How many times have you been at the range and your gun either stove-piped, or you had to deal with a double-feed? Do you know what to do? If so, you probably know that it happens to all of us. It’s generally not a big deal. Guns are mechanical devices and can fail (yes, even Glocks. More often than not, the malfunction is the result of operator error, not the gun or ammo, but sometimes the opposite is true. Clearing most common malfunctions quickly and efficiently is an essential part of carrying concealed. Learning ways to avoid some of these is also important, but put that thought on hold for a moment. One of the aspects of basic pistol that we want students to learn how to deal with, is clearing a double-feed and clearing stove-pipes. These malfunctions are among the most common malfunctions you’ll face. Quickly identifying why your gun won’t go bang is the first step. Look at your gun’s breech. You’ll either see a spent round standing straight up in the barrel like an actual stove pipe, or you’ll see the breech open with what looks like two rounds trying to get in the barrel, which is a double-feed. Stove piping happens most often from “limp-wristing”. If you aren’t gripping the gun properly or you’re letting gun’s recoil flip the gun back too far, the spent round and the gun will be traveling backward at the same rate, and the casing won’t get to clear the breech before the slide slams shut. The slide has to have enough resistance from your grip to do its job to strip off and feed the next round. Most of the time you can avoid this by making sure to have a solid grip on the gun. Clearing it is usually very simple and easy as well. You can either tap the base of the magazine and rack the gun, or you can do what I call the karate chop. Which is sliding your weak hand like a blade over it and clearing it out. Once it’s out, the slide will continue to slam shut and a new round is already in there. Double-feeds, I have found, happen more frequently with .22lr pistols, but they certainly happen with bigger guns as well. For whatever reason, the extractor wasn’t able to do its job of grabbing the lip of the spent round and thoroughly ejecting it from the gun before the next one is sent up the ramp, pushing the spent casing back into the barrel, The result is a small traffic accident in your breach. Sometimes, with bigger guns, if you baby the slide, that is, don’t let it go when it’s fully rearward, it won’t be able to feed properly and two rounds try to exit the magazine. That’s why it’s important to rack a gun with some authority. (See my YouTube video about racking, Women Can’t Rack a Semi-Auto?, at the top of this article) Fixing the double-feed is a little tougher, but by no means impossible to do quickly. It requires dropping your mag, which you’ll likely need to forcefully strip the magazine from the mag-well because the spring tension is pushing two rounds into the same space causing the magazine to be pinned into the mag-well. Rack the gun at least twice, then re-insert the magazine racking the gun a third time before getting back into action. Fixing these two malfunctions is usually easy to do, but in a critical situation, even the simplest of tasks become hard when your brain and body are in fight-or-flight mode, which is why practicing clearing these is so crucial. If you’re relatively new to firearms, this is a great aspect of concealed carry to practice often. You don’t necessarily have to be at a range to review these techniques. Doing it with dummy rounds is also helpful. The more you practice properly, the more likely you’re going to be able to rely on your gross motor skills in a critical dynamic situation. The more reliable gun and ammunition you have, along with a proper, strong grip, the less likely you will be to encounter these malfunctions.
Kelly is an NRA-certified instructor for Pistol, Personal Protection in the Home and Refuse to be a Victim. She also is also credentialed as a certified pistol instructor through The Well Armed Woman, and owner of ARMED and Feminine, LLC. Visit her YouTube channel by searching ARMED and Feminine.