for use of
these loads, or use or misuse of this article.
Please note that I am not a professional gunsmith,
just a shooting enthusiast and hobbyist, as well as a
article explains work that I performed to my guns without
the assistance of a qualified gunsmith.
Some procedures described in this article require
special tools and cannot/should not be performed without
Disassembling and tinkering with your firearm may
void the warranty. I
claim no responsibility for use or misuse of this article.
Again, this article is for entertainment purposes
and firearms are the trademark/service mark or registered trademark
of their respective manufacturers.
All tools were
purchased from Brownells
unless otherwise indicated.
A reader of the Kitchen Table Gunsmith and I have had an
interesting discussion regarding feeding problems with our
FEG PA-63 9mm Makarov pistols. When I made some
improvements to my PA-63 (refer to my article
Improving the FEG PA-63 9x18 Makarov) I discovered
that not all the Brown Bear jacketed hollow-point cartridges
I purchased were seated to the same depth which caused some
feeding problems. Reviewing that article, I discovered I
did not fully explain what types of feeding problems I
experienced, nor did I mention the cartridge overall lengths
of the Brown Bear ammo. My apologies to my readers; this
was an oversight on my part which I will correct with this
article. I did some further investigation into these
feeding problems, which I have detailed below along with
their solution(s). In the process, I also provided some
to Feed (FTF)
A failure to feed (FTF) with a semi-automatic pistol can be
caused by several factors. I identified which ones affected
my PA-63 and eliminated them one-by-one until my pistol
would feed ammo reliably.
Bullet shape is almost always the number one factor that
causes FTFs. The PA-63 is a military/police pistol that
was designed to take round-nose, ball ammo. Hollow-point
ammo will often cause feeding problems because of the flat
nose unless some changes are made to the gun.
Overall Length (OAL)
Cartridge overall length can also cause feeding problems.
A cartridge that is too long may get stuck in the magazine,
and if too short it could be released from the magazine too
soon and cause a jam.
So many problems can be traced to faulty magazines, e.g.
follower spring too weak or too strong, feed lips too sharp
or damaged, feed lips releasing the cartridge too soon or
too late in the feed cycle, dirt in the magazine that slows
follower movement, or a damaged magazine body. These all
need to be checked and if present, eliminated. Worst case,
the magazine should be replaced.
If the feed ramp on the frame and/or barrel is damaged,
too rough, too steep, too shallow, or too sharp the
cartridge may not feed properly.
A weak spring may not be strong enough to strip a
cartridge out of the magazine, and a spring that is too
strong wont allow the slide to come back far enough to
eject a spent case, or strip the next round out of the
If the hammer mainspring is too strong the slide may not
cycle completely and cause a stovepipe jam, or not strip a
cartridge out of the magazine. If too weak it could cause
the slide to excessively batter the frame, which is not good
for an aluminum alloy frame.
semi-automatic pistol to function properly, all parts must
be balanced and work together.
I used four different cartridges with different bullets to
troubleshoot my FTF problems. I wanted my pistol to feed
all types of ammunition.
Bear 115 grain Jacketed Hollow-Point (JHP) I purchased
500-rounds at a gun show because I wanted the heavier,
hollow-point bullet for personal defense. This ammo had
problems (see below), but apparently is no longer being
Critical Defense 95 grain Flexible Tip (FTX) I purchased
this for personal defense to replace the Brown Bear ammo
because of its better expansion capabilities.
95 grain Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) I purchased one box of 50
rounds strictly for writing this article.
Starline Brass, CCI 500 small pistol primers, Lee
365-95-1R hard-cast lead round-nose (LRN), 3.6 grains of
Winchester 231. I purchased brass and a Lee bullet mold for
writing this article. I already had the Lee reloading dies.
