A malfunction in a semi-automatic handgun can be any stoppage that interrupts the cycle of operation. Stoppages can be caused by operator error, the ammunition itself, a mechanical issue with the firearm itself or due to maintenance – how dirty or under lubricated the firearm may be. There are five malfunction types for semi-automatic handguns including:
- Failure to Fire
- Hang Fire
- Stove Pipe
- Double Feed
A Double Feed occurs when the casing of a spent round fails to fully extract before a live round is pushed from the magazine in an attempt to feed into the chamber. This new round can not chamber as the old casing is still partially inserted into the chamber. The dual forces of the slide pushing the new round forward, now wedged below the old casing, and the magazine pushing upwards on the new round create a “log jam” effect binding the bullets in place and preventing the gun from functioning. A double feed is the trifecta of malfunctions: failure to extract, failure to eject and failure to feed.
HOW TO CLEAR A DOUBLE FEED
A Girl & A Gun teaches a Safety First Technique for clearing malfunctions that is range safe and appropriate for all skill levels.
- The very first step to clearing any malfunction is to realize that the gun isn’t cycling properly, pause, and take your finger off of the trigger.
- Keeping the firearm pointed in a safe direction, return to compressed ready and investigate to identify the type of malfunction, if visible.
- Remove the forward pressure of the slide by locking it to the rear.
- Remove the magazine. This may require a tug or a ripping action as the magazine may still be under tension from the lodged rounds at the ejection port.
- It is possible that the old casing as well as the top round in the magazine may fall out of either the mag well or the ejection port when the magazine is removed. This is normal! Let them fall! NEVER try to catch falling ammunition or gear at the range under any circumstances.
- Visually and physically inspect the chamber. Should the partially extracted casing still be in the chamber, rack the slide several times to clear it out. Lock the slide open one final time and inspect once more to ensure the chamber is clear.
- You have two choices at this point: Reload/Reassess/Shoot or confirm the firearm is clear and safely bench the firearm.
WHY DO DOUBLE FEEDS HAPPEN?
USER ERROR: Short stroking also known as “riding the slide forward” is when the shooter attempts to rack the slide but either only partially pulls it back and or partially pulls back and continues to hold on as it goes forward. Failing to completely and forcefully rack the slide can inhibit the full chambering of a round. The slide will be partially out of battery resulting in a “failure to fire” experience and inducing a Tap Rack action. Because the round was never fully seated the Tap Rack action will not result in extraction but rather induce a double feed malfunction.
MAGAZINES: Magazines take a lot of abuse on the range and both the feed lips as well as the followers can become damaged over time. Numbering the base plate of your magazines can help identify which mag in your collection is the habitual offender so you can weed it.
MAINTENANCE: Many times a very dry or under lubricated firearm can be the culprit for a firearm that is creating double feeds time and again. Proper maintenance and adequate lubrication is critical to ensuring the firearm operates safely and reliably.
Double Feeds can be particularly alarming and intimidating to the newer shooter because the ammunition is visible through the open ejection port. Regardless of the type of malfunction that may occur, keeping calm is perhaps the most important step in managing the firearm safely. For new or beginners just learning the Safety First Techniques or for those struggling to manipulate the slide or other controls on the firearm, asking for help from an RSO or other certified staff member may be the best and safest option.
EQUIPMENT SHOWN IN THIS ARTICLE: