Tag Archives: stoppage

Gripping an autoloading pistol correctly to reduce malfunctions

Gripping the gun firmly, including stiffening the wrists, is important in terms of running autoloaders without having malfunctions aka stoppages (Unintentional Interruptions in the Cycle of Operation). This has been demonstrated several times in classes I’ve taught this month; Personal Performance http://www.thecompletecombatant.com/personal-performance.html  and The Mingle. http://www.thecompletecombatant.com/the-mingle.html During both classes, simply increasing the tension in a shooter’s wrists completely eliminated malfunctions in guns that had previously been troublesome.

Rob Leatham gives an excellent explanation about gripping the pistol in this video. Although his video addresses shooting speed, the concept applies equally to increasing reliability of a pistol.

Note how he tests the tension of the shooter’s wrists at 1:05. With a handheld recoil-operated firearm, tensioned wrist(s) are a key input for the gun’s functionality. If the shooter’s wrists are not adequately tensioned, the receiver of the gun moves at the same time the slide is cycling. When the receiver moves simultaneously with the slide cycling, the possibility of the slide not completing its travel fully to the rear increases. Failure to maintain tensioned wrists is often referred to as ‘limp-wristing.’

Knowing the mechanical steps in the operation of an autoloading firearm is useful to understand this problem. Once a loaded magazine has been inserted, the eight steps in the cycle of operation for a locked breech firearm are:

  1. Feeding
  2. Chambering
  3. Locking
  4. Firing
  5. Unlocking
  6. Extracting
  7. Ejecting
  8. Cocking

The steps most affected by limp-wristing are Feeding, Chambering, and Ejecting. Feeding is the step wherein the round rises completely up in the magazine and presses against the feed lips. Chambering occurs when the breech of the firearm strips the round from the magazine’s feed lips and pushes it completely into the chamber. Ejecting occurs after the entire case has been pulled from the chamber and the case is completely expelled from the firearm.

If the slide does not move fully to the rear because the receiver is moving at the same time, the breechface may not clear the rear of the cartridge. If so, Feeding will not be complete. The front of the cartridge will rise to the feed lips but the rear of the cartridge cannot because the lower part of the breechface is obstructing it. This is a Failure to Feed. Then, when the slide moves forward, friction between the bottom of the breechface and the cartridge will push the nose of the cartridge into the feedramp. However, because the round is presented at the wrong angle, a Failure to Chamber occurs with the nose of the round jammed against the feedramp. In some pistols, a Failure to Cock will also occur but this is incidental to the problem.

This stoppage must be cleared by using Remedial Action.

Remedial Action

  • Strip the magazine out. This may or may not require locking the slide to the rear, depending on the type of pistol. There are two schools of thought about what to do with the stripped out magazine, however, neither is relevant to reducing (clearing) the stoppage.
  • Work the slide several times to ensure that no fired unejected brass remains in the gun.
  • Insert and seat a magazine.
  • Operate the slide completely to chamber a new round of ammunition.
  • Get back to work.

An even more exaggerated of the issue can occur if the slide’s rearward travel is so shortened that that the base of the cartridge doesn’t make contact with the pistol’s ejector. This then will result in a Failure to Eject in addition to the Failure to Feed and Failure to Chamber. This stoppage must also be reduced by using Remedial Action. The Failure to Eject aspect is why the step of working the slide several times is included in Remedial Action. Theoretically, a Failure to Extract could occur but this is almost universally ammunition related (oversized, dirty, or grossly underpowered) rather than due to Operator Error.

Working with a partner and a completely unloaded pistol or Blue Gun, as demonstrated in the video, to test and increase the tension of the wrists is a simple way to increase the reliability of the pistol.

Gripping the wrists while moving the pistol.

Tactical Professor books (all PDF) (not Free)