Rifle Stoppage Drills

A Great CRCD Class! + Comment
April 28, 2014
CRCD 26/27 April – 3 x AAR/Comments
April 30, 2014

A part of weapons manipulation training is addressing and dealing with weapons stoppages and  malfunctions. On the class description for the Combat Rifle/Contact Drills (CRCD) Class I include the following:


For those that are not attending the Rifle Manipulation Primer Class you should be able to demonstrate a basic level of competence at the following:

1) Muzzle awareness

2) Stoppage drill

 – Speed/Emergency reload (Empty Magazine)

– Tactical Reload

– Malfunction Clearance:

– Tap/Rack/Bang
– Remedial Action

Remember that CRCD will include standing, kneeling and prone firing positions ‘in the wild’ and thus you should compensate accordingly with your gear set-up and with any prior training that you do.


Students do show up with different rifles, not just AR’s. Even if they have an AR, they may have modified it to better allow them to manipulate it. However, it would be useful to describe how to deal with these stoppages with a standard AR rifle.

I will assume a right handed firer. The support hand is therefore the left hand. The right hand will be on the pistol grip and operating the trigger. You should be primarily reloading with your left hand. Pouches should be set up so that magazine/dump pouches are accessible with the left hand for rapid reloading.

The intent with a stoppage drill is to get the weapon back into the fight as rapidly as possible:


Common First Step: If you are firing your weapon and it fails to fire, immediately cant it slightly to the left so you can observe the ejection port. As you do this, ensure you take better cover. You will then act as a result of what you see:

Speed/Emergency reload:

  • Fire until the magazine is empty and the bolt locks to the rear.
  • On canting the weapon you observe no round in the chamber and no rounds in the magazine i.e. empty magazine.
  • Keeping the weapon pointing towards the enemy (and taking better cover if you need to):
  • Operate the magazine release button with your right index finger. The magazine should drop out of the weapon.
  • Cant the weapon to the right, this will create space when prone and give some momentum to the empty magazine to aid in its ejection.
  • Simultaneously index a magazine from a pouch, (beer can/hammer grip preferred) It helps to have the magazines in the pouch upside down and facing the right way so you consistently grab the magazines in the same manner.
  • Bring the magazine to the weapon. Push it into the magazine well. Pull on it to ensure it is locked in place (Push/pull).
  • Press the bolt release with the thumb of your support hand, it will be there after a proper reload anyway.  Using the charging handle is strongly discouraged.
  • Resume firing.
  • If you have time, situational dependant, you can retrieve the magazine from the ground and put it away.

NOTE: The priority of the speed/emergency reload is to get the weapon back in the fight. Magazine retention is secondary. If you have the time after an emergency reload, you can pick up your empty magazine. Due to the effects of stress it is better to learn one way to perform the emergency/speed reload and if you have time and presence of mind you can conduct a tactical reload.

Tactical Reload:

  • This happens in a lull in the battle, or before moving to a phase where you need to ensure you have a full magazine.
  • You have fired some rounds from your magazine and wish to ensure you have a full magazine in the weapon. There is already a round in the chamber.
  • Keeping the weapon pointed at the threat, from cover, and maintaining observation, index a fresh magazine from a pouch first.
  • Bring the full magazine to the rifle. Make an ‘L’ shape with the full magazine and the partial magazine in the weapon. It is ok to glance at the magazine while you do this.
  • Operate the magazine release button with your right index finger. You are holding on to both magazines at this point.
  • Pull the old magazine out and flip the new one up and fit it into the magazine well. Push/pull.
  • Put the old magazine away.

If you are doing this in a pause in the battle, ensure you maintain security/observation. Take turns to do this. You may also take the opportunity to ‘bump’ your magazine load up and refill your ready pouches with fresh magazines. The reason you bring the full magazine to the weapon before you remove the partial mag, is that if you do it the other way round, and you come under contact, you only have one round in the chamber and no magazine fitted. You will also lose the advantage of the bolt lock when you fire that one round.

Tap, Rack, Bang

  • Trigger does not fire the weapon
  • Canting it to the left, you observe the ejection port and see:
    • The bolt is fully seated
    • The bolt is not seated
    • there is a stovepipe (an empty case sticking perpendicular out of the ejection port, wedged in by the closed bolt.
  • With your left hand:
  • Tap the bottom magazine to ensure it is correctly seated.
  • Rack the slide by pulling back on the charging handle, fully to the rear, and releasing it. Do not ride the charging handle forward.
  • Bang continue firing.

Note: the military version is SPORTS:

  • Slap (the base of the magazine)
  • Pull (charging handle to the rear)
  • Observe (the chamber)
  • Release (the charging handle)
  • Tap (the forward assist)
  • Shoot

Remedial  Action:

  • Weapon stops firing
  • Canting it to the left, you observe the ejection port and see:
    • 2 or more rounds stuck in the chamber i.e. double feed or similar problem.
    • or
    • Bolt override (covered separately)
  • Strip the magazine from the rifle
  • With the left hand, rack the charging handle at least twice.
  • (You can also shake the weapon to help the rounds fall out of the magazine well)
  • Replace the magazine (push/pull).
  • Pull the charging handle fully to the rear and release.
  • Fire.

