Practice Weapons Malfunction Drills
So you depend on your semi-automatic pistol to save your life if needed, right? You researched your firearm, searched for holsters and accessories, and shoot and train often for accuracy and weapon manipulation, so you got all the bases covered. Unless you also include some sort of weapons malfunction immediate action drills, you could be planning to fail.
What do you do immediately if you have a weapon malfunction?
The tried and true drill that fixes most malfunctions is the Tap-rack-assess drill.
Tap: your magazine upward at the bottom to make sure it is seated. Many weapons malfunctions in semi-autos come from magazines not being fully inserted and dropping out of battery. If that is the case, a good, stiff rap at the bottom can clear it up.
Rack: the slide with feeling rearward to eject a malfunctioning round and seat a new one. Your round may not have ejected fully or properly and cycling that action in a good hard and fast way can strip it away and out of your life for good. When the slide is all the way rearward, let it fall forward-- do not use the slide stop lever or even worse, ride it forward. Try to perform this with the weapon canted at 90-degrees or more so that the pull of gravity can help strip out that bad round.
Assess your threat. Come back on target with a firearm back in the fight using your proper grip and sight alignment.
Many veteran military, protective forces and law enforcement officers remember a very similar version of this drill as the old 'slap-rack-bang.'
While the slap/tap and rack parts are the same, you need to remember not to train to automatically pull the trigger once the firearm malfunction is cleared. In a world of civil and criminal liability, the last thing you want is to fire an extra round when not needed. Remember, every round fired ends up in court. Tap-rack-assess is the motto. If upon your assessment once you get back in action that further engagement is warranted, by all means, meet a threat with a threat, but assess rather than recon by fire.
How to practice
Knowing the drill is only the beginning, you need to practice it and be able to perform it in a second or less. A good way to accomplish this is with the use of snap-caps.
Sold in sporting goods stores everywhere as well as online, snap caps are a cheap (about $15 for 5) and safe way to practice dry fire, weapon reloads, and other manipulations. Best of all, you can load them with live ammunition in a magazine and they will chamber just like any other cartridge, but of course not fire or cycle. I like to take two snap caps and insert them randomly into three identical magazines, and then conduct a course of fire. When I hit the snap cap, tap-rack-assess gets me back into the fight. Then after the line is clear, pick up the two ejected caps, wipe em off, and pack em away for next time.
This will simulate a hang fire, misfire, failure to extract, or failure to breach firearm malfunction very nicely.
Failure to feed drill
Sometimes the tap-rack-assess will not work to clear your malfunction, such as in a double feed or failure to feed situation.
In those, drop the magazine, rack the slide hard three times (not just once), insert a new magazine (if available), chamber, and get back in the fight.
This can be simulated by loading a spent or unloaded shell casing of the same caliber into your magazine at random alongside live rounds. When the live round fires and ejects, the spent casing will begin to cycle, almost certainly catch in the chamber, and jam up pretty good. If you are using a brass casing this should not harm the firearm and simulates the type of malfunction well.
Want a blast to liven up your training at the range? Take three mags, load a spent casing somewhere in one, a snap cap somewhere in another, and top off the rest with live ammo and be ready.
*A note about squib loads and hang fires on the range- squib loads, or rounds that do not fully fire can foul your barrel. They make a distinctive, muted, and sound. If you hear something that just does not sound right, and your shell casing does not eject but the bullet is gone from it, you may need to disassemble your gun and check the barrel. Likewise, on a hang fire, if you pull the trigger on a chambered round and hear a click rather than a bang, wait ten seconds with the barrel pointed downrange before clearing. In a gunfight, these rules are modified.