Sunday, January 23, 2011

Don't Lose Your Mags!

This is sort of a departure from my usual posts about guns and stuff, but something that I feel needs to be addressed when talking about weapons with detachable magazines.  A detachable magazine is as integral to a firearm as anything else.  Without it, you cannot shoot multiple rounds of ammo very rapidly.  Without the ability to fire a semi-automatic weapon, well, semi-automatically, you might as well shoot a single shot weapon.  That's essentially what a weapon without a magazine is - a single shot.

The real beauty with detachable magazines is that an empty magazine can be quickly removed and replaced with a fresh one, thus giving the shooter more firepower.  The shooter can keep the gun in the fight as long as he or she has full magazines and a steady supply of ammunition.  The problem with detachable magazines is also the fact that they can be removed... and dropped... and stepped on... and run over by a car... and lost.  Without being able to feed your weapon with replacement magazines, your high capacity weapon is pretty much useless... well, unless you want a single shot firearm.

I had the opportunity to discuss this issue with an actual military man and he told me that unless I know I have the ability to get resupplied with new magazines in the field (like if I was part of a military campaign), I'd better not lose my spent magazines.  His reasoning was sound.  High capacity weapons like the AR-15 and the Beretta M9 don't really function all that well without magazines.  For the type of use these weapons are mostly likely to be employed to do, magazines are a necessity, and a commodity. 

I've spent a number of years collecting various magazines for my guns.  They aren't cheap.  In fact, they can be quite expensive.  I recently purchased five 20rd magazines for my pistol to the tune of $30 a piece.  In training, it's no big deal to drop a magazine or lose one.  You just go out and buy another one to replace it.  But let's say that the local situation has degraded considerably.  Let's say that a big hurricane spanked the Pacific Northwest, flooding a giant area, and all lines of communication and supplies have been cut.  Does that sound familiar?  Oh yeah, duh!  Hurricane Katrina did that!  In situations like that, you have what some circles call "Without Rule of Law" or "WROL" for short.  In these situations, you probably won't be able to go to your favorite gun shop and just buy a replacement for a lost or broken magazine.  Nope.  If you lose it, it's gone forever.

Now, one thing you can do is buy a lot of magazines.  Yep, that's a good idea.  I have 25 magazines for my Beretta 92 and M9.  They are from all different makers, but they all accomplish the same task: feed the gun.  However, there comes a point where even your big collection of magazines could be whittled away into nothing... that is if you've survived enough firefights to get that far; I'll hope for the best and say you have.  Well, suddenly you find yourself with less magazines than you have fingers on one hand.  Oops.  You don't have a resupply coming to replenish your diminished collection.  Nope, the situation is now dire and you have to figure out how to adapt yourself to deal with the foolishness of losing all those precious magazines that you have lost.  And let me tell you, as a man who has tried to adapt new technique in the field (in my training of course), adaptation sucks!  In a really bad situation adaptation (or more appropriately improvisation) could get you killed.

I'm always harping on training.  I have different levels of training that I incorporate with my firearms.  Some are things I can do at home for free and others are things I have to go to the range or the field to hone my skills with.  Dry firing, fast magazine changes, and overall weapon familiarity and gun handling are things I do at home because they don't require any shooting - just repetition.  Enter the dump pouch.

Dump pouches are exactly what they sound like: a pouch to dump things into.  You can toss spent magazines, equipment, dead batteries, (dare I say?) evidence, or even ammo into them if you want.  These pouches usually attach to your belt or some thigh rig and give you a place to stash the stuff you wish to reuse later.  This way, your magazines are much less likely to get lost and damaged.  They will "live to fight another day," so to speak. 

But what does it have to do with training.  Well, up until now, there have been two types of reloads I've been training to do: emergency reload and tactical reload.  An emergency reload is where your gun runs dry and you have to change the magazine in a hurry.  A tactical reload is something do you in the lull of a fight, where you know you still have some rounds in the magazine but need to top off your gun so you don't find yourself doing an emergency reload mid-fight.  I can only imagine that changing a mag mid-fight is a bit nerve racking.  The problem is that since I never incorporated a dump pouch into my training, I've just dropped mags on the ground with the hope that I'd be able to pick them up later.  Ha ha!  Not so much.  With a dump pouch, I will have to change my method a bit so I can account for the extra step of dumping the spent magazine (at least if I have time to do so) into the pouch so it can be reused later.  The only thing that will help me is constant repetition and adaptation of technique in a controlled environment until it becomes almost a reflex action.  Empty gun, dump mag, insert fresh.  Sounds easy, right?  Not really.  It can be quite challenging at full speed, but can be done with enough training.

-James

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