July 25, 2018

7 Tips To Deal With The Most Common Handgun Malfunctions


Written by  Glen Artis

The handgun has been around for centuries. And since the introduction of the first semi-automatic handgun in 1892, this firearm has undergone numerous technological advancements. Today’s handguns are the most sophisticated in the history of handguns. But in spite of this, modern handguns are still vulnerable to malfunctions. In fact, most if not all handgun users have experienced a malfunction at some point that rendered their guns temporarily inoperable. And while some of us may cuss the gun itself for failing to function as intended, the gun is not always at fault. As such understanding, the cause of your firearm’s failure to function is as important as knowing that it can fail you. More importantly, it is important you know what to do when faced with a handgun malfunction. Below are seven common handgun malfunctions and how to fix them.

What Causes Handgun Malfunctions

As a handgun user, you probably have asked yourself what causes handguns to malfunctions. Technically speaking malfunctions can either be organic or mechanical. Organic malfunctions are caused by operator error. This means that these malfunctions are caused by improper handling of a handgun. For example, improper holding or gripping of a handgun. Or inserting the magazine wrongly.

Mechanical malfunctions, on the other hand, are attributed to damaged parts or dirty parts. According to research handguns can comfortably fire 1000 rounds before requiring cleaning. When you get past the 1000 round mark handgun cleaning becomes necessary. This is because continued firing causes the buildup of carbon from unburned powder. This carbon build-up can result in malfunctions. Alternatively, a mechanical malfunction can be caused by a handgun’s internal design.

Irrespective of what causes the malfunction, knowing how to fix some of these common malfunctions can save your life. In this regard, let us delve into some of the more common handgun malfunctions and how to fix them.

Failure to eject

Semi-automatic handguns are able to automatically eject a spent cartridge casing and load another one after each shot. Sometimes, the spent cartridge meant for ejection gets stuck preventing a new cartridge from being loaded. The most common cause of this malfunction is improper holding during ejection. If your grip is weak, the gun will recoil back further than it is supposed to, hindering the ejector from properly ejecting the spent cartridge casing. Failing to fully insert the magazine into the gun can also cause this malfunction.

To remedy this malfunction first smack the bottom of the magazine to ensure it is properly and fully inserted into the handgun. Next, rotate your pistol to the right so that the ejection port faces downwards. With the ejection port facing the ground gravity will help with the ejection. Once this is done rack the slide vigorously to try and get rid of the spent cartridge casing. Check to see whether the slide is fully closed. When the stuck cartridge is ejected, a new round will be loaded into the chamber.

Failure to fire

Another malfunction caused by improper insertion of the magazine is the failure to fire. Due to the magazine not being properly or fully inserted rounds are unable to enter the chamber. This malfunction results in a deafening click when you pull the trigger. This malfunction is also caused by ammunition problems. In particular, ammunition from Eastern Europe has hard primers. And if your gun’s firing pin is not long enough or strong enough to ignite the primer, the gun does not fire.

The solution is to smack the magazine and make sure it is fully inserted into the handgun. To do this pull the handgun closer to you and firmly tap the bottom of the magazine. Where the malfunction is as a result of the primer not igniting give the gun some 15 to 20 seconds. Sometimes the primer will eventually ignite after some delay. Alternatively, pull the slide back to eject the bullet. On a revolver; however, pull the trigger again and take note of the round when reloading.

The double feed

Another common malfunction is the double feed. This occurs when one round properly enters the chamber but is soon followed by another from the magazine. The result is a chambered round and another pressing hard on its base preventing the slide from closing. The occurrence of this malfunction is a sign of a damaged or worn out magazine. More often than not, a double feed is a sign that your magazine feed lips are worn out. Also, it can be a sign of a weak magazine slip. Personally, I have put an identifying mark on each of my magazines to make it easy to identify, which magazine needs attention. Also, I have made carrying a spare magazine whenever I go to the range a habit.

