3 common gun jam stoppage failure fix
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Shoot a semi-automatic pistol often enough — any brand or model — and it will eventually fail to fire. It may be the gun’s fault (you bought a jam-o-matic), the magazine’s fault (a frequent culprit), the ammunition’s fault (cheap or out-of-spec loads) or your fault (limp-wristing, a dirty gun). Whatever the reason, pulling the trigger and hearing only a “click” is never a good thing.

You can limit the chances of a malfunction by 1) performing regular basic maintenance like keeping your gun clean and lubricated and looking for worn parts, 2) using quality ammunition, and 3) using good technique.

That said, every shooter will eventually encounter a stoppage. That can be an annoyance (interrupting your range session) or a threat to your life (if it happens in a defensive situation). The key is knowing how to get your gun going again as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The kinds of problems you encounter can generally be broken down into one of three types and it’s a very good idea to know how to handle each of them.

Failure to Feed

Sam Hoober for TTAG

This type of malfunction happens when a semi-automatic handgun doesn’t load the next round into the chamber. There are a few different types and causes for this, but most of them are related to the magazine. It may not have been fully inserted, it could have a bad follower or the spring may be worn out. Bad ammunition or even a dirty feed ramp can be at fault.

How to handle it: To clear this (and most pistol jams), use the tap-rack-bang drill. First, remember you’re dealing with live rounds. Keep your pistol (as always) pointed in a safe direction.

Tap the bottom of the magazine — hard — with the palm of your off hand. That will make sure the magazine is fully inserted. Then rack the slide using the slingshot method to eject the jammed round and load the next one. Check to ensure the new round loaded, get the handgun back on target and make it go bang.

If that doesn’t work (sometimes in the case of a double feed malfunction), you may have to drop the loaded magazine, clear the rounds manually, then reload the pistol. Trying a fresh magazine could help you diagnose the problem as well.

Failure to Eject or ‘Stovepipe’

3 common gun stoppage failure
By WarnichtmehrfreiCC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Normally, after firing a round, the empty case is grabbed by the extractor and thrown clear, making room in the chamber for a fresh round. In this case, however, the empty casing fails to leave the gun. It can get jammed in the ejection port, held in place by the force of the closed slide, while sticking up vertically. Thus the name “stovepipe.”

This kind of failure can be caused by “limp wristing” or a bad or dirty extractor.

How to handle it: Again, like the failure to feed, the tap-rack-bang drill is a good place to start. Tap the magazine, slingshot the slide to cycle the action and make the gun ready to fire. Some shooters like to angle the gun about 20 degrees or so to ensure the empty casing falls free of the pistol.

Failure to Go Into Battery

image thetruthaboutguns.com

Your semi-auto pistol just fired and the next round was loaded into the chamber. Everything seems to be working normally, but the slide didn’t go all the way back to its fully seated and locked position. The gun won’t fire and you may notice the slide isn’t fully forward. This is known as a failure to go into battery.

This failure is most often cause by a dirty gun (built-up gunk on your slide rails, feed ramp or in the chamber). Other causes can be limp wristing, or bad (out of spec) ammunition that won’t seat fully. You could also have a weak recoil spring.

How to handle it: Keeping the pistol pointed in a safe direction, give the back the slide a bump with he heel of your support hand. Many times this will be enough to pop it fully into battery and get you going. If that doesn’t do it, don’t try to force it. You may have a double-feed or other jam. If the slide doesn’t go back into battery with a nudge, once again, the tap-rack-bang drill is the method of choice.

Especially in the case of a dirty gun, you may need to empty the pistol and rack the slide repeatedly to free it up to get it working consistently until you can disassemble it and clean it.

– – – – – – –

These are the three most common types of malfunctions you’re likely to come across while shooting. Again, they’re most often due to a dirty gun, faulty equipment (usually a bad magazine) or shooter-induced problems (user error). The basic tap-rack-bang drill is the quickest default method for clearing just about any malfunction.

You may have plenty of time to fix it or need to take immediate action in a self-defense situation. Either way, practicing the process of malfunction clearing is a very good idea. You can do this at home with dummy rounds.

