Common Pistol Malfunctions

June 14, 2023 10:14 am
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As a gun owner, you know that reliability is key to mastering the art of shooting. But what do you do when your pistol malfunctions? It can be frustrating, time-consuming, and even dangerous if not addressed properly. In this blog post, we will cover the most common pistol malfunctions that shooters experience and how to troubleshoot them effectively. From issues with ammunition to problems with pistol mechanics, we will guide you through proper cleaning, lubrication, and maintenance techniques to help prevent malfunctions altogether. We’ll also provide tips on how to practice overcoming failures so that you can shoot with confidence and precision every time. So let’s dive in and take your shooting game to the next level!

Common handgun malfunction causes

Pistol malfunctions can result from various factors like issues with ammunition or poor maintenance. Failure to feed may occur due to dirty magazines or improperly seated rounds, while failure to eject may be caused by weak extractor springs or dirty chambers. Regular cleaning and maintenance can help avoid these problems.

Cleaning and lubrication.

Regular cleaning and lubrication of your firearm are crucial for preventing common pistol malfunctions. Failure to maintain the gun properly can cause issues with firing, cartridges, squib loads, misfires, stovepipes, and double feeds. To prevent these malfunctions, you should follow proper safety rules when handling firearms and ensure that you always point the muzzle in a safe direction. When cleaning your firearm, disassemble it completely and clean each component thoroughly with a suitable cleaning solvent. Afterward, apply a thin layer of lubricant on all moving parts to ensure smooth operation.

It’s also necessary to identify the types of malfunction that your semi-automatic pistol may experience. Malfunctions can occur due to weak extractor springs or dirty chambers. Failure to feed or extract may occur due to dirty magazines or improperly seated rounds. Misfires can be caused by issues with the firing pin or problems with the ammunition primer. Stovepipes occur when spent casings fail to eject properly and can be caused by limp-wristing or other mechanical issues.

To prevent these types of problems from occurring, take your handgun to an experienced gunsmith for a thorough cleaning at least once every six months or after firing several hundred rounds through it.

Clean and lube

Ammunition (cartridge) issues

A gun owner must understand the different types and causes of malfunctions when it comes to common pistol malfunctions caused by ammunition issues. A misfire happens when the firing pin hits the primer but fails to ignite the propellant. Hangfires occur when there is a delay between hitting the primer and propellant ignition. Squib loads happen when a projectile does not exit the barrel due to insufficient propellant inside the cartridge case. Dud cartridges fail to fire altogether due to issues with the primer that ignites the propellant. To safely handle these dangerous situations, point your firearm in a safe direction and clear any malfunction before continuing shooting for range safety rules.

Squib loads

A common pistol malfunction that can lead to a dangerous situation is when there is not enough gunpowder in the cartridge case causing what is called a “squib load.” This type of malfunction prevents the bullet from exiting the muzzle with enough force which could cause the next round to become stuck in the barrel. To avoid squib loads, it’s important to regularly check your ammunition for defects or damage before shooting and listen for any unusual sounds during firing. If you suspect a squib load has occurred then immediately stop firing and safely unload your firearm. Regularly cleaning and maintaining your firearm can also help prevent ammunition-related malfunctions.

Dud ammo cause misfires

Misfires are a common pistol malfunction that can occur due to various reasons. One of them is dud cartridges. A dud cartridge is an ammunition malfunction that occurs when the primer fails to ignite the gunpowder during firing. This can be caused by issues such as improper storage or handling of ammunition. Therefore, it is important to purchase high-quality ammunition and store it properly.

In case of a misfire due to a dud cartridge, wait at least 30 seconds before attempting to clear the malfunction and always follow proper firearm safety rules when handling firearms and ammunition. Proper storage of ammunition is critical in preventing such malfunctions. It’s essential to ensure that you purchase good quality ammo and store it properly in order to avoid any accidents.

Hangfires delay ignition

If you find that there is a delay between pulling the trigger and the ammunition igniting, this means that you are experiencing hangfires. Hangfires are generally caused by old or wet ammo or insufficient primer ignition. To deal with this situation safely and efficiently always aim your pistol in a secure direction for at least 30 seconds before trying to solve the problem. You should also inspect your ammunition beforehand to ensure it’s both clean and dry while being within its expiration date.

