Whether you’re in a fight for your life or racing against the clock, you need to be ready to act when you press the trigger on your magazine-fed handgun and it doesn’t go bang. The audible click instead of a bang or realizing that the slide didn’t go entirely into battery can create immediate anxiety and panic. However, these mishaps can be remedied in seconds by taking the time to master a few simple drills.
First, you need to master the tap/rack/bang method’s three simple steps. With the muzzle pointed downrange, tap the bottom of the magazine with the palm not gripping the handgun. This tap should be forceful and somewhat aggressive. Don’t be afraid to bang on the magazine’s bottom with the palm. Then, using the same hand, bring that hand over the top of the slide and aggressively rack the slide to the rear, and let it return. Now acquire the target and press the trigger. In most cases, this process will fix the stoppage and return the firearm to a working state.
The solution is practice. It’s natural for a shooter not experienced with quickly fixing a stoppage to look down at the magazine, turn the muzzle in a direction that isn’t safe or take the muzzle off the target. This burns time and can create a dangerous safety issue. It’s common to see spent brass standing on end in the action, which will prevent the slide from closing. It’s tempting to try to grab at the brass, but you must train your mind and body not to. Usually, a hard tap against the magazine's bottom will free it. If not, an aggressive rack will. And don’t try to grab at the brass when racking the slide. Rather, just attack the slide. If you practice this process regularly, it will save your bacon in competition or if you find yourself in a gunfight.
Of course, other mishaps can occur, which is why you’ll need to master the next drill as well. A common handgun stoppage, referred to as a double feed, occurs when spent brass doesn’t eject from the chamber. The next round ready to come up out of the magazine seats against the spent round, creating a blockage. This stoppage is easily diagnosed as the slide will not fully return to battery. When this happens, keep the muzzle pointed downrange and depress the magazine release button with your weak hand. Next, pass the magazine under the handgun and place it firmly between your ring finger and pinkie in the grip hand. Use your free hand to work the slide—multiple times if needed—back and forth. Now reload the magazine and follow the tap/rack/bang procedure.
No one wants a stoppage, but they will happen. The key is being able to keep your wits and get the handgun into a firing mode. The more you practice, the easier this process will become. Though you may still feel some anxiety, your muscle memory will take over, and you will be sending lead again in no time.