TFBTV: (Comment) Myth Busting – Can You Shoot A Pistol Without an Extractor?

In response to a reader comment claiming that handguns will cycle reliably without an extractor, James decides to test this claim in a “mythbuster” style format with several variations, including use of a suppressor and an MP5 with a fluted chamber.

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The full transcript follows ….

Hey, guys. James again from TFBT TV.

If you remember my video from last month, the Glock 19 versus Ruger SR9 mud test, a viewer left a comment on the video.

Something to the effect of handguns don’t need extractors to properly function.

They’re superfluous. Something like that.

I responded and I said that I would test that theory out.

So we set up a little experiment where we got a couple of guns and a couple of different configurations with a couple of different ammo types to really put this theory to the test.

Almost like a comment busters if you will.

I was pretty surprised with the results.

I think you might be too so go ahead and have a look.

Like I said, I removed the extractor from this Glock 17.

I’m gonna run some brass cased ammo through it first.

Let’s see if this gun will run without an extractor.

(gunshot) Well, there you have it.

First round, it’s about halfway out.

Did not eject.

(gunshots) (gunshots) As you saw, the brass clearly not working.

Shooting it normally, shooting it sideways, shooting it upside down to maybe get a little gravitational assistance, not working.

So, I’m gonna try shooting aluminum cased ammo because I think it won’t expand as much.

Let’s see if it works.

(gunshot) Well there you go! That one actually just extracted.

Let’s do another one. See what happens.

(gunshot) Now that one didn’t.

(gunshots) Yeah, that one didn’t extract either.

That first one may have been a fluke.

We shot about a box of brass and aluminum cased ammo.

The aluminum would drop free.

The brass would need a little prying, but neither was reliably extracted.

Alright, I’m gonna change the game on you a little bit here, guys.

I’ve got the Advanced Armament AAC EVO-9 on here.

I’m hoping that a little bit of back pressure and maybe a little friendly encouragement from the Nielsen device will kick these casings out if that’s actually gonna happen.

We’re gonna stick with the aluminim.

The brass- I think I was right when I hypothesized about the brass expanding a little bit more than the aluminum because it seemed a little bit less anxious to get out of the chamber than the aluminum is.

So we’ll stick with the aluminum.

We’ve got six rounds in here and let’s see what happens.

(gunshot) Well, there you go.

The first one just popped right out.

Actually got a little bit of distance on it too.

Let’s see if these other five will work.

(gunshots) There you have it.

It fed just as perfectly as you’d want it to, no exractor.

Not bad. Wonder if we can repeat that with brass.

(gunshots) Brass worked just fine.

– [Man] Did you want to record that? – I did.

– [James] After shooting a couple boxes of aluminum and brass cased ammunition through the suppressed Glock 17, all rounds were 100% reliably extracted, which was bizarre.

Okay guys, gonna throw another variable on you.

Gonna change it up and use an MP5.

I’ve removed the extractor from the MP5.

Some of you out there may know that the HK MP5, and also the P7 pistol, have fluted chambers that are supposed to assist in extraction.

So I’m gonna shoot it without an extractor.

We’re gonna use the aluminum ammo again.

I’m pessimistic about it, but let’s see if the HK lives up to its name.

(gunshot) Well, looks like we’ve got a stovepipe in this first round.

It did try to come out, but it just didn’t make it out.

Just didn’t get that expended round to clear the chamber.

(gunshot) There we go.

(gunshot) So we did have one pop out.

But anybody who claims that an MP5 will work just fine without an extractor because of the fluted chamber just doesn’t really know what they’re talking about.

(gunshot) Yeah, another stovepipe.

I would say it’s pretty unreliable without an extractor.

Alright so finally, I’m throwing the AAC, the EVO-9 on this MP5 and maybe we’ll get the same results with the aluminum cased ammo that we did in the Glock with the EVO.

You would think in conjunction with the fluted chamber it would work but we’ll see.

Funny isn’t it? – [Man] yeah, it’s gonna make the James Reeves cut.

– (gunshot) – Look at that. Nothing.

It did better by itself, without the suppressor on there.

(gunshot) Yeah, again.

Its not even stove-piping.

It’s so weird.

You would think with the suppressor it would’ve worked better.

(gunshots) There we go.

We had one just clear like three feet.

(gunshot) Nothing.

– [Man] God.

– Alright, well it certainly looks like just from this cursory test that Awww (beep), my lab mic came off.

– [Man] I can’t tell who you’re talking to.

– Doesn’t matter.

Looks like just from this cursory test the Glock with the suppressor is actually working better than the HK with or without the suppressor.

Maybe it’s the combination of the back-pressure and the Nielsen device working in the Glock, but it ain’t helping the HK.

That’s unfortunate.

So, as you saw from the video, running a gun without an extractor is inadvisable.