But if your gun continues to experience problems, have a gunsmith look at it before you try to shoot it again or rely on it for self-defense.

 

71 COMMENTS

  1. You (the author) forgot another important one: Failure to Extract. This is especially true for anyone shooting steelcase ammo.

    • Oh, when the casing stays in the chamber and the extractor (claw) was unable to remove it from the chamber — which is different than a “stovepipe” failure.

      Seems to me that you have to remove the magazine, lock the slide back, and gently push a cleaning rod down the muzzle to pop out the empty casing. Notice I said “gently”. If it takes a lot of force, I would think that you should disassemble the firearm completely at that point.

      That would be a really bad failure during self-defense.

      • Or if the extractor breaks. Then you’ll be needing a gunsmith to bring it back into the fight.

        • The number one handgun failure is failing to hit the target. The rest is just noise.

        • No matter how good of a marksman you are if you get ripped off at some level either the gun and/or ammo specs it will show eventually. Most of our guns now even the military equipment the parts come from China. Even if they are ‘manufactured’ here in the US the parts are imported all the way down to the boots.

          This was in the end of the Bush/Early Obama era and came in the news a few times. This is another reason you don’t want China to call our debt. They make our bullets,tanks boots and all.

          Every transformer on our powerlines is from China. We have some spare ones but not enough for a nation wide event let alone region wide. More has to be ordered from China. If they have the trouble too they will be helping their own area first.

        • All we need is to shoot out the transformers in an organized way at the substations. Just a few substations will cause a back feed a long ways. It already happened several years ago just south of SanFrancisco and took several days before everyone had power restored. Some people shot out a substation and it caused major problems.

      • My G30 failed to extract at one point but it would fire.

        Tiny bit of brass and the usual shooting funk got wedged perfectly behind the extractor so it was always “open”. The action would slide back and forth and go into battery but the extractor would never grab the case.

        Cleaning solved that problem. That’s when I started deep cleaning every gun after every time I took it out.

        • It’s called a Glock and no, it didn’t fail to do anything.

          Failure is not an option for Perfection.

  2. Never been a big fan of “Tap Rack Bang.”

    I prefer “ Tap Rack Ready” because in the time it takes to clear your malfunction, the situation could have changed. The bad guy could be surrendering or is down or you have a second target.

  3. You can reduce the chances of all three failures by using +P Ammo. The increased chamber pressure will make your gun cycle better. You can tank Professor Newton.

    As an example I just took my warm weather carry gun to the range for a function check. It cycled fine with 9mm NATO, which is basically PDX1 ball ammo, but had all sorts of problems with low power practice ammo. When I took the gun apart the slide rails were dry.

    • Not all guns are +p+ rated nor is it covered under manufacturer warranties as it is not saami certified ammo so you void the warranty in some cases. The fact your gun was dry could be because you’ve warped your gun with just +p+ ammo.

      • The gun is +p rated and I run mostly standard pressure ammo for practice. I carry PDX1 for self defense and occasionally run 9mm NATO. You aren’t going to warp a quality pistol using NATO standard ammo

      • One reply is confusing +P and +P+. I don’t know of any manufacturer who recommends (or warrantees) +P+. +P is a SAAMI recognized load, whereas +P+ can be anything beyond that.

        If your manufacturer says something along the lines of “all NATO, SAAMI, and CIP standards..”, that includes +P.

        • +p and +p+ are the same according to gun Smith’s and gun manual’s. And the way he worded it sounded like he uses it all the time which no matter the gun at higher pressure than normal ammo like the 9mm max can warp due to over pressurization of any firearm. It’s like overloading a muzzle loader to make the projectile travel faster than it should. Also high point does warrant +p as does some of Taurus and I believe sig in some models

        • Where did you get the idea that I said I used it all the time especially as I specifically wrote that I shot both standard pressure and 9mm NATO?

          9mn NATO chamber pressure is less than the maximum specified chamber pressure for +p. SAAMI doesn’t recognize +p+ and considers the 36kpsi the maximum safe load for 9mm.