Bolt Override:

  • Weapon stops firing
  • Canting it to the left, you observe the ejection port and see:
    • A round jammed up above the bolt.
  • Remove the magazine. This may require considerable force.
  • Allow the muzzle to go into the ground. Lean into the weapon with your right shoulder.
  • Pull the charging handle as far to the rear as possible with the left hand. This may also require considerable force.
  • Placing the fingers of the right hand through the ejection port, put pressure on the face of the bolt and push it rearward.
  • Push the charging handle forwards until it is seated. This should free the offending round and allow it fall through the magwell.
  • Reinsert a magazine
  • Charge the weapon.
  • Fire.

These drills, and the practice of them, are included on the MVT weapons manipulation training classes. such as the Rifle Manipulation Primer (RMP) and the Combat Rifle Manipulation (CRM) classes. They are covered by default on CRCD. The better you can manipulate your weapon back into the fight, particularly when under stress, the better you will be able to recover from a stoppage on the CRCD class.

Live Hard.

Die Free.



  1. Submariner says:

    If it is proper to push/pull the magazine on emergency reload and tactical reload to ensure it is seated correctly, then why not push/pull the magazine to ensure it is correctly seated on the immediate action instead of tapping it?

    • Aaron says:

      That’s s a great question. The answer is two fold. Speed and institutional inertia. It’s faster to hit something that’s already in place than to grab it and push then pull. When I’m loading I’m already moving in to the mag well with the fresh magazine. Motion stops and changes direction twice rather than three times if push/pull was done during immediate action. So it’s a little faster and those seconds add up.

  2. […] to tactical reload.” Magazine clatters to the ground. Me to Aaron: “That was the least tactical  reload I have ever seen.” (Yes, you had to be there). And so I gave him a grenade on Sunday […]

  3. […] But, the ‘mag flip’ is  real technique. See ‘Rifle Stoppage Drills‘: […]

  4. Dav says:

    I was infantry and I was never taught the bolt overdrive drill. Two questions. Isn’t dangerous to push on the bolt with your fingers? Shouldn’t we see “clear the barrel” before “fire”. Thanks for your great job!

    • Aaron says:


      Being infantry is great but there’s a lot they don’t teach you. Obviously I don’t know when you were in. Suffice to say times change. So let’s move on!

      For the purposes of this reply ‘YOU’ refers to everyone. Don’t take offense. The BO clearance technique is designed to be fast and done without tools.

      I’m not teaching you how to do this so that on a sunny day at the range you can look cool. It’s so that when it’s dark, you’re tired, hungry and your family/friends are dying all around you can get your weapon back in the fight when it shits the bed likely because you didn’t properly maintain your magazines.

      So now that we have some context let’s look at your specific questions.

      1. Is it dangerous to push on the bolt with your fingers?

      No it’s not. The bolt can’t close properly in the first place that’s why you’re in this situation. If you stick your fingers in there and push back on the bolt it won’t get enough momentum to cause any real damage.

      Once the stoppage is cleared moving your finger allows the bolt to close. The worst thing that’s happened to me is I got a hang nail and scraped my finger. Now if you lock the bolt to the rear, stick your finger in the chamber and release the bolt yes that will cause damage. That can’t happen with this technique.

      2. Shouldn’t we see “clear the barrel before fire?”

      If you can clear your barrel with your fingers you go right ahead. Mine don’t fit in the barrel unfortunately. If you have a clearing rod in your pack or on your vest again, feel free to take it out and put it together, then take your rifle apart and swab your barrel. Put everything back together reload and get back in the fight. Hopefully that didn’t take too long!

      So, now that I’ve given my snarky answer here’s why.

      First, assuming you have some form of muzzle device you have anywhere from 1-3 inches from the tip of the muzzle device until your barrel actually start. Likely you won’t get anything in your barrel at all. Lets say you do, it has to actually go inside the barrel to cause damage, anything that’s just on the muzzle device or sort of inside will be blown out on the first shot. I promise.

      Second, you’re just isolating the movement of the rifle. If the ground is muddy you can use a rock, log, dead body, magazine, wall etc. to brace the muzzle. The point of the drill is not to see what shit you can put your rifle into but to isolate movement of the weapon so you can apply two opposing forces at once.

      Third. Let’s say you did hit the far end of the combat spectrum where you get a rare malfunction, there’s nothing around but mud, you do actually get a bunch of shit in your barrel and then fire it. The rifle explodes!

      The breach of your barrel will occur at the site of the obstruction which again will be away from your body and likely will not cause you serious (if any) injury. Weapons are designed to fail safe.

      Well fuck. You’re rifle is now toast, or at least your barrel is. Now it doesn’t work. Which is essentially the same boat you were in before. IE gunfight without a gun. You can argue that at least at some point in the future you could have cleared your barrel and still have a rifle. Of course my counter would be you’d have to live that long in the first place.