Do You Practice For Malfunctions?

Dan Dolbee, over at The Shooter’s Log, wrote an article about Immediate Action Drills. Immediate Action Drills is practicing to clear a malfunction. There are times when the unexpected happens and only a few can rise up from a fall like this woman.


However how many runners practice falling, getting back up and winning a competition? How many of you out there practice shooting with an unexpected malfunction?

Back when I helped to RO my NY Club’s USPSA pistol matches, I saw many shooters have mental break downs when something unexpected happens. You can just see it. They just stop everything and crickets are chirping. It magnifies 1000 percent when shooting in the dark.

Dan Dolbee discusses the simple Tap-Rack-Bang. However he discusses a few other ideas that may be new to some of you. The pros and cons of using snap-caps. Sure it is great to simulate a malfunction with a snap cap however he mentions that a snap-cap malfunction can be simply solved by racking the slide. A solution that doesn’t address an improperly inserted magazine.

Dan proposes wrapping some tape (I would use blue painters or masking tape) and wrap the bottom of your magazine. Test fit the tape and insert the magazine into the pistol. Try to find the sweet spot where inserting the magazine wont seat all the way but a good tap will properly seat the mag.

Back in NY, before I got my pistol permit, I was using my KRISS Vector at the USPSA matches just to get some practice and trigger time. The Vector had frequent malfunctions. However I did not look at it as a negative. I took it as another training aspect. Use the malfunction to my advantage. I would get wicked fail to extract malfunctions but every time I got one I got better at clearing that malfunction. The first time it happened it took several minutes to debug the problem. After a few more instances it was a rather simple fix that took a few seconds to clear.

Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at


  • Renegade

    Best part of this article? The intro with the picture of the bearded man and the line “…and only a few can rise up from a fall like this woman” in the preview text.

  • Paladin

    You seem to have had a spelling malfunction in the article title. What’s the correct drill for that?

    • 101nomad

      Spell check.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Sometimes I am surprised that not everyone just knows tap/rack and that someone even has to write and article about it!

    LOL at the reality that of the guys who have 20 handguns but don’t really know how to handle malfunctions because they think 4 years in the army two decades ago instilled in him expert shooting skills, or maybe that “my guns don’t jam”. Same type who owns far more ammo than they could ever carry “for the end of the world” but can’t run 5 miles on the drop of a dime.

    If you aren’t practicing malfunctions sometimes, you’re under-utilizing the range all the time. “Shooting” to me has become far more about physical training, situational awareness, fundamental repetition, using a firearm under stress, and manipulation far more than it has become about hitting a tin can at 25y, sitting at a bench and trying to make really small groups, walking a bullet in to a car sized target at 800y+ and thinking that’s “precision shooting”, or what it is to the guy who has entirely trained for double taps on IPSC targets because that’s what is “scored best”.

    I guess I forgot not everyone just knows to practice malfunctions.

    • HSR47

      I can’t speak for everyone, but while I’ve had many gun/ammunition based stoppages at the range, very few of them were situations where “tap rack” applied: The number of ejection issues I’ve had is insignificant compared to the number of extraction issues I have had. Tap-rack doesn’t do anything useful when you have a double-feed.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        Well… tap and rack is PART of a proper double feed malf clear. So you’ll have to do it anyway.

        Come up, go to fire, dead trigger (double feed, stovepipe, grossly out of battery). Strip the mag out, rack, reinsert mag, tap and rack

        You only tap and rack if you get a click on an attempted trigger pull (bad primer, slightly out of battery). You wouldn’t do that on a dead trigger to I’m not sure your comments apply that tap and rack isn’t an immediate action you should practice.

        • HSR47

          On a double feed, stripping the mag before locking the bolt/ slide to the rear (where possible) first is the slowest and most difficult way to clear a double feed.

          If the gun has a device to hold the bolt/slide to the rear, ALWAYS do so before you try to remove the magazine: if you don’t, the pressure of the bolt/slide will keep the nose of the top cartridge firmly locked against the stuck case (or below it); between that, and the feed lips of the magazine, combines to lock the magazine tightly in place.

          If you lock the bolt/slide back first, the top cartridge is generally able to spin itself out of the way, which makes it much easier to remove the mag.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Meh, both are fine, but you’re wrong about difficult and slower. Go try it. You RIP the mag from the gun, the slide may or may not go home depending on the malf, you rack rack, reinsert, go. That mag is NOT locked firmly into place.