          Here is some information on 9mm NATO.

          https://www.gunnuts.net/2009/04/03/9mm-nato-vs-9mm-luger/

        • Misread something. 9mm NATO is slightly above 36kpsi but is still considered +P. It is the same load as Winchester PDX1

  4. Basic rule of thumb with a new gun over lube the hell out of it. Manufacturer’s don’t always get the burs out of the slide tracks. As for limp wristing start with a gun the fits your hand exactly outside of 17hmr to 25acp as they don’t recoil as hard as say a 380-45acp and lack of control leads to that limp wrist or actual wrist injuries. As for a dirty gun go buy a quality kit and a soft bristle tooth brush they haven’t failed me yet in cleaning a handgun. I’ve watched some people actually have to use everything but a chisel to get out carbon build up from not cleaning after using steel case ammo.

  5. Or, just use a revolver and reduce the odds of a failure. (Coming from someone who carries a semi-auto pistol every day.)

    Sorry, I couldn’t help myself and figured I might as well say it: someone would sooner or later.

      • True, but neither would you get off your first shot if you were struck by a meteorite while being robbed, and nobody worries too much about that.

        • Now, having had a nice chuckle, get this:

          My cousin has a revolver that he purchased about 10 years ago. It basically “sits in his nightstand” for things that go bump in the night. So, after sitting there for 8 or 9 years, he decided to take it out for some dry-fire practice. He unloaded the cylinder, swung the empty cylinder back in, pulled the trigger, and nothing — the cylinder would not rotate and the trigger would not go backwards (if I remember correctly). So he took it apart and a small spring associated with double-action had basically disintegrated. (It was a pile of rusty bits and pieces.)

          He contacted the manufacturer, got a replacement spring, installed it, and it works fine once again. Needless to say, it would have really SUCKED if he pulled it out for a bump in the night before realizing that spring had failed. So, even revolvers can fail.

        • Sounds like a Smith.

          But yes, even revolvers can fail. And even brand new revolvers can fail. I had a GP100 that I think had a bit of roughness on the firing pin and it stuck in a couple of primers locking up the action. Both times were in the first box I fired through it and it just took a little jiggling to clear it. But the moral of the story is that no machine is infallible and you should at least clean and function check your weapons from time to time, if you’re not going to get it to the range. New parts can be defective. Old parts can break. However I suspect parts breakage is more common in semi-autos, since the slide slams in and out of battery fairly violently and particularly the extractors probably take more abuse. Plus if you break an extractor on a revolver you still get your six off before it matters.

        • Statistically true. I just can’t bring myself to trust revolvers after the very first two I bought, both brand new, failed within 100 rounds of coming out of the box and did so in ways that made them paperweights until they could be fixed.

          Revolver issues are very rare but catastrophic. Semiautomatic issues are more common, but usually something you can fix on the spot.

          I know it’s not logical and I know that what happened to me is a very small statistical anomaly but I just don’t trust revolvers after that.

        • Yeah strych, that maybe would have turned me off revolvers as well. Do you mind me asking the makes and models?

          I think most anything that can turn a revolver into a paperweight could happen to semi-auto as well. Generally a small part or spring breakage.

        • Gov:

          The first one was a Taurus 85 Ultra Lite. The release switch broke in a way that the cylinder was jammed and couldn’t be released or turned. Getting the live rounds out to send it back for service was a HUGE PITA. This one didn’t bother me because… it’s a Taurus, not exactly high end.

          The second was a S&W, which I don’t own any more but if IIRC it was a 640 in .38 That one broke in a way I don’t understand, at the time I didn’t have the tools to take it apart and didn’t care to. The cylinder would rotate and release but the trigger got some serious play in it and would no longer “talk” to the hammer.

          Both were fixed under warranty and gave me no further problems but, suffice to say, my confidence in revolvers was shaken.

