What is a “Stovepipe” Malfunction is & How to Clear It

Stovepipes are a brutal “failure to eject” (FTE) malfunction that put your handgun in a complete inoperable state. A stovepipe is when a spent casing gets caught in the action and the firearm’s action can no longer cycle. Fortunately, these types of jams can be easily cleared through proper technique.

“Stovepipes” are a brutal “failure to eject” (FTE) malfunctions that put your handgun in a complete inoperable state. This is obviously a serious problem in a competition, self-defense situation, or combat environment. While there are several techniques to clear a stovepipe malfunction, some of them may get your firearm in an even worse jam, or they simply take too long.

Fortunately, stovepipe malfunctions can be quickly and easily cleared with proper technique.

What is a stovepipe malfunction?

A “stovepipe” malfunction is caused when a spent casing is not ejected far enough or fast enough to leave the firearm’s ejection port. This failure to eject malfunction causes the spent casing to get caught by the handgun slide, preventing the firearm from returning to an operable state. Stovepipe malfunctions are easy to spot because the spent casing will be sticking out of the handgun and into your field of view.

Stovepipes can be caused by a number of issues – such as a bad magazine, poor ammo, dirty gun, or a bad recoil spring. If stovepipes become a regular issue, something is seriously wrong with your gun. Thankfully the usual fixes to this malfunction are rather easy.

Thanks to Wise Men Company and Guns.com for the excellent video.

How to clear a stovepipe malfunction

The important thing to not do with a stovepipe malfunction is to rack the slide. This can cause a double feed malfunction, which takes even more effort to clear and leaves live ammunition on the ground. In any sort of time sensitive shooting scenario, that is very bad. Instead of racking the slide, while mindful of the pistol’s muzzle, swipe your hand across the top of the slide to sweep the spent casing out of the slide. Be aware, this may result in finish wear on your handgun, but we’re more concerned about quickly clearing the malfunction than a firearm’s aesthetics. After the stovepipe has been cleared, tap the back of the pistol slide to ensure the slide is in battery, and shoot the handgun like normal.

With the proper technique, clearing a stovepipe jam can be accomplished with two quick steps and minimal impact on your shooting session.

Stovepipe Malfunction Drills

It’s very easy to practice the above stovepipe clearing technique at the range or at home. When at the range during live fire, simply pick up a spent casing and practice what was shown in the video. For dry fire practice at home, bring home a spent casing and load your magazine with dummy rounds for some easy, safe, and cheap malfunction drills.

It is best to practice this malfunction drill in a safe dry fire environment to prevent your hand from passing in front of the firearm’s muzzle. Like with all shooting drills, start slow, and focus on building muscle memory. This way, in the heat of the moment, habit will take care of the malfunction in a safe and quick manner.

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Brian Purkiss
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Brian Purkiss is a firearms instructor, competitive shooter, proponent for individual liberty and Second Amendment rights, and a web developer. He enjoys competing in and organizing Run and Gun Competitions, as well as shooting in USPSA, Outlaw matches, and 3 Gun.