March 22, 2023
We’re all mature here so I think its safe to address a potentially embarrassing topic: ejectile dysfunction. Now I know that ED (as it’s called in the gunsmithing community) might sound like a different malady, but spare us your sophomoric giggles. This will not be one of those puerile pun-fests that takes cheap shots at “fowling pieces of a certain age” or revels in crass double entendre. Such adolescent humor disgusts us, quite frankly, and has no place in this revered family publication. So let’s make it clear from the get-go that we are stiffly committed to discussing this topic with the sensitivity and candor it deserves.
What Exactly is Ejectile Dysfunction?
Broadly speaking, “ejectile dysfunction” refers to any and all problems related to the unloading of one’s shotgun. Failure to eject, ejecting live rounds, ejecting too late, ejecting too soon—each of these falls under the ED umbrella. For the casual target shooter, ED is a mild irritant. For the serious waterfowler, ED is a disaster.
Don’t Miss Your Moment
Take a recent snow goose hunt for example. There were three of us, in layouts, shoulder to shoulder in the slop. Behind, 900 socks twisted and snapped in the warm south wind. Above, 600 grey squawkers spiraled toward the kill hole. Juvies. The first 200 were leaving footprints in the muck before our buddy Belch called it: “Rip city, baby!”
We rose and shouldered in tandem. It took me a few seconds to find a solitary goose in the chaos, and just when I was about to mash the trigger….DOINK! A 3.5” hi brass hull plunked me in the temple. DOINK-DOINK! Two more did the same. DOINK! DOINK! DOINK! A steady string of gas-propelled empties barraged my blindside as left-handed Belch drained his extended mag to the plug. By the time he was patting his pockets for more shells, the flock had receded into the distance, and I hadn’t fired a shot.
“Holy cow, I think I dumped eight of that mess,” Belch’s eyes were wild, ecstatic. “You guys?”
Duane spoke first. “Zilch. Popped one off in panic right away but couldn’t shuck the empty.” He pointed to the action on his shotgun, which was partially closed on an ugly shotshell traffic jam. “Should have brought the pump.”
Belch laughed. “Bummer, D-Man. Nate?” A pause. “Nate? What happened to your glasses? Hey, where are you going? It’s not time to walk back to the truck. Nate! NAAAAAAAAATTTTE…..”
Needless to say, ejectile dysfunction can be a frustrating experience for everyone involved. It can even plague the solo hunter.
Busting the Slump
I spent most of the 2019 waterfowl season suffering from sporadic ED. Every thirty or so rounds —sometimes every forty —my shiny new semi auto (manufacturer shall remain anonymous) would eject an empty shell but fail to feed the follow up into the chamber. As a result, the next trigger pull would end with a devastating click instead of a satisfying pop, and whatever bird was flying behind the bead continued its migration.
Now, a reasonable waterfowler would get this problem addressed. Immediately. But ED has a strange effect on fowlers, especially younger men of a certain temperament. Instead of finding solutions, we make excuses. After all, it was only every once in a while. Some hunts, not at all. And in between the clicks, the gun shot great. If the occasional manual ejection was the price to pay for hours of flawless function, so be it. I was fine. Just fine.
[other photo – Keep an eye out for any problems with your ejections whenever shooting your shotgun. (Photo By: Steener/Shutterstock.com)
Until mid-January, on the Pacific coast. I’d spent a cheerless morning waiting for teal on the salt flats with nothing to show for my efforts. I’d taken one shot, a long crosser at a bufflehead drake buzzing past on the deck. The shot string speckled the water a full two feet behind the tailfeathers, and a follow up wasn’t even considered. Fog drifted in from the breakwater. The sinking tide drained my pool to a puddle. It was time for a walk.
I slogged over to a flooded pasture adjacent to the flats. This parcel had been purchased by the game department a few years earlier. Knee-high grass pocked with elk prints. Lousy for ducks, but every once in a while, loaded with common snipe. Maybe a few needle-beaks would salvage the hunt. So imagine the euphoria—the disbelieving delight—when two mallards rose from the grass at my feet like pen-raised pheasants. In the dead center of the field. Flying straight away. Sun at my back. Footing firm. These birds were in the bag before I clicked off the safety….
“I thought you said it was an ejection problem,” Duane remarked, lifting my semi auto from the bench in his garage. “Why is the barrel all battered? And the stock cracked?”
I sighed. “Can you fix it?”
He frowned, holding the gun to the light. “I mean, if I didn’t know better, I’d say someone tried to smash your gun on a rock. Look.” He rubbed the synthetic stock. “Are those tire marks?”
All this to say: Don’t ignore ejectile dysfunction. Don’t minimize it, don’t excuse it, don’t wait. The only thing between you and fully-functioning shotgunning bliss is your pride. And always…call your gunsmith immediately if you experience an ejection lasting more than four hours.