So You’re a New Gun Owner? Ammunition Malfunctions

Welcome back to our discussions on critical knowledge for new gun owners! For those of you who have followed from the beginning, in our last two posts we discussed how to choose the right ammunition for your gun and the components of that ammunition. Today, we’ll discuss three malfunctions that can occur in your ammunition. Keep in mind, we’ll be talking about a basic level shooter when we talk about corrective actions to take. Once you’ve graduated up to defensive shooting, your corrective actions will be quite different.

With that said, let’s dive in!

Types of Malfunctions

There are typically three types of ammunition malfunctions:

  1. Misfires
  2. Hang fires
  3. Squib loads

Of these, both misfires and hang fires will be treated the same. These are relatively minor issues and can be easily fixed. A squib load, on the other hand, can result in severe damage to both you and your gun if not properly remedied.


A misfire is simply the failure of a round to fire. This may occur because of an issue with the ammunition itself or because of an issue with your gun, such as a broken firing pin. You can recognize a misfire by a distinct click when you pull the trigger with no bang afterwards. To remedy a misfire (at the basic level), keep the gun pointed in a safe direction for 30 seconds, then rack your slide to eject that round and chamber the next.

Hang Fire

A hang fire is a delayed firing of the round. A hang fire can be recognized by the distinct pause between the click of the trigger being pulled and the bang of the round firing. This delay may be anywhere from milliseconds to several seconds long. As with the misfire, keep the gun pointed in a safe direction for 30 seconds. If the round fires, it will likely eject that casing and chamber the next round for you. If the round does not fire, then it is a misfire and can be treated accordingly.

NOTE: With either of these malfunctions, if you have any doubts about your gun, clear the firearm and have your instructor inspect it.

Squib Load

The squib load is the most dangerous of the three malfunctions. A squib load is a round that fires, but the bullet does not leave the barrel. This can occur for a number of reasons, such as not enough powder in the cartridge or powder that has been damaged by moisture. Because the bullet does not leave the barrel, if you fire again, the next bullet may impact the obstruction in your barrel and the barrel could explode.

A squib load can be recognized by a distinct popping sound, reduced recoil, and a reduced muzzle flash. Below is a video, taken by Ben at Wise Men Company, of a squib round that occurred while he was training. Pay special attention to the difference in sound between his normal rounds and the squib.

Used by permission from Wise Men Company

If you think you have a squib, you need to have your gun checked by your instructor before firing again.


As I said at the beginning, this is ammunition malfunctions at their most basic, along with your actions at a basic level. When you begin to work up into defensive shooting, you will take different actions for misfires and hang loads. I’ll probably cover those in a later post as well.

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Thanks for reading!

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