        • strych,

          Personally I’m not a big fan of the pocket snubbies, although I’d probably rather my life depended on one of those than a pocket .380acp. If you don’t have one already, get yourself a GP100 or better yet, something in .44 mag and make some big thumps at the range. Might not be something you’d carry but it will put a big smile on your face.

        • I already have a Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter 0860 in .44 rem mag.

          It’s my fly fishing gun because bears don’t share.

        • If you ever get tired of that Super Blackhawk Hunter, it’s on my short list. I want to put a scope on one of those.

          Can’t go wrong with a Sturm, Ruger & Co. revolver, IMHO.

        • This is one I wouldn’t scope specifically because of the purpose I bought it for.

          Optics and smashing around in rocky river bottoms all day don’t mix, especially when getting a holster to cover the gun and the optics is all but impossible without going 100% custom.

          The rings that come with them are burly though. Leads me to wonder what the best scope for it would be.

        • Yeah, it’d be a range toy for me with a remote chance of using it for actual hunting (IA allows cartridge handguns in second muzzle loader deer season, but it’s just too damn cold around here for that).

          From what I’ve heard, Leupold, Burris or Bushnell Elite are the way to go on handgun scopes, but it looks like Bushnell is out of the market now. I don’t think there’s any insanely expensive options, but you definitely don’t want to go cheap on handgun scopes.

        • Yeah, Nikon makes pistol scopes now but I’m not sure I’d trust them not to get beaten to death a big bore pistol. Leupold makes some nice ones but I haven’t really checked into the price.

          A side note: if you want one of those Blackhawks keep on eye on Sportsman’s Warehouse. They occasionally run ridiculous sales on revolvers like these. The MSRP is like $989 and I see them semi-regularly for like $750-$800 but I got mine from SW on clearance for $629. If you’re in the market they’re worth keeping an eye on, especially when they beat every internet gun store on the webz by $120.

        • Thanks for the tip. There’s a SW about 35 miles from me. Good stores, I’ve bought a couple firearms from them. It’ll be a year or so before it’s on my buy now list though. Taking some time off to get my hip replaced and change careers. Already sold off almost half my collection.

        • Thank you for the reminder. My “night stand” G22 sees regular (~2 months) use at the range, just ‘cuz.

          “If you haven’t tested, it doesn’t work.” – spoken by a senior engineer, whom I respect.

    • Very funny. ‘Tis to laugh. Ha ha.

      Now, seriously: DA revolvers are NOT simple, reliable contraptions that can be counted on to just keep soldiering on forever, eating whatever is fed them, functioning every time the trigger is pulled, and, if not, one can just keep pulling the trigger until one DOES finally fire.

      ‘Tain’t so. Those things are the result of decades of development to make them what they are today, dependent upon precise fitting and tight tolerances, prone to parts breakage and highly sensitive to dirt in the wrong places. They break with regularity in normal service, and can be complicated to repair.

      They are not Glocks; They’re more like ‘Clocks.’ It’s a miracle most of the time that they work at all, considering just how many things can go wrong.

      Here’s an example: A Glock ‘armorer school’ is 8 hours long, and the actual learning is over in about an hour. There is one main tool, a punch, and it’s nice to have a small flat screwdriver and smooth-jawed needlenose pliers. Oh, and the edge of a bench with which to disassemble magazines. That’s it.

      An S&W revolver armorer’s school is 56 hours long, and the actual learning isn’t over when you leave the class. The tool kit has about 50 pieces, and that’s not enough to do the job much of the time. I have 8 punches just for round-headed drive pins. . .

      A ‘malfunctioning’ auto pistol can be ‘repaired’ without tools immediately, as illustrated here. A ‘malfunctioning’ revolver is a highly-decorative object that will need tools to fix it before it becomes a ‘gun’ again.

      Other than THAT, yes, a revolver is a WONderful choice.

      • Anything that can take out a revolver can also take out a semi-auto, i.e. parts breakage. Aside from that, revolvers simply don’t malfunction from other causes like semi-auto pistols. Granted, I had a Beretta 92FS that fired about 5000 rounds without a single failure, so it’s not like pistols can’t be reasonably reliable, but you’ll never get a stovepipe in a revolver.

