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Pistol Anatomy - Ejection Port & Extractor

Image of Bryan Hill, Founder of Pistol Wizard Bryan Hill / July 19 2024

Ejection port on a Glock 19
If your pistol is jamming, you may want to check out the ejection port and extractor. Learn how a pistol extractor works and how to clean and maintain a pistol extractor to keep your gun from jamming.

How a Pistol Extractor Works

When you fire a loaded pistol, the casingcomes out the ejection port.
Next to the ejection port is the extractor, a spring-loaded piece that helps to send the casing out the pistol after you fire. If it doesn't work right, your gun will jam.

What Makes a Good Ejection Port?

A good ejection port is reliable. Casings from the same ammo type should eject the same way every time. They should eject out 6-8 ft from you.

The ejection path should send brass away from you, not into your face or down your clothes.

If you have trouble with ejection, it's much easier to troubleshoot the extractor than the ejection port.

What Makes a Good Extractor?

After you fire a pistol, the extractor grabs spent brass and flings it away so it can load the next round.

Great extractors last longer, are easier to maintain, or both. They also fling brass where you want.

Good Ejection Path

The extractor should hurl brass away from you, not in your face. If you don't like the ejection path, change your ammo. If that doesn't help, get an aftermarket extractor.

Works When Dirty

When the extractor channel gets too dirty, the extractor doesn't work as well. You can get stovepipe jams:

The empty brass barely gets out, getting stuck in the ejection port. This makes what looks like a stovepipe coming out of the ejection port.

If you let it get even diriter, the extractor won't work at all. You can get failures to extract:

This is often called a "double feed" jam. It's the worst jam you can get. With good technique, you can clear it in around 3.5 seconds. Most gunfights are over by then.

Some pistols can get their extractor filthier than others without needing to be cleaned. Glocks are famous for needing almost no cleaning.

A safe guess for cleaning other modern pistols is 5,000 rounds. Many can be pushed farther. The only way to be sure is to track how many rounds you fire before it starts having extraction problems. If you then clean it and that fixes it, you know your pistol's cleaning schedule.

Using an extra power extractor spring or an aftermarket extractor can extend how many rounds before you need to clean it.

Easy to Clean

Some pistols make it easy to get the extractor out for cleaning and maintenance. To get an idea, search YouTube for your make & Model, plus "extractor replacement". Some videos just cover how to remove the extractor. Others include that as part of stripping the whole slide.

How to Quick-Clean a Pistol Extractor

On the CZ 75 and Shadow 2 series, you can clean it without disassembling the extractor channel:

  1. Take a plastic dental pick with floss on it.
  2. Optional: Soak the floss in carbon-removing solvent.
    (Only do this if doing it dry gets nothing)
  3. Run the floss between the extractor and slide top and bottom.
  4. Use the pick part of the dental pick to get any gunk out from behind the extractor hook.
This isn't a deep-clean, but it can stop stovepipe jams real quick. A few dental picks in your range bag can go a long way.

You do not need lube in the extractor channel for most pistols. If you add lube but don't need it, you'll have to clean that channel more often.

How to Clean a Pistol Extractor without Removing It

You can use a 3-liter ultrasonic cleaner to clean your pistol:
  1. Field strip the pistol.
  2. Put the parts in a plastic bag.
  3. Put a mix of 50% distilled water and 50% Simple Green Pro HD Cleaner in the bag, just enough to cover the parts. Push as much air as you can out of the bag and seal it.
  4. Put the bag in the ultrasonic cleaner.
  5. Add tap water to the ultrasonic cleaner per its instructions.
  6. Run the ultrasonic cleaner at 50° C or 122° F for 15 minutes.
  7. After the ultrasonic cleaner is done, take the bag out.
  8. Put on some nitrile gloves and pour out the bag in a bathroom or laundry room sink.
    (There will be lead in the water. To prevent lead poisoning, avoid drinking or touching it.)
  9. Take the parts out of the bag. Rinse them in hot water. Like 120° F is fine. Leave them out to dry.
    (They'll dry on their own if still warm. Otherwise, you can use a blow dryer.)
  10. Dispose of your gloves and dump the water from the ultrasonic cleaner. You're all done with cleaning!

How to Remove a Pistol Extractor

Removing a pistol extractor varies from model to model. Chances are, you can search YouTube for a great how-to video on your pistol or one similar to it.

Pistol Ejector vs. Extractor

The extractor is a hook and spring that rests inside the slide. It grabs the rim of a loaded round and keeps the casing moving with the slide.

The ejector is a fixed piece built into the fire control unit. When you fire a pistol, the extractor takes the empty casing back with the slide. When the slide comes back far enough, the casing hits the ejector and gets forced out of the ejection port.

The faster the slide comes back, the harder the casing slams against the ejector and the farther the brass gets flung out.

If that was clear as mud, watch this:

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  1. CZ Shadow 2 - Troubleshooting a few common malfunctions (2024)
  2. What is the Difference Between an Extractor and Ejector? (2022)
  3. Handgun Malfunctions Explained - Normal Handgun Operations (2021)
  4. How a Handgun Works: Semi-Automatic Cycle of Operations (2021)
  5. Handgun Malfunctions Explained - Failure to Extract (2021)
  6. Handgun Malfunctions Explained - A Stovepipe (2021)
  7. Feed Issues OAL (2021)
  8. How a Glock Works (2019)
  9. Best Way to Clean Your Handgun with an Ultrasonic Cleaner (2019)
  10. Glock extractor replacement (2013)