Practice for a Malfunction.

The life-saving drill that is often mentioned but rarely practiced (enough).

By: Ed Hardin (Certified NRA firearms instructor) for  iFightBack (Self-Defense Software)





Resume Fire!

Knowing How vs. Instinctive Action.

To perform a task instinctively is to use drilled-in muscle memory to perform that task without having to stop and think of each step required. Clearing a malfunction at the range doesn’t require muscle memory because you have plenty of time to think of each step and then do them. Tap and then Rack. No problem. In a real life self-defense situation, if you have a malfunction while trying to defend yourself, you do not have time to even think of the phrase “Tap and Rack”. Your body just needs to do the drill and resume firing instinctively.

Typical Training for Misfire.

At the range a typical method for teaching the Tap & Rack drill is for the instructor to load a magazine out of sight of the student and to load in one or more snap-caps. The student starts firing at the target and when there is a misfire because of the snap-cap, he or she is supposed to do the Tap & Rack to clear the dud round and then commence firing again. Because this drill is usually only done a few times, this is fine (see potential problems below) for teaching the mechanics of the drill but it takes a lot more than that to build it into muscle memory and muscle memory is what you need when you are under attack and the adrenaline is pumping.

Disturbing Real Life Demonstration.

The attack last year on a Michigan State Police deputy by a man wielding both a knife and a screwdriver dramatically demonstrates this point. In the body-cam video at you can see the deputy experience a misfire and instinctively go through the Tap & Rack while still under attack and continue to fire until the threat was removed.

See the Police1 article about this attack at:

How can you build Tap & Rack muscle memory?

Dry fire practice is considered one of the most cost efficient and effective means of building muscle memory through repetition. “Dry Fire”, however, runs the gamut from snap-caps and laser inserts to simulation based software.

For dry fire practice, snap-caps allow you to draw and fire but there is no visual feedback.  Laser inserts by themselves do give you visual feedback via the laser dot and that is better.  But malfunction drills require something more interactive.  Something random that will take you by surprise.

Scenario based Interactive Software.

Scenario based interactive software is now standard with both the military and police because of its training effectiveness, cost efficiency and, because you can do training that would be too dangerous with live fire, its versatility. (click for more info.)

According to a National Training & Simulation Association study  requested by the Congressional Modeling & Simulation Caucus “…simulation training applications improve performance, save lives and compress the time required to develop skills. In some cases, simulators can even provide more effective training than other methods can.

Simulation based Dry Fire Malfunction Drill.

iFightBack is scenario based interactive software that can be used in either the home or the classroom. Because we feel that the repetition of the malfunction drill is so important we have it built it into the software so that, if you have it turned on, no matter what exercise you are running such as Interactive Video, Hogan’s Alley Shoot Don’t Shoot, Active Shooter, or just Target Practice, the software will randomly show a malfunction that you need to clear before proceeding.  We hope that anyone using our software, or any other software that may also offer this feature, will leave the Random Malfunction setting always turned on so that it becomes part of your routine training.

Live Fire Malfunction Drill (basic idea).

Another option is with live fire at the range.  Preload multiple magazines with randomly placed snap-caps.  Make sure that you cannot remember which magazine has the snap-caps in which order.  Now as you go through your regular live fire practice sessions at the range, do the Tap & Rack as instinctively as possible when ever there is a misfire.  

Live Fire Malfunction Drill (problems).

Those with enough experience will immediately think of Squib Loads and Hang Fire and the hazard an instinctive Tap & Rack might cause.  In a life or death situation you have to go with the instinctive Tap & Rack. You have no choice.  At the range, however, this could be dangerous. This brings us back to the very real benefit of dry fire practice.

Stay safe and let us know your thoughts.

Practice as if your life depended on it.