5 Common Firearms Malfunctions & How to Fix Them

5 Common Firearms Malfunctions
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5 Common Firearms Malfunctions & How to Fix Them

As long as firearms exist, instances of malfunction can and will occur. And that's true for guns that shoot the popular 9mm caliber.

It’s not a matter of if but when these issues occur. When they do, it’s important to know exactly what you’re dealing with and how to fix it.

5 Common Gun Malfunctions That Can Occur With 9mm

Weird things can go wrong with guns. But if a malfunction occurs, it's usually a common issue, such as the five below.

Some of these can occur with any 9mm guns while some are relevant to AR pistols that shoot 9mm.

1. Failure to fire

A failure to fire occurs when you pull the trigger and the gun doesn’t go bang. There are only a few reasons why this might happen.

The first is because there’s no round in the chamber.

If you pull the trigger and feel or hear a click but no bang, you might not have chambered a round.

The next is bad ammunition. This one is less common nowadays because modern ammo is made to exacting standards and you can expect quality, especially if you buy it from a reputable site.

However, the ammo might have gotten wet or otherwise damaged, which could cause the primer or propellant to fail.

In those cases, it usually won’t fire.

There’s also the issue of a bad primer or a light primer strike. In this case, either the primer itself is bad or something happened to prevent your firearm from going into battery.

Going into battery refers to the gun completing its cycle and loading a round fully into the chamber with the striker in proper position.

If that doesn’t happen, the striker isn’t positioned close enough to deliver proper force to the primer.

Without correct force, it won’t ignite the powder in the round.

2. Failure to feed

There are multiple ways this issue will manifest itself, but two are most common.

Either two rounds try to load simultaneously, also called a double feed, or something hinders the round from being picked up from the magazine and properly loaded. 

When this occurs, your gun doesn't go into battery. In most cases, it’ll either appear mostly closed or look similar to when it’s empty.

3. Failure to extract

In a failure to extract, something stops your firearm from properly removing the spent shell casing from the chamber.

This can mean it doesn’t move the round at all or that the round moves only partially out of the chamber.  

4. Failure to eject

A failure to eject is similar to a failure to extract. Sometimes it's caused by a failure to extract.

In a failure to eject, the spent casing comes out of the chamber but stays in the gun. One common version of this is called “stove piping.”

This is where the empty shell sticks in an upward position while the bolt or slide comes forward again, causing it to look like the chimney pipe on a stove.

In most cases of a failure to extract, the extractor is the issue. However it could also be the extractor, the ejector, the ammunition or even the gas system.

Diagnosing these can be tricky, but the methods for fixing them can help narrow it down. 

5. Bolt Override

A bolt override is technically a failure to feed, but it’s unique enough that it deserves its own category.

It isn’t something you’ll see very often — only with the AR platform. Bolt override is an issue where a round is fed in such a way that it wedges in between the top of the bolt carrier and the gas tube.

It’s a unique issue and can be maddening if you don’t know how to fix it.  

Methods for Fixing 9mm Gun Malfunctions

Here are a few easy-to-remember methods for fixing malfunctions.


The US Army has a method taught to enlistees called SPORTS.

It stands for slap, pull, observe, release, tap and squeeze. This method would work for 9mm AR pistols. 

  • Slap. Slap the bottom of the inserted magazine. Certain failures occur because the magazine isn't inserted properly and this force can help solve that. Check whether the gun is ready to fire; if not, move on to the next step. 

  • Pull. Pull the charging handle to the rear and move the bolt back again. This restarts the cycle of extracting and ejecting, which can address numerous issues. 

  • Observe. Observe the chamber to verify that the old round ejects and the chamber is clear. That way it can load a new round and go back into battery. In short, you’re just making sure the pull does its job.

  • Release. Release the charging handle. It’s important to fully release and not ride the handle forward. This is to guarantee the action happens with the full force of the spring. You’ll continue to observe here and make sure the next round loads correctly.

  • Tap. This step is specifically relevant to rifles, so if you're working to deal with a malfunction on a 9mm AR pistol, you would skip it.

  • Squeeze. Squeeze the trigger. If the SPORTS sequence worked, the gun is ready to fire.

Tap, Rack, Bang

This process works on most other 9mm handguns.

  • Tap. This is the same as the slap in the SPORTS method. Tap the magazine to make sure it’s fully in the gun.

  • Rack. Here you’re just performing the process to rack the gun, which is moving the slide backwards.

  • Bang. Finally, you pull the trigger. 

Other Methods for Addressing Malfunctions

There are a few other methods specific to individual malfunctions that aren’t necessarily part of the processes above.

The first is mortaring, which applies to AR-15 platform weapons. For mortaring, you take the gun, pointing the muzzle away from you but upwards, and slam the buttstock (or pistol brace) into a stationary surface.

If you have a collapsible buttstock, collapse it first to avoid breaking it.

The slam can happen onto any surface, including your leg, a table, the ground or whatever you need to use.

The point is to hold the gun like a military mortar tube and use the force of the slam to drive the bolt backwards.

This comes in handy for those really stubborn types of misfeeds, or it can help you lock the bolt back on a dirty AR that has been sitting around for awhile in need of cleaning. 

Finally, in the event of the bolt override issue, you’ll want to use your fingers.

In most cases, simply remove the magazine and stick your fingers in the chamber area from where the magazine feeds to reach the override.

Then you can move the round out of the way, and it’ll fall out through the empty magazine hole. It sounds simple but it works, and some of the other attempts at malfunction clearing can actually make this issue worse.

So, if you observe the bolt override, go straight to your fingers.

Malfunctions aren’t fun but they do happen. They’re just a fact of life when you're shooting so it’s important to know what they are and how to fix them.

Identifying the issue will help you fix it, and these steps fix most problems you encounter so you can get back to shooting your 9mm gun.

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