Rifle Stoppage Drills

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.