Proper maintenance and operation of a firearm is paramount to the longevity of all its moving parts. There are only a few of these parts that will actually come in contact with each and every round that is fired, and these items should be periodically inspected to prevent failure. Extractors are one of these busy little parts, and are often overlooked and taken for granted, because they do not handle any of the stress involved in actually firing the round. An extractor just hooks on and pulls out the spent casing after all the excitement is over. On firearms such as break-action shotguns, an extractor might be fine for decades or much longer in many cases, because these are typically heavy-duty steel parts that often function as the ejector as well as the extractor. Although failure to keep this area oiled and well maintained my cause a mishap, it will not always require replacement of the actual extractor.
Semi-auto pistols and rifles and some bolt-actions on the other hand can use a variety of extractor styles, and many of them are manufactured out of much thinner and more vulnerable metals. Marlin extractors, for example are often thin one-piece band style types that wrap around the bolt, Savage extractors can also sometimes be designed with the same thin metal clip-on style. With proper care and handling this works out just fine because they are not functionally meant to handle any real stress. However, this doesn’t mean that any improper use couldn’t lead to failure. This can happen by causing unnecessary strain due to repeatedly hand loading single rounds into the chamber of a semi-auto firearm and allowing the breech to slam closed will cause the extractor to bang into the back of the cartridge before it snaps in place over the rim. Overtime such use could weaken the integrity of the extractor. Mishandling it during cleaning or improperly installing can also easily result in a broken or damaged extractor.
Rapid-fire guns like those used in the military will cycle many more rounds than those already mentioned, so it should be expected that an AR15 extractor, even those for civilian use may need replacing more frequently than your bolt-action or semi-auto 22.
On a positive note, when an extractor is broken it usually is easy to figure out the problem. The spent case isn’t going to come out of the chamber on its own, and most extractors are easy to see, so a broken one won’t be hard to spot. Thankfully shopping for a replacement can be just as easy because here at Numrich Gun Parts we carry extractors of all shapes and sizes, for many types of firearms.