Anyone who's spent time on the shooting range has experienced a jam of one kind or another. "Jam" is sort of a catch-all term, used to refer to several different firearms malfunctions you may run into on the range. Guns can malfunction for any number of reasons, including a mechanical problem, a bad round, or poor shooting technique. Keeping your weapon clean is important for staving off problems too. An occasional jam can happen to anyone, but if you experience repeated problems, work with a professional to be sure your firearm is safe and you're firing it properly.
Here's a quick overview of the most common problems and how to clear them.
Failure to Feed
A failure to feed means that the next round has not been properly fed into the chamber. One common reason for failure to feed is not having a firm grip on the firearm while firing. Without a firm grip, the whole firearm recoils when it should just be the slide recycling. In any event, if you experience failure to feed, you will need to clear the chamber and perhaps drop the magazine out before proceeding.
Failure to Eject
Failure to eject occurs when the casing of a round exits the chamber but gets stuck in the ejection port. You may have heard these jams called "stovepipes" because the casing often sticks out perpendicular to the slide like a stovepipe hat. Again, failure to eject can be caused by a weak grip on the firearm while shooting.
Hang fire or Misfire
These two distinct problems have a similar appearance--namely, nothing happens when you pull the trigger. If the round fires after a delay, that's called a hang fire. If it fails to fire at all, it's called a misfire. It's important to handle firing problems safely by first waiting them out. Remain in firing stance with the gun pointed down range for 30-60 seconds to remove any possibility of a delayed action.
When enough time has elapsed, remove the round and examine it. Check the primer on the back of the round for an indentation. If it was struck on center, then it was likely a bad round. Your range safety officer can help you dispose of it safely. If it was struck off center, or not at all, the mechanism is likely at fault.
If you're just starting out or need a refresher, our Basic Handgun course covers all these topics and includes range time to learn firsthand. And remember, at Point Blank Shooting Ranges, our certified Range Safety Officers are always on duty. When in doubt, simply lay your firearm down pointing down range and signal the RSO for assistance. He or she will help you pinpoint and correct the problem. Learning to diagnose and resolve maintenance issues is part of safe, responsible firearm ownership. Point Blank is always happy to help!