My pistol came with one magazine. I wanted some spare
magazines so I purchased four from ebay. One of those
magazines never would feed the Brown Bear HP ammo
correctly. The magazines hold seven rounds, and when full,
the first round of the faulty magazine would nose-dive and
tip forward. Because the Brown Bear HP ammo has a flat
tipped nose, the edge of the nose would catch on the sharp
front edge of the feed ramp and prevent the slide from
moving completely forward into battery. None of the other
magazines had this problem. This was a good indication that
the magazine spring had probably become weak.
purchased a set of three extra power magazine springs from
Wolff Gunsprings for the Walther PP 7.65 and 9mm. Since
the PA-63 is an exact copy of the Walther PP this spring fit
perfectly. Notice in the above photo the original spring is
a lot shorter than the replacement, but they both have the
same number of coils. Unfortunately, during the live fire
test this magazine still failed with the Brown Bear
ammunition, but so did a good magazine. This is probably
because of the shape of the bullet nose, not necessarily the
magazine. This magazine will require more testing.
ramp was a bit rough and the front and side edges were
sharp. The flat, hollow-point nose of the Brown Bear ammo
would get caught on these sharp edges. I removed the
ejector which doubles as the slide lock by pressing down
on the retaining spring with a small flat-blade screwdriver,
and pulling the ejector out of the frame. I used my
high-speed rotary tool set to the lowest speed and a
cone-shaped Cratex polishing bit to gently round off the
sharp edges. Then I took a piece of 400-grit sand paper
wrapped around a pencil eraser and smoothed the edges. I
worked slowly and carefully because even though this is a
hard aluminum alloy, it is possible to remove too much
As mentioned before, this pistol was designed for
round-nose, ball ammo. I had no feeding problems with the
Hornady Critical Defense loads because they are conical in
shape. I also had no feeding problems with the Fiocchi or
hand-loaded rounds because they both had round-nose shapes.
I had the
most feeding problems with the Brown Bear hollow-point
ammo. This was because the front of the hollow-point nose
was flat and had an edge. This edge tended to get hung up
on the sharp edges inside the pistol. Gently rounding the
sharp edges around the sides and front of the feed ramp
helped to fix this problem (see above).
As mentioned in my previous article, I had problems feeding
the Brown Bear ammo because the bullets were not seated to
the same overall length (OAL). To my surprise, they
measured 0.955 0.972 cartridge OAL. So much for quality
control! Through trial and error, I discovered that if the
Brown Bear rounds were seated to a cartridge OAL of 0.965
or longer they would bind up in the magazine and cause
(Diagram courtesy Sporting Arms and Ammunition
Manufacturers' Institute, Inc.)
specifications for 9x18 Makarov cartridge OAL is 0.964
0.984 inches, but this is for a round-nose, ball
cartridge. (My set of Lee loading dies shows 0.980 as the
maximum.) I set my 9x18 Makarov seating die to seat the
Brown Bear bullets to the shortest OAL of 0.955 so all the
cartridges would be consistent. Seating the bullet deeper
into the case prevented it from rubbing against the front of
the magazine and fixed some of the failure to feed
to be sure my fix was not excessive. Seating a bullet
deeper into the case can increase pressure. With the Brown
Bear hollow-point bullet seated to an OAL of 0.955 I
extrapolated what the overall length would be if the bullet
was a round-nose. I took a photo of a Brown Bear cartridge
and overlaid it onto a photo of a round-nose cartridge. I
filled in the missing round-nose of the hollow-point bullet
in blue. With this crude method, it appeared that if the
bullet was a round-nose, the OAL would be 0.984 which is
the maximum OAL per SAAMI specifications. So not only was
my fix safe and within SAAMI spec, but it eliminated some of
my feeding problems with the Brown Bear ammo.
Hornady Critical Defense cartridges are seated to an OAL of
0.975. Because of their conical shape, I had no feeding
problems when hand-cycling from a full magazine or during
the live-fire test. I only fired 7 rounds because this is
expensive ammo to use just for plinking.
As a side
note, I have a Taurus 24/7 PT Compact Pro in .45 ACP. The
feed ramp on this pistol is very steep and wont feed most
hollow-point rounds because of the flat nose. The manual
says it is designed for round-nose, ball ammo, but what is
the point of making a compact pistol that wont feed defense
ammunition! Because of their conical shape, this gun had no
feeding problems with the Hornady Critical Defense rounds.
Because they feed in most firearms and have good expansion
capability, Hornady Critical Defense ammo has become my
personal defense ammo when I carry.
