Malfunction Clearing Drills: Tap, Rack, Bang and More


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/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 get your gun back on target with a fresh round in the chamber ready to go.

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.




  1. avatar SteveO says:

    Missing a pretty important sequence in…
    “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).”

    For the type III, you kinda need to clear the rounds prior to inserting magazine…like drop the magazine, RACK-RACK-RACK, load new magazine, RACK, [determine if target is still a threat] and fire [if necessary].

    Friends don’t communicate incorrect (or worse) info to friends.

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      You show the correct order in your instructions. I would only wish to add “move while you’re clearing”.

  2. avatar former water walker says:

    I know how to tap,rack & bang. My lowly Tauruses have second strike capability & I actually used it at the range by accident. Round didn’t go off and I pulled the trigger again. Bang! Do I recommend that? Mebbe someone with vastly more experience could shade some wisdom. YMMV

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      One of the lead instructors in a handgun course I took last year said LE Depts are re-thinking the “tap, rack, bang” training after an innocent bystander was killed by an officer (I think it was NYPD, but I’m not absolutely certain). There was a firefight in an internal apartment hallway between a perp and the officer, and the officer’s gun had a Type 1 FTF while his sights were lined up on the perp on the other end. In the couple of seconds that transpired while he realized the FTF, then did the “tap rack bang”, an innocent victim stuck his head outside his doorway to see what was going on…on the same side of the hallway that the cop was on. The cop had been trained to get his gun back in the game as quickly as possible and pull the trigger, and the result was a fatal head wound for the resident.

      My instructor taught “tap, rack, move”, which helps to stay in observance of Rule #4.

      1. avatar All Hail! says:

        Once again we are blessed with the learned words of the peerless ‘I Haz A Question’.

        1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

          Thank you, Hail. I think I’ll call my fan club the “What The Hail?” club. Has (haz?) a nice ring to it.

        2. avatar All Hail! says:

          It is your world, Mr. Question. I am just fortunate and happy to live in it!!

      2. avatar SoCalJack says:

        Haz, the courses you take, are they in LA Co? I’ve been saving up my pennies hoping someday to take a class on shooting from and around vehicles. A low-light shooting class sounds fun too. Thanks.

        1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

          Front Sight in Pahrump, NV. They announced a full re-opening scheduled for Sept 1 (NV had shut down everyone as well).

          I’m grandfathered in with a top-tier lifetime membership (most of the upper tiers are sold out now), which came bundled with a quantity of certificates for free courses and basic Patriot memberships available to be gifted to others. Nighttime courses aren’t included in the Patriot level, but the 2- and 4-day daytime handgun, shotgun, and rifle are, and you can retake them as often as you wish for life. I’ve offered them to some of my friends and family, but they all are in disbelief that they’re “free” and haven’t taken me up on it, even though I myself have gone multiple times. Their loss, I suppose.

          So if you can think of a way for you and me to privately contact each other outside of TTAG, I’ll be glad to give you your choice of a free course or membership. It will, though, mean that in the process of transfer from my FS account to your own new account, we’ll end up knowing each other’s real names, if you’re comfortable with that. Perhaps set up a temporary dummy email account to weed out the possible yahoos here that will mess with it?

          Lemme know. And no worries if you choose to pass on it. Eventually these will find their way to others. 🙂

        2. avatar SoCalJack says:

          Thank Haz! I need to think this one over. Too much going on with work (civilian DoD) and family (3 young kids) to do a 3 or 4 day trip.

  3. avatar RCC says:

    The drill for the FAL rifle was open the action, lock it back and LOOK. Then decide what to do.

    As Steve says above you need to know you are trying to fix.

  4. avatar Ryan says:

    I am not a huge fan of “Tap, Rack, Bang.”

    In the time it’s taking you to clear the malfunction, the situation could’ve changed. And you may not need to use lethal force any more.

    One of my biggest fears when I was deployed with the military was sitting in a court room in Kuwait listening to one of my privates say: “So I tapped, and racked and banged just like my Sergeant showed me and I blew the little girl with the ice cream cone away.”

    Tap, Rack, READY, guys. READY!

    1. avatar George Washington says:

      Wtf are you smoking?

      1. avatar ken says:

        This is an excerpt from our current training academy curriculum. I can’t remember how long it has been there but we always tell our recruits to fire only if necessary, as circumstances may have changed.

