Historically, hang fires have occurred with older firearms that used muzzleloading bullets. Due to the manufacturing and design changes in guns over the past few decades, hang fires have become rare.
With the increased popularity of muzzleloading, especially during the winter season, there has been an increase in reports of hang fires. This is because new muzzleloaders are being manufactured with older designs and lower quality materials.
As mentioned before, a hang fire is when the trigger is pulled and there is a delay in when the gun actually fires. There are two different types of hang fires: true and false.
True hang fires occur when the gun actually delays firing. This can be very dangerous because you think you have shot your bullet, but then nothing happens. False hang fires happen when the bullet immediately ejects, but does not go anywhere due to no trigger pull or lack of a propellant. These are more dangerous as you think you have shot your bullet, but then nothing happens.
Stop shooting and check the gun
If you continue to shoot, the gun may go off, putting other people in danger. If the gun did not go off after a hang fire, it may need to be reloaded before it fires.
Stop shooting and check the gun for safety concerns. If there is a hole in the barrel or the hammer or trigger appears damaged, then the gun is unsafe to use.
Check that all of the components are intact and functioning properly. If any parts appear damaged or dislodged, re-install them correctly and check again for functionality.
If you have already unloaded your muzzleloader and cannot re-install components or detect any issues with them, then use another firearm at the range. Be sure to tell the range officers that there was a hang fire and that they should check your firearm for any issues before letting anyone else use it.
Wait at least 30 seconds
Wait at least 30 seconds before attempting to fire the next shot. Many sources recommend waiting a full minute before attempting to reload and shoot the next shot.the
If there is not a large crowd of people watching you, then you should try to reload and shoot the next shot as quickly as possible. The longer you take between shots, the less chance there is of something happening.the
The reason for this is that there is less chance of the powder in the barrel burning completely if you are quick with the next shot.the
If you are in a crowd of people or have someone watching you, then tell them to stay back for at least 30 seconds before approaching you or coming close to your muzzleloader.
Check the pan
If you are able to check the pan, do so as quickly as possible. Check the powder, the ball, and the breech to make sure they are all in place.
If there is no apparent issue with the pan or ammunition, then you should continue to shoot. If there is an issue with the ammunition or the pan, then you should try to fix it.
You can test the primer with a pinch of thumb and forefinger: if it feels hard then it is probably still functioning. You can also smell if it has gone bad—a burnt smell indicates a failed primer.
If the primer is not functioning then your best bet is to remove it and re-seat it.
Check the primer area
Primers are the tiny caplike components that are embedded in the base of the cartridge. A firing pin strikes the primer, which creates a small explosion that ignites the powder in the cartridge.
If you experience a hang fire, look carefully at the primer area. If there is no visible damage to the primer, then it probably did not fire.
If there is damage to the primer, then it may have failed to ignite the powder. If this is the case, then you should handle your firearm with caution until you know what happened.
If you see no signs of damage to either the pin or base, then you should re-primer your firearm before shooting again.
Look at the vent hole
A hang fire happens when the gun does not fire immediately after you pull the trigger. The primer is struck and fires, but the bullet does not leave the barrel immediately.
There can be a number of reasons your muzzleloader does this, and it is important to remember that this is not a dangerous situation unless you re-cock the gun before the bullet leaves the barrel.
Sometimes powder grains are too large, making it difficult for the flame to penetrate and ignite the powder in the brass cartridge. You can try using a finer grain powder to remedy this.
Another reason could be that your barrel is too tight. If there is not enough room for the smoke to disperse, then there is not enough time for the next step in firing the gun. Try loosening the screws slightly to fix this.
Finally, maybe your primer was not strong enough.
Feel for heat near the muzzle
If you feel any heat near the muzzle, call the shot off. Wait several minutes before checking the barrel, but if you feel heat, do not pull the trigger.
A hang fire can happen when burning powder does not completely combust. This leaves a hot particle that takes a little longer to burn completely. When the next bullet is put into place, it strikes this hot particle and sets off the powder combustion fully.
The problem with calling off the shot is that if the gun is pointed downrange, someone could get hit. It is your responsibility to make sure that does not happen.
Check your flint and make sure it is sharp. If it is not, take some time to fix that. It could be causing incomplete combustion of the powder.
Run a patch through the barrel
If you are able to immediately run a patch through the barrel, then do so. This will ensure that any powder that has burned has made contact with the bullet.
If the patch comes out clean, then the gun is safe to carry down range. If there is residue on the patch, then you should run another patch through to make sure all of the residue is gone.
It is important to note that if the bullet has not been deflected off of the rifling of the barrel, then it will still be in the barrel when you do this check. Running another round through the gun may cause serious injury or death. Be sure to check your sights and ensure that it is not loaded before doing this check.
If you are unable to run a patch through the barrel, then set down the gun and wait at least thirty minutes.
Use a fire extinguisher near the muzzleloader
If you are not near a fire extinguisher, then your best bet is to stay clear of the gun. Put down any fear or anxiety and slowly walk away.
Once clear of the gun, leave the area until you know it has been fired. You do not want to be in the area when it fires as it may hurt you.
If you have to reload the gun, do so carefully and quickly. Once completed, leave the area immediately.
The longer the hang fire takes to fire, the greater chance of damage from leaving the muzzleloader alone.