By: Greg Chabot
Photos by Sasha Steadman

With the amount of time I spend at the range, I see a growing number of shooters not knowing how to do Immediate Action (IA) to their semi-auto handgun in case of a malfunction. This could cost the shooter his or her life in a deadly encounter.
Though untrue, there is a train of thought that brand A or B will never malfunction. All weapons can malfunction, and so IA drills should be an important part of your training. I am going to focus on home defense/concealed carry for this article.

My carry gun varies. Sometimes a striker fired, sometimes DA/SA (Double Action/Single Action) or a 1911. If I find myself in an engagement, and my weapon fails, the first thing I do is Look: I look to see if I have a double feed or a stovepipe malfunction. If I hear a “click,” I know the weapon has misfired.

IA for a Misfire
For a misfire, I promptly tap the bottom of the mag and jack the slide to chamber a new round. If you carry a striker fired weapon or a single action, you are going to have to jack the slide anyways. I know, we have all had the misfire that you pick up later, and it works the second time. In a life or death situation, jack in a new round and live. This could possibly resolve a failure to feed also. I do not believe in tapping the back of the slide to force a round to chamber. The round didn’t chamber for a reason, and you could potentially cause a catastrophic failure of your weapon by forcing a round to chamber or make a malfunction more difficult to clear.


In the case of a double feed, after looking, I strip the magazine out of the weapon. Why, you ask? I want to clear my weapon and get back in the fight as quickly as possible. With a double feed, stripping the magazine will clear part of the malfunction. Jacking the slide should finish clearing the weapon. I then insert a fresh mag and jack the slide to chamber a round to get back in the fight. Most issues with semiautos are magazine or ammo related. I carry an extra mag, not because I see myself in a prolonged fight, but more for IA in case I have a weapon malfunction.

IA for a Stovepipe
After looking, I place my weak hand in front of the stuck case, then jack the slide as hard as I can to clear the case and chamber a fresh round. Yes, you might cut your hand and leave some meat on the slide. Cuts heal quicker than gunshot wounds. I turn the weapon to the ejection port side, as my goal is to clear the malfunction as quickly as possible. I want to get back in the fight and win.


For training, I keep a few magazines that are marked “bad” and put them in my mag holder to use them in drills to keep in practice. Or you can have a shooting buddy put an empty case in your weapon as a stovepipe. Or use dummy rounds to simulate a misfire or double feed, etc.

Preventing Malfunctions
The best way to prevent malfunctions is to keep your weapon properly maintained. You should experiment with various brands of ammo to test for reliability in your weapon. I will fire at least 200 rounds of what I use for carry- ammo through my weapon to ensure reliability on top of what I shoot for training.

Expensive? How much is your life worth to you? Magazines I consider a disposable item. If you have a bad mag, buy a new one. If I have a problem mag, I mark it. If problems persist, I either use it for training or take a ball-peen hammer to it. Don’t give it to someone else unless they know it’s junk. It always amazes me that a person will spend top-dollar on a weapon but buy cheap magazines for it. You get what you pay for.

I advise folks to invest in dummy rounds. You can practice misfire drills in your living room with dummy rounds until it becomes second-nature. Tacticool gear doesn’t win fights, keeping it simple does.

Make IA a regular part of your training. The more you practice, the more IA will become engrained and keep you in the fight and alive. Gear is not a substitute for training ever!