The Cornered Cat

Although a misfeed is simply a subtype of the larger category of malfunctions called “failures to fire,” a misfeed is by far the most common cause of a failure to fire. Misfeeds often happen when a round of ammunition fails to enter the chamber as expected. Because there is no round in the chamber, the gun cannot fire.

Failures to fire can also be caused by faulty reloads or otherwise poor ammunition which does not react as expected when the primer is struck. In some cases, the fault may lie within the mechanics of the firearm: worn springs or dirty firing pin channels may not allow the firing pin to strike the primer as hard as it must be struck in order to fire the round. 1 Whatever the cause, when you pull the trigger nothing happens except a very disconcerting click.

Getting a new round into the chamber so that your gun works again only takes a second or two, but you must do it in the right order. The phrase to remember is Tap, Rack, (assess and) Bang.

Failure to Fire

Failure to Fire: you pulled the trigger, but the shot did not fire. Now what?

Step One: Tap

Tap the bottom of the magazine upwards firmly with the base of your palm. You are doing this because one of the most common causes of a misfeed is a magazine that is not completely seated. If the magazine is not firmly in place, when the slide comes forward it will slip right over the next round, failing to pick it up for chambering.

You must tap the magazine into place first, before you rack the slide.


Step One: Tap the magazine firmly into place.

Step Two:  Rack

Rack the slide. If the previous round of ammunition was a dud, it will be ejected at this point. As the slide comes forward again, it will pick up a good fresh round from the top of the firmly seated magazine.

Yank the slide back quickly and decisively. No matter how aggressively you move the slide, you cannot hurt the gun in this way. When the slide is fully to the rear, simply let go of it. Do not lower it by hand because that can cause another misfeed. Instead, simply let go of the slide and allow it to fly forward again under spring tension.

Don’t bother to tap the magazine again after you rack the slide. There’s no point. Either you firmly seated the magazine on step one, or it’s too late now. In order to work, these steps have to be done in the correct sequence.

Rack the slide

Step Two: Rack the slide.

Let the slide go forward on its own

After you rack the slide, allow the slide to travel forward on its own. Resist the temptation to help it along. Do not rest your hand on the slide, and do not allow your hand to follow the slide forward.


Step Three: (Assess and) Bang.

Look at your target. Does it still need shooting? If so, pull the trigger.

Always check your target before blazing away at it. If you ever do this in real life, the bad guy could have grabbed a hostage, run away, or surrendered in the amount of time it took you to clear the malfunction.


  1. In failures-to-fire caused by worn or broken parts, or by dirty internal parts, simply clearing the previous round out of the way might temporarily allow other rounds to fire, but the gun must be cleaned or repaired as soon as possible. Tap, Rack, (Assess and) Bang is, in such cases, merely a temporarily fix and not a permanent cure.”