Mastering the magazine

     What is the loudest sound in a gunfight?      The click of an empty chamber.      Keeping bullets in the chamber is important to stay in the fight. Officers should practice changing magazines efficiently.      The...


     What is the loudest sound in a gunfight?

     The click of an empty chamber.

     Keeping bullets in the chamber is important to stay in the fight. Officers should practice changing magazines efficiently.

     The pistol magazine is not simply a vessel with which to hold bullets. Magazines are an essential component of the firearm. The quality of the magazine will dictate the reliability of the gun. In fact, it is better to have a mediocre gun with high-quality magazines than a high-quality gun with poorly made magazines.

     The first places to look when a gun malfunctions are operator and magazine, in that order. If those aren't the problem, look at the gun.

     Some companies, such as Glock and Sigarms, wisely built reputations on magazines whose reliability has been challenging to duplicate.

     Officers should keep separate sets of magazines for duty and practice. The practice ones are allowed to drop freely on the ground when training. Any magazine that does not pass a visual inspection for duty goes in the practice pile.

     Shooters should take all of their magazines for a spin regularly, especially duty ones. This will ensure they are routinely inspected, cleaned and loaded with bullets that haven't been rechambered a hundred times before called upon when circumstances are grave. An agency that is liberal about burning duty ammunition beyond required training sends a morale-boosting message to their officers.

     There are three types of reloads: speed, tactical and administrative. Of these three types, the most useful for the patrol officer is the speed reload, which minimizes the down time of the gun. Regardless of the reloading used, every shooter should adhere to the rules of shooting and reloading from cover.

Getting the grip
     There is a right way to grasp a magazine and dozens of wrong ways. If the officer wears the magazines on the support hand side between the hip and the buckle (recommended), the magazines should be seated so that bullets face the buckle. When the magazines are grasped by the support hand, the magazine body can be pinched between the thumb and three fingers. The pointer finger touches the tip of the first bullet in the magazine. This position, whether used with single stack or doublestack magazines, aids the shooter when fine motor skills have diminished.

     Some prefer magazines to ride horizontally on the belt. Depending on the design of the pouch, this is more comfortable in a seated position. Officers will have to experiment a little here. Often, the quickest change is accomplished when the pouch sits on the strong side, forward of the hip and holster, bullets pointing down with the heel of the magazine closest to the belt buckle.

     Open top magazine holders that use a friction tension device are the fastest; flap-type holders are more protective. If the officer wears pouches that enclose the magazine in any way, he should practice on the range with the flaps secured over the magazines.

     Officers should not be made to "feel" for the magazines on the belt. They always should be in the same position facing the same way.

     Officers should limit their practice to skills that can be done under serious stress when fine movement, touch and blood flow to the limbs is reduced. Grasping a magazine by the bottom and steering it into the magazine well can be trained. However, this training is useless precisely when needed. Firearms trainers teach their students that anyone, even under severe stress, can take their pointer finger and put it into a hole in the bottom of the fist, which is exactly why the tip of the finger touches the tip of the bullet.

     Although it is aesthetically satisfying to have an extended slide release on the gun, one should grip the slide to release it. Sweeping the slide release with the thumb is a less reliable action than yanking the slide backwards and letting it go. If there are bullets in the magazine, the slide release won't make much difference. If the magazine is empty, swap it -- then release.

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