On Handgun Malfunctions

Shawn and I asked Mark Hatfield to comment on a malfunction training issue he had.

On Handgun Malfunctions

Once upon a time I was in a class where the topic of the moment was clearing malfunctions of semi-automatic handguns. One of the presumptions was that the user was in a gunfight when this problem arose. We were taught two methods. The first was a long taught technique that was OK for a number of situations but did not clear everything as the second method could. As all of us being experienced shooters, were not expected to be able to forget the first, long practiced, method, but be able to move to the second if the first did not resolve the problem.

‘Always’ was a word spoken often when referring to this drill, the second method would ‘always’ fix the malfunction. Always. Some of you reading this may already guess where this story is going. The teacher created a simulated malfunction in my gun. I did the approved method which always works and ….. it didn’t work. I simply moved to a similar technique taught by a different school and it took care of the problem.

Years ago it was Massad Ayoob who said that while semi-auto handguns may malfunction (jam) more often than revolvers, they are easier to clear, while a revolver which jams may have to go back to the workshop. Also years ago, some people used to proclaim that revolvers never jam. The truth is that revolvers can jam in a number of ways, and I have experienced more than a few of them myself.

Some of us shooters who are now experiencing life on the downside of the hill remember when shooters of semi-autos who were with the ‘cutting edge’ of the art practiced several different drills, each for a different type of malfunction.

Remember that these ‘immediate action’ drills are for when lead is flying through the air. In some rare extreme situations, what appears to be the immediate problem can be resolved, another shot fired, only to have your gun blow up in hand and face. These type of situations have happened twice with guns which belonged to me. Fortunately these particular guns were ‘overbuild’ and designed to handle higher pressures than earlier versions of similar guns. While the guns were damaged, the shooters were not. While in these two cases there was no catastrophic destruction of the guns, such can and thankfully rarely, does occur. For ordinary range practice, when a problem occurs, you stop shooting.

It is John Farnum who points out that if you’re shooting at someone and a malfunction occurs, don’t just stand there and be shot at while fixing the problem, MOVE. While fixing the problem, move to get behind cover or at least just keep moving to make it more difficult for your attacker to hit you. All his malfunction drills include moving off of the spot where you were.

As has been said before, two sounds you never want to hear from your gun: a ‘click’ when it was supposed to go ‘bang’, or a ‘bang’ when you thought it would go ‘click’.

One thought on “On Handgun Malfunctions”

  1. I would like to add that a lot training taught always has the student standing on the square range to do anything, Few of the lower levelare taught to do the one thing most likely to save your life. To move! It is hard to hit a moving target and even good shooters under stress of gunfire can reliably hit a moving target that they believe is going to shoot back at any second. Moving and moving to cover should be a standard practice on any range that will allow it or for anyone that is training on their own. Do not be the IPSC guy who got in a gun fight, just to stand in the open, fire two rounds and do a reload in front of the man who is trying to kill you.

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