5.56 Timeline

Clearing Handgun Malfunctions

Mark Hatfield submitted this article.

Clearing Handgun Malfunctions


This article is specific to correcting malfunctions (jams) occurring in semi-automatic handguns particularly those which may occur during periods of intense social interaction, such as when you are attempting to shoot someone due to dire need.


Not long ago, one of the Loose Rounds founders asked if I might write such an article and I did but they wanted something more technically specific.  ‘No problem’, says me, ‘When do you want it?’  Then just earlier today, I was perusing a hot off of the newsstand gun magazine while seated in the smallest room of my home and saw that there was an article nearly identical to that which I had planned to write.  However I believe that my technique is slighter better and not everyone may see that magazine, so I will continue with my not plagiarized article.


Reduce the risk of malfunction by keeping the gun clean and correctly lubricated by whatever means is proper for that model. Many semi-autos will jam if ‘dry’, meaning not lubricated.   Don’t carry a dirty gun.  This can be important as well for legal reasons.  Some situations can occur where the sight of your gun causes the problem person(s) to leave with no shots fired.  If they later falsely claim that you fired at them the official police record of your gun being unfired can be important.  NOTE:  This also means that you never ‘just go home’ after such an event.  ALWAYS report the incident to the police.


‘Limp wristing’ handguns has nothing to do with sexuality but all to do with your grip, wrist, arm, and stance, moving or standing still.  Basically, for semi-autos, that big heavy part at the top of the gun moves when you fire it.  If you allow the bottom part to move as well, the gun may jam.  Even if you are shooting while walking or running, your grip and wrist must be firm.


There are a number of ways that the semi-auto handgun may malfunction.  Instructors used to teach different methods for each type of malfunction, some even involved ‘karate chopping’ empty brass which might be sticking out of the ejection port.  Here is a universal method.  I do not remember which of my several teachers first presented this technique or I would give them the proper credit.


GET MOVING.  If you are not already behind something which can stop the bullets coming at you, MOVE. Move to cover, concealment, or if nothing else only to confuse or delay your attacker.  Don’t just stand there.


1.  Remove the magazine.

2.  Rotate the gun so the ejection port is facing the ground.

3.  ‘Rack’ (move) the slide fully in both directions several times.  Be certain the slide goes all the way forward and all the way to the rear.

4.  Shake the gun, may be simultaneous with racking the slide.

5.  Return the gun to the upright position and insert a new loaded magazine.  If a new magazine is not available, quickly glance at the old one to see if the top rounds are not out of position or mag is defective, correct if necessary and then insert the mag.

6.  Rack the slide fully to the rear, release it and let it go forward on its own.

7.  Shoot.


How does this differ from some other methods?


The most common traditional method is currently called ‘Tap, Rack’ and previously known as ‘Tap, Rack, Bang’.  One simply uses the support hand to vigorously slap or hit the bottom of the magazine to ensure that it is fully seated, rack the slide fully to the rear, release the slide, then continue shooting.  This works very well if the round of ammunition was defective and simply did not go off but does not address other problems.


On the topic of racking and releasing the slide.  Unless for the specific reason of a drill such as these, normally always allow the slide to go forward on its own, never move it forward or assist it.  Let it go all by itself, malfunction drills can be the exception.  Not letting the slide go forward on its own may result in the slide not going all the way forward.  In that case the gun will probably not fire and if it should fire while not ‘in battery’, damage to the gun, your hands and face may result.


A technique previously taught for ‘stovepipes’ is where an empty piece of brass is trapped in the chamber but is mostly sticking out from the side of the gun, was to run the edge of the shooters hand along the slide like striking a blow, to knock out the offended brass while hopefully not damaging your own hand.


Another method taught by a major school is:


1.  Release the slide (allow it to go forward).

2.  Remove the magazine.

3.  Insert new magazine.

4.  Rack the slide to feed new round.

5.  Shoot.


Once while attending a class taught by members of a prominent shooting school, it was repeatedly and firmly announced that the above method ALWAYS works.  The instructors induced a malfunction in each students gun, first to practice ‘Tap, Rack’ and a second time to practice the above method which always works.  It didn’t work.


Releasing the slide (assuming it is in the rear position) just moves a new round from the magazine into the place which is probably already filled with rounds competing for the same space or empty brass which does not want to leave.  Removing the magazine first makes more sense.  This allows the offending items to leave the gun through the ejection port or through the magazine well which is much larger and pointing down whereas the port is on the side of the gun.  Releasing the slide or moving the slide forward on rounds or brass which are already wedged in that area may just jam them in further.


Another variation is to engage the safety lever (if present) before attempting any action.  Generally, that’s a real good idea.  However, it is an extra step in the beginning and an extra step at the end, removing the safety might be missed under stress further slowing you down.


You may have had a defective magazine.  I currently have 7 new Glock factory magazines of several different production runs which refuse to release the ammunition which they so securely hold deep inside.  I suspect that when Glock changed the mags to be ‘drop free’ they made errors on the interior dimensions.  This is another reason to never carry only the one magazine which is in the gun.


What is even worse, your malfunction may have been caused by having a bullet stuck in the barrel, a primer which fell out of  the case and into the guns mechanism, mud/snow/water in the barrel or other critical areas, a bullet which became too deeply seated in the case and caused excessive pressure, brass cases which come apart and portions remain in the chamber, broken or weak  ejectors/extractors/springs, and other fun things, even from being clogged with gore from a person just shot at contact distance.   Many things can go wrong which while thankfully rare, cannot be fixed easily or not at all during the hot action of a gun fight.