            Think about it. The only thing holding that mag in when the button is pressed is a 1/4-1/2 out of the feed lips round that is teetering on the base of the round in the chamber. There is nothing really holding it there.

            Your idea that the tension has to be released is one way and it doesn’t always work reliably. You can miss the slide stop, not have a slide stop, but most of all it’s much more difficult to do one handed, MUCH.

            By ripping the mag out, you’re doing the same thing without an extra step. PLUS, you can do it one handed by holding the mag release and coming down hard with your forearm flat to contact to your leg (raise leg up 90 if needed) and it bops the mag out. You can then rack and load one handed, as normal.

            I welcome you to try it. I’ve learned both and found ripping the mag out to be better in every way. EXCEPT if you’re shooting a dead-platform gun like a 1911 or others, like guns with stupid magwells where you might not be able to get a grip on the mag in the gun. In that case, yea, have to lock the slide back to release tension first, and if you can’t do that or are going to one handed my method works for those guns as well.

            Haven’t you wondered why “tactical mag bases” have big grippy notches on the sides? It’s for this.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    In addition to my other post… I recently went to an USPSA practice session that some locals were shooting. A guy a know to be a big gun purchaser (I stopped saying “shooter” or even “firearm’s enthusiast”, because most people’s primary interest is in purchasing) had a relatively recent model 1911. I think it was a Wilson, but it doesn’t matter.

    Dude gets up to the line, gets 7-8 shots off, fumbles a mag change. Has a fresh mag hit the ground, goes to a spare, eventually gets it in. Gets one shot off and gets an in-line double feed, and literally shuts down. He had NO IDEA what to do. The timer was running and I watched him just crap the bed like he had never even considered this could happen. It took him no less than 2 minutes to figure it out, everything he tried was the step or in the wrong order. Forget the safety and how to handle a mag, or even muzzle discipline at that point, he was entirely out of the fight.

    I overheard him talking after that about how it was just a bad round and how his gun has never done that. He still had no idea it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if your ammo lets you down (it will!) or your gun (it will) or your other gear (yes), or yourself (big time), you still need to know how to fix it and get back moving.

  • Geodkyt

    Heh. When I want to practice malfunctions, but am too lazy to ask someone to sabotage my mags with dummy rounds or the like, I just break out the Taurus Millenium.

    Malfs on a regular basis — PLENTY of practice. {LOL}

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Taurus selling point. “You’ll get quite good at clearing malfunctions.”

  • Cymond

    I’d like to practice with malfunctions, but there are a few obstacles. First, the ranges in my area are very strict, and I don’t feel I have the freedom to practice any practical shooting. Second, malfunctions need to be unexpected to provide good training. I don’t have a shooting buddy to set up unexpected malfunctions in my magazines.
    Maybe an expert reloader could safely create underpowered rounds that would short stroke and stovepipe? (without being squibs) It’s probably a bad idea, though … I’ve read about light loads causing explosions, but don’t understand enough.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Load a dud, dummy, or snap cap randomly in each mag. When you get a click, you tap and rack.

      There is ZERO chance of making a load that will not shoot. Excellent way to get a squib then kaboom. Just practice tap and rack at the range.

      Buy a set of snap caps and do in-line double feed clearing at home.

      • Cymond

        Well I was thinking about a load that would shoot, but would fail to eject, but I agree about the squib problem. I’m not a reloader yet, so I don’t really know much about it.
        Now that I think about it, maybe I could just experiment with heavier recoil springs.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          You’re overthinking it.

          If you really want bad malf practice, load an empty shell between some live ones.

          You never know what that’s going to do. Could stove pipe, it could feed and extract just fine, could online double feed, etc.

          I did see a Glock 19 and an XD lock up crazy tight doing this. Good lesson. Other guns will feed an empty with no issue.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    JumpIfNotZero has made several relevant points that I agree with. The general focus in the civilian firearms market has not given sufficient attention to Immediate Action drills per actual possible real-world scenarios and has instead put the spotlight on other factors that are more sales-oriented, eg., greater magazine capacity for semi-automatic pistols, along with additional features such as magazine extensions and magazine loading aids, all to the detriment of the basics, eg., how to swiftly and decisively clear a double-feed or misfeed, or a misfire or “cook-off” for that matter, all the while under a high-pressure situation. This problem encompasses not only the usage of handguns but also carbines, rifles, PDW’s, SMG’s and so on.

