Malfunction/Stoppage Drills on Day 1?

It has been a discussion lately on the internet about malfunction/stoppage drills on day 1 of class. It has been mentioned that it is not something that should be taught on day 1. I disagree. There are many reason to teach malfunction/stoppage clearing in the first day of training. It is not uncommon for students to see a malfunction/stoppage in the early stages of training. They often are not sure how clear it or have no idea of what to do when the stoppage occurs. Often displayed in a confounded look at the gun as if a stoppage is not possible. Many of the classes available are one day classes. It is not preparing the student if you do not cover malfunction/stoppage. I believe it is a must to cover and conduct malfunction/stoppage drills fairly early in the class. I’ll give a few reasons.

Shooter induced failures

Operator Error is to blame. Shooter induced failures happen far more frequently than one might think. While more common with some guns than others all are prone to shooter induced malfunction/stoppages. Here you can see stoppages caused through; Bad shooting position. Lack of a solid shooting platform for the gun to set in to operate efficiently. If you have a good platform for the gun to set in you can reduce and even end stoppages with guns that are sensitive to limp wrist, bent elbows, poor grip and other bad fundamentals. Lets face it. Many shooters need help with the fundamentals not only to make the gun operate and use the energy of the firing cartridge effectively. Good fundamentals also helps in shooting accurately. Another one is operating the slide. Part of good gun handling. Covering the ejection port and riding the slide is asking for trouble. Easily remedied by learning to efficiently operate the action and using proper hand placement when doing it.


Several things come into play here.

Gun type or action

Most commonly in contention here is the 1911 or gun with manual safeties. Shooters and students new to defensive shooting often fail to operate the manual safety effectively. They fail to remove the safety when engaging targets when training in defensive use of the handgun. Many people go to the range, step to the firing line, load the gun and make it ready at the firing line but never operate the safety during a string of fire. In actual training they fail to operate the safety. Forget to remove it when presenting and addressing the target. This give the sense of a dead trigger from not loading the chamber and placing the hammer in the cocked position depending on action. Knowing you gun and how to operate it efficiently is helpful here.

Gun Quality and Reliability

Some guns are just not known for reliability. They are finicky when it comes to ammunition. They are plagued by bad magazines. They are often poor quality. These can be low cost guns, moderately priced guns and even those high cost guns. Some are hit and miss. One may run good and the next one may be a problem gun. The best way to avoid these issues is to seek out and save your coins to buy a gun known for reliability.


In some case it is the owner’s neglect that is the problem. Failure to properly lubricate and clean a gun can induce malfunctions. I heard Ken Hackathorn say it, “If you treat your gun like you treat your lawnmower. Buy a Glock.”

Yes Sir! Malfunction/Stoppage drills are day one material and should have a mention in every class. “Tap and Rack” will clear the majority of malfunctions. “Tap Rack, Rip and Clear, Reload” will fix many of the more complex malfunctions/stoppages. If it is really jammed up, “Tap Rack, Slide lock, identify, clear, cycle, reload.” Not only should you learn to do it but you should know it to a point that you don’t have to look at it to clear it unless it just will not clear and return to operation with “Tap Rack” or “Tap Rack, Rip, Clear, Reload”. Learn to do it in the dark. You may well have to.

There is something to be said for the reliability of the Glock, Smith&Wesson M&P, and the Springfield XD. There are a few others in there. Buy the most dependable and reliable gun you can afford. Your life could certainly depend on it. It’s your defensive handgun not your target shooting, fun range day gun. You want it to go bang in that critical moment of need. Test it in a class.   TAP and RACK!