A weapon failure is probably the single biggest failure that folks DO NOT train for. It simply is not on their radar . . . . at all. (Secret Give Away Follows) One of the questions on the NRA Basic Pistol test goes something like “A safety is a mechanical device and can fail.” T or F. Obviously TRUE and it reminds folks taking the course that shit happens – including their weapon going BLAMM!! with all safeties engaged and perhaps even the darn thing being “empty”. The dirty little secret about this question is that it’s much “bigger” than just the safety – the ENTIRE WEAPON is a mechanical device . . . . and can FAIL.
So let’s chat about this from a bunch of different aspects – on the range, during training, in a fight and some different types of failures.
There are a number of “little things” that can result in a Weapon Failure:
Ignorance: Range time – and a fight for your life – can boost a shooter’s anxiety level. Adrenaline pumps, focus is lost, a shooter’s ability to move and their dexterity are altered, mental focus changes . . . . all of which effect the shooter’s ability to fully use their weapon. If the shooter is not fully and totally familiar with their weapon system – if they are ignorant of its operation, clearing procedures, simple “fixes” – it is quite easy for their weapon to “Fail”. Obviously the “failure” is between the ears of the shooter – yet the result is the same, a crappy range trip or a trip home in a Ziploc.
Know your weapon systems – both primary (your carry weapon) and your backup systems – a tactical pen, flashlight, knife, BUG – and train in their use and deployment. You may only get a single chance to switch to them – ignorance kills.
Poor Maintenance: “Hell, I haven’t cleaned by weapon in over 2,000 rounds!!” Really?? Then you’re a DUMBASS!!!!!. I realize all the macho/macha feelings around having a very reliable weapon – of it always going BLAMM!! when the trigger is pressed – I get it. So, let’s keep it that way! Take some time to tear it down, clean it, cycle it and get it ready for the next range trip. Ever watch video of soldiers just back from a patrol? One of their first actions (well, perhaps after a hot meal) is to do a quick field strip of their weapons and clean them. There is no guarantee that some enemy may not choose the very next minute to launch an attack on their base/OP. A dirty weapon is a dead soldier. You can learn from our soldier’s hard-won experiences. You carry around a dirty weapon and depend on it to save your life – your family could easily get a life insurance payout, just because you’re being lazy.
During your cleaning process you can also do a detailed inspection of your weapon. Any cracks, chunks of chambers missing, distressed springs, slides, frames? While you are brushing, scrubbing, rubbing – keep your eyes open and look for problems. The parts you are cleaning are the parts you are depending on to protect you, your family and your friends – take it serious.
Abuse: The weapon on your hip has one purpose and one purpose only . . . . to save your life, your kid’s life, your friend’s life – so don’t abuse it. Carry it in a good holster, shoot the proper ammunition, not your friend’s latest “hot super-duper zombie killer round”. Keep it clean. Keep it dry. Store it properly. If you subject it to a real test by weather, water and mud – treat it with the love and respect it deserves while you clean it. Abuse your weapon . . . . ? Karma can be a bitch.
Age: Yeah, yeah – I know, that 1911 served your great grandpa well in the trenches of France and by golly it still does a great job defending your family today. Really?? Hasn’t it earned its retirement?? I understand the attachment to legacy weapons like this – truly I do. But after decades and decades and decades of service – these old weapons deserve their rest in the gun safe. Take them to the range periodically, share their stories with your friends and kids, keep their memory alive – but, please – keep a newer firearm at the ready to defend what’s important to you.
So let’s talk about your response to a weapons failure on the range and in the real world.
Train like you fight: Sounds simple but it’s complex enough that most shooters simply do not train on the range like they would fight for their life. They stand is a cubby hole or behind a table, their weapon, magazines and ammo carefully set before them and they spend an hour or so putting holes in paper. Please, there is NOTHING WRONG with this process; I just want to remind you that THIS IS NOT HOW YOU FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE. Please find some time to find a range that you can periodically use to incorporate holster draw, movement and some CQC drills because that IS how you fight.
You’re in the “Big Box Store’s” parking lot. Christmas time. Lots of presents. Still a good chunk of change in your pocket. You hear persistent footsteps behind you as you walk way the heck to the end of the row to get to your car – pretty busy this time of year. Spidey senses tingle, you stop, turn and see a nasty lookin’ guy very intent on YOU. You drop your bags, warn him off, hand on your weapon – he doesn’t stop.
50 feet you draw . . . . . you move to your right between the parked cars . . . . you warn him off again, (this CAN’T BE HAPPENING – YOUR BRAIN IS SPINNING – PLEASE STOP!!!) – he keeps coming.
30 feet . . . . . he’s following you between the cars . . . . his pace is quickening, he seems to have a good sized hunting knife in his hand . . . . . . he’s still comin’ . . . .
No one around . . . .you yell one more time. . . . . you move between the cars in the next row . . . . . he’s still coming . . . . . closing the distance . . . . . 25 feet . . . . . he’s not stopping, he’s not afraid of your or your gun . . . . .
You press the trigger . . . . .
Click . . . .
Your training runs your body . . . .
Still moving between rows of more cars . . . . .
. . . . . SLAP, RACK, SHOOT!! This doesn’t fix the problem. LOCK THE SLIDE, DROP THE MAG, RACK, RACK, RACK, NEW MAG, SLAP, RACK, SHOOT!!!
Nothing, nada, zip . . . .
. . . . .
. . . . .
RRRRRRUUUUUNNNNNNN!!! Create distance, grab your BUG – or grab multiple backup weapons – knife, flashlight, tactical pen – look for cover, look for an exit, look for help, remain aware of the threat . . . . .
The thing that will kill you in this spot is “brain freeze” – you can’t believe it didn’t go bang, you can’t believe all those drills your practiced didn’t make it go BLAMM!!, you can’t believe your attacker is almost on you, you can’t believe you’re gonna die . . . .
So – don’t. FIGHT!!! FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE!!!
If you never practice for this event, if you never even consider the remote possibility that your primary defensive weapon can go belly up just when it HAS TO WORK – please, incorporate this possibility into your range work once in a while.
You’re carry weapon is a complex machine. Machines fail. Yours can fail . . .
Failure to train for a complete weapon failure may well be the last mistake you ever make . . . .