        • I load my own range rounds. I clean my weapons (G27/G22), especially that crazy-hard area behind the extractor. Douse it with Hoppes-9 and a pipe-cleaner. Never had a “stovepipe.” Have you?

        • And you’ll never get a bit of primer or unburned powder under the extractor star on a semi-auto, or have a bullet creep forward out of a case and bind the cylinder, or a chunk of gorp that falls into the mechanism and binds it up tight, either. Each design has its own problems; However, count the number of modern national military services issuing revolvers–and for how long a time–in comparison to semi-autos, and get back to me on which is more reliable.

          Don’t get me wrong, I am VERY fond of revolvers–have far more of them than I do semi-autos, in fact. I do have to face the fact that the bloody things are obsolete for everything but launching huge bullets at dumb animals in certain circumstances, though.

          Some people still like manual transmissions, too. And carburetors.

        • John, I’m not sure how you’d get any foreign objects under the extractor in a revolver, but strych told a story above about getting a tiny hunk of brass and some crud under the extractor on a Glock that held it out so it couldn’t grab the case. Either way if that happens you get one shot with the semi-auto vs. 6 with the revolver. And unless you’re using some very high powered loads in very light revolvers you don’t have to worry about bullets jumping crimp. For that matter, you can’t roll crimp semi-auto rounds that headspace on the case mouth, so if anything jumping crimp is more likely in a semi-auto, which would lead to a failure to feed. You also don’t have to worry about bullet set back from rechambering a round too much and blowing your gun up when you carry a revolver.

          Military and police use semi-autos for the round count, nothing else. LEOs virtually never actually need it and it’s even rarer that a civilian needs the extra ammo. Revolvers are far from obsolete because some people prioritize the first 6 rounds over subsequent rounds. Better accuracy, more powerful ammo, the ability to make contact shots, etc. There’s plenty of compelling reasons to carry a revolver and judging by all the manufacturers getting into the market and all the new models coming out from the companies who have always been in the market, I’d say the death of the revolver was greatly exaggerated.

  6. This is what I do with a new gun or new to me gun and it almost always works. I use red rouge (jewelry polish) it’s used to shine up gold and silver on a buffing wheel it’s in a stick form. Lightly rub on any moving parts, add a drop of oil and shoot the shit out of it. You can also polish the feed ramp using a wool Dremel rotary pad. After shooting for a few hours take it apart and clean the shit out of it. Re-oil and the next time you use it, It’ll run like greased lighting. This will put a mirror finish on the feed ramp and all the moving parts. No more problems.

    Or just get a revolver!!

  7. The situations mentioned in this article are considered to be malfunctions, jams are an entirely different beast and involve partial or complete disassembly and tools or replacement parts to repair. This nomenclature was taught at Beretta, SigSauer, Walther, Smith&Wesson pistol and revolver and Remington armourers school.

  8. I was getting stove pipes from under charged rounds when I first started reloading, failure to go into battery with some cause OAL was a bit to long. Got those bugs worked out, i’ve got an SR9 that’ll give me a light primer strike every few mags. Round works fine in other guns, firing pin, springs, everything looks good. Been scratching my head over it for a while now.

  9. I’m certainly not the most experienced handgun owner but the only problems I’ve had are a few stovepipes and failure to chamber a round in 1000’s. Cheap Federal Champion(underpowered?) and hp problems with a Taurus TCP(it ran great with Pow’rBall and CD). And great problems with IMI funky HP(it was cheap to buy).Never aluminium or steel. All Taurus except for a KelTec PF9(which ran OK). I am positively OCD cleaning,lubing and breaking these cheap guns in too. YMMV…

  10. To be entirely honest, 90% plus of the failures I’ve seen come from a combination of factors: The gun is pretty darn new, or it’s poor quality combined being improperly lubed/dirty and running cheap ammo.

    If the gun is broken in, clean, well maintained and using decent ammo I find problems to be pretty rare and at that point often it’s a failure to fire due to a bad primer.