By following these steps you can effectively prevent any dangerous situations from arising while firing your pistol. It’s important to note that range safety rules must always be followed to avoid any harm to bystanders. Remember that thorough cleaning and lubrication of your firearm can help prevent malfunctions such as hangfires from occurring.

Light primer strikes

Light primer strikes can cause failure to fire in a handgun, which is one of the most common pistol malfunctions. This type of malfunction occurs when there is not enough force on the primer for ignition. There are several factors that can contribute to light primer strikes, such as using old or improperly stored ammunition, an unclean firing pin, or disregarding the manufacturer’s recommendations for ammunition compatibility with your pistol model. To avoid such malfunctions, it is advisable to store your ammo in a cool and dry place and keep your firing pin clean and correctly lubricated. Seek assistance from a certified gunsmith if you experience persistent issues. Always prioritize range safety rules when handling firearms and ammunition.

Malfunctions due to mechanics

Pistol malfunction issues are multifaceted and can stem from various causes related to mechanics or ammunition troubles. If you experience any malfunction while firing your handgun always keep it pointed in a safe direction for at least 30 seconds before clearing the malfunction. Malfunction due to pistol mechanics include failure-to-feed, failure-to-extract, stovepipe (caused by weak recoil spring or limp wristing), double feed (due to broken extractor or damaged magazine), and slide lock malfunction (check slide stop lever or worn-out parts).

Classroom Instruction

Ammunition-related issues include squib load causing cartridge malfunction leading to getting stuck bullet in barrel requiring immediate attention from a gunsmith; dud cartridges cause misfires which may be dangerous in self-defense situations. Hangfires (delay between pulling trigger and ammunition igniting) can be caused by old or wet ammo, insufficient primer ignition, or improper storage of ammunition. Ensure to store your ammo properly, check compatibility with your pistol model, and clean the firing pin for optimal performance.

Make sure to inspect your ammunition before use, ensure it is clean and dry and within its expiry date. Proper cleaning and lubrication of your firearm will prevent many types of malfunctions ensuring range safety. Practicing drills like Tap Rack Bang Drill or Further Stoppage Drill will help overcome failures during a dangerous situation.


Failure to extract

Stoppages caused by failure to extract are one of the most common pistol malfunctions encountered. This occurs when spent casing remains in the chamber after firing. To avoid this potentially dangerous situation always remember range safety rules and point your firearm in a safe direction while attempting to solve this problem. Keeping your pistol clean through thorough cleaning and lubrication can go a long way in preventing such situations. If you experience failure to extract issues inspecting for issues with the extractor or ejector may help resolve these issues as well as inspecting for brass buildup in the ejection port area which can cause failures even in semi-automatic pistols with high-quality ammo. Practicing proper body mechanics such as avoiding limp wristing can also help prevent piston malfunctions such as using enough force during extraction or ejection while ensuring that you use appropriate ammunition for your caliber and type of firearm.

Double feeds

Double feeds may happen due to various reasons, including shooter error. It is essential to practice proper clearing techniques and maintain your pistol regularly to prevent such malfunctions from happening. Shooter mistakes can also result in other types of malfunctions like failure to extract or eject. Therefore, keeping your firearm clean and well-maintained will help you avoid these issues while firing safely and accurately. It is important to remember the safety rules at all times, keep muzzle pointed in a safe direction, keep your finger off trigger until ready to fire, and be aware of your target and what’s beyond it. Practicing range safety guidelines will help you identify and resolve any type of pistol malfunction quickly without endangering yourself or bystanders. Remember that regular training sessions with a gunsmith may also help you identify and fix common pistol malfunctions before they become dangerous situations.

Double Feed


If you hear “POOF” instead of a bang when firing your semi-auto pistol, it could indicate a squib load. However, if you hear an unexpected bang without pulling the trigger, it could be a slamfire. This malfunction can result from several factors such as worn or damaged components like the sear or hammer or improper assembly of your firearm. You should take immediate action in this dangerous situation –stop using the gun right away and seek professional repair. Regular inspections and maintenance are essential to prevent slamfires in your semi-automatic pistol when you fire it next time.


