On Monday, I talked about carrying spare magazines with your carry gun. The most common reason given for carrying extra ammo is because you never know how many rounds might be required to fend off an attacker. But that’s not the only reason. Semi-autos can run into issues with cycling, and in some cases, these malfunctions are difficult to recover from unless you have a spare magazine handy. Usually, this is due to the infamous double feed malfunction…

How to Clear a Double Feed Malfunction

Safety Note: In the video, I demonstrated the malfunction clearance both with snap cap dummy rounds as well as with live ammo. When setting up your pistol for double feed malfunction drills on the range with live ammo, use some kind of dummy rounds for the chambered cartridge. If none are available, just be careful to ease the slide forward on the live round so the primer in the chambered round isn’t struck with enough force to set it off. That would be bad.

Alternative Methods

My favored version of the malfunction clearance drill for a double feed is the Lock, Drop, Rack, Rack, Rack, Insert, Rack, Bang (or LDRx3IRB™ if you like catchy initials). At the end of the video, I mentioned a different method that can be done with a single magazine, in which you would just hold or stow the magazine you removed instead of letting it drop once the chamber is clear.

A third variation also omits the “lock” step of the drill. If you’re able to get a good grip on the base of the magazine, you can often rip it out by force while pressing the magazine release. Then you would rack to clear the chamber, re-insert the mag, and rack, bang as normal. These latter two versions of the malfunction clearance are a lot easier if the mags have large base pads, but it may still be possible with low profile mags if you can “claw” them out by the baseplate with your fingers or fingernails.

Efficiency vs. Speed

The clearance drill I used in the video is the version I believe to be most efficient, but not necessarily the fastest. That claim would go to the last technique I just mentioned. That is, assuming all goes according to plan. If you can’t get a good grip on the magazine when attempting to remove it, or you drop it while trying to rack the slide, then you could end up taking at least twice as long to recover. The LDRx3IRB™ is also a complex set of motions to attempt under stress, but I believe it’s much easier to accomplish because it eliminates the need to attempt to retain the original magazine.

Another down side to not using a spare magazine for the malfunction clearance is that sometimes the the magazine itself is the cause of the malfunction to begin with. If that’s the case, then reinserting the offending magazine means you might have to perform the drill all over again. Using a second magazine reduces this risk.

Plan B

Carrying a spare magazine just in case you run into a malfunction in a life threatening situation might be a diligent thing to do, but that should be plan B. When a pistol goes “click” instead of “bang”, most of the time a simple tap-rack will fix the problem. In terms of training time, I’d place priority on getting in some good practice with tap-rack-bang drills before becoming too preoccupied with the double-feed clearance. Both are good things to have in your tool box, but the basic tap-rack is easier to master and is a lot more likely to be needed.

Most of the time, however, well-maintained quality equipment will prevent the need for performing any kind of malfunction clearance. All guns have stoppages at one time or another, but you can drastically cut down on their frequency by sticking to the following guidelines:

  1. Keep your guns lubricated. Even if you don’t clean very often, lubricate your pistol regularly
  2. Replace magazines periodically, especially if they are loaded and unloaded frequently.
  3. Use quality self-defense ammo that’s been adequately function tested in your individual carry gun.
  4. Read your owner’s manual for your pistol and replace wear parts at recommended intervals.
  5. Avoid relying on budget-quality guns for self-defense. I won’t go into detail here on what qualifies as “budget-quality”, but look for that to be addressed in a future post.

If you use quality gear and take good care of it, then you should not be seeing many double feeds on the range. In fact, if I witnessed my carry gun experiencing a double feed more often than once every 1000 rounds or so without a clear cause that could be easily fixed (e.g., change ammo brands, replace extractor, etc), then I would probably carry something different. Quality guns and gear are more affordable now than they have ever been in the past. It’s wise to know how to quickly clear semi-auto malfunctions, but unless you’re on an extremely tight budget, there’s no good reason to carry a gun that is so failure prone that your chance of a double-feed in a self-defense situation is of any statistical significance. Depending on how strongly you believe in Murphy’s Law, you may choose to carry a spare magazine anyway, and that’s fine, but don’t give Murphy any extra help by carrying crappy or poorly maintained gear.

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  • Cincy Brian

    Only thing I can add to this is that during a malfunction clearance, even under the minor pressure of match shooting, getting the magazine out is often done with much “oomph” and little finesse. Hence, that primary magazine gets dropped sometimes, who knows where. Hence a spare or two is always with me.

    • LG Chris

      Agreed, Brian, which is why I prefer the method used in the video. Will IDPA penalize you for dropping a partially full mag if it’s for a malfunction clearance?

    • Jeff Tiquia

      LG Chris No, Page 14 of the rulebook: 3.11.3. Malfunction Clearing Exception: When clearing a malfunction, the magazine or speed loader/moon clip and /or ammunition that may have caused the malfunction does not need to be retained by the shooter and will incur no penalty if dropped.

  • Paul Dixon

    While in service this was standard operational procedure.

  • Paul Dixon

    Then of course in service we worked with our personal equipment so much we broke down weapons blindfolded. We had companions many times.

