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April 20 : 2017  
Skill Set: Malfunctions
Two weeks ago we discussed the Empty Reload, the first of the Functional Manipulations. This week we're looking at malfunctions.

Once you learn how to work malfunctions with two hands it's time to learn how to work them with only one hand.
Morrison, in "The Modern Technique of the Pistol," tells us, "… a malfunction defines an inoperable condition which can be corrected immediately by the shooter." The malfunction may be a mechanical problem, a faulty round of ammo or due to a mistake made by the shooter. (A jam requires time and possibly tools to correct.)

The Type I malfunction could be due to an empty chamber or a bad round of ammo. You press the trigger and it doesn't fire. The pistol stays on target, just like with the empty reload. Finger off the trigger! Tap to ensure the magazine is seated. Cycle or rack the slide – aggressively - to load the pistol. You're still on target ready to fire if needed.

These same actions – loading the pistol – clears Type II malfunctions, which is a failure to eject an empty case, commonly called a "stovepipe." This could result from an improper grip, not applying isometric tension between the arms – pushing with the firing arm and pulling back with the support arm – or problems with the extractor or ejector. To clear the Type II you load the pistol as described above.

Type III malfunction is called a "double feed." Two things are trying to occupy one hole. An extra round can slip out of the magazine during the firing sequence. There could be an empty piece of brass in the chamber; the extractor is worn or broken. Not cycling the slide aggressively can create a double feed. Ultimately we're not worried about why it happened. The focus is on getting the pistol running again.

The pistol doesn't fire. You attempt to "load" the pistol, but when cycling the slide it doesn't go fully forward into battery. It's time to unload and then load.

Unloading starts by removing the mag. It won't drop free because there's a round sticking partially out of the mag, so you'll have to strip it out. (If you can't pull it out you'll need to lock the slide to the rear to remove the mag.) The mag goes into the pinky finger of the firing hand and you cycle the slide three times, just like always when unloading. Once the slide feels good – it's traveling all the way forward into battery – load the pistol.

The top round may be sticking partially out of the mag, so make sure to position the mag properly in the support hand, using the first finger to push that round back into the mag or flip it out of the way. Once loaded you're ready to shoot again if necessary.

The key with all your manipulations, but especially the Functional Manipulations, is to be able to clear them immediately, without delay. This level of efficiency is going to take lots of practice. Dummy ammo is the ideal way to get in the repetitions necessary to learn. Practice, and then practice some more. Once you've learned them, practice to ensure you're staying proficient. If you've got a pistol that never malfunctions, practice them even more. Remember, malfunctions are always unexpected. Make sure you're ready.

Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns" - writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - McKee's new book, AR-15 Skills and Drills, is available off Shootrite's website:

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