Handling Semi-Auto Jams and Malfunctions

All semi-auto pistols eventually jam or malfunction even if you take great care to clean and lubricate them.  Malfunctions are caused by user error (weak grip, riding the slide while charging), bad ammo, dirty weapons, and bad luck.  I posted earlier about the importance of choosing a reliable handgun to minimize jams, but no pistol is perfect.

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A common type of jam: the stovepipe.

My experience is that novice hand gunners get scared when they experience a jam. That’s to be expected, but it also reinforces the need to practice handling malfunctions every single time you go to the range!  Experienced shooters can even be reluctant to clear jams and stand there scratching their head instead of quickly taking action.  If you own a semi-auto pistol, you need to feel comfortable and confident when a jam occurs.

YouTube “how to clear pistol malfunctions” and you will see a plethora of how to videos on the subject.  After watching several, I found this great video that demonstrates clearing malfunctions using an HK, 1911, and Glock.  It’s my favorite for two reasons.  First, the method is simple and easy to duplicate.  Second, the method works no matter what type of semi-auto pistol you own.

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The most difficult jam to clear…the dreaded double feed.

Some instructors suggest evaluating the pistol visually before deciding how to clear the weapon.  By definition that means you must learn multiple ways to clear jams.  The problem with that is you can look at the pistol and make a mistake analyzing what type malfunction has occurred, especially under stress.  That is the primary reason I like the one method approach.  It takes the need to think in a difficult situation out of the equation as long as you’ve spent time practicing at the range.

For what it’s worth, here is the best article I’ve seen so far on interpreting 1911 jams and malfunctions.  Clear pictures and explanatory text are included.  I’m not sure why some 1911 owners are infatuated with jams because it tends to give an excellent pistol a bad reputation.  Anyway, regardless of the type of jam, use this method:

  1. Tap the bottom to the magazine forcefully.
  2. While keeping the pistol pointed in an appropriate direction, tilt the ejection port towards the ground.
  3. Rack the slide forcefully by grabbing the slide just behind the ejection port with your off hand.
  4. Acquire your target again and pull the trigger.  If the pistol does not fire, you probably have a double feed malfunction that requires a few more steps.
  5. Eject the magazine.
  6. Forcefully rack the slide 2-3 times.
  7. Insert the magazine.
  8. Rack the slide.
  9. Fire.

That may seem like a lot, but if you watch the 6-minute video, it will become simple and clear with practice, practice, and more practice.  In the case of a double feed, you need to feel comfortable holding your ejected magazine while racking the slide several times.  You don’t want to drop your magazine while racking the slide.

If your pistol is jamming regularly, have it checked out by a competent gunsmith. Malfunctions should be few and far between with a reliable pistol.

PS  Anyone who thinks I give Glocks too much credit, please take notice that all of the pics in this post are of Glocks jamming!

Choosing the Right Holster

There are usually dozens of holsters available for your pistol, but how do you go about choosing the best one?  Holsters are sometimes chosen based on aesthetics, how they look or what they’re made of, instead of what really matters: function.  Take Galco’s Miami Classic II Shoulder Holster as an example.  The look and feel of its leather is top notch, and you can use it to look like a detective or wear it under a jacket, but summertime use for concealed carry is out.  Hey, I’m not knocking it because I have one.  It’s cool to wear at the range or when I’m pretending to be a tough guy, but I’d never use it practically.  Your first holster should be designed for double duty: concealed carry and range use.

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Galco Miami Classic II shoulder holster.  Cool, but not necessarily

Here are my rules for carry holsters:

  1. Use one holster for all of your concealed carry purposes to develop muscle memory at the range in case you ever need to draw.  (That also means use only one gun for concealed carry, too!)
  2. Your holster should not require two hands for drawing.  Sounds obvious, but some cannot manipulate leather, thumb-snap holsters consistently.  Even if you can, additional hand movements are required which adds time to your draw.
  3. A pistol retention system is mandatory.  Your pistol should not fall out of its holster in the event of a struggle or if you must run.
  4. You must be willing to bang it up!  Your carry holster should not be a museum piece.  Buy a holster that you are willing to train with.  That includes rolling with it on the ground, scraping it on walls, and anything else that causes scratches and wear.

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Some may not be able to unsnap holsters like the Desantis
Thumb Break Scabbard.  Leather holsters are also more expensive.
Expect to pay $50 or more.

If you’re a traditionalist, you may like leather thumb-break holsters.  I love the look and feel of a leather holster, but they are heavier, thicker (less concealable), and usually slower to draw from.  Here is a nice YouTube review of the Desantis Thumb Break Scabbard.  This type of holster is my least favorite choice for concealed carry.

