November 10th, 2022

Coping with Semi-Auto Pistol Malfunctions — CTD Blog

pistol handguns semi-auto hang fire misfeed double feed stovepipe squib load

The Cheaper Than Dirt Shooter’s Log has a very helpful article for pistol shooters. This CTD article identifies five common malfunctions in semi-auto pistols, and explains how to deal with the five issues safely.

This can be very important — even life-saving. For example, with a hang fire, i.e. a round that does not fire immediately, it is vital to keep the gun pointed DOWN-RANGE. And with a squib load, which may have left a round inside the barrel, it is vital to UNLOAD and NOT take another shot! If you did, the gun could blow up in your hand when the second, full-charge bullet hits the trapped bullet.

The Five Topics Covered Are:

Misfeed (aka Tip-Up)
Double Feed

Stovepipe (Failure to Extract)
Misfire / Hangfire

Squib Load

1. Misfeed or Tip-Up: With any misfeed you should stop firing. With the muzzle pointed safely down-range, remove the magazine, then pull the slide back and remove the round that did not feed. Check the slide for dirt, debris, and check the round that did not feed. After re-inserting the magazine, make sure the mag is seated properly.

2. Double-Feed: This is a fairly common issue with some gun types with worn springs or cheap magazines. Again you want to remove the magazine. CTD states: “Remove the magazine and cycle the action until your double-fed rounds fall out — always keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction[.]”

3. Stove-Pipe: This occurs when the case of a fired round does not eject fully. There can be many causes — damaged extractor, low-pressure powder charge, dirty chamber, or greasy cartridge brass. In addition the issue is common with old, worn-out recoil springs. To avoid Stove-Pipes, replace the recoil spring every 4000 rounds, and make sure your chamber is clean and the extractor is not chipped or damaged.

4. Misfires and Hang-Fires: There are multiple causes for misfires (“click no bang”) and hang-fires (slow ignition). There can be a defective primer, the firing pin could be damaged, the powder many have been bad, or the case not filled properly. With a misfire, keep the gun pointed down-range at least one minute. If the case does not fire, eject it but leave it on the ground. With a hang-fire (delayed ignition after firing pin strike), keep the gun pointed down-range, then drop the magazine and eject the (new) unfired cartridge in the chamber and inspect the gun when completely empty.

5. Squib Load: A squib load is when the gun fires, but the actual case ignition is very light with little noise, smoke, or recoil. This can be because the case had a primer but no powder. Or it can be because the powder did not ignite. Squib loads can be very dangerous in rapid-fire situations. If you EVER get a squib load STOP immediately! Do NOT fire another round! This is because the squib may have left a bullet inside the barrel.