    One of the first and most basic small-arms drills that is drummed into every recruit in almost every reasonably-competent military organization around the globe is the vital importance of speedy and effective IA in the midst of a live-fire action, be it a day at the range or in the midst of an intense firefight. Veterans of any stripe will know exactly what I mean.

  • D I Genes

    Not usually. But at least I can spell and type and proofread.

  • dan citizen

    I am old school. i believe you must practice with your weapon until it is all instinct. As a young bodyguard (back when dinosaurs roamed) I would sit in my room and operate my weapon for hours empty, loaded, dummy rounds, magazines full of empty casings, whatever.

    Back then we were expected to be able to point shoot (no sights) a paper plate sized target anywhere around us as fast as we could draw, and we were expected to be fast. A lack of finger discipline, poorly handled malfunction on a range or a negligent discharge instantly ended your job and possibly career.

    To be truly proficient you must be able to deal with any weapon related issue, immediately, effectively, and without thinking. Anything less is just letting yourself off easy.

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      Very well said!

  • J

    Unfortunately, it is commonplace to see an article written on “immediate action” drills which contains absolutely no mention of squibs. I suspect that many new shooters are learning “tap, rack, bang” and have no idea about what happens when they apply this “immediate” action to a gun with a bullet lodged in its barrel.

    Hopefully, word will spread. Squibs may actually be more commonplace than gunfights, except perhaps in Chicago.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      To be fair… The only thing you can do for a squib that’s lodged in the barrel is to either notice that the round being ejected is just brass, but more clearly I’ve found that if you hear or feel something different – YOU STOP.

      I stacked two bullets up in the barrel of my subgun. Was lucky it didn’t mess anything up. Taught me a good lesson about squibs.

      Most of the time just listening to the sound they made should be enough to catch them.

  • Vhyrus

    I don’t. If my gun has more than 1 malfunction in 100 rounds at any point after break in, I find a new carry gun.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Ha! You clearly don’t shoot enough then.

      I’ve had every type of ammo I’ve ever used fail. I’ve had Hornady critical defense fail to extract. I’ve had HSM reman work for 4000 rounds without a single issue, then get a round with no powder. I’ve had squibs, I’ve had hang-fires, I’ve had every manner of ammo malfunction.

      According to your theory, I’d be out of firearms and of the opinion that nothing out there works. Malfunctions IMO rarely have to do with the gun.

      • Vhyrus

        Either you didn’t read what I wrote or you have some very spotty equipment. Considering I have gone 1000 rounds without a single failure on multiple handguns, if you are having more than 1 failure in 100 rounds then something is very wrong, either your ammo or your gun.

        • JumpIf NotZero

          I read exactly what you wrote. I’m just experienced enough to know that 1000 rounds isn’t a metric worth counting on AT ALL. And it doesn’t matter, the gun is not the questionable issue the ammo is.I shoot about 6k of 9mm a year. Your ammo WILL let you down.. Malfunctions will happen and they need to be practiced.

          You should really take a formal handgun class. Go shoot 1k over two days and tell me how flawless your and everyone else’s guns are.

          Lol… One thousand rounds, so you don’t need to practice malfunction drills.

    • Geodkyt

      The thing about discussing whether to do malfunction training at SOME level is, it really doesn’t matter how infrequent your gun and ammo combination malfunctions.

      If it happens to YOU, it will happen in one of two situations:

      1. When it really doesn’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things. Like at practice. Or even at a match.

      2. When it REALLY DOES MATTER because if you don’t fix the problem you are going to DIE.

      As we say in my business, when looking at mitigating the consequences of a failure, it doesn’t matter AT ALL how great the probability of that failure actually is — by the nature of the fact that you’re having to deal with it, YOUR PERSONAL RISK of occurance is EXACTLY 100%.

      Now, you can choose to accept the risk that you will never be faced with a malfunction where it actually is a matter of life or death. That’s no different than a program manager telling me the flags have accepted the risk of “X” as being infrequent enough we need not mitigate the consequences of the failure. But I’ll note, when the risks I’m designing around include descriptive consequences like “Loss of personnel,”, “Safety of flight,” “Loss of ship,”, etc., it’s damned unusual for a flag officer or SES to merely accept a risk, no matter how unlikely.