There are three primary types of stoppages or malfunctions that occur with semi-automatic handguns. The first is a failure to fire. This is self-explanatory; it’s when the gun fails to go bang when the trigger is pulled. The second is commonly called a stovepipe. This is where an empty case is captured between the opening in the slide—the ejection port—and the barrel during ejection. The third is generally referred to as a double feed. This is where the slide is trying to shove two cartridges into the chamber/barrel at the same time.
There are specific ways to deal with each class of malfunction. It’s not a complicated process to learn, the difficulty comes in trying to practice the techniques. You can set up these various stoppages and practice clearing them, but deliberately setting up a stoppage eliminates the need to react to an unexpected malfunction. After you have learned how to correctly deal with a stoppage, for practice purposes it should occur when you do not expect it. That’s how you can best condition yourself to instinctively deal with the problem.
Granted, before you start trying to instinctively react to a stoppage, you should know how to properly sort the problem out. To do this, deliberately staging a stoppage is the way to go. While this may seem like nothing but a training issue, it is one that requires a specific kind of ammunition: dummy rounds.
Dummy rounds are a great tool for staging a Class-1 stoppage; you simply insert an inert cartridge/dummy round in your magazine. When it is chambered during normal shooting it will fail to fire and you can execute the common remedy, which is to tap the magazine and cycle the slide. This should clear out the dummy round and chamber a live round—you may hear this referred to as the “tap-rack-assess” method.
Class-2 stoppages—stovepipes—are almost impossible to set up without the shooter knowing it is happening; placing a captured empty case between the barrel and ejection port is pretty obvious. However, the procedure for clearing this stoppage is the same as with a Class-1 malfunction; you tap the magazine and rack the slide. Alternatively, some suggest you swipe your support hand across the slide of the pistol to dislodge the captured empty case. All you need to set up a stovepipe stoppage is an empty case.
Until now, setting up a double feed—Class-3 stoppage—was just as problematic, especially if you wanted it to occur at some unknown moment during training. A company called LiveFire Tactical Training LLC has come up with a unique solution to this problem. It has created a “smart” dummy round that can be inserted anywhere in the magazine, and it will create a situation very similar to a Class-3 stoppage.The LiveFire Type3MalfunctionRound is a nylon dummy round designed to simulate a Class-3 malfunction. Variants are available for .380 ACP, 9 mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. It is reddish-orange in color and mostly shaped like the cartridge, but at the nose of the dummy round are two fins or extrusions. These fins keep the dummy round from entering the chamber of the pistol. The result creates a stoppage requiring the slide to be locked to the rear and the magazine removed for it to be cleared. The best way to use them is just the same as you have used dummy rounds in the past to set up a Class-1 stoppage; have a shooting partner insert one or more somewhere in your magazine or magazines, so that you do not know when the stoppage will occur.
I tested this smart dummy in a 1911, a Browning Hi Power and a Glock G17 to see how well it would work. Interestingly, the way the Type3MalfunctionRound interacted with each pistol was a bit different. For example, in the 1911 with the single-stack magazine, the smart dummy tended to nose up in the magazine. With the Hi Power and the Glock, it acted very similarly, but not the same way every time.
The good news is that none of this really matters because in every case that the Type3MalfunctionRound was tested—20 times in each handgun—to clear the stoppage the same steps were required; I had to lock the slide to the rear and remove the magazine. It should also be noted that when dealing with a Class-3 stoppage it is suggested that you rotate the pistol so the ejection port is toward the ground while you cycle the slide multiple times. I found that on several occasions with each of the pistols in which this smart dummy was tested, I had to cycle the slide more than once to clear the stoppage. On two out of 60 test runs, the first cycling of the slide even produced a Class-2 stoppage. The Type3MalfunctionRound does an excellent job of replicating malfunctions hard to produce by surprise.
The Type3MalfunctionRound can be ordered directly from the LiveFire website: livefiretacticaltraining.com
. A five-pack retails for $19.95. Compared to common, not-so-smart dummy rounds which retail for about $1.50 each, this is rather expensive. Heck, if you handload, you can create your own dummy rounds for almost nothing. But, here’s the thing: you cannot—on your own—create a safer and better way to cause a Class-3 stoppage that will occur when you do not expect it.
Fortunately, with modern firearms and quality ammunition, stoppages of any type are rare. However, you need to know how to deal with them when they happen, and you need to know how to deal with them quickly and effectively. To do this you need specialized, inert ammunition. We are in the age of an ammunition revolution; every year we see new and highly specialized ammo that far exceeds the performance of what we had before. Heck, even our dummy rounds are getting smart.