Understanding how to clear malfunctions is an important part of firearms handling and ownership. Shooting when everything is functioning properly is great. But then, when something goes wrong, your day at the range suddenly gets more complicated. No need to stress, we’ll walk you through how to handle malfunctions in this “Tips and Tricks with Taylor.”
Today’s topic: double feeds.
WHAT IS A DOUBLE FEED AND HOW TO IDENTIFY IT
A double feed is when two rounds try to enter the chamber at the same time. It is also known as a Type 3 Malfunction. When attempting to fire, the trigger will feel mushy and not “click.” The first reaction should be “tap-rack.” This should clear all Type 1 and 2 Malfunctions. Tapping the magazine ensures it is fully seated, and racking the bolt again will clear most issues (such as a stovepipe) and chamber a new round. But after perhaps a couple tap-racks, you might realize things are still not going well. So it’s time to investigate.
Tilt the AR so that you can lay eyes on the ejection port. If you have a double feed, something looking like a log jam will reveal itself. You will see multiple rounds trying to make entry into the chamber, leaving you dead in the water. Time to clear it.
HOW TO CLEAR A DOUBLE-FEED
A double feed is one of the more complicated malfunctions to clear, and it will not always be remedied the same. It takes more time to handle than Type 1 and 2 Malfunctions, which can increase stress levels during a competition or defensive situation.
Stay calm. Just follow these steps:
Rip out the magazine, HARD. One round is most likely still somewhat seated in the magazine and often it will not come out easily. (An extra step people will sometimes do is to first lock back the bolt to release the pressure that the buffer spring is applying on the lodged rounds.)
Rack back the bolt. Most instructors will recommend you do this three times.
Inspect the chamber to make sure the malfunction is cleared.
Reinsert the magazine, rack in a new round, and you are back in business!
That didn’t work? Well, sometimes Type 3 Malfunctions don’t clear so easily. If a lock-rip-rack didn’t work, keep the bolt back and try these steps:
In a safe direction, shake the AR. This will often loosen up the rounds so they simply fall to the ground.
Now, reach your fingers through the bottom of the magwell and push/pull on the rounds to get them to release.
If that doesn’t work, use a tool (another good reason to always carry a pocketknife). Put it through the ejection port. Place the tool tip on the cartridge rim and push it away from the chamber. Don’t put your fingers through the ejection port. That is a recipe for blood blisters!
WHAT CAUSES A DOUBLE FEED?
Hate to break it to you, but most of the time a double feed is caused by user error. It happens when an AR is already loaded and someone tries to rack another round into the chamber. Stress might be kicking in and creating a lack of awareness of the firearm’s condition.
Most commonly, after a hot reload, people will habitually rack the bolt back and send the gun into a Type 3 Malfunction. Less common is a faulty magazine. If the follower is worn, it will not load rounds properly. Also, if your magazine is fully loaded, the buffer spring might not be strong enough to push the round all the way into the chamber. That's why most competitors and operators will only load their 30-round magazines with 29 rounds. The risk of having a malfunction is not worth the extra round.
TRAIN FOR MALFUNCTIONS
If the only time you clear malfunctions is while actively shooting under stress, let’s be honest and recognize you will not be able to clear them efficiently and quickly. Take the time to set up malfunctions and learn how to clear them effectively. That is how to truly understand what is happening with your firearm. This all comes from experience.
I won’t lie, it happened to me during my first time competing in 3-gun. I had AR malfunctions and didn’t know what was going on or how to clear them. My AR had never malfunctioned until that point. This was incredibly stressful to say the least. The issues were eventually cleared, but I was left feeling humbled and knew what truly needed to be addressed at the next practice session. Certainly, the malfunctions were due to stress and lack of experience. Take some advice, and train for issues.
HOW TO SET UP A DOUBLE FEED
It might seem odd setting up malfunctions at first, but that is the only way you can practice clearing them with repetition. Insert a loaded magazine and rack a round into the chamber. Take the charging handle and pull it back. Then slowly push the bolt forward so that it catches the next round. You now have a double feed.
MORAL OF THE STORY
Understand what malfunctions are possible with your firearms. Practice how to clear these malfunctions. Then use those skills to stay calm and get your gun up and running again when things go sideways. If you are having issues with other types of malfunctions, just let us know. In the “Tips and Tricks with Taylor” series, I also cover topics such as limp-wristing and the moose dongle.