The Other Way
The sounds of gunfire from the line came to a stop.
“How many bullets are left in your gun?” Shouted our Range Master.
“Not enough!” Came the refrain from the line.
“Good answer! Then do a tac load! Gas up those guns!”
The students independently began working through their magazine manipulations.
One student… a proficient shooter, brought his gun back to his chest with the muzzle pointing down range. He then took the magazine from the gun, placed it in his pocket and then retrieved a magazine from this pouch and brought it up to his gun. His eyes were on the target the entire time, but his firearm was below his line of sight.
An instructor watched this and walked over to him.
“Try keeping the gun up in your workspace so you can see through it towards the potential threat. Also, you want to grab the new ammunition source first before you release the old magazine.”
“That’s not how I was taught…. I do it this way.”
“All right… explain to me why you do it that way.”
“What? Ugh.. well… I’ve taken a lot of classes and we do it this way.”
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“Hmmm… let me see one of your magazines.”
The student looked at our instructor with a perplexed look and handed him a magazine from his pouch.
“We keep our firearm in our workspace for a few reasons. First, and foremost is to keep your head up and eyes on any potential threats. Second, if you encounter a problem in your reload your firearm is up, and you can refocus your gaze to it without looking down. Finally, there is a possibility that the magazine in your gun is empty. Since there is a round still in the chamber the gun would not have gone to slide lock. As you remove the magazine from your gun; if there is no brass in it, there is no reason to retain it… you can just drop the empty magazine to the deck without going through the process of retaining it. Had your gun been below your workspace you may wind up retaining an empty magazine.”
During this little dialogue the instructor was placing the magazine back in the students pouch,backwards… with the bullets facing in to the rear.
“Yeah… I’m just going to do it the way I’ve been trained to do it.”
“So you don’t have an rational for the way you do it?”
“I’m just comfortable doing it this way.”
“Ok… well… let me see you do it again… maybe I can learn something from it.”
The student brought his gun back to his chest and focused down range at his target. He removed the magazine and placed it in his back pocket. He then reached down and pulled out his improperly stowed magazine from his pouch and began attempting to insert it backwards.
As soon as he realized he was having issues inserting it he looked down to try and figure out what was going on. His eyes were not only off target, he was literally looking down towards his feet.
“Where are your eyes right now?”
The student sighed. Ok good point.
“Alright… lets now talk about why we grab our magazine first…..”
Many of us our passionate about the training we go through. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Orthodoxy, when it comes to training or tactics creates repeatability, and while that may aid us in developing efficiencies and speed, we also run the danger of limiting the size of our tool box. An action, a performance, or a tactic done in an intellectual vacuum does little for our understanding at skill at arms. We may excel at performing a specific task, but if the task holds little tactical value, or worse… creates a greater liability, what have we accomplished?
Nietzsche, instructed us to “philosophize with a hammer”. In other words, take an intellectual mallet to the statute of orthodoxy that you believe in. One of two things will happen, the hammer will shatter as it strikes the unbreakable orthodoxy…or the orthodoxy will shatter under the weight of the hammer. Either way your position has improved.
John Stuart Mill, writing “On Liberty” took an economic approach to intellectual enlightenment. When you question a precept you receive back one of three benefits. The precept has a stronger intellectual foundation than the counter argument, in which case the counter argument fails. The counter argument is stronger than the precept, in which case the precept fails, or the counter argument simply strengthens the precept by pointing out small problems with it and allowing for augmentation of the precept. Regardless…. the questioner comes out more intellectually “rich” for having undergone the exercise.
Weapons training is no different.
We must constantly test our tactics against competing methods to determine if we are performing an action with the most tactical efficiency…
… we must also be prepared to accept the possibility that we might not be.