What is a Type 3 Handgun Malfunction?
The third firearm malfunction we will discuss is the “dreaded” type 3 malfunction, also known as a double feed, or “brass low”.
Further definitions of firearms malfunctions can be found on Wikipedia.
The Type 3 malfunction occurs when the firearm attempts to load a new cartridge into the chamber when it already has another cartridge, or more likely, spent brass in it.
This is the “dreaded” malfunction, also known as “the mother of all malfunctions” because it is the hardest and most time-consuming to clear. Some instructors will tell you that if you are in a real gunfight and you experience a type 3 malfunction, go for your back-up gun instead of trying to clear it! However, with practice, this can be accomplished in under 6 seconds!
This could be caused by a bad extractor, a damaged cartridge rim, or some other reason the spent brass was not ejected, and now the slide is trying to force another cartridge into the chamber when there is already one there.
In this situation, the action will be partially open, and if you look into the chamber you will see brass low inside.
This malfunction unfortunately cannot be fixed with a tap, rack procedure like the type 1 and the type 2 malfunctions.
This is because the tap, rack procedure will not remove what is likely a stuck cartridge or stuck brass in the chamber. Also, the slide will be almost all the way back already and there is some force from the recoil spring creating pressure against the rounds that are now stuck in the ejection port.
How to Clear a Type 3 Malfunction – The Drill
To clear the type 3 malfunction, you must unload the gun, clear the chamber and then reload the gun. The following drill will walk you through it.
There are a couple ways to do this, and I will explain both ways. The first way I am going to show you will work with any semi-automatic handgun, the second method may or may not work with your handgun due to the difficulty in removing the magazine when this condition exists.
Here are the steps, and you can watch me in the video above to see how to execute the clearing of a type 3 malfunction.
You can also practice this drill at home using dry fire with dummy rounds or snap caps.
1. Dead Trigger. You will press the trigger but nothing happens (a dead trigger.) This is not enough information about the problem in order to resolve it quickly.
2. Look and Move. You will need to quickly tip the gun up so you can look into the ejection port and you will notice brass low in the port. While you are doing this you want to move to cover if you are in a real shooting situation, or if training simply take a step or two to the side as you look.
3. Check for a magazine. Using your support side hand you’ll quickly reach down to your gun belt and check to see if you have a spare magazine. If you do, you will be getting that in the future step, if you do not have one you’ll have to retain your existing magazine in the future step.
4. Lock the slide back. Once you have diagnosed that you have a type 3 malfunction, you will want to remove the magazine but first you must take your support side hand and lock the slide all the way to the rear. This step removes the pressure on the stuck cartridges so that the magazine can now be removed easily.
5. Remove the magazine. Using your firing hand thumb, press the magazine release and it will either drop out by itself or you may have to help it out with your support side finger. If step 3 revealed that you had an extra magazine, you can simply allow this magazine to fall to the ground. If you did not have an extra magazine you will need to remove this magazine and retain it, either with your firing side pinkie finger, shove it in a pocket or shove it in your arm pit so you can put it back in the magazine well in step 7. (I have included a video below to show the retention of the magazine with the support side pinkie finger.)
6. Rack, rack, rack. You will now take your support side hand and rack the slide firmly three times in order to remove any brass that is stuck in the chamber.
7. Load a magazine. If step three revealed that you had a magazine, index that magazine, bring it up to the gun and load it firmly into the magazine well. If you did not have a spare magazine, take the retaining magazine, index it, and insert it firmly into the magazine well.
8. Rack. Rack the slide to load a fresh cartridge, finger back on the trigger, assess the situation and decide whether to shoot or not.
Clearing a Type 3 Malfunction When You Do Not Have a Spare Magazine
In step 5, I mentioned retaining the magazine if you do not have a spare magazine. This is a skill that you definitely need to practice.
When you are training on the range, or at Front Sight Firearms Training Institute, you will have a spare magazine or two (or 4, if you are training with a 1911!) in a holster on your belt.
Let’s face it, if you are actually in a fire fight and have a type 3 malfunction, unless you are Law Enforcement or Keanu Reeves in a John Wick movie, you are not likely to have a spare magazine on your belt.
In the video you will see me remove the magazine and place it under the pinkie of my support hand while I rack the slide 3 times, then put it back in the gun. It is a simple maneuver, but needs to be practiced to become smooth and fast.
If placing the magazine under a pinkie is not for you, you can place it anywhere it will remain secure while you rack the slide such as a pocket or under your arm.
Another Method to Clear the Type 3 Malfunction.
The second method that can be used with some handguns is more or less the same, except you would skip Step 4 above.
This will make it harder to remove the magazine, but in most guns, you will be able to grasp the bottom of the magazine and “rip” it out. If you cannot quickly and easily get a good hold of the magazine with your support side hand, you may not be able to use this technique.
There is some controversy surrounding the different techniques.
Determine which of these two techniques works best with your particular handgun. Then practice, practice, practice until this clearance becomes second nature. You can use a timer, or you can download this inexpensive app that will help you increase your speed. Dry Practice Drill.