Let me explain. In a perfect world any training you do with a firearm would translate to proficiency. I’m hoping to offer some humor and anecdotal evidence to help define what was described to me as a “Training Scar”. I hope I can help shape your training in a positive way that helps make you more proficient and in worst case scenario my save your life.
Disclaimer: This applies to both real world and competition scenarios. However my training comes from the law enforcement side of things. That said I tend to lean towards real world scenario for explanation.
I recently spent some time at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, GA. Throughout my time there I was under the tutelage of some of the best firearms instructors I have ever encountered. While there, we fired approximately 1000 rounds or more a week. When shooting this regularly you begin to develop muscle memory very quickly. Mistakes you make regularly become habits that then need to be untrained. During the Christmas holiday I went home to Charlotte, NC and spent some time with my Dad shooting steel plates. The plate racks at Mecklenburg Wildlife Club are 5 plate racks. Typically, my Dad and I would load up 5 round magazines and attempt to fire 5 rounds at 5 plates as quickly as possible. One person mans the rope to reset the plates while the other goes through 5 rounds, reload, 5 rounds. These details seem mundane but I promise you they will come in to play shortly. We spent a couple of days doing this and probably shot close to 200 rounds each day.
I returned to school after the break, and the shooting continued. We shot silhouettes literally every day except one. After two weeks of shooting more silhouettes we had a day of “fun shooting.” There were shooting trees, move and shoot scenarios, and my personal favorite, a plate rack. I lined up next to a fellow student who I had competed with regularly on silhouette days because our shooting positions were next to each other and he handled a weapon proficiently. If you have ever been to any training at all you understand that not all people who show up are created equally when it comes to handling firearms. In fact some of them are downright scary! Gun handling is near and dear to me but is an article all its own for later. Sorry for chasing a squirrel there…back on track. After lining up with my buddy the tone sounded and we started shooting. Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang. Then the “Training Scar” shows up. After 5 rounds of a 13 round magazine, I hit the magazine release on the Sig 228 and sent a partially full magazine to the floor. This left me with the options of bend down and pick up the partial magazine or load from my magazine holder. At this point it doesn’t matter which one I did, the ugly truth had revealed itself. A little recreational shooting with my dad during some down time from school, in less than 200 rounds I had trained in a behavior that could have gotten me killed in a real world scenario. In reality I do not believe this “Training Scar” would have shown itself if not for the plate rack. It has helped to shape my training from that point on immensely.
My suggestion for this particular “Scar” is to load full magazines at all times. Whether this be your competition load limit or real world carry gun’s full capacity. If you wish to practice with partial magazines, do yourself a favor and load a random number of rounds. We are all guilty of it. In training we may load two rounds in one magazine and then practice our reloads. Reloads can be practiced during dry firing! Your reloads at the range should be the same as your reloads will be in real life or competition. Reloads should follow feeling the gun lock back on an empty magazine or as described in whatever course of fire you may be competing in.
My other suggestion. Keep your head in the game. Shooting sports are a lot of fun. However, if we are being honest, the things we consider recreational could end up saving ours, our families or an innocent bystanders life. A choice to not keep your head in the game while having a recreational day of shooting may create an ugly habit that leads to tragedy. Remember that you own every bullet that leaves the barrel of your weapon and poor training habits will not explain away a mistake.
Shoot safe, Shoot well, and remember Perfect practice makes Perfect.