        Phase 1 Clearance: Immediate Action Drill
        Use Phase 1 clearance to fix failure to feed, failure to fire, stovepipe, and failure to extract malfunctions. These types of semiautomatic pistol malfunctions will be explained later in Phase 2. For now, you need to learn the proper techniques to clear a weapon malfunction. The easiest way to remember this method is to learn the phrase Tap, Rack, Ready, Fire (if necessary).
        When a malfunction occurs, perform the following steps:
        1. Use your support hand to tap (Tap) the bottom of the magazine into the magazine well. If the magazine is not fully seated,
        tapping will seat it.
        2. Reach up to the slide with your support hand, pull the slide to the rear, and then release it. This is the same action you use when loading your weapon (Rack). It extracts and ejects a bad round (if necessary), and chambers a new round.
        3. Ready—In an actual armed confrontation, you must assess the situation. You either reengage the subject if they remain a threat, or issue commands if the subject surrendered during the clearance drill.
        4. Fire if necessary.

  5. avatar jwm says:

    Magazines. Always have more than one. And maybe its just my g19 but my mags fit tightly into the well. Tight enough that they will hold in place even if they’re not seated enough to lock. I always tap my with the flat of my hand just to be sure.

  6. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Wow! I wish I had a $100 bill for everytime I advocated for a spare magazine on this site. Not just because you might need the ammunition, but because if you have to clear a malfunction you don’t won’t to reuse the same magazine that indused it. Never mind that stupid shit, “I don’t need a reload. My pistol holds 15 rounds.” That can be your epitaph.

    1. avatar Not Larry from Texas says:

      Unless it violates department policy and you carry one.

  7. avatar MB (the real MB) says:

    Could be hazardous if you have a hang fire, and eject it and it ignites as being ejected. Unlikely but still in the realm of possibility, would not want that cartridge igniting a foot or two from my face

    1. avatar Red in CO says:

      True, but I’d say it’s highly unlikely to do any real damage at that point. If a cartridge somehow detonates outside of a firearm it has very little energy, without the barrel and chamber to contain it and force the energy to expand in a single direction.

    2. avatar Jim from LI says:

      Maybe in my next 40 years of shooting I’ll actually get to see a hangfire that did not involve black powder.

      1. avatar GS650G says:

        Shoot trap with reloads and you’ll see hang fires.

      2. avatar Mark H says:

        The only hangfires I have ever seen involved pre WWII ammo loaded with cordite.

  8. avatar enuf says:

    My preference is about a dozen magazines per handgun you own. No, you need not carry them all. Just take them all when you go target practicing. If one develops rude behaviors, remove it from the play pool and buy another first chance you get. Of the spare or two or three that you do carry, always carry ones that worked perfectly the last time you practiced, with the ammo you practiced with.

  9. avatar jwm says:

    New York Reload.

    1. avatar C.S. says:

      Firepower United’s version:

      1. avatar CGinTX says:

        It’s not new, but it’s still gold.

  10. avatar Specialist38 says:

    While damaged or poorly constructed magazines will definitely cause problems, I question whether the magazine causes most stoppages.

    In the old days, feed ramps coupled with hollowpoint bullets caused many stoppages. Dirty chambers, poor ammunition (bullet seat), and generally dirty firearms are a common cause.

    Piece of shit guns with poor build and quality would probably lead the list. And out of spec ammo is more common in today’s inexpensive range fodder.

    In general shooting, how many faulty mags have had? I would imagine most would show issues in one range session. Operators operating operationally at the range contrast their mags pretty sore, so that could be an issue.

    In the last 15 years, the only malfunction I’ve had with a Beretta 92 has been a FTC with some S&B ammo. Probably 10 rounds out of a box of 100. Tap and rack made bang possible with no need for a new mag.

    I run OEM or MecGar mags and have had no real mag issues to speak of. Buying cheap shit mags is probably a good reason to carry multiple extras. I’m fine with one or two.

  11. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Specialist, I spent 25 years on the range training thounds of shooters. Most malfunctions are magazine induced. Those being mostly factory mags. I lay most of that at the foot of lack of maintenance. Magazines not cleaned. Springs not changed. Feed lips bent. (Throw the magazine away.) Speaking of which. No one throws magazines away. Sometimes they should be and buy a new one. Spend a fucking dollar!

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:


      That may be. Only got my experiences and those I’ve viewed.

