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.

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

“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 handgun in an even worse jam, or they simply take too long. Typically the stovepipe happens with 1911 pistols, though it is possible to happen on other pistols.

Fortunately, pistol 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 handgun from returning to an operable state. Stovepipe malfunctions are easy to spot because the spent casing will usually be sticking out of the handgun and into your field of view.

Stovepipe jams can be caused by a number of issues – such as a bad magazine, poor ammo, dirty gun, faulty ejector, or a bad recoil spring. If stovepipes malfunctions become a regular issue, something is seriously wrong with your handgun or ammo. Try cleaning the handgun and replacing springs as a first step.

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

How to clear a stovepipe malfunction

The important thing to not do with a stovepipe malfunction is to rack the slide as the first action. This can cause a double feed malfunction on the pistol, which takes even more effort to clear and leaves valuable 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.

However, if the handgun gets more jammed up with a double feed malfunction or something similar, quickly strip the magazine, rack the slide to clear any rounds or brass, insert the magazine, rack the slide, and begin shooting again.

Stovepipe Malfunction Drills

It’s very easy to practice the above stovepipe malfunction 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, be intentional and focused. Self analyze and strive for efficiency of motion. This way, in the heat of the moment, habit will take care of the malfunction in a safe and quick manner.

Written by - always a student, sometimes a teacher.

I don't consider myself a competition shooter - I think of myself as a performance pistol shooter. I am all about performing at as high of a level as possible. Towards that end, I am obsessive about learning how to perform. I spend a lot of my life learning from the best across the entire firearms world and even into other areas of performance and other sports. I am a USPSA Carry Optics Grandmaster, currently working towards my second GM title in the Open division.

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