tap rack bang drill malfunction
Courtesy GunSpot
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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 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 malfs are the fault of your magazine, but whatever the cause of your gun’s failure, the tap/rack/(reassess)bang drill will usually get you back to shooting quickly. Firmly tap — smack, really — the bottom of the magazine with the heel of your support hand, rack the slide, then reassess your situation and get your gun back on target with a fresh round in the chamber.

If your problem is a double feed, though, tap/rack/bang won’t help. You’ll need to lock your slide back, drop your magazine (yank it out if you have to), load a fresh magazine and rack the slide again (if you need a good reason to carry an extra magazine, there you go).

This video from GunSpot 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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  1. Tap/Rack/Bang is a recipe for disaster if not tightly controlled. One of my course instructors brought to our class’ attention a then-recent story of an NYPD incident in which an officer was chasing an armed perp inside an occupied apartment building. The perp got trapped in a hallway, turned, and a brief gunfight ensued along the stretch of the hallway. The officer experienced a FTF and immediately went into the tap/rack/bang motion the Dept had trained him to do; unfortunately, during the couple of seconds he was going through this motion, a resident opened his unit door in response to the noise to see what was going on, and the officer brought his gun up to firing position and shot the innocent resident in the head before realizing it.

    Perfect violation of Rule #4 due to an imperfect training procedure.

    Better to tap/rack/move, then reassess (quick OODA) before firing. You absolutely must have control over yourself and your gun before pulling the trigger, and the tap/rack/bang exercise puts that at risk.

    My 2 cents.

    • +1 The original content is why people should not take advice from the internet and should get professional training

  2. Never had a malfunction with the 54-1, it’s way better then a Salimazar.
    Hand gunms and rifles are okay, but all you need is a shotgunm. I’m taking My Presidents advice. Being a world leader he should know what hes talking about, right?

  3. I acquired a 1911 Llama Extra in 9mm about four months ago. (“Extra” refers to the longer barrel, roughly 3/4″ longer than a standard 1911.) On its first day at the range, it failed to eject about 50% of the time, and even when it did the casing flew upwards, or even to the left a few times, instead of a proper solid kick to the right. Each FTE I needed to drop out the mag and use a cleaning rod to tap out the empty casing through the muzzle.

    Turns out that it was no fault of the gun, or even the magazine. I had assumed that by 9mm, it meant 9mm Luger. But this is an oldschool Llama Extra from Spain, and it’s chambered for 9mm Largo, which has a longer casing. The shorter Luger rounds were being pushed too far forward into the chamber for the ejector arm to get good purchase on them. I’ve since secured some proper Largo ammo and the casings eject perfectly.

    The takeaway for the beginner is that having the right caliber doesn’t necessarily mean having the right ammo, especially for older firearms. 🙂

  4. With so many people wanting to buy guns for protection from the leftist lunatics, there are people that are not getting training before (or after) their purchase. So they don’t even know what a semi-auto malfunction IS, much less how to clear it. Some don’t understand that a semiauto pistol can still have a cartridge loaded in the chamber with the magazine removed (several fatalities due to this on pistols without a magazine disconnect safety). I have seen much more unsafe behavior at the range lately (among new people), with range officers having to kick people out and tell them to take a basic firearms class before they will be allowed back.

    Because of this, there are many people who should buy a (much simpler to operate) revolver rather than a semi-auto pistol, to avoid the malfunction clearing issue altogether. Many firearms enthusiasts don’t want to accept that there are people who don’t have the ability to understand mechanically how a semi auto pistol works, or they just don’t want to learn. (Most of our population doesn’t understand how an automobile works or how electricity is produced or even basics of their plumbing system, and they don’t care to learn.) Also, when you get over about age 60, mental function slows for most people, and simplicity in a firearm is helpful.

    So for those people a revolver from either Ruger or Smith & Wesson is a much better choice than a semiauto pistol – there are many options in frame size, barrel length, and weight for home defense, hiking/camping, and concealed carry. (Yes there are other manufacturers and Kimber is now in the business, but some others have had quality control problems – e.g. Taurus and Colt.) Malfunctions with factory ammo are very rare with a revolver and are usually due to a severe lack of cleaning causing the cylinder to bind. With a revolver, you open the cylinder and the gun is made safe – simple. Speedloaders and speed strips can be used well with a little practice. Having those people choose a revolver is safer for everyone.

    Obviously with a revolver the cartridge capacity is lower than with most semiauto pistols, but that is the trade off for simpler and safer operation (safer, for the type of people I am talking about.)

    New shooters should obviously stick to standard factory 38 Special cartridges (lots of choices today), and then try 38 Special +P as they get used to recoil. There are a few 22LR and 22 Magnum revolvers available (and discontinued used models) for practice and lower ammo cost, or for young people to learn on. There are also a few higher velocity 22LR rounds available (e.g. CCI Stinger and Velocitor), but of course 22LR is marginal at best for self defense.


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