Let’s break down the five most common types of handgun malfunctions and what you should do about them if you encounter them.
Troubleshooting Handgun Malfunctions
Handguns are the simplest and most common types of firearms in America. Everyone has one (or should, in our opinions!).
Although these weapons are exceptionally easy to use and understand, they can also malfunction, just like their more complicated counterparts: rifles and shotguns.
Here are some of the common handgun malfunctions you can expect and how to work your way around them:
1. Hammer Follows
The basic mechanical process of firing a gun goes like this:
- You pull the trigger, which either both draws back the hammer and releases it or just releases the hammer after being manually drawn back by your thumb.
- The hammer hits the firing pin.
- A chain reaction starts as the pin ignites the primer of a cartridge.
- The cartridge expelled from the weapon as a result of that explosive reaction.
But sometimes, your hammer doesn’t stop falling when it slams down on the pin.
In the case of a hammer follow, the hammer may follow the bolt and firing pin into the handgun’s battery.
This results in your weapon firing without needing to pull the trigger when you next load a cartridge or if one is fed automatically – a bad state indeed.
The best way to avoid this type of malfunction is to inspect your weapon and perform regular maintenance (spoiler alert – this goes for practically all malfunctions, as well as the ones below).
2. Failure to Feed or Eject
Failures to feed happen when rounds are not properly fed into your handgun’s firing chamber.
Meanwhile, a failure to eject happens when an empty cartridge case or round doesn’t clear the ejection port.
In most cases, you’ll be most likely to experience these issues if you fire self-loaded or hand-loaded ammunition.
It's easier for human hands to mess up with the shaping or crimping of a bullet than a machine.
To avoid this issue, be sure to take the time to inspect every cartridge you plan to use with your gun.
Similarly, make sure your ejection port is clear and clean every time you use your handgun.
3. Delayed Discharge
When you pull the trigger of your handgun, you expect it to go off immediately.
When this doesn’t happen, you have a delayed discharge.
Inexperienced shooters might waive their guns around, accidentally hitting someone when the round eventually goes off.
In any case, if your gun doesn’t fire after pulling the trigger, treat it like a loaded weapon about to go off.
Your barrel should be kept downrange as you carefully remove and dispose of the round.
Never try to use it again since it’s clear that something went wrong with the dud cartridge.
Don’t leave the cartridge inside your handgun, either. This could lead to an explosion in either damage your weapon or cause serious injuries.
4. Incomplete Discharge
A cousin malfunction is an incomplete discharge, which happens when your round doesn’t fully exit your handgun's barrel before exploding.
As you can imagine, this could cause your gun to explode and, in turn, cause significant damage to your hand or face.
In most cases, incomplete discharges happen when there is an obstruction in the barrel.
Be sure to clean your weapon thoroughly to prevent these.
5. Dud Rounds
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“Dud” rounds are any cartridges that have inherent malfunctions in their primers or powders.
Something with the explosive chain reaction isn’t right.
Again, always dispose of these rounds carefully and while pointing your gun downrange since you can’t tell if it’s a delayed discharge or a dud round until further examination.
Getting to Know Your Gun
Using a handgun will normally go off without a hitch so long as you practice regular preventative maintenance and follow good gun safety protocols.
Yet, it’s still a good thing to know how to handle these five common handgun malfunctions in case you ever run into them yourself.
Have you ever experienced a handgun malfunction? Can you share how you fixed it? We'd love to hear your story in the comments section!