Stovepipe malfunctions can be caused due to various reasons such as weak or worn-out extractor springs, dirty or improperly lubricated guns, or improper grip technique. To prevent this type of malfunction while firing a handgun, make sure you have a tight and firm grip on the pistol and avoid any limp wristing or holding it too loosely. Furthermore, always keep your gun clean and well-lubricated before using it at the range for firing practices. In case you face a stovepipe malfunction while firing, remember to tap the bottom of the magazine to ensure its proper seating before racking the slide to eject the spent casing from the ejection port. Additionally, always remember to follow all safety rules for range safety and firearm handling when dealing with semi-automatic pistols to avoid any dangerous situations.


Tips for Troubleshooting Common Pistol Malfunctions

To ensure reliable firing, every responsible shooter must adhere to safety rules when using pistols. Thorough cleaning and lubrication of the firearm is a good idea, as it will help prevent malfunctions due to fouling. Furthermore, using high-quality ammo decreases the likelihood of cartridge malfunctions like squib loads or duds that cause misfires. Understanding types of malfunctions such as stovepipes or double feeds can enable quick resolution in dangerous situations by tapping the bottom of the magazine or clearing casings safely in a range environment. Remember to keep a firm grip on your gun and avoid limp-wristing while firing to prevent stoppages caused by shooter error. Following these tips will help prevent common pistol malfunctions and increase the safety of bystanders and yourself.

Clearing pistol malfunctions

“Slap, rack, and roll” is a simple and effective technique used to clear common pistol malfunctions swiftly. It involves slapping the magazine to ensure it is properly seated, racking the slide to eject any malfunctioning round, and then rolling your hand back onto the grip to resume firing. This technique enables quick remediation of malfunctions, keeping you in the fight and ensuring the reliability of your firearm.

Overcoming Failures

To practice effectively and overcome failures in pistol shooting, you need to be well-versed with the types of malfunctions that may occur while using a semi-automatic pistol. Thorough cleaning and lubrication of your firearm are critical in ensuring proper functioning without any stoppages or malfunctions. Consistent training sessions can help in developing muscle memory as well as enhancing your accuracy while shooting. Understanding how to quickly diagnose and resolve mishaps like failure to extract or double feeds can make all the difference in dangerous situations such as self-defense scenarios. Seeking assistance from a gunsmith or taking up professional training courses can help further improve your troubleshooting abilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

How shooters prevent firearm malfunctions?

To prevent pistol malfunctions, it’s important to maintain and clean your firearm frequently. Additionally, using reliable ammunition and handling the pistol with proper grip and stance while shooting can also reduce the risk of malfunctions. Ensure you know how to properly load and unload your firearm as well. It is possible to detect warning signs of pistol issues before a malfunction occurs, such as failure to eject or feed. Pay attention to any unusual sounds or feelings during firing and conduct regular maintenance to prevent malfunctions.

Steps to effectively address stoppage?

In the event of a malfunction during a shooting session, stay calm and identify the type of problem before safely addressing it. Consistent practice of clearing techniques can build muscle memory and speed up the process. Always prioritize gun safety rules, such as safe direction handling.

Hammer-fired pistols: more reliable than other types?

The reliability of a handgun depends on various factors, including the specific make and model, maintenance, and ammunition used. While hammer-fired pistols have been in use for a long time and have a proven track record of reliability, other types of handguns, such as striker-fired pistols, have gained popularity due to their simpler design and consistent trigger pull.

Hammer Fired


Reliable shooting is all about being prepared for the worst-case scenarios. There are several reasons why malfunctions can occur in pistols, including issues with ammunition and pistol mechanics. Fortunately, by following proper cleaning and lubrication techniques, understanding common pistol malfunctions, and practicing drills to overcome failures, you can ensure that your firearm functions reliably when you need it most. If you want to know more about how to keep your firearm in top condition, get in touch with our experts today.

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Contact us if you have any questions about the Texas LTC. Our contact information is as follows: ( or call 281-744-1776).

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