The pistol would not work.

The MP5 would not work.

Now strangely, as you saw, the Glock functioned fine with the suppressor 100% of the time.

Which was really bizarre.

Worked perfectly.

A gun without an extractor? I wouldn’t rely on it.

I would not say that extractors are superfluous.

They’re obviously necessary and I think a lot of people would say that’s a no-brainer, but it was an interesting test and really interesting how the results turned out with the supressor on the pistol.

So we can go ahead and say that this comment is busted.

If anybody has any suggestions for future videos or things they might want to tested out, feel free to leave a comment.

Thanks again for watching, don’t forget to subscribe, and I’ll see you next time.



James Reeves

James Reeves is a licensed and practicing concealed weapons instructor, the winner of Maxim Magazine’s MAXIMum Warrior, a graduate of Front Sight, the Shooter Performance Institute, and Tier 1 Group, and is an Appleseed-qualified Rifleman. James previously owned and operated a gun shop in Tallahassee, FL and worked as a regional sales representative for distributor/importer, Interstate Arms Company. He is a coverage litigation attorney by day. James likes traveling with his wife, boating, America, photography, guns, gear he doesn’t really need, cold beer, and a little exercise here and there (James is also GORUCK Tough). Above all, James enjoys creating content for TFBTV. Follow James on Twitter @jjreeves.


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  • PeterK

    Right, well a nielsen device will help cycle a glock because it kicks back and boosts the recoils actuation on the barrel. The nielsen device won’t do crap for an mp5, though you’d think any backpressure increase would. Guess that does Maybe a straight blowback gun? I have heard that said about blowback guns, which makes sense to me since the blowback is actuating the gun. On a recoil gun or delayed blowback the extractor will definitely be pulling the casing out if my intuition serves.

    • PeterK

      Wow that was a mess. Should have proofread better. :p

      Ah well. Just skip the “Guess that does” part.

    • HH

      As an owner of a few MP variants I can tell you that yes you need an extractor. Not only that but a good extractor spring. The extractor spring in my mind is the Achilles heel of that platform as they frequently need replacing – regardless whether you have fluted chamber or not. The flutes merely assist in “floating” the spent cases out during extraction. They themselves are not sufficient for reliable extraction (w/ or w/o a can) as you just demonstrated. Even a bent or old extractor spring causes lots of stovepipes/jams. I believe HK rec replacing the springs every 500 rounds although I know of MP5s that run and run (full auto) for thousands of rounds on one extractor spring. Most of my MP5 variants tend to get only 1k-2k rounds thru them before the spring needs replacing. The reason its the Achilles heel is that even one hard jam can crap out a new spring thereby causing intermittent FTEx’s until that slightly bent spring is replaced. And at $8 a pop for the springs …it gets old. Interestingly I believe that non fluted HK & HK style subguns (some after market barrels , etc) run OK. But that’s def. not the case in the rifle caliber HKs where flutes are mandatory if I recall.

      Good vid. Thanks for sharing.

      • James R.

        Great comment, thanks for chiming in.

  • bmielb

    Really enjoyed the video and the concept behind it. Would like to see a follow up video comparing reliability between revolvers and semi auto pistols where both types are subjected to the ubiquitous and over the top torture tests. Test the myth of reliability by subjecting both to over the beach, sand, mud, and other tests that have become common when comparing rifles like the AK and AR.

  • Sianmink

    Many straight blowback guns will run just dandy without an extractor. Anything else you’re taking a chance.

    • MR

      My old Lorcin has a decorative extractor. It’s there, but it won’t pull an unfired round from the chamber. The gun runs fine until you fire the last round of a magazine, then it stovepipes without the extra push of the next round to move the spent case out of the way. Not something I’d use for defense, but it’s a fun range toy.

      • Giolli Joker

        So decorative extractor and no ejector… cool. 🙂

        • MR

          I think it uses the firing pin as an ejector, but without the extractor pulling on one side, the firing pin/ejector just hits it in the middle of the primer again, stopping rearward motion but not imparting any sideways motion.

  • Spencer

    One possible source of confusion is that extraction and ejection are separate processes, but typically an extractor is used for both. Hence a blowback driven firearm may require an “extractor” for ejecting the spent casing but not extracting it from the chamber. An exploration of this concept would probably make for an awesome slow motion video. HINT HINT

    • RealitiCzech

      Right – it’s more than just leaving the chamber, the case needs to leave the gun as well.
      Hmm. A Beretta 92, by virtue of a pretty wide-open design, might actually perform somewhat decently without an extractor.

    • James R.

      This is a great idea. Sadly, my best framerate as of right now is 240FPS and that’s at garbage-VGA-quality. I’ll have to get a highspeed cam at some point. Great idea, though.

