Guns, like any other piece of mechanical equipment, are prone to malfunction. Guns are susceptible to jamming or misfiring–both defined as a partial or complete failure of the gun to function as designed. These malfunctions can be temporary, harmless events or dangerous instances where injury occurs and the gun is permanently damaged. Understanding common firearm malfunctions and why these situations occur is an important aspect of gun ownership. Improper maintenance and user negligence are the two principal reasons for gun malfunctions, and these malfunctions can be grouped into two types: mechanical malfunctions and cartridge malfunctions. Here are a few of the most common ways in which guns malfunction.
This is a common reason for misfires in guns of any variety. Basically, dud rounds consist of a failure to discharge due to malfunctions in the primer or powder. This malfunction causes the round to fail to discharge from the gun. These are typically fairly minor forms of malfunction in guns and require that the round be removed. Always dispose of the dud round since it can still pose a risk if reused.
Incomplete discharges occur when the round fails to exit the gun barrel and becomes lodged inside of it. These malfunctions are some of the most dangerous since the gun could actually explode. When the round does not carry enough force to fully exit the gun, the discharge is considered incomplete. Additional rounds that are fired when this occurs can strike the lodged round and cause a total weapon failure. This could ultimately injure the shooter or those in the vicinity. Incomplete discharges can occur as a result of any obstruction in the barrel, round or otherwise.
When there is a delay in the triggering action of the gun and the ignition of the propellant, delayed discharges can occur. These malfunctions are risky and can easily lead to accidents if handled improperly or by an inexperienced shooter. Guns that fail to fire but haven’t totally malfunctioned should be treated as delayed discharges. Keep the gun pointed downrange for a couple minutes before removing and disposing the round. There is a risk that the round could explode outside of the gun and cause injuries from fragmentation.
Failure to Feed and Eject
These are each common malfunctions that can damage a weapon or potentially lead to injury. A failure to feed occurs when round is not fed into the firing chamber. A failure to eject occurs when the empty cartridge or the fired round fails to clear the ejection port of the gun. This often occurs in self-loading, semi-automatic pistols where the cartridge becomes lodged in the slide of the gun. These can be mechanical malfunctions or a result of negligence in cleaning, inspecting, and loading a gun.
Hammer Follow and Slamfire
When the firing mechanism of a gun functions faster than designed, a hammer follow occurs. This occurs when the hammer follows the bolt and pin in battery as a result of the disconnector. A slamfire occurs when a round is unintendedly discharged as it is being loaded into the chamber. This is a dangerous malfunction since the round discharges while being loaded. Carefully inspecting and maintaining your gun and ammunition and exercising care when loading and firing the gun are critical for safety and avoiding preventable mechanical malfunctions.