If you have a semi-automatic pistol, you’ve experienced a stoppage. If you just bought your first, give it time. It will happen. It may be a failure to fire, a failure to feed, a double feed, a failure to eject, a magazine that’s not fully seated…whatever. If it can go wrong, it will and anyone who carries a semi-automatic handgun or relies on one for home defense needs to know what to do if and when it happens to you.
There are a lot of brand new gun owners out there who haven’t had much with their new pistols. Maybe they haven’t even thought about the possibility of a malfunction, but they need to. No one wants to rely on a handgun to protect themselves or their family and have it fail to go bang. That can ruin your whole day.
Most malfs are the fault of your magazine, but whatever the cause of your gun’s failure, the tap/rack/(reassess)bang drill will usually get you back to shooting quickly. Firmly tap — smack, really — the bottom of the magazine with the heel of your support hand, rack the slide, then reassess your situation and get your gun back on target with a fresh round in the chamber.
If your problem is a double feed, though, tap/rack/bang won’t help. You’ll need to lock your slide back, drop your magazine (yank it out if you have to), load a fresh magazine and rack the slide again (if you need a good reason to carry an extra magazine, there you go).
This video from GunSpot provides a nice tutorial on clearing these malfunctions in clear, plain language. If you know a new gun owner, someone who hasn’t had much trigger time since they bought their gun, pass this on to them. Friends don’t let friends shoot unprepared.