  • Southpaw89

    Should’ve tried it with a direct blowback gun, those are the ones that aren’t supposed to need extractors, and when you consider how they operate, it makes sense.

    • MR

      Maybe they could get a sponsor to donate a Hi Point. I believe those are strictly blowback guns, though I haven’t looked at the extractor to see how easy removal and replacement would be. The small ejection port might also hinder the casing leaving the gun, without the extra guidance of the extractor.

    • Zach

      I’ve had a .380 Walter PP fail to extract with no extractor. I was using brass cased ammo maybe the aluminum or steel would have better results.

      • Southpaw89

        Interesting, maybe I should try it with my PA-63, the slightly higher pressures of the 9×18 combined with the steel case ammo I use in it might be enough to make it work.

  • Jeff, just Jeff

    Thanks for the video. James Reeves, you have an enjoyable personality seldom seen in shooting videos.

    • James R.

      Wow, thanks a lot. You should see me when I am off camera though, I am pretty much intolerable.

  • John Thayer

    Pistols with “tip-up” barrels don’t have extractors. Some blow-back pistols, usually .25 ACP, don’t have ejectors, they rely on the firing pin to act in that capacity.

  • Tassiebush

    I really love experiments like this! Some guns are designed without extractors such as the Owengun submachinegun, taurus p22and Beretta 21a and gevarm e1 semi auto .22lr rifle. All are simple blowbacks designed so the case hits the ejector. The gevarm and owen were well known for reliability. I have also read the Soumi submachinegun was able to function with a broken extractor if canted sideways. This video certainly shows that locked breech and delayed blowbacks rely on extraction.

  • ghost

    Why would I want too?

  • Bal256

    The only thing this proves (that most of us already know) is that there are a bunch of people on gun forums and comment sections that have no idea what they’re talking about.

    • Chad McBain

      Agreed, internet commentators know more than the mechanical engineers that design the technology.

    • tom of toms

      It started with an inquisitive comment on another commenters words on weak extraction. It was never a challenge or just another unregulated emission by a knowitall computer commando.

  • ghost

    You do not learn from success, you learn from failure.

  • NikonMikon

    Lav mic, short for lavalier. Good video but that error happened near the end so I am able to comment on it. Not that it matters…

    • James R.

      I noticed that was an error in the transcription. I would never be caught on camera referring to a lav mic as a “lab mic.”

    • Dennis Crabtrey

      Others have pointed out that some designs don’t have extractors and that blowback designs might work.
      My first plastic gun was a Grendel P10 with a nonremovable magazine . I bought the first one I saw (165.00) and was in love. It was my primary CCW at the time. I reload & have a home range so I shot the stink out of it. I hardly ever cleared it when loaded, I just shot it empty. One day I did clear it and noticed that it wouldn’t extract. I took it out and shot it with several loads with no problems. Cleaning didn’t help, the extractor didn’t have a hook. It was a bad part from the factory. Even though it was several years old, Grendel fixed it for free with a 8-10 day turnaround.
      Having said that, it all depends on the gun and the load. My GEN2 Glock 17 gladly eats standard 380 cartridges even in a mixed mag. I accidentally found that out and the showed it to my range buddy. It won’t handle softball 380 loads but will handle 9mm softball loads without a hiccup. I have severe arthritis in my hands so I shoot light loads. Light bullet and light charge. They won’t work in any of Jim’s guns. I usually use 38 SPL loads with 110 gr plated bullet at 650 fps in a Colt Officers Target Model.
      All of this tells me that if you want to design a no extractor pistol you can. You can probably just install a lighter (or older wore out) recoil spring and your Glock would work fine without the extractor. You.might also try steel cased ammo. I suspect it will work with no problems either.
      All in all, an excellent test!
      PS: My Sterling 400 stainless works great

  • Zebra Dun

    A Revolver will function every shot every time without an extractor.
    Yup, I like Revolvers.

    • MR

      Until it’s time to reload. Then if that plunger doesn’t “extract”(eject?) those spent cases from the cylinder, you’re looking for a pen or something to push them out. In my experience, anyway, the cases tend to expand a bit when fired, and stick in the chambers. If you’re running ammo with thicker cases or lighter loads, it may not be a problem.

      • Zebra Dun

        O. K. Well then comes the other old saw, “If ya cannot do it with six shots you need a fire team, not a pistol or revolver” I understand what your saying yet a simple wooden stick broken from a limb can punch out empty cartridges prior to re-loading the revolver, something no auto is able to do and if you need to re-load faster than that then a Tactical Retrograde made be in your best interest.
        Cheers!

  • mosinman

    i wonder how well a straight blowback pistol would work

  • TomofToms

    Outstanding. I expected the recoil to rock the cases out, but as a commenter commented to my original question, there isn’t enough residual pressure on recoil operated handguns. Thanks guys!