Incorporating Failure Drills into Training

Incorporating Failure Drills into Training

Incorporating Failure Drills into Training

It’s a sad truth in the concealed carry community: most of us don’t train as much as we should or would like to. And the training we do is incomplete in that we tend to focus on the “fun” parts of concealed carry and tactical training. We love to shoot, or run a tactical course, or do mag dumps. We’re less found of working on our first aid skills, or endlessly practicing magazine swaps, or—drumroll—running malfunction drills.

I understand why malfunction drills are so easy to overlook. Most of us are pretty comfortable with our EDC setup and trust our handgun of choice to death. And after all, it’s reliable on the range and that just settles the point, doesn’t it?

Let’s face facts: as we’ve discussed before range conditions and real-life conditions are completely different. The range is, or should be, a totally controlled environment. Real life almost never is, and little things can add up to big errors. This is one of those moments when we need to put pride aside and actually train to deal with problems and contingencies that might develop. Murphy’s law is cruel mistress.

Incorporating Firearm Failures While Dry Firing

So how can we best incorporate malfunction drills into training? Well, the good news is that while malfunction drills may not be particularly sexy, they are cheap to practice. My preferred technique is to drill them at home as part of my dry fire practice. There are a couple of ways to do this, and I’ve tried to put together ideas that will work for most platforms and weapons. There specific drills for semi-autos, revolvers, military patter rifles, shotguns, etc. These are some general ideas:

Just run tap/rack/bang or stovepipe drills as part of your dry fire and mag swap routine. Use spent brass or dummy rounds. All the normal rules apply: start slow, aim to get each action perfect and controlled, and then gradually build up speed. Do this endlessly until it’s reflexive.

Once you think you’re good, it’s time to mix it up. This requires a friend to run dry fire drills with. Dry fire normal, whatever drill you had scheduled that day, and at random intervals have your friend yell out “FAILURE!” or the name of a specific failure and at that point you run the appropriate drill. You can mix this up with any other drills your running, which might make for a very sadistic afternoon of tactical practice.

Incorporating Firearm Failures at the Range

All training is removed from the real world, and dry fire more so than most. So how can you incorporate live-fire failure training at the range while keeping safety in mind. Here are a few ideas:

  • Have a friend load your magazines, with dummy rounds at random intervals. When you hit the misfire, run your drill. You can incorporate this into tactical or three gun training with a little creativity.
  • Practice for catastrophic failure. Some failures can’t be fixed without disassembling the weapon. At the range, this is annoying; in real life it can be fatal. So practice drills that force you to transition: to a side arm, a knife, hand to hand, or just running for cover.

There’s obviously a lot more, and I’ll look forward to hearing your ideas in the comments section.

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Michael Jenkins is a writer and editor based in Wilmington, North Carolina. He is a lifelong reader, gardener, shooter, and musician. You can reach him at
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Malfunction drills are an integral part of my wife’s and my training. She understands the need to be able to recover quickly from a malfunction, and works it every week when we go to the range, as do I. I always consider a malfunction, although I have to say with complete honesty that I have never had a malfunction with my G21 since I started carrying it in 2001.

Fred Miller

Ahhhh…happiness is a warm stovepipe.