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he BLACKHAWK! Serpa CQC is arguably the most
modular holster system available.  It’s also very affordable
and my choice for carrying, about $40.

Here is a short YouTube video of the BLACKHAWK! CQC‘s function.  I like this design because it forces you to learn proper trigger finger control and incorporates a positive retention system with a super slick draw.  As with all firearms and accessories, you MUST train with it to be proficient.  Some don’t like the Blackhawk’s retention mechanism because of reported accidental discharges.  Here is a great video describing that potential short-coming of the SERPA design.  My take is that accidental discharges from modern combat pistols occur for one reason: user error due to the shooter’s finger being on the trigger when it shouldn’t be!

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afariland’s Model 6378 ALS Paddle Holster’s automatic
locking system eliminates the need for a manual release.  Like
the BLACKHAWK! CQC, cost is around $40.

You can bypass the need for buttons and snaps by using a holster with an automatic retention system.  However, these system’s attempt to bypass the SERPA’s potential problem by creating a different type of problem of their own, more force required to draw the pistol.  Additionally, these systems may fail when the pistol is not drawn perfectly along the axis of the holster.  Here is a short YouTube video explaining the 6378’s function.

Like my other reviews, try each of these systems before purchasing.  Once you decide, stick with your choice and practice with it.  If you only use your holster to carry your pistol when walking from the firing line to check targets, you are making a big mistake.  Draw from it and fire!  Practice on the range as you would use your equipment in a real situation.

Cocked and Locked sells all models of holsters.  Call anytime if you need advice.

Facts About Gun Safes

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ort Knox safes recommended by the safe company featured in the video below.

Buying a safe to protect your firearms is an important investment, and the decision process can be difficult.  Many safe manufacturers do a great job of marketing their products but limit the data and information about the design of their safes.  If you take the time to watch the 30-minute video below, you will see what I’m talking about.

When it comes to safes, you get what you pay for.  Bottom line, make sure you know the thickness of the steel in your door and walls, not just the composite thickness which can be deceiving.

This YouTube video by a safe company in Florida is worth watching if you are in the market for a safe and trying to understand how to make a good decision.  You may want to skip the first 3 minutes of the video which is introduction information.

Are Glock SF Models Right for You?

Glock has a number of pistols with the SF designation in its current line-up of Gen3 models chambered in 10mm Auto and .45ACP.  SF is Glock’s acronym for Short Frame, and SF models are an attempt to help those who like smaller grips more easily hold Gen3 models in these two calibers.  Gen4 Glock’s come with interchangeable back-straps and are not available in the SF designation.  Only Gen3 models are designated SF.  For more on Gen3 versus Gen4, click here.

In Glock’s words from its website: “The SF model reduces the circumference of the receiver at the rear, or ‘back strap,’ offering increased comfort and control—especially for shooters with smaller hands.”  Who would choose a Gen3 SF over a Gen4?  Someone who likes the ergonomics of the Gen3 better than Gen4.  The SF models are comparably priced, so it’s really not a matter of cost-savings.

Here is a list of SF models:

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The Glock 21SF is a Gen3 G21 on a shorter frame.

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ote that the SF designation is located on the polymer grip above the front of the trigger guard.

If you have held one of the non-SF designated models listed above, you know from experience that the grips are somewhat fat and can be difficult to hold compared to Glocks in smaller calibers, like 9mm and .40S&W.  I have medium-sized hands, and personally, I like the feel of the 21SF compared to the 21.  If you’re in the market for a Glock in one of these calibers, I highly recommend you grip an SF version before making your purchase.

The weight difference between the 21 and 21SF is a minuscule 0.54 oz due to the dimensional differences being restricted to the lightweight polymer part of the pistol.  The trigger distance from the back-strap is about 3/16″ less with the SF.  See the difference below.

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Grip comparison of the .45ACP G21 to the G21SF.

You may be wondering what the difference is between a 30SF and 30S.  The 30S is built on the same SF frame as the 30SF but has a re-engineered slide from the sub-compact G36 .45ACP single-stack pistol.  This reduces the weight of the 30S by 3.35 oz. compared to the 30SF.  Result?  Easier carry with increased recoil.

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Width of the G30SF (top) compared to the G30S (bottom).

One last thing to be aware of is that some magazines produced in earlier SF models cannot be used in current models.  If your Glock 21SF has an ambidextrous magazine release (discontinued), then it can only use the 3rd & 4th generation Glock magazines.  If your Glock 21SF has the standard magazine release (current production), then it can use all generations of Glock magazines.