Fixing Malfunctions in Semi-Autos

  • Jack Collins

One of the ranges I frequent doesn’t have a range safety officer (RSO). That means if you’re shooting at this range, you’re on your own. One day as I was trying to tighten up my groups at 15 yards, the guy in the lane next to me poked his head out and asked if I could help him. His pistol had tried to feed two cartridges at once, and he was having trouble clearing the malfunction.

I was happy to help, since he was a younger guy who was just learning the ropes (and it was a huge boost to my ego). I popped the magazine out, racked the slide to clear out the troublesome cartridges, gave him a fist bump, and went back to shooting.

In this case, the malfunction wasn’t the end of the world. But if that guy had been involved in a self-defense scenario, it certainly could have been the end of his world.

That’s why it’s so important to learn how to clear a jam quickly and efficiently. We’ll take a look at that subject in today’s post with some help from the legendary Mrgunsngear in this video.

Why Does a Semi-Auto Gun Jam?

To begin his video, Mrgunsngear explains that there are essentially four different types of malfunctions in semi-auto firearms:

  • Failure to Feed: This happens when a cartridge doesn’t quite make it into battery. Chances are a shooter won’t notice this failure until they try to pull the trigger. Then, they’ll probably look down and see that their slide isn’t all the way forward.
  • Failure to Extract/Eject: This type of malfunction occurs when a firearm can’t expel a spent casing. It will feel the same as a failure to feed.
  • Failure to Fire: With a failure to fire, everything will feel normal, but your gun won’t go “bang” when you pull the trigger. This can often happen simply because you didn’t load a round into the chamber, but it can also arise from ammo issues.
  • Double Feed: This is probably the least common type of malfunction that we’ve listed here. It happens when your gun tries to load two cartridges into the chamber at once.

The most common culprit behind these types of malfunctions is a magazine. If you notice your firearm is experiencing a lot of failures, try using a different magazine. Dirty guns can also cause malfunctions, so make sure you keep your guns clean!

How to Fix a Gun Jam

Fortunately, regardless of the type of malfunction you’re facing, the remedy is essentially the same. Tap the bottom of the magazine upwards (into the gun) forcefully. Then, rack the slide (also forcefully) while the ejection port faces down. Make sure that your hand isn’t covering the ejection port, otherwise you’ll trap the cartridge in the gun, causing the problem to persist.

That should kick any troublemakers out of your chamber and allow the gun to feed a new cartridge into battery. Then, re-engage your target.

Double feeds can be a little bit more difficult. If the solution we just covered doesn’t work, you’ll need to do what I did to help that dude at the range. Drop the magazine, pull the slide back to free both of the cartridges, and then let the slide rack forward. If there’s a lot of tension on the magazine, you may need to physically pull it out of the gun.

Learn More About Firearms at SDI

Learning how to diagnose and fix jams is fun, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. To learn more about firearms and how to fix them, check out the courses SDI offers by clicking here.

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