To fix this malfunction first remove the magazine. Next rack the slide to eject the chambered cartridge. Finally, insert the magazine and rack the slide again to feed the chamber a new round. It is important to note that removing the magazine will not be as easy as tapping the magazine-release button. Due to the second-round jamming things, you may have to pull the magazine with your hand after pressing the release button.

The tip-up

Arguably the most common malfunction in semi-automatic handguns is the tip-up. This is when a cartridge entering the chamber fails to enter and ends up with its nose lodged up against the hood. The cause of this error can be anything from a magazine, ammunition to firearm related. Nevertheless, the most common culprit is a worn-out feed ramp. It can be either the feed ramp is damaged or is by default out of spec. Regardless, in such a scenario your handgun will require a gun-smith.

The way to fix this problem is to remove the magazine and then rack the slide to release the stuck round. Then insert a different magazine and rack the slide again to insert another round into the chamber. In essence, the method is similar to that of dealing with the double feed malfunction. I have seen shooters try to retract, turn the gun on its side and wiggle the stuck round out. And in my experience, this can work but can also result in more damage.

Failure to feed

Sometimes your semi-automatic handgun may fail to feed a new round into the chamber after a shot. When this happens, the slide will not be all the way forward, or as some shooters would put it, it will not be in full battery.

To correct this, remove the magazine first and then remove the round that has failed to load. Once you remove the magazine, the round will be ejected. Insert another magazine to load a new round into the chamber.

Failure to extract

This malfunction is similar to the double feed. However, unlike in double feed failure to extract is when the handgun is unable to eject the spent cartridge. This results in the cartridge casing remaining in the chamber. When a new round is fed into the chamber, the result is a double feed scenario. The difference this time is that it’s a live round and a spent round in the chamber and not two live rounds. This problem is normally caused by a problem with the magazine. Thus, if you experience this malfunction, it may be time to have your magazine checked.

To rectify this anomaly first remove the magazine from the gun. Next while pointing the gun towards a safe direction rack the slide two to three times. Manually check the chamber to ensure its free of any round. The reload the gun and fire.

Squib load

One of the rarest malfunctions and also one of the most dangerous is the squib load. This kind of load happens when a round lacks sufficient powder to propellant through the barrel. The result is the round being stuck in the barrel. Should you try to fire again, the incoming round will hit the stuck cartridge on its way out resulting in a broken barrel and injuries. In some cases, this error has resulted in serious injuries and even death. This malfunction is the reason why some gun ranges do not allow rapid-fire exercises.

To clear the stuck cartridge, you will require cleaning appliances. In particular a cleaning rod and a dowel. Open the slide or the cylinder in a revolver and try to push the stuck bullet down the barrel with the push rod and dowel.

Author Bio

My name is Glen Artis, the founder of OUTDOOREVER and a lover of all things firearms. Sharing with you my passion for guns and ammunition is my joy. When I am not writing, I can be found at a gun range trying out different kinds of weapons.


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2 Comments on 7 Tips To Deal With The Most Common Handgun Malfunctions

  1. I found this to be an informative article.
    When cleaning a pistol be sure to clean all the residue out from under the extractor. This may require a detail striping of your pistol. And on a pistol clean the extractor face. This also applies to semi-auto and pump riles and shotguns as well. On a revolver be sure to clean all residue out from under the extractor star and off the face. I have seen a lot of extraction problem at the range because of residue under the extractor. I have found (as a range officer) that a dowel rod is generally not strong enough to be used to hammer out a stuck bullet. A cleaning rod also is not a good choice. If you are trying to use a cleaning rod use a steel one and put a flat pointed jag on it. The range all ways had some brass rods to use to do this. and on a revolver you may have a bullet stock in the forcing cone and you will NOT be able to open the cylinder and will have to drive the bullet back into the case. I have several brass rods in my shooting bag and have had get them out to help others shooters several time in the past.

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