Pistol Malfunctions as a Part of the Functional Element of Control


For Manual Monday, we are continuing our discussion on control and the pistol. Specifically, we will address malfunctions and how to handle them for the pistol. Learning all elements of the shot process for the pistol is vital, as the M17 will be fielded to elements of the 82nd within the near future. The M17 will also be going to more people than it is currently. So all of us need to improve our shot process with the pistol. The reference for this discussion is TC 3-23.35 Dated May 2017.


A malfunction is any break in the cycle of function caused by a faulty action of the pistol, ammunition, or Paratrooper. For our discussion, a malfunction is defined as any time the pistol fails to operate as intended. The corrective actions for a malfunction fall into two main categories: immediate action and remedial action.


Immediate action involves quickly applying a possible correction to a malfunction without determining the actual cause. It does not involve observation, diagnosis of the malfunction, or decision-making beyond recognition that there is a problem. As the term suggests, it is performed immediately and quickly, taking no more than a few seconds. Like a battle drill, it is conducted reflexively, without thought or hesitation.

The following are the procedures for performing immediate action:

  1. Ensure the decocking lever on the pistol is in the FIRE position.
  2. Remove trigger finger from the trigger and ensure it is straight and pressed along the frame.
  3. Bring pistol back into workspace.
  4. Rotate pistol.
  5. With the heel of the non-supporting hand, forcefully tap upward onto the baseplate of the magazine. (TAP)
  6. Rotate the pistol to observe the chamber and rack the slide. (RACK)
  7. Allow the chambered round to extract and fall to the floor.
  8. Observe the chambered round.
  9. Rotate pistol back to target and squeeze the trigger. (BANG)


Remedial action is a conscious, observed attempt to determine the cause of a malfunction and correct it using a specific set of actions. It differs from immediate action in that it requires a Paratrooper to consciously analyze the status of the weapon to determine the problem and select the appropriate actions to correct it.

The procedures for performing remedial action for majority of malfunctions is―

  1. Observe the pistol to identify the cause of the malfunction.
  2. Keep the pistol pointed at the intended target.
  3. Cant the pistol upward to observe the position of the slide.
  4. If the slide is locked to the rear, observe the pistol to see if ammunition is present in the magazine.
  5. If no ammunition is present, drop magazine and insert a new loaded magazine.
  6. If something is obstructing the chamber or keeping the slide from moving fully forward, lock the slide to the rear.
  7. Forcefully remove the magazine from the pistol, clear the obstruction, insert a new loaded magazine, send the slide forward, acquire sights on a target, squeeze the trigger, and try to fire again.

When any weapon fails to complete any phase of the cycle of function correctly, a malfunction has occurred. When a malfunction occurs, the Paratrooper’s priority is to defeat the threat rapidly. The Paratrooper controls which actions must be taken to ensure the threat is defeated as quickly as possible.

Paratroopers must take into consideration that for targets less than 25 meters they should transition to secondary weapon (e.g., pistol) for the engagement. If no secondary weapon is available, they move to a covered and concealed position (if applicable), to correct the malfunction, announce their status to their team members, and execute corrective action.

Keep in mind, the pistol is the most perishable skillset for any Paratrooper to learn. The best combat shooters in the Army will devote the majority of their training time to this weapons system, even though it might be utilized in less than one percent of the engagements they encounter. The reason being when they need that pistol, they need to be fast and accurate.

So to sum up, we’ve discussed malfunctions. We’ve discussed the different types of malfunctions with the appropriate actions for each. Next week, we will continue our discussion on the functional element of Control as we consider how to train our Paratroopers on the functional element of control.

#weaponsmastery #shotprocess

Raymond Miller
82nd Airborne Division Small Arms Master Gunner: primary weapons trainer, force modernization for individual weapons, and range liason for the 82nd.


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