Handgun Malfunctions 201: Intermediate Action

By on August 12, 2014

Two weeks ago, I wrote about Handgun Malfunctions and how you can fix them with a simple Tap-Rack-Roll to the Right.  If you haven’t read it, go read it first.  There are a couple of safety considerations that should be looked at before trying to learn the next step in clearing your handgun (if you don’t know what a squib round or audible pop is, go read this first).

If Immediate Action (Tap-Rack-Roll to the right) doesn’t work, then what?  I normally do it again.  My experience with handguns is that if it doesn’t work the first time, it’s not going to work the second time, but with rifles it does about half the time.  I’d like to claim commonality of training, but in reality, my brain is trained when the weapon doesn’t fire, do Immediate Action.  So it takes me twice before my brain engages and I think to do something else.

That something else is Intermediate Action.  The military has taught some version of SPORTS (Army Version: Slap the Mag, Pull the Slide back, Observe the brass coming out, Release the slide, Tap it forward, Shoot; Marine Corps: Seek Cover, Pull Slide to the rear, Observe for Brass or Obstruction, Release the Slide, Tap it forward, Sight in and attempt to fire… I had to pull my Green Monster for that one).  All are just crap.  It takes too long and you have to figure out what happened and then, how to clear it.

Here’s a sure fire way to clear your weapon without looking or knowing what’s wrong with it.  I got the technique from Bill Murphy at Firearms Training Associates and the song to describe it from Suarez International.

After trying Tap-Rack-Roll go for Lock-Rip-Work-Reload and don’t look at the gun.

Step by Step:

  • LockLock the slide to the rear to take the spring tension off of what ever is in the chamber. If you don’t the problem is held inside the gun by the recoil spring trying to put the gun back into battery.
  • Rip Grab the magazine and rip it out of the gun.  Most of the time when there is a problem you will have a round partially out of the magazine and it will hang up in the chamber or feed ramp keeping the magazine from following out of the gun.  Rip that magazine out to get it out of the way.
  • Work Now that everything is out of the way, run the gun, sling shot it, power stroke it, or what ever you want to call it, three times.  Don’t be timid, there may be something stuck in the chamber.  Grab the top of the slide with your off hand thumb pointed at you (PIC) and run the gun as hard as you can all three times.
  • Reload Get a fresh magazine and put it in the gun if you have one because most of the time that magazine is your problem.  Put that magazine in smartly and rack the slide one more time to get a fresh round back in the chamber.

You can do this in seconds and it will fix almost any problem you have with a handgun.  There are only a few things that this won’t help to clear your problem, but we’ll go over that in the next post.

To set up a drill to practice, the easiest way is to create a double feed.  To do that, lock the slide to the rear, insert a magazine, with the slide still open, drop a loose round (of the appropriate caliber) into the top of the gun and hit the slide release.  Both rounds will try to get into the chamber and create a mess.  For bonus points before you start, smack the back of the slide forward to get everything stuck.  This will force you to run the gun with some authority to clear it.

After creating the mess, try Tap-Rack-Roll, sometimes it works.  If it doesn’t, Lock the slide to the rear, Rip the magazine out (I like to retain it just in case it’s my last one), Work the slide three times hard and fast, Reload the gun with a new magazine if you have one and then work the slide one more time to chamber a round.

You can do this drill live fire on the range or use dummy rounds at your home.  Either way, do this a lot until it becomes automatic and you’ll be on top of 99.9% of all malfunction issues.

Stay Safe,





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  1. Handgun Malfunctions 401: Broken Guns | Modern Self Protection - […] immediate action and what you should do if you think your gun should fire but it doesn’t.  In Handgun…

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