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How to Troubleshoot Firearm Stoppage Using SAMM


Firearm Stoppage Troubleshooting Using SAMM
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When I am on the range with new shooters and they have a malfunction they tend to blame the gun. I understand totally, you pay a lot for a firearm, and want to depend on it to function 100% of the time.  Especially if you plan on using to defend your life.

If it keeps malfunctioning, you start to wonder if you bought a lemon.

However, it is been my experience that mechanical problems are not the leading reason most semi-automatic handguns malfunction.

There is an acronym that goes over the reasons for handgun malfunction, and it just happens to be in order or likely hood – so when you are on the range and “gun don’t work” try this first  That acronym is SAMM.

The list below will show you how to begin firearm stoppage troubleshooting using SAMM.


Semi-automatic handguns are amazing things; they are designed to contain and channel explosions, push projectiles at hundreds of feet per second, extract and eject spent casings, push fresh rounds from magazines and then chamber them in the handgun. All this has to be done with a single input of energy and timed and balanced so that everything is done.

The shooter is a variable in the design. If the shooter does not provide a steady platform for the gun to recoil against, then the laws of physics make the whole gun want to recoil equally instead of just the slide. If the slide is not able to move farther and faster than the frame of the handgun you will get failures to extract, failures to eject, double feeds, and failures to load.

In my experience with new shooters, the greatest single cause of handgun malfunctions is the shooter not holding the handgun properly.


Ammunition malfunctions are another cause of firearms failing to function as designed. I have no issue with reloads, and done properly by a skilled individual hand loaded ammunition can function much better than factory ammunition. However, there are a lot of variables in ammunition manufacture, and reloads tend to have a greater than normal incidence of misfires, hang fires, and squib loads. Some guns (like my Walther P22) are very finicky about the ammunition it will digest, and ammunition that does not have a lot of pressure will cause the gun to double feed or fail to extract.

Remember, that with a semi-automatic, the round is part of the firearm operation, and it moves inside the firearm. If the nose of the bullet does not smoothly engage the feeding ramp then the firearm will not load smoothly. There is a reason for the recommendation that you practice with the same type of ammunition you choose to carry for defensive use.

If you have malfunction after malfunction, especially with chambering, you may want to switch ammunition brands or styles.


Most, if not all, ranges offer rental guns, and most of those ranges do not spend a lot of effort in ensuring that their rental guns are cleaned properly.

One range I use rents an old red label Sturm, Ruger & Co .22 pistol. I doubt that gun has been cleaned since Mr. Sturm passed in 1951. These guns are popular handguns, and known for their great design, but that particular firearm will not shoot more than 2 rounds before it has a jam. It is simply too dirty. I have thought about cleaning it myself, but I have a side bet to see if it will ever get so dirty it won’t except a magazine….

Glock’s torture test is legendary, but as their armorer course instructor said, it’s a test – not a daily routine.

Just because you CAN drop you loaded gun in the mud, let it sit for a month then fire it without cleaning doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Clean your firearm, lube it according to the manufacturer specifications, hold it properly, and feed it what it likes to eat and your gun will work 99.9% of the time


There is a reason Mechanical is last. Stock guns maintained properly very rarely break on the range. It does happen, and I have had front sights work themselves loose after thousands of practice draws, but it is not routine enough that it is front of my mind when diagnosing why a new shooter is having malfunctions on the range.

Typically, even most mechanical malfunctions I have seen come from shooters using aftermarket parts on their guns. If the designer wanted a titanium firing pin for a lighter quicker primer strike, why did they not put a titanium pin in the gun? It seems to me, that in today’s litigious world, especially with the competition between gun manufacturers, if a part made the gun better, faster, or stronger, the manufacturer would sell it – either in the gun or as an option.

This is just my two cents, it doesn’t butter my biscuit either way – if your gun is stock, or you hung everything but Christmas Lights on it. I am just trying to pass on what I have seen, and what I have learned through the years.

Understanding the USE of Handguns for Self-Defense

Published inSelf Defense, Security, & Shooting


  1. americuh americuh

    I have a sig 9mm that jams. It won’t feed a bullet. I have tried different and new magazines and different factory ammo. It still won’t load. It has only shot a few boxes of factory ammunition in it’s life. It rested unused for a long time before jamming, as my bedside personal defense weapon. How frightening. It has relinquished it’s spot back to the former occupier of it’s space: a Ruger double action 357.

    • Sig’s are supposed to be reliable and high quality – I had a 220 that was awesome – The only thing I can tell you is to go through the SAMM steps – and identify every variable. Have someone else try to shoot it to see if it is shooter based, try cleaning it. If its not you, dirt, ammo, or magazines take it to a gunsmith. Sorry I cannot help more.

  2. Christopher de Vidal Christopher de Vidal

    First time shooting a Glock, I must have been limp-wristing because I got 3-4 jams. But then I searched Youtube and found various limp-wristing tests and saw that jams are common when limp-wristing. I’m not sure I want to trust my life to a weapon that must be held a certain way; There might be a scenario where for whatever reason my grip on the gun is not textbook-perfect, and then what? What do you think?

    • Christopher de Vidal Christopher de Vidal

      Correction: “I searched Youtube and found various limp-wristing tests and saw that jams are common when limp-wristing a Glock, but not other models.”

      • I understand what you are saying, and your right you have a right to demand your defensive gun works 100% all of the time, but I want to point out that all semi automatics need to recoil AGAINST something, otherwise the whole gun moves back and not just the slide. You don’t have to have a “textbook” grip – but you do have to have firm control of the gun, no matter how you are positioned.

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