  • Michael Bartell

    Chris, I think you have done a disservice to your viewers. As an instructor that has trained dozens of law enforcement and private citizens, i can tell you that your advice on the type 3 malfunction is in error. Why do I say this? Simply speaking, it is because you end with the direction to go “Bang”! My advice to you and others that teach this method is to rethink that part of the exercise. Think of it this way: while in a gunfight you have this malfunction and immediately go to cover then try to fix the problem. If you have no cover then it is a good thing to have a back-up weapon because it will take too long to fix this problem in the middle of an actual gunfight. With adrenaline flowing and the stress of the fight you will have lost your small motor skills or at least diminished them quite a bit. Consequently, go to cover and fix the problem with your gun and then point back in and make a decision whether or not to shoot at this point. It should not be an automatic reflex to shoot because things have changed since the problem occurred. There might be civilians in between you and the perpetrator or you may now be in a position that a stray round might hit a populated area not intended to be the target. In simple terms, every time you press the trigger you must take responsibility for that round and where it goes. You cannot be certain that your target hasn’t changed position since you encountered the problem. Be safe and keep everyone else around the situation safe as well as best you can. Mike

  • Tom Galloway

    thanks for the lock info

  • Nicholas Pratt

    On many polymer frame pistols (Glocks, FNS/FNX, and M&P for sure) you can speed up the drill by just pressing the mag release and pulling slide to the rear. Once you take the slide pressure off of the top round in the magazine, the mag will drop free. Then go ahead and rack rack rack, insert rack, assess. This does not work with all pistols (I know it does not work of Beretta 92s or 1911s) so if you are interested in using this method, please please please try it a bunch of times to make sure A. if works every time on your pistol, and B. you can do it quickly and automatically under stress.

    • LG Chris

      Thanks Nicholas. I originally learned the drill on a 1911 and hadn’t thought to try it a different way after switching over to using primarily polymer pistols

    • Nicholas Pratt

      LG Chris I leaned the “faster” method in a combaticve pistol class that was taught by LE/SWAT operator/instructors. They both used Glocks. I had my FNS in the class and it worked perfectly every time. It is of particular benefit for people who would have to shift their grip around to reach the slide lock. However, it might even speed up your time!

  • Bob Brown

    I have never been a fan of “Tap, Rack, Bang” . If you drill tap, rack, bang, into your muscle memory when the real day comes no matter what is in front of you gun if you have drilled and drilled tap, rack, bang. Then you will do that same thing even if you brain says STOP!!! STOP!! STOP!! you will TAP, RACK, BANG and could shot something or god forbid someone.
    I use TAP, Rack-Flip, Assess. Then decide if I need to put more rounds down rang.
    I feel strongly that we should STOP teaching TAP, RACK, BANG.

    • LG Chris

      Yes, substituting “assess” for “bang” seems to be more en vogue these days. Admittedly, the “bang” version is better suited for competition, or possibly those who expect to see actual combat. For civilian self-defense, I can see the case for “assess” over “bang”. However, I’m curious how one programs “assess” during normal practice. “Assess” is a fairly abstract concept that you can’t just actively practice and develop muscle memory for, especially on a static range where there is never anything new to “assess” after clearing the malfunction. I think “tap, rack, assess” sounds nice, but I wonder how it actually plays out other than to engrain “tap, rack, pause… bang?” into one’s memory.

      In the unlikely event that one of us has to fire in self-defense AND we have a malfunction, isn’t “tap, rack, assess” just as likely to lead to an unnecessary (and potentially deadly) hesitation when we should be firing as “tap, rack, bang” is to cause a different kind of tragic mistake?

    • Bob Brown

      LG Chris For me when I’m doing malfunction drills I preform the drill by first only looking at the gun to diagnose the malfunction while moving to cover/concealment then preforming the steps to clear the malfunction without looking at the gun again. once the malfunction is cleared I end the drill pointed in on target.
      If you have someone with your training you could have them shout to tell you to shot or not to shot.

  • Daniel James Engstrom

    thanks for the video, My ruger (SR9) just started doing this with almost every round, I have had to forcibly take the empty out, I am hoping I just got bad ammo. Next time I go will be taking different brand ammo..

    • LG Chris

      Daniel, what ammo are you using with it? That should definitely not be happening. If the ammo or magazines are not the clear culprit, I’d call Ruger ASAP.

    • Daniel James Engstrom

      LG Chris this box was Winchester. I bought it brand new in Feb2013 and have put about 500 rounds through it. As soon as I am able to go shooting again I will be taking different ammo with me. and if it still does it I will be contacting Ruger.

  • Mark Shtino

    Just racking will not cut it. The most likely cause of this malfunction is a failure to extract, either the round itself is damaged or your extractor is damaged or sticking. To be effective you should rack back then force forward into full battery to encourage the extractor to do its job, and it may take more than 3 times.

  • Doug Bowen

    Enjoyed the info! Thanks!

  • Patrick Michael Imlay

    These techniques will work for a double feed, but there is a better quicker way that doesn’t waste any ammo. First after you evaluate and discover double feed, you point your muzzle toward the ground and keep it pointed there until ready to fire. Then you lock the slide, strip the magazine Don’t drop it!!. Reset the top round in the magazine(it will be slightly forward and can be pushed back with one finger). Now.. Rack(make sure you are still pointed down), reinsert magazine. Bang. It works every time and doesn’t lose a single round. With a little bit of practice it is faster than any other technique too.

    • That might work, but it overlooks the fact that you may be re-inserting the round and/or magazine that induced the malfunction to begin with. That’s fine for the range, but not a good habit to be in for either self-defense or competition contexts.

  • Pablo

    Let me ask you a question. you always have to trow the magazine ? or u can use the same ?