Running the Gun: How to Clear a Handgun Malfunction

Running the Gun: How to Clear a Handgun Malfunction

No matter what type of pistol you carry or ammunition you feed it, there's a chance you'll experience a "click" instead of a "bang" when you pull the trigger. Should this occur, you need to have a plan to keep your gun running and stay in the fight.

The theme of the most recent episode of Personal Defense TV was clearing a malfunctioned handgun. While many firearms instructors focus on semantics such as classifying a particular type of malfunction as a Stage I, Stage II or Stage III, Handgun Combatives creator and 2010 Law Enforcement Trainer of the Year Dave Spaulding offers a more simplified approach consisting of just two techniques.




For any malfunction other than an in-line failure to extract, or "double feed," Spaulding advocates the use of the "immediate action" drill. This sequence is also referred to as, "tap, rack and assess."  After tapping the bottom of the magazine to ensure that it's properly seated, many instructors teach their students to reach over the top of their gun and grab the slide with what Spaulding refers to as a "saddle grip." When gripped in this manner, the little finger, ring finger and middle finger do most of the work. However, Spaulding believes there is a more physiologically efficient method for cycling the slide, one that affords you a better grip on the slide, is faster and is congruent with the technique for cycling the slide one-handed using your belt or holster.

Spaulding's technique for clearing a malfunction is to tap the bottom of the magazine, roll the pistol inward so that the ejection port is facing downward — this allows gravity to assist you in removing the malfunctioned rounds from the gun — then grip the slide with your thumb and all four fingers.  Spaulding explains that the closer your fingers are to the thumb, the tighter your grip. Pull the slide to the rear and release. After the slide goes forward and a round is chambered, assess the situation to determine if firing is still warranted.


If the immediate action drill doesn't remedy the problem, chances are your pistol experienced an in-line failure to extract. Here, Spaulding's methodology veers slightly from tradition. Rather than lock the slide to the rear and then strip the magazine from the pistol, Spaulding prefers to depress the magazine release while working the action. This accomplishes the same task, but more efficiently, according to Spaulding. An alternate method Spaulding teaches involves stripping the magazine from the pistol first, then cycling the action.


In the same episode, Spaulding and I discuss the importance of communication and the use of cover when working with a partner. The last thing you want is for your partner to be moving from cover when your handgun is inoperable or vice versa. Finally, Spaulding poses the question, "Is it faster to clear a malfunctioned pistol or draw a back-up gun?"

Be sure to tune in to PDTV on Monday nights on The Sportsman Channel and feel free to contact us with any questions or comments. Thanks!

Recommended for You

Accuracy testing a rifle begins with building a good shooting position. Too often, shooters so focused on shooting and what's happening at the target that they never learn how to create a solid shooting foundation. Without that foundation, we introduce accuracy-degrading variables into our marksmanship. Here are some rifle accuracy testing tips to get you headed in the right direction. How-To

How to Accuracy Test a Rifle, Part One

Tom Beckstrand - July 14, 2016

Accuracy testing a rifle begins with building a good shooting position. Too often, shooters so...

Introduced at the 2014 NRA Show, Blackhawk Folding Back-Up Sights were developed from the

First Look: Blackhawk Folding Back-Up Sights

G&A Online Editors - May 06, 2014

Introduced at the 2014 NRA Show, Blackhawk Folding Back-Up Sights were developed from the

Since Dr. John Mathews founded the company in 1979, SureFire's (then Laser Products) corporate Accessories

SureFire Ryder 22-A Suppressor Review

Jeremy Stafford - March 11, 2014

Since Dr. John Mathews founded the company in 1979, SureFire's (then Laser Products) corporate

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Century Arms Introduces a Heavy-Duty AK Rifle

Century Arms Introduces a Heavy-Duty AK Rifle

Chambered in 7.62x39mm with components machined from extremely durable S7 tool steel, a chrome-moly 4150 barrel and a carburized 4140 steel bolt.

Armscor Semi-Auto Shotguns

Armscor Semi-Auto Shotguns

We look at the new shotguns from Armscor - the VR80 and the brand new bullpup VRBP100.

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

David Fortier talks with Jeff Hoffman of Black Hills Ammunition about the evolution of the .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match bullet.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Reminiscing on another great American lever action. Rifles

Review: Savage Model 99

Craig Boddington - February 11, 2019

Reminiscing on another great American lever action.

Don't mortgage the homestead to get into PRS, this is what's available from the likes of Mossberg, Tikka, Savage, Howa, Bergara, Weatherby and Remington. Rifles

Starter Rifles for Under $1000

Aaron Carter - May 09, 2019

Don't mortgage the homestead to get into PRS, this is what's available from the likes of...

How-To

9 Most Misused Gun Terms

Kyle Wintersteen - November 21, 2016

"Assault weapon." Sixteen-round "clip." A box of "bullets." When it comes to guns and gun...

See More Stories

More News

Walther's new program, Shoot It. Love It. Buy It., shows how confident they are in their flagship model, the PPQ series of handguns. Industry

Walther Introduces 'Shoot It. Love It. Buy It.' Program for PPQ Handguns

G&A Online Editors - February 15, 2019

Walther's new program, Shoot It. Love It. Buy It., shows how confident they are in their...

On Oct. 12, 2019, team CZ USA set a new Guinness World Record by breaking 14,167 clays in 12 hours. Industry

World Record for Most Clays Broken Crushed by CZ USA Team

Alfredo Rico - October 15, 2019

On Oct. 12, 2019, team CZ USA set a new Guinness World Record by breaking 14,167 clays in 12...

Attention Collectors! Walther has released the PPK/S First Edition; the one-time run is limited to only 1250 units, serial numbers 101-1350. Handguns

Walther First Edition PPK/S Pistols Announced

Guns & Ammo Digital Staff - September 04, 2019

Attention Collectors! Walther has released the PPK/S First Edition; the one-time run is...

See More News

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.