Fiocchi cartridges were seated to an OAL of 0.976. I had
no feeding problems with this ammo when hand-cycling from a
full magazine because of their round-nose shape. I also had
no feeding problems during the live-fire test.
about 100 bullets using the Lee 365-95-R1 bullet mold and a
hard-lead mixture. Out of the mold my hard-cast bullets
weighed 104-grains and measured 0.367 in diameter. I
lubricated the bullets with Lee Liquid Alox, which I hate to
use because it makes a sticky mess in my seating die, and it
takes time to wipe off the completed cartridges. I used
3.6-grains of Winchester 231 and seated the bullets to
0.976 OAL like the Fiocchi cartridges. I made sure to put
a slight taper crimp on the case to prevent the bullet from
being pushed deeper into the case during feeding. Again,
because of the round nose shape I had no feeding problems
when hand-cycling from a full magazine. After feeding, the
lead bullet showed a mark where it slid along the feed ramp,
but because of the taper crimp, the bullet did not get
pushed deeper into the case. I also did not have any
feeding problems during the live fire test.
note about seating lead bullets into semi-auto cases: Most
modern seating dies also crimp the case. The die is
designed with a constriction part-way inside so when pushed
far enough into the die, the brass case meets the
constriction and is crimped against the bullet. Crimping is
an important step when loading ammunition. For revolver
cartridges, it prevents the unfired bullets in other
cylinders from backing out during recoil. If the bullets
protrude beyond the face of the cylinder the revolver will
jam. For pistol cartridges, it prevents the bullets from
being pushed deeper into the case during the feed cycle.
This can cause either feed problems, or excessive pressure,
Revolver-caliber seating dies use a roll crimp where the top
of the case is rolled into a crimp groove in the bullet.
Since most semi-auto pistol bullets headspace on the case
mouth, a roll crimp could cause headspace problems. Because
of this, pistol-caliber seating dies use a taper crimp where
the mouth of the case is squeezed just a bit tighter against
the bullet. This still allows the cartridge to headspace on
the case mouth, but prevents the bullet from being pushed
into the case during the feed cycle.
pistol cartridge, when a lead bullet is being seated (pushed
into the case) at the same time the case is being crimped, a
small ring of shaved lead can be pushed ahead of the case
mouth. The cartridge now headspaces on the ring of lead,
which prevents the slide from going completely into
battery. Chamfering the inside of the case mouth will
not eliminate this problem. Jacketed bullets dont have
this problem because the copper jacket is harder than lead
and wont shave.
to avoid this problem is to separate the seating and
crimping processes. If I dont have a separate crimp die, I
back out the seating die body so the crimp doesnt touch the
case mouth, then adjust the seating plug to seat the bullets
to the proper depth. After all bullets are seated, I back
out the seating plug, and then adjust the die body to crimp
the cases. As an alternative,
Lee Precision makes a factory crimp die for most
calibers. When I use my progressive press to reload pistol
ammo, the fifth station is a factory crimp die.
I took the various ammo to the range and tested them for
function and feeding. As mentioned in my previous article,
the Brown Bear ammo kicked like a mule, but the Wolff
21-pound recoil spring I installed help absorb some of that
recoil. This requires a little more strength to rack the
slide, but makes the gun a pleasure to shoot.
rounds were fired at 7-yards (21-feet) from a rest and were
accurate at that distance. The Brown Bear and my hand loads
were right on for elevation, the other two were high. The
Brown Bear cartridges experienced two failures to feed, one
with the bad magazine even with the new magazine spring, and
one with a good magazine. I brought another magazine with
me and the other rounds fed perfectly from that magazine.
Since I am still having feeding problems with the Brown Bear
ammo, I may try to use my kinetic bullet puller to bump out
the bullet and reseat to 0.960 0.963 cartridge OAL and
see if I still have the feeding problems.
My FEG PA-63 experienced feeding problems caused by bullet
shape, bullet seating depth, and a bad magazine. I
corrected each of these problems, and rounded and polished
the sharp edges on the feed ramp to increase feeding
reliability. Every gun is different and may experience all,
some or none of the problems mentioned here.
what I saw on
Gunbroker.com, the FEG PA-63 seems to be a popular
little pistol, and is available in both 9mm Makarov and .380
Auto calibers. Because of its popularity, the prices just
keep going up. The miniscule sights are terrible,
especially for us folks with older eyes, and unfortunately
Novak is no longer producing their .380 sights. If I was to
purchase another PA-63, I would probably fabricate taller
and wider dovetail sights like a 1911, and mill dovetail
slots in the slide for the new sights.
is my summer-time carry gun, with which I would trust my
life. Its fun to shoot, and with a little bit of analysis,
elbow grease, and parts replacement, it is now very