Police officers firing at paper shooting target.

As a law enforcement officer in training, you learn fast that your firearm can be a lifeline in high-pressure situations. Therefore, it's critical to have a deep understanding of how your weapon operates, including the potential for gun misfires.

In this article, we'll delve into what a misfire is, the common reasons it occurs, how to identify when it happens, and most importantly, how to fix it and get back to target practice.

What Is a Gun Misfire?

A gun misfire, also known as a failure to fire, is a situation where a properly loaded firearm fails to discharge when the trigger is pulled. Simply put, it's a sudden, complete failure of the cartridge to ignite. During target practice, this scenario can be frustrating or embarrassing but in a life-threatening situation, it can be deadly.

Misfire vs. Hangfire

A misfire and a hangfire are two types of firearm malfunctions, but they do have distinct characteristics. 

We've already covered a gun misfire, so let's quickly review what a hangfire is.

  • A hangfire is a situation where there is a noticeable delay between when the trigger is pulled and when the round actually fires. 
  • This delay can range from milliseconds to several seconds. 

It's important to note that even though the round appears to have failed to fire initially, it may ignite at any time during the delay, posing serious safety risks for you and fellow shooters at the range. 

So, how do they compare? A misfire is an immediate failure to discharge, while a hangfire involves a delayed discharge after the trigger has been pulled. 

Common Reasons for Gun Misfires

Even the most seasoned marksman can experience a misfire from time to time, but there are a few common culprits you'll want to avoid:

  • Faulty Ammunition: If ammunition is old, corroded, or defective, a misfire is inevitable. 
  • Firing Pin Issues: A worn-out or broken firing pin can lead to misfires.
  • Dirty or Fouled Chamber: Residue buildup in the chamber can also prevent proper ignition of your cartridge.

Identifying Misfires

Knowing when a firearm misfires is actually the easy part. You'll hear a distinct "click" sound of the trigger being pulled without the expected "bang" of the firearm discharging. 

Additionally, a partial ejection of the cartridge or a visibly unstruck primer may indicate a misfire.

How Long Should You Wait If Your Firearm Misfires?

It's recommended to wait for at least 30 seconds to ensure that there is no delayed ignition (i.e., a hangfire).

How to Fix a Misfire in 5 Easy Steps

When a misfire occurs, follow these steps to safely address the issue and avoid injury to yourself and others.

  • Keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction.
  • Wait to ensure that there is no delayed ignition.
  • Carefully eject the malfunctioning cartridge.
  • Inspect it for any signs of primer indention.
  • If safe to do so, attempt to re-fire the cartridge. 

If the misfire persists, safely unload the firearm and inspect it for the causes mentioned earlier.

Stay Connected to Law Enforcement Resources

Qualification Targets, Inc. is committed to being the #1 supplier of paper, cardboard, and steel shooting targets for law enforcement departments across the United States.

In addition to our vast supply of target options, we also host a blog packed with informative articles and resources on new product launches, shooting safety tips, target recommendations, and more.

We invite you to browse our collection of shooting targets and resources! If you have questions about any of our products or would like to place a department order, please contact us directly at 866-498-8228.