Dealing With A Gun Misfire
By Richard Bogath
I cannot adequately explain the looks of puzzlement and confusion when one of my students pulls the trigger and nothing but a resounding “click” issues forth from the handgun. What’s interesting is that not five minutes before they pulled said trigger, they received one of their first lessons on dealing with a misfire. I purposely hand them a “ball and dummy” magazine (or speed loader) that contains four rounds of live ammo and one round of practice ammo, strategically placed somewhere in the mag that they cannot see it at a glance. The test is, will the student quickly and efficiently clear the misfired round, reset the firearm and continue shooting? Often times, the answer is no.
So what happens if you are in an active shooter situation and you have a gun misfire on you?
I’ll try and spare you the written steps of clearing a firearm when you can and probably have watched any number of online videos regarding the subject. I would prefer to give you some useful info on what you don’t usually hear about in training vids.
1. Remain calm and in control
If anyone is keeping count, this is the 1,273rd time I have told my readers to stay calm. In an active shooter situation, your worst enemy by a very narrow margin and most dangerous adversary is panic— not the enemy shooter. Falling to your knees with your hands over your face and sobbing might be a solid invitation to be shot. Panic or loss of control means you either a) freeze or b) do something stupid. Either can make you a bullet recipient. YOU’VE GOT A GUN TOO. Do something with it.
2. Get cover or move
You may be getting shot at, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it. Find cover from the projectiles and even more importantly, cover from being seen while you deal with your misfire/jam/dropped magazine. Don’t just sit, stand, collapse there. Keep the shooter in sight and back or sidestep to the closest opportunity for escape or cover. After all, you’re already in the thick of it—what have you got to lose?
3. Don’t waste time: tap, rack, go
How long does it take to fire a weapon? Seconds. How long does it take to get hit with the projectiles from that weapon? The same seconds. You do not have time to pull out the manual or try to remember that Youtube video you saw last year. Smack the base of that magazine up into that gun, rack the slide to clear the defective or damaged round and finger back on the trigger. This is all happening WHILE you are moving, finding cover and in control.
4. Don’t bluff
If the gun misfires, jams or in any other way does something other than go bang, deal with it regardless of if you are already in the sights of the shooter. The worst thing you can do is pretend that you are ready to shoot without actually being able to do so. Yikes. Better you clear the gun and keep moving until you’ve got it operational. Remember, a moving target—even a slowly moving target—is MUCH harder to hit than a stationary, shivering mass of victim. How do you know when the gun has become operational? When you point it at the shooter and it fires.
Preventative measures for a gun misfire
Let us never forget that it is within our capability to reduce the chances that we have misfires or operational stoppages that plague us from time to time. Some of the simplest ways are the best ways, while it’s not possible to prevent problems 100% of the time, here’s a few ways to cut way back on the occurrences.
- Ammo – If you are buying floor-sweep ammo made in the former Soviet Republic or some third-world nation known more for their heroin exports than their quality ammo, then you can expect to be making expert use of your jam-clearing skills quite often. Steel casings instead of brass, cheap powder, misaligned or poorly seated bullets and unreliable primers will all do their best to work against you while trying to do what they were designed for. Do yourself a favor, buy quality ammo. If you load your own—know what you are doing and use loads that are tested and well practiced in your gun.
- Cleaning – Clean the gun. If you have put a thousand rounds through your pocket pistol without so much as running a bore snake through it, then you are just asking for that gunked-up action to simply freeze solidly on you when you need it to work most. You don’t have to break it down to the screws, but field strip it, solvents, scrub, wipe, repeat until no more black comes off on your rag. Then lubricate carefully. Viola.
- Maintenance – I bet you thought cleaning was maintenance, right? It’s part of it, but not the whole kit and caboodle. Just like your car will eventually wear through some of it’s parts, so too, will your firearm. Ever snapped a firing pin? Extractor broke in half? Maybe your revolver has lost its timing from a broken hand? If you’re relying on this gun to save your life then bring it to the doctor once in awhile. Your local reliable gunsmith will be just tickled to carefully inspect your gun and do what needs to be done. Let’s say…every 10,000 rounds or so.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
You knew it was coming! Yup, I’m going to tell you to practice, practice, practice! If you are blessed enough to live in a state that allows concealed carry (or open carry, for that matter), then it is absolutely your responsibility to learn the techniques, and most importantly, practice them. Watching videos are great, reading articles are great, but get out to the range and put those techniques to use by practicing them. Often! If it’s you caught in the line of fire next time, let your body already know what to do if you pull the trigger and all you hear is click.