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If you have a semi-automatic pistol, you’ve experienced a stoppage. If you just bought your first, give it time. It will happen. It may be a failure to fire, a failure to feed, a double feed, a failure to eject, a magazine that’s not fully seated…whatever. If it can go wrong, it will and anyone who carries a semi-automatic handgun or relies on one for home defense needs to know what to do if and when it happens to you.

There are a lot of brand new gun owners out there who haven’t had much time with their new pistols. Maybe they haven’t even thought about the possibility of a malfunction, but they need to. No one wants to rely on a handgun to protect themselves or their family and have it fail to go bang. That can ruin your whole day.

Most malfunctions are the fault of your magazine, but whatever the cause of your gun’s failure, the tap-rack-bang drill will usually get you back to shooting quickly.

Firmly tapsmack really — the bottom of the magazine with the heel of your support hand. Then rack the slide, reassess your situation and get your gun back on target with a fresh round in the chamber. Pull the trigger for the next bang.

This video provides a nice tutorial on clearing these malfunctions in clear, plain language. If you know a new gun owner, someone who hasn’t had much trigger time since they bought their gun, pass this on to them. Friends don’t let friends shoot unprepared.



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    • Something that I see regular at the ranges is people bringing a semi up with an improper grip and they dump their mag on the ground.

    • Glock, Beretta M9, Sig P226, Steyr M9 all tested 20,000 rounds before a stoppage without cleaning or servicing. Revolvers also can and do jam, they have their own issues.

      • Typically ammo selection where bullet grain weight, recoil, and crimp misalign to a wonderful day of finding the right tools to unbind things. Absent that it’s more breakage from long term use (saw once for an internal spring that wasn’t cleaned and rusted to failure)

      • True, I haven’t fired 20,000 rounds through them but I’ve never had a Beretta fail. Still, if you keep your edc clean and well maintained (and why wouldn’t your edc be clean and well maintained?) the odds of getting 5 or 6 rounds off without a glitch are better with a revolver. A lot more likely if contact shots are involved.

    • If you took a random sample of semi-autos and revolvers and took them out to the range each with a few thousand rounds of ammo and shot them for hours on end without cleaning them until they stopped going bang the revolvers would almost universally stop first.

      Revolvers are much more sensitive to lack of cleaning and buildup of powder since they leak a little at the gap between the cylinder and the barrel. Almost nobody runs that many rounds through a revolver between cleanings though.

      • If you go to the trouble of carrying a gun because you believe your life may depend on it, why wouldn’t you keep it clean? (I know, some people have their priorities mixed up.)

      • I rarely see a revolver malfunction at a public range. Most of those have been because of ammo.

        But every trip to a range witnesses a semi malfunction. Every time somebody is having trouble with their auto loader. There is a reason for malfunction drills centering on auto loaders.

  1. Every class should include instruction on MFC drills. TRB being first, don’t forget stripping the magazine. I’ve found this to be most often needed with a double feed. (Includes rifles) Please don’t reinsert the same magazine. It likely caused the malfunction.

    • Tap, rack, bang is a recipe for potential disaster. In my training, our instructors relayed the true story of a NYPD incident in which a firefight was happening down an interior apartment hallway. After getting off only a few rounds, an officer’s weapon experienced a Type 1. His training was TRB, so as he quickly cycled through due to muscle memory, an innocent resident stuck his head out of his doorway to see what the loud commotion was all about. The officer tapped, racked, and brought his weapon back with a *bang*, fatally striking the resident.

      I much prefer the training I received … tap, rack, aim. In the short amount of time it took you to realize the malfunction and address it, the situation downrange could have changed, and you MUST be ready for it as you bring your weapon back into forward alignment. Think O.O.D.A.

      Tap. Rack. Aim. The way we train will have a profound effect on the way we operate in a DGU.

      TEHO, but I have never, and will never, tap rack bang.

      • My training, by my dad, was tap rack, bang but like always REMEMBER the 4 rules before pulling the trigger.
        My training in the US Army was TRB but we were told just get it running there’s commies to kill

  2. Something I work on at the range. I have the Mrs. load up some magazines. Some with a dummy round, some with more than 1, some without. Then I shoot as I normally would. Not knowing if or where 1 may be, is a good way to work out the failure issue. Keeping your firearm cleaned and well maintained will go a long way, to preventing such an occurrence.

  3. Just be sure that the barrel is clear before you pull the trigger.

    I’ve twice had the primer go off and not the powder. Just enough to push a 9mm into the barrel. Thankfully I realised that before I pulled the trigger. The powder all over the place as you rack the slide is a hint.

    I’ve also seen a nice competition S&W 357 revolver ruined the same way in IPSC match. Round didn’t work when shooting at steel target falling plate and he pulled the trigger three more times as the RO and spectators yelled stop. Barrel held up with major bulges.

    • ‘…he pulled the trigger three more times…’

      As in ‘he jammed 3 more bullets into the barrel’? I’d think you’d figure out there was something wrong on the first round fired into an obstructed barrel.

      • I’ve seen similar. I had a squib load in a Model 19. Fortunately for me it wedged between the chamber and the forcing cone so there was no way to pull a follow up shot.

        But I have seen handguns damaged by bullets lodged in the barrel. Not many. But enough to get my attention.