I know people from ‘high stress’ careers who never leave the house without at least two guns.  Accessing the second gun may sometimes be wiser that trying to fix the primary one.  A second gun can be handed to a trained spouse, partner or trusted friend.  The second gun is also handy if the first is dropped or taken from you.


All of this is another major reason why is it always better when possible to de-escalate potentially violent situations and avoid trouble when you can.

REVIEW: Field Time Target & Training, Stanton, California

Submitted by Catherine Kim

Living in a heavily populated area such as Southern California, I do not have the treat of stepping outside to shoot my firearms.  In my backyard I have a 20 yard bow range with 3D targets, but some days I just want to shoot my guns and smell the blissful aroma of gun powder lingering in the air.

So, here are my options-

  1. I could say screw it and blast off some rounds, but that probably wouldn’t be a good idea, so we’ll just scratch that one.
  2. Drive about 2 hours to BLM.
  3. Drive about 1.5 hours to the closest outdoor range.
  4. Drive a few minutes to the closest indoor handgun range.
  5. Drive 25 minutes to a new indoor handgun, rifle, and shotgun range.

Wednesday afternoon on August 8, 2012 I rallied up my coworkers and their kids and decided we would try the new range (option 5).  I guess I’m kind of known as the adventurer in the office… the girl who likes to shoot guns, hunt, scuba dive, and jump out of perfectly running planes.  It’s always a great feeling when you take people who have never shot before because they get hooked!  One advantage of me taking people is they look at how small I am and figure, hey if Catherine can do it, then so can I.  I am pretty pint sized and girly.

On the roll call I had the following-

  • Female coworker – 2nd time shooting (1st time was with me)
  • Male coworker – Shot many times
    • His teenage son – Shot very few times
    • His son’s teenage friend from Germany – Never shot before, unless you count Call of Duty 😉
  • Another male coworker – Either had never shot or did when he was very young

So the idea of being in a controlled environment with safety protocols was first choice, plus wanting to go after work really limited our choices.  It had to be local, but capable of shooting a variety of firearms.  For me, these are really 2 features I look for when choosing an indoor range-

  1. Staff / Customer support
  2. Facility

We drove to Field Time Target & Training (FTT&T) located in Stanton, CA.  It’s nestled within an industrial area of Orange County.  Surrounding the range are various manufacturing companies and machine shops.  This was my second visit to FTT&T.  My first visit was at their grand opening.  They had phenomenal raffle prizes, discounts on membership, and an awesome sale on their remanufactured ammo.  To date, I have purchased thousands of their rounds and I absolutely love their ammo for target practice.  I have had no issues with their 9mm, .45 and .223.  It is high quality and cheap.  Recently having visited their booth at the gun show, they explained their ammo will hit the shelves with the “American Legacy” brand.  I’ve included a photo below.

* Tip: For every 500 round box of ammo you purchase you are entered in a raffle for a new gun every month.  Check out their website to see the monthly giveaway. 


I understand why many ranges have poor attitudes.  They are tired of the wannabes gangsters and idiots; however, that number of those types of customers is low (at least when I analyzed the ranges I’ve been to).  A gun range is still a business.  Their ultimate goal is to bring in revenue.  I think most will find profits can be greatly increased when customers rent guns, buy ammo, and enroll in classes.  If you put on this, “I know everything and you don’t so I’m better than you” attitude, your customers (generally male) are going to react with their prideful attitude in retort.  Ask customers if they’ve shot a certain kind of gun that you have for rent, tell them about your ammo and classes, and spread the knowledge.  After all, we are all gun enthusiasts, so why be rude.

First time shooters are nervous.  They don’t know what to expect.  That is why the staff and customer support play such a huge role in helping determine whether people will return or not.  You don’t want a bunch of rude pricks, because that really ruins the experience.  FTT&T was exact opposite.  Everyone was attentive to needs and answering questions.  Their hospitality played a key role in ensuring my guests would return.  From the person at the counter to the employees on the range, they gave excellent support.  Many times I try to analyze whether I’m just being treated nicely because I am a female, but that was not the case.  I noticed everyone received equal service.  The employees on the range would walk up to people, start up conversations on their guns, help people, and sweep the casings.


Their 21,000 sq ft facility is new, modern, and beautiful.  I have not been into a range where everything is so “pretty.”  From the décor to the room layout it is very nice.  They offer a large gun rental selection from iconic handguns to tactical rifles.  There are training classrooms upstairs, a storefront, large break room, and two range rooms.   Each station has an electronic target system where you can easily program your own distances, similar to your car radio, to bring back and forth your target.    There is a touch button for lighting amongst other features.  Another benefit was the wide space from the shooter area to the back tables.

If I were to nitpick, there are only 3 things on my wish list.  First, I wish the range was longer than 25 yards, but it is an indoor range, so I can’t complain.  Second, better air conditioning in the range (which has been a lot better).  Lastly, I think they should think about expanding the front room with a show floor to sell more gear.  I think they could generate more money by selling hunting clothes, gun stuff, cleaning gear, gift cards, patriotic wear, etc…

As a final note, during my visit I found the customers were also friendly.  Perhaps all the stars were aligned perfect for my visit.  There were two NRA instructors testing out a new 45-70 rifle in preparation for an Elk hunt.  He had mentioned to me that what I was doing was great… bringing adults and kids to shoot, so he let everyone in my party fire off his rifle.  Wow, that thing was sweet and surprisingly smooth.  So, customers (you) can also make a difference to someone else’s experience.  Be kind and enjoy being around the company of fellow gun lovers.  J

So overall, I really liked this place.  I’m actually planning to return to it tonight!

More information can be found at-

Field Time Target & Training
8230 Electric Avenue
Stanton, CA 90680
(714) 677-2841