Firearm malfunction
A firearm malfunction is the partial or complete failure of a firearm
A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile at high velocity through confined burning of a propellant. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation. In older firearms, the propellant was typically...

 to operate as intended. Malfunctions range from temporary and relatively safe situations, such as a casing that didn't eject, to potentially dangerous occurrences that may permanently damage the gun
A gun is a muzzle or breech-loaded projectile-firing weapon. There are various definitions depending on the nation and branch of service. A "gun" may be distinguished from other firearms in being a crew-served weapon such as a howitzer or mortar, as opposed to a small arm like a rifle or pistol,...

 and cause injury or death. Malfunctions are sometimes considered a factor in negligent discharge
Negligent discharge
A negligent discharge is a discharge of a firearm involving culpable carelessness. In judicial and military technical terms, a negligent discharge is a chargeable offence. A number of armed forces automatically consider any accidental discharge to be negligent discharge, under the assumption that...

. Proper cleaning and maintenance
Firearm maintenance
Firearm maintenance includes inspecting and testing a gun for worn or compromised parts, replacing parts, and keeping the gun properly cleaned and stored.- Cleaning :...

 of a firearm plays a big role in preventing malfunctions.


The malfunction of a cartridge (commonly called a misfire) is the failure of the primer and/or powder within a cartridge to function as expected.


A dud (also failure to discharge) occurs when the trigger is pulled but the primer or powder in the cartridge malfunctions, causing the firearm to not discharge.

Hang fire

A hang fire (also delayed discharge) is an unexpected delay between the triggering of a firearm and the ignition of the propellant
A propellant is a material that produces pressurized gas that:* can be directed through a nozzle, thereby producing thrust ;...


Squib load

A squib load (also squib round, squib, insufficient discharge, incomplete discharge) is an extremely dangerous malfunction that happens when a fired projectile does not carry enough force and becomes stuck in the gun barrel
Gun barrel
A gun barrel is the tube, usually metal, through which a controlled explosion or rapid expansion of gases are released in order to propel a projectile out of the end at a high velocity....

 instead of exiting it. In the case of semi-automatic or automatic weapons, this can cause successive rounds to be fired into the projectile obstructing the barrel, which can cause catastrophic failure
Catastrophic failure
A catastrophic failure is a sudden and total failure of some system from which recovery is impossible. Catastrophic failures often lead to cascading systems failure....

 to the structural integrity of the firearm, and pose a threat to the operator or bystanders. The bullet from a squib stuck in the barrel can be ejected when subsequently firing a blank round, causing the gun to discharge a bullet when not expected. Furthermore, blank rounds use a type of powder different from that of other rounds, and generate much more pressure. Therefore, the presence of a bullet or other obstruction in the barrel may cause the firearm to explode.


Mechanical malfunctions of a firearm (commonly called jams) include failures to feed, extract, or eject a cartridge; failure to fully cycle after firing; and failure of a recoil- or gas-operated firearm to lock back when empty (largely a procedural hazard, as "slide lock" is a visual cue that the firearm is empty). In extreme cases, an overloaded round, blocked barrel, poor design and/or severely weakened breech can result in an explosive failure of the receiver, barrel, or other parts of the firearm.

Failure to feed

Failure to Feed (FTF) is when a weapon fails to feed the next round into the firing chamber.

Hammer follow

Hammer follow occurs when the disconnector allows the hammer to follow the bolt and firing pin into battery sometimes causing the firing mechanism to function faster than it is designed to.


A slamfire is a premature, unintended discharge of a firearm that occurs as a round
Cartridge (firearms)
A cartridge, also called a round, packages the bullet, gunpowder and primer into a single metallic case precisely made to fit the firing chamber of a firearm. The primer is a small charge of impact-sensitive chemical that may be located at the center of the case head or at its rim . Electrically...

 is being loaded into the chamber.


A stovepipe, smokestack, or failure to eject (FTE) occurs when the empty cartridge case jams vertically in the ejection port of the gun instead of being thrown clear, a condition usually caused by not holding the firearm correctly, or "limp wristing
Limp wristing
Limp wristing is a term used to describe a phenomenon commonly encountered by semiautomatic pistol shooters, where the shooter's grip is not firm enough to hold the frame of the pistol steady while the bolt or slide of the pistol cycles...



Firearm malfunctions can cause death or injury, and should not be taken lightly.

Courts have held, as they did in the case of David Olofson
David Olofson
David Olofson is an honorably discharged U.S. Army veteran who was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 30 months in federal prison by the U.S. Government on the charge of "transferring an unregistered machine gun" after he lent his 20-year old semi automatic Olympic Arms AR-15 style rifle to a...

, that when a worn firearm malfunctions in such a way as to fire multiple cartridges one or more times, this makes it a machine gun, causing legal liability for the owner.


Some mechanical malfunctions are caused by poor design and cannot easily be avoided. Some malfunctions with cartridges can be attributed to poor quality or damaged (improper storage, moisture) ammunition. Many malfunctions can be prevented by properly practicing firearm cleaning and maintenance on a regular basis.
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