How to Fix Three Common Pistol Problems

Stovepipe Jam / Failure to Eject

A stovepipe jam occurs when a fired casing isn’t full ejected (hence the more technical name: Failure to Eject) and the slide comes forward, trapping it.

Any semiautomatic pistol can malfunction. As pistols are widely owned for self-defense purposes, you should drill to react quickly to malfunctions. Here are three of the most common issues and how to correct them. As always, as you perform these keep the gun pointed in a safe direction at all times and respect the other rules of gun safety.

Problem One: Stovepipe Jam

When the fired case is not fully ejected and is trapped by the returning slide, it looks a bit like a little smokestack sticking out above the ejection port. This is normally caused by underpowered ammunition, a very dirty chamber or a damaged case ejector.

Solution: Maintain a grip with the firing hand, with your trigger finger resting along the frame. Slap your other hand on top of the slide over the trapped casing. Sweep that hand back to clear that case and cycle the slide to chamber a new round.

Problem Two: Double Feed

This happens when one round enters the chamber with a second round stripped out of the gun’s magazine and trying to join it, with the second round jammed against the back of the first. This is most often caused by a defective magazine with worn feed lips.

Solution: The only way to clear a double feed is to hit the magazine release, strip the magazine from the pistol and then cycle several times to clear both of those rounds. Slam a new magazine in, cycle the slide to chamber a round and you’re good to go.

Problem Three: The Click

The trigger is pulled and you hear a “click” instead of a “bang.” Two causes are likely: Either your magazine was not fully inserted and the round failed to chamber or the round has a defective primer. Another, less common, cause is a broken firing pin.

Solution: Sharply tap the base of the magazine to assure it is properly seated in the gun and then rack the slide. This seats the magazine, clears a defective round and chambers a new one. There is one major caveat to this technique: If you get a “pop” or a “poof” instead of a “click,” the primer did not ignite properly and that bullet may be lodged in the barrel as a squib load. Or, if you rack the slide and an empty case comes out, you have the same thing. Do not fire another round! Stop and inspect the bore for any obstruction. Firing into an obstructed bore can result in gun damage, personal injury or both.