        • One of the reasons my SHTF handgun is an HK Mark 23. Part of the testing was to clear lodged bullets by firing ANOTHER bullet down the barrel.
          The Mark 23 barrels are made with the same alloy used for tank barrels.
          Not aware of ANY other handgun that can clear a squib like that without grenading.

      • A grade shooter in competition. He was very fast and too focused on getting the steel plate to drop.

        Something I’ve seen in pure competition shooters vs people from military backgrounds who tend more to look for cover and to make sure of their targets.

        As I said above it showed how solid a S&W revolver was 35 years ago.

    • “Competition revolver, IPSC.” Likely light loads. A full house second load that detonated as intended would have probably ruined not just the barrel, but probably the frame. And worse.

      • For target stuff I agree lots of light loads out there.

        He was shooting major open class with compensator. So not that light a load. 170 grain by 1000 fps to make 170 power factor or combination of bigger projectiles and slower speed.

        I used 148 grain 9mm at 1150 fps to make major power factor. If I shot minor I dropped back to 122 grain at 1100 fps.

        38 super with compensators was the big thing for open class back then.

        • Never saw him with that gun again and I transferred with work a few months later so I always assumed it was ruined.

    • avatar

      I’ve been considering getting certified NRA handgun and TRB is definitely not correct from a safety standpoint because of squib or hangfire loads. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      But from a self defense or tactical standpoint, unless you confirm a double feed or squib, TRB would fix most everything else. So it’s the likely remedy with chance of squib and/or hangfire being low probability. And you have to train double feed magazine strip so that’s the next level up in the self defense realm where everything is paper and unicorns/

  4. My wife accidently assisted me with this when I asked her to buy me some 9mm for an IDPA match. She bought some cheap Turkish stuff that had about a 10% failure rate. I got lots of practice running clearance drills on my pistol during that match. I was honestly a little surprised at how instinctive they were. I had practiced them before, but doing it in the match showed the practice was well taken.

  5. When loading a such a firearm make it a habit to tap and pull the mag. If the firearm is mechanically correct then a failure to fire will most likely be the ammo which of course requires a wait for a delay fire, if in a crisis situation just eject the round and hope for the best.
    Light primer strikes with a tilt barrel striker fire can be attributed to shaved brass entering the striker bore which can build up over time and limit striker travel. It is important to lightly deburr/smooth the breach face striker opening with 1000 grit, etc. It is also important to remove the striker assembly and clean the slide bore and use compressed air. And of course check the striker assembly spring cups which should show little to no gap between the halves. If there is questionable cup gap measure the spring bore opening and if the spring is correct replace the cups with OEM Glock, gimic cups like Maritime and stainless are not necessary. When the striker assembly is correct it should drop by its own weight when the slide safety plunger is depressed.

  6. Tap it on a tree stump, rack yourself when it bounces back, and bang it on the ground cause getting racked hurt.

  7. Any competent/serious defensive firearms trainer knows that 20-25 years ago, “Tap, Rack, Bang” evolved to “Tap, Rack, Ready” after exposure to civil liability associated with the flawed training and conditioning of students to automatically and instinctively (muscle memory) fire a round immediately following the clearing of a handgun stoppage or malfunction. Doesn’t TTAG have Editors to see that articles contain current up to date info?

    • Ted, I’m glad to hear that because it actually makes a little sense, but if the fight is still on, it is going to be “bang”. Oh, I was a firearms instructor for the entire time frame you mentioned. LEO and private. Trained with a few people you may have heard of. Never heard the term “tap, rack, ready”. Maybe we were just never on the same range.

    • Yes! Never train to fire as a reflex. Tap, Rack, Re-aquire is also a good method (although not as good a rhyme). The idea is that while you were distracted with the malfunction and the tap, rack, the situation can change. Tap, Rack, Re-aquire your target, then fire.

      • I don’t know why you have to surrender situational awareness to do a malfunction clearance drill. You should be able to do it with your eyes closed. Same as a reload. If so you will know whether to fire when the malfunction is clear. They call it tap, rack, bang because they had to call it something.

  8. Or just get revolver. They have fewer things that can go wrong.
    But if you do have a semi auto? Then you need to invest in Snap caps dummy ammo, for dry fire practice and malfunction drills.


    That’s what’s being trained now because someone got sued because someone went bang when the threat had ceased.

    • 100% correct.

      Do not, repeat, do NOT incorporate the act of firing into malfunction clearance, that is definitely not what you want to ingrain into muscle memory.

      Tap track bang is tap rack stupid. I thought we had figured that out decades ago…

  10. True story: One day on the range a few years ago a few of us were taking a break and socializing some off the line. We were watching some new shooters being instructed, and the instructor was coaching them on when to use the ‘Tap-Rack-Bang’ methodology. So the class conducts this exercise, except this one young lady who was, well, lets call it ‘well endowed’ in the chest area. So the instructor on the other end of the line opposite her notices she doesn’t rack the slide and he shouts out ‘Rack!’. The young lady turns to him and yells back “Yes, they are nice. Thanks for noticing.”

  11. A beef I have with my SigM18. Nice shooter, feels great in my hands but the damn mag release protrudes a bit more than it should. Every time I’m putting it on or away, I gotta check the magazine for being properly seated. That button gets nudged easy. It’s a habit now but, an annoying one. My 229, a cheap Taurus, never an issue.

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