Firing Line Confessional

Posted on November 16, 2011 by


I’ve written extensively in the past about the need for integrity in our training. Integrity, as it relates to firearms training, is the concept that we should train with the some equipment and techniques that we are going to use in real life. This may sound basic, but most of us don’t realize the things we do on the range that we would never do in real life: Do you reload from the bench or from the belt? Do you use a stance designed to enhance your accuracy or do you shoot with a stance that mirrors the body’s natural response to an emergency?

There are two benefits from integrity in our firearms training. The first, and the one that we have discussed the most previously, is the fact that training with integrity will give us a realistic and actual understanding of our abilities in real life. As Clint Eastwood says, “It’s good for a man to know his limitations.”

But a second, and less obvious advantage, is that training with your carry gear worn and carried in the way you plan on wearing and carrying it in real life will show you mistakes or deficiencies in your loadout. Today, I’m going to share an embarrassing moment from my range time this past week that illustrates this point well.

This past weekend I went to the range with another relatively experienced shooter (when I say “relatively experienced” I mean many more certifications than yours truly). While walking through some of my favorite range drills, I challenged him to do the reload in his next iteration of the drill from a magazine carried on his body (as it would be in daily carry) instead of a reload from the bench. It sounds simple, but like most of us he does most of his range reloading from the bench (to the point of only having packed a spare magazine for one of the many pistols he shoots).

I should also point out that he was shooting a recently acquired pocket gun which, though he carries daily, he had only put about 150 rounds through previously. On the third shot, his gun experienced a failure-to-feed. Once he cleared that, he managed to empty the remaining rounds from his magazine before discovering that his magazine would not drop free from the gun. He lost precious seconds in his reload before he realized what was happening, removed the empty magazine, and inserted a fresh one and completed the drill.

Admittedly, I was feeling pretty smug when it came my turn to run the same drill with one of my wheelguns. I spend about half of my range time practicing reloads, and knew that I could reload my Model 64 much faster than most people can reload a semi-automatic pistol. I prepped two speedloaders and placed him in the carriers on my belt, and commenced shooting my string.

The first six rounds went flawlessly. Then came time for a reload. I ejected the empties, retrieved my first speedloader, and then tried in vain to insert it into the gun’s cylinder. It wouldn’t go in. It wouldn’t fit. It took me a few seconds to realize that in my smugness and haste to do the drill correctly I’d prepared the wrong-sized speedloader and in fact picked one that was too large for the gun I was firing.


The one on the left is bigger. And it will not fit the same gun as the one on the right. I'm glad I didn't have to find this out the hard way.

I dropped this speedloader and retrieved the second from my belt, only to find that three of the rounds were from a batch of bad handloads I’d bought a while back, the cases of which were too bulged to fit into my revolver cylinder. As a result I had to drop that speedloader as well and insert fresh rounds by hand to get back into the “fight” – in this case a cognition drill.

As this applies to integrity in our training, we both learned a couple of things that day:

  • We have got to train with those pocket guns. In fact, they need more trigger time than the bigger ones that are easier to shoot.
  • You should thoroughly test the reliability of any handgun you choose to carry before you carry it. Why? Because it could be taking up space in your pocket that should be occupied by a more reliable gun!
  • We need to know the kind of failures our platform is prone to, and know how to clear them quickly.
  • We need to reload from where we will be carrying the reload in real life – not the bench. It’s an easy thing to do, but failing to do it can have lasting consequences.
  • It’s important to keep our accessories (speedloaders and/or magazines) separate and clearly marked. I have taken to putting a thin band of blue tape on all of my large-sized speedloaders so I don’t confuse them when I am gearing up to go out for the day. And always, always, always double-check your gear before you leave the house.
  • Make sure that all of your carry ammunition is to spec, and that you have double checked that all of it will chamber/cycle through your carry gun. Without good ammo, your gun is nothing more than an expensive paperweight (or a bludgeon, for those of you who carry Rugers).

Those were really the only two “Oops” moments out of a ninety-minute range trip. But sometimes it’s from our mistakes that we learn the most poignant lessons. I know I certainly won’t be making the same mistakes twice.