Friendly and Certified Firearms Training for Women Since 2011

DRILL OF THE MONTH – Hot Mess Malfunctions

Just like real-world self-defense situations, pistol malfunctions are inherently unpredictable. By regularly practicing malfunction drills, shooters can improve their performance, enhance their safety, and build the confidence to handle high-pressure situations. Preparing for malfunctions can make all the difference, whether on the competition stage or in a real-world encounter. 

The Hot Mess Malfunction drill is designed to prevent shooters from predicting when a malfunction will occur. Training to prepare for equipment malfunctions keeps the shooter alert and ready for any potential issues with each shot. Knowing how to handle a malfunction effectively reduces a shooter’s overall anxiety, which is especially important for beginners. This boost in confidence leads to better decision-making and composure under pressure, whether in competition or a defensive situation. In a competitive setting, being able to quickly identify and clear a malfunction and then return to hitting the target accurately can make or break your final scores.

The goal of this drill is twofold:

  1. Practice correct and safe tap-rack-back on target failure to fire malfunction clearing technique.
  2. The ability to seamlessly transition from shooting to problem-solving while maintaining safety and achieving precision hits on target.


  1. Treat ALL guns as if they are loaded.
  2. Keep fingers off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  3. Keep guns pointed in a safe direction at ALL times. (Do not point your gun at anything  you are not willing to destroy)
  4. Keep all guns UNLOADED until ready to shoot.
  5. Always keep your firearms stored inaccessible to unauthorized persons.

Target: AG & AG Shilouette Target. Amber/Blue tracks = Light blue rectangle. Green/Orange tracks = center purple circle. 

Distance: 5 yards

Round Count: Magazine dependent. Fifty rounds are recommended.

Training Aids: 6 – 10 snap caps, shot time (for Green/Orange color tracks). 


Prepare three or more magazines loaded to capacity with either one, two, or three randomly loaded snap-caps mixed in. Snap-caps should not be the first or last round loaded, and they should not be loaded on top of each other. Make sure each magazine has a different loadout and shuffle them. 

AMBER/BLUE Tracks – Stage Magazines on bench with firearm pointed down range and slide locked open, no magazine in the gun. 

When ready load and make ready, aim and fire, cycling through all magazines, clearing malfunctions as they arise. Note the total live rounds and total malfunctions you shot and cleared based on your magazine capacity. 

GREEN/ORANGE Tracks – Stage magazines at random in mag pouches, firearm is holstered with the slide locked back.

On the shot timer beep, draw, load and fire, cycling through all magazines, clearing malfunctions as they arise. Note the total live rounds and total malfunctions you shot and cleared based on your magazine capacity. Record your time and score your hits. 

Personal Assessment: This drill can highlight troublesome bad habits like anticipating, trigger finger discipline, inconsistent grip, and rushing follow-up shots. Did any of these common shooting errors apply to you? Take note of these in your practice journal. Each is an opportunity to discuss with your leadership team how to improve technique and tackle the Hot Mess drill again. You will be amazed at how rapidly you see improvement in your overall performance!