      When I shot a 1911 more often, I learned quick that Colt mags were worth the money. Didnt have persistent mag problems with factory mags. Had my share of problems with the feed ramp and ejection ports though.

      This was before Wilson and McCormick mags. Buy a mag, run at least a box of ammo through. Most after-market were crap.

      I have a couple of Beretta 92 mags that are 25 years old and still parking along. They wouldnt be my daily carry but they do work.

      With Glocks and such, I still see most as ammo related. Hollowpoint ammo is usually not a problem these days. But some of those flat-point ball rounds do give some pistols fits.

      Some of the guys I know bought those ETS glock mags (clear ones) and raced about how good they were. A little wear down the road and they are great for practicing failure drills.

      I even left all the little plastic feathers in place in my Glock 43 and 48 in place to see if they would cause problems. They haven’t so far and it’s been over a year with the 48 and 3 years with the 43.

      Maybe it’s just that God loves me…..

  12. avatar Randy Jones says:

    All of this is kind of a moot point if Biden gets into office. We will have single shot pistols and have to keep the bullet in our pocket until we need it.

    1. avatar Dave says:

      Then work hard to keep Trump in line and marketable outside his base. The election is his to lose, but that does not mean such cannot happen.

    2. avatar Cooter E Lee says:

      Jokes on you, cause I got me a Biden approved double barrel shotgun! Bam!!!

      So if I’m out on the balcony (or the porch roof) and I cook off a round randomly in the night and then the baddies are like “WTF?” when I send that second round through the darkness.

      Complete and utter tactical domination of the situation, just like sleepy Joe taught me.

    3. avatar enuf says:

      No no, that’s wrong. We’ll all have double barrel shotguns and a balcony. So if there’s ever a problem the wifey can go out on the balcony and fire off two blasts.

      I see a huge new tax rebate program so we can all afford to buy double barrel shotguns and add a second floor to our homes with a balcony to fire off our two blasts from.

      I’ve always wanted a balcony, and living in a single level home kinda’ has that outta’ reach. Also always wanted a side by side with exposed rabbit ear hammers.

      Yup, this could work to our advantage … least ways those of us in the second-story balcony building trades and makers of double barreled scatterguns.

  13. avatar WI Patriot says:

    It used to be called “immediate action”…

    1. avatar FormerParatrooper says:

      Immediate action if you please, slap, pull, observe, release, tap, squeeze.

      I load a dummy round in the magazine when I go over the drills live fire. Realistic enough that people learn and after a few drills they can do it without hesitation.

      1. avatar WI Patriot says:

        SPORTS…remember it well…

  14. avatar GS650G says:

    Funny I never had these problems with my revolver nor any need to tap, rack, bang or curse at it.

  15. avatar RCC says:

    I’ve seen an experienced A grade shooter ruin a S&W .357 during an IPSC competition. Sqib load put projectile about 3 inches into the barrel followed by 3 more shots before he realised the RO and others were yelling Stop.

    No firearm / operator system is perfect. Lots of good practice helps.

  16. avatar John in AK says:

    Here’s a caveat or two.

    With sloppy, imprecise pistols such as Glocks, there’s no need to lock the slide back to clear a double feed; They don’t CARE. It’s just ‘assess, rip, rack, reload, reassess.’ More formal, barbecue-appropriate pistols do, however, require that the slide be locked back. And that’s three ‘racks.’ It is in the Book of Armaments, Chapter II, Verseses 9 to 21. “Then, shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out!

    Anything else? ‘Assess (which may be audible, and sound very much like ‘click’ or ‘mush’), tap, rack, reassess.’ ‘Assess’ and ‘reassess’ are mandatory; ‘Bang’ is completely optional and may not fit into the equation.

  17. avatar Anymouse says:

    Rack, Tap, Bang is incorrect. It should be Rack, Tap, Reassess. The threat may be over. The bad guy may be surrendering, be incapacitated, have a hostage, or is running away. An innocent person may have stepped in front or behind the bad guy, and it’s not safe to fire again. You need to decide whether the next bullet is necessary and justified instead of automatically sending it on its way.

  18. avatar JStarX7 says:

    Pretty sure all the good boys and girls have moved on to Tap/Rack/Re-asses. (Or ready, depending on instructor)

    Also, get off the X.

  19. avatar DeltaFiveBravo says:

    Tap, Rack, Recover

    Lock, Rip, Rack, Rack, Rack, Combat Reload, Recover

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