Firearms instructors offer advice on handling weapon malfunctions

Published: Feb. 28, 2013 at 10:51 PM CST|Updated: Apr. 29, 2013 at 6:40 PM CDT
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SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - With the number of people seeking their concealed handgun licenses dramatically increasing, there are a few things firearms instructors say all gun handlers need to know, especially when it comes to dealing with weapon and ammunition malfunctions.

NRA certified firearms instructor Sean Healy says there are three main malfunctions caused by the ammunition. How you respond while encountering a problem can make all the difference.

"If your gun goes 'click' instead of 'bang,' that could be a misfire, which means it's not going to fire at all. Or, it could be a hangfire, meaning there is going to be a perceptible delay," Healy says.

When a hangfire occurs, it could be seconds until the gun fires. Healy says you should continue to point the muzzle in a safe direction, keep your finger off the trigger and you wait for one to two minutes to find out if the malfunction is a hangfire or misfire.

A squib load, the third type of ammunition failure, is a noticeably less powerful shot. While pointing the gun in a safe direction, check to see if the barrel is obstructed.

"If you fire another round after that round when the barrel is obstructed, you could damage your gun and injure yourself," Healy says.

In a defensive situation when time is of the essence, you can use a Marine drill known as "tap, rack, bang" to clear a jam.

"If you're shooting and you have a failure, the "tap, rack, bang" is where you tap on the base of the magazine, you rack the slide and then, 'bang' you fire the gun again," Healy says.

That drill is supposed to clear most malfunctions, but it should only be used in a defensive situation.

DPS certified firearms instructor David Frick says safe handling eliminates most accidents.

"People come to my class and the first thing that they do is they put their finger in the trigger guard; that is wrong. Always keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you're ready to fire," says Frick.

Frick's main word of advice when shooting is to keep equal pressure on both sides of the weapon, and remember... if you encounter a malfunction, keep the gun pointed downrange until it's resolved.

The NRA's rules for safe gun handling are:

1) Always point the muzzle in a safe direction

2) When someone hands you a gun,  make sure it is not loaded

3) Keep your finger off the trigger unless you're ready to fire

Instructors say following those rules will ensure that you and the people around you won't be injured.

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