Malfunctions

‘Bank’ Dry-Fire Practice Memory
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If Loading doesn’t fix the problem, it’s time to Unload, then Load. Pull the magazine from the pistol and hold it.
Cycle the slide aggressively three times. Once the slide is going into battery (the slide “feels” right) it’s time to load.

Everyone practices empty reloads — you just fire til empty and reload. Yet, during a confrontation, an empty reload probably won’t be the deciding factor. The numbers seen most often for rounds fired in self-defense shootings are three and four. And your pistol holds how many rounds? Just maintain control, shoot accurately and you won’t need to reload. Just remember to expect the unexpected, though.

The chances of having a malfunction during a fight, when things are far less than perfect, are high. Under stress people make mistakes. Maybe your firing position doesn’t provide the pistol enough resistance to function, creating a “stove pipe” or failure to eject. Malfunctions are always unexpected. A weapon experiencing mechanical troubles, like a broken ejector — during a fight — requires clearing for every shot fired. Think about it.

The ability to clear a stoppage efficiently under imperfect conditions — without delay — is mandatory. Learning this requires lots of repetition, as in the thousands. The best way to bank these repetitions is with dummy ammunition — non-firing rounds for training/practice — and a few minutes of daily dry drills.

The very best way to learn to clear stoppages is dry practice with dummy ammunition — don’t use live ammo!

Before You Start

The number one concern with dry practice is always safety. The four safety rules are always in effect. You have a backstop capable of trapping any unintentional shots, no live ammunition is in the area and “Done” means stop! Most negligent shots occur after someone decides they’re finished, loads their weapon — forgets — then decides to perform the drill “one more time.” And, even though it’s dry practice, malfunctions are easier to do using the Coach & Shooter format.

To clear malfunctions I teach a “non-diagnostic binary technique.” You press the trigger and it doesn’t fire. Step 1: Load. You attempt to load, but the way the slide feels when you rack it says, “That didn’t work.” Step 2: Unload then Load again. This two-step approach — Load/Unload & Load — is efficient, easy to learn and to apply. You don’t need to identify what type of malfunction you have, or decide how to fix it. The only reason you need to distinguish between the stoppages is setting them up for practice.

A “Type I” stoppage is caused by a faulty round, a bad primer, no round in the chamber, magazine wasn’t seated so the slide didn’t chamber a round, or for some reason the slide is out of battery.

Load the pistol with a mag full of dummy rounds. Get on-target and press — no “bang.” Load. Come off the trigger, tap to ensure the mag is seated and rack the slide to load. Press and repeat, again and again. At some point the slide locks to the rear on the empty mag. Reload, with another mag full of dummies. Coach watches to ensure the process is safe and the sequence is correct.

Most stoppages in a fight are created by the shooter, but faulty ammo can also create a stoppage.

More Practice

The “Type II” is a failure to eject an empty piece of brass — a “smokestack” or “stovepipe.” Load with dummy ammo. Pull the slide slightly to the rear without ejecting the chambered round. The coach places a dummy round or empty piece of brass into the ejection port. Shooter releases the slide, trapping the obstruction in place.

Get on-target and press. It doesn’t fire. Load. Off the trigger, tap to seat the mag and rack the slide to load. Don’t skip “tap.” During live fire some pistols will create a Type II if the mag isn’t locked in place.

A Type III is the “dreaded double feed” — two things/objects, an empty piece of brass and/or live rounds, trying to occupy the chamber. Unload, then manually lock the slide to the rear. Point the muzzle down so Coach can insert a dummy round into the chamber. Keep the muzzle down, put in a mag full of dummy rounds and pull the slide rearward to release it.

Go on-target, press and nothing. You attempt to load, but racking the slide doesn’t clear the stoppage. Time to unload. You’ll need to pull the mag from the pistol and the slide is trying to feed the top round from the mag so it won’t drop free. A great reason for extended base pads on your mags, by the way. I retain the magazine, it’s normally not the problem, putting it in the pinky finger of the firing hand where it’s ready when it’s time to load. Cycle the slide aggressively three times to clear out the trash. Once the slide feels right — it’s going into battery — index and seat the mag, and rack the slide to chamber a round. If racking three or four times doesn’t clear out the trash the pistol is jammed or broken, requiring time and tools to correct.

Daily dry practice, 10 or 15 minutes a day, is the easy way to bank these repetitions. Plus, the learning curve with dry practice is steeper than during live fire. Don’t try to go fast. Slow down, make every repetition a good one. You’re striving for efficiency, and developing the ability to clear a stoppage immediately under stressful conditions and without delay. But, it takes time. The chances of your fight involving a malfunction are high. Dry practice could well be the deciding factor in your fight.

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