  11. A great way to practice clearing failures is with a 22lr. My S&W MP15-22 is good for a least one failure per magazine. Same with my U22 Neos.

  12. tt33, frame machined feed lips, bottle neck cartridge, external extractor. It’s pretty dog gone dependable as far as the mechanical function of the firegum goes.

  13. No, NO, NO!

    DO NOT ‘POP’ THE BACK OF THE SLIDE IN AN ‘OUT-OF-BATTERY’ SITUATION.

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

    There is a REASON why the slide is ‘out of battery.’ It may be a very SMALL reason, something that can be quickly fixed by the EXACT SAME DRILL as the other two malfunctions: TAP RACK EVALUATE. It may ALSO be a very BIG reason such as a stuck bullet at the front of the chamber, a swollen or damaged case, a broken bit of gun, a double feed–all of which do NOT respond well to ‘popping’ the back of the slide.

    Think of it as similar to NOT using the forward assist on an AR to jam a case permanently into the chamber instead of actually finding out what is wrong first and fixing it, or getting rid of a problem case before trying to make it part of the barrel forever.

    How about just smacking the butt of the installed magazine with the palm of your hand to see if THAT will make the slide jump forward, as it usually does? That funny big springy thing under the barrel that makes the slidey-thing jump back into place is there for a REASON, you know.

    Naaaaah.

    However, you, of course, do you.

  14. I was recently taught at Sig Sauer Academy that it is not “tap-rack-bang” – it is “tap-rack-assess” – you may not need to keep shooting, and to continue doing so may expose you to potential unwanted liability.

  15. According to the internet, if my gun has any failure it needs to be sent back to the manufacturer for rework, because a carry gun can NEVER fail. /sarc

    train for success, and for failure.

  16. Read all above comments with great respect.All I can say is I have never had a revolver jam or fail in any way.I usually fire myS&W 686 6″ performance center or my 1969 colt Python of course the Python is like firing a Rolex .The S&W is little stiffer then the Python but not by much Both DA triggers have been coming in around 9 lbs .The S&W is still new and breaking in so it may yet loosen up somewhat.I just bought my first Semi automatic a canik tp9 and looking forward to my first range trip.Of course being in NJ will hamper my ability to really fire the Canik like I would like to, . being allowed only 10 round Mags.I also take out my dad’s service revolver a 1939 Colt Police positive it’s a hoot to shoot I often wonder how cops stayed safe with such an underpowered weapon.

    • I did a course with a S&W Model 66. By the end of the course (about 750 rounds) it was failing to fire regularly. Had to go back to S&W. Seems to be better now but I haven’t put that kind of round count through it since. Revolvers are not infallible.

      Any gun can fail to fire at any time. In tens of thousands of rounds in my training I have had two FTFs in the Glock 19. Searched for and found both. Good primer strikes, no bang. We spend good money on carry ammunition to try to minimize this possibility.

      BTW, failure to fire on a revolver is “cleared” by just pressing the trigger again. If it clicks again, you’re empty so reload.

  17. Don’t insist on the best semiauto, feed it steelcase, keep it dirty and you’ll have problems.

    Buy a quality gun, feed it decent (doesn’t have to be the priciest, but brass case), keep your gun clean, and you won’t have any issues. Don’t understand all this “You’ll have problems . . .”

    Years ago I bought a Colt 380. That cheap gun stovepiped on every brand of ammo around. Needless to say, I sold it the first chance I got and never bought another Colt. Just because a company has been around a long time doesn’t guarantee that they are making them like they used to.

    • I had a Colt Trooper 357 revolver with less than 500 rounds break a hammer and become useless. Just a little chip off of the side caused the failer. The gunsmith said he could fix it although I told him to keep the piece of shit.

  18. Ingraining the “Bang” into a malfunction clearance drill is horrible, antiquated advice. The situation might have changed. The malfunction clearances should be practiced until they are instinctive. You never want to instinctively press the trigger. Tap, Rack with a quick flip to the right, then back on the trigger – back on the target. Then make the DECISION whether to shoot again or not.

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