Competitive Shooting

Malfunction clearance

One of the worst things that can happen in a match is to have your gun break during a stage. A malfunction cost my buddy JJ Racaza a National title once, and if not properly managed can send not only a stage but an entire match down the tubes. There are two major tricks to keeping a malfunction from ruining your match. The first is to address it immediately – don’t stare thunderstruck at your gun wondering what happened, take immediate action. Get it cleared and get back to shooting.

In a video I shot recently, I had two malfunctions with my Colt 1911 Rail Gun. Both malfunctions were failures to feed caused by a lack of proper cold weather lubrication and the semi-wadcutter bullets I was using in the gun. The first malfunction requires a tap-rack-bang drill to clear, and the second merely required me to “tap” the bottom of the magazine to provide a jolt to seat the round. That’s step one of keeping your gun in the match – not losing your cool. Although the malfunctions cost me precious seconds, I kept my head and kept shooting.

The second most important thing is to not let a malfunction get inside your head. It’s very easy for a gun that doesn’t work right to wreck your confidence. In the back of your head you’re wondering “when is it going to go down again” and the worst part is that you just don’t know. That kind of uncertainty can wreck your concentration and make it very difficult to properly execute a stage plan, which is why if your gun malfs you need to put it out of your mind. If you can diagnose the failure as magazine related, toss the mag. If you can identify it as ammo related, switch ammo. Otherwise, you have to mentally “walk away” from the malfunction or risk losing your concentration on future stages.

The final part of malfunction clearance is that there’s no reason to get addicted to procedure. Many trainers teach “tap-rack-bang” as gospel, and in the first malfunction it worked quite well for me. The second malfunction was cleared just by hitting the magazine with my hand – if I had racked the slide I would have ejected a perfectly good round on the ground, which would have forced an additional reload to finish the stage, costing me even more time. Part of shooting well is being aware of what your gun is doing and being able to assess its condition – if the “tap” portion of a drill clears your gun, don’t dump a live round on the deck by racking slide, just get back to shooting.

Practice your malfunction clearances. Get yourself to the point that if your gun goes down during a match you don’t waste time staring at it, but instead take immediate action and get that gun back into the stage!

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Comments (3)

  1. While this article is aimed at the shooting sports, it’s very applicable to the CHL and self-defense aspects, where clearing a jam could be the most important thing you will ever do.

  2. Caleb,

    I can’t tell if this is an IDPA or IPSC if it’s IDPA you need to use cover more effectively. Nice shooting and fast clearing of malfunctions.

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