In Firearms Training, Sometimes Statistical Outliers Are Relevant

first published on January 2, 2016 by

BabyBath

Okay, here is the thing, I do not normally like arguing points made by other pro-gun, pro-LE, pro-military pages, and Breach Bang Clear is the last place that I would expect to be differing with on one of their articles, but this article titled “Bullshit! (Or, the Myth of the Tactical Reload)” is not the normal product that you see coming from them.   The author of this piece, Jeremy Stafford, at least according to his bio, is in the same line of work as me so I can only assume that we have many views that are similar, but on the topic of the tactical reload, we definitely differ.

As you may have surmised by the title, Stafford is not a fan of the “tactical reload.”  He begins this piece talking about how unlikely it is for an armed civilian to ever be in a shooting.  Then he looks at some statistics about shootings, including distances and numbers of rounds fired.  He uses those statistics to justify his opinion that teaching/learning the “tactical reload” is a waste of time.  He even looks at all the shootings that his department has been involved with and uses the fact that in none of those, was a “tactical reload” ever done or necessary.

Near the end of his article, he says:  “Statistically, you would be better off training on how to dodge lightning in a rainstorm than wasting your time training on an ‘un-tactical’ reload.”  In life, not everything is about statistics.  In fact, the reason statistics exist is because they average things out.   By their very nature, they exclude those things that are far from the norm.  If you were to only train based on statistics, what would happen when you were involved in a situation that is statistically insignificant?  At that point, do you give a damn what the statistics say?

Here’s the thing though, is learning a new skill related to shooting, or gun fights ever really a bad thing?  We practice malfunction clearance drills a lot, but in all of those shootings that he looked at, how many times was a malfunction encountered necessitating the shooter to clear it?  Heck, in most decent tactical handgun classes, you learn and practice single handed drills on the chance that you are injured and only have one hand in which to complete the fight.

Heck, in one class I took, we even practiced, with one hand, stripping an empty mag from the gun and having to reload it with a few live rounds off the ground, and then get the gun back into the fight.  Is that something that was ever done in any of the shootings he looked at?  How often could something like that be necessary?  Well, as a matter of fact, the reason we were practicing that was because an officer in a nearby agency, while conducting a vehicle stop, got shot in one arm and another round took out his spare mags on his belt, leaving him with one functioning arm and one functioning magazine, which eventually ran dry during the ensuing gunfight.  The officer must have been one cool customer, because he successfully got some of the ammo off the ground (from his broken mags) into the one good mag, got the gun up and running, and managed to win the gun fight.  What are the odds that we would ever need to do that?  SUPER slim, at best, but having been introduced to the topic, if it ever becomes necessary, I have that skill way down in the bottom of my toolbox and do not have to come up with it all on my own.

In my nearly 20 years on the job, I have been involved in two shootings.  In 50% of them, I found myself with a nearly empty gun and did a “not-remotely-tactical reload” on my not yet empty gun.  At the time, I was still carrying my Sig P220 which held 8+1 rounds.  Since I had not been trained in the “tactical reload” at that time, but I knew my gun was low on ammo and I wanted to make sure it was full, I did some sort of really ugly administrative reload (swap mags while the gun was holstered), while running to my car to chase the now mobile suspect, because that was the ONLY way I had been trained to do a reload on a not empty gun up to that point.  No rounds were fired after I swapped mags, but the possibility was there, and I knew I wanted a full gun if we were to engage him again.

In life, we train for many things that we will likely never use, and that is true in law enforcement as much as it is in any other line of work.  What is the percentage of cops out there who have ever done CPR?  How about with teachers or daycare providers?  Yet we all still train in it on the off chance we might need it.  Even further in the world of remote possibilities that we train for in law enforcement is the true “active shooter” situation, but train for those we do and for good reason.  Hell, using one of his own examples, that of the remotely slim chance that an armed citizen (concealed carrier) will ever get in a shooting, by his reasoning, that it is statistically unlikely, people who carry concealed need not bother training because the chance they will ever need to use their gun is remotely slim.

As for me, I tend to disagree.  I look at firearms training like I do most other things in life.  Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.  I look at the “tactical reload” as the same thing as one handed operation (wounded limb) training.  Is it something we are going to use often?  Nope.  Is it something that is useful to know how to do on the off chance that it might ever be necessary? Absolutely!
-Matt