Thinking vs. automatic action.

At some point early on in my Marine Corps’ training I was taught to tap the spine of a M16 mag against my helmet to make sure that the rounds were seated towards the back of the mag. So, in my first field op outside of training, I loaded my M16 by taking a magazine out of a mag pouch, hitting it twice against my head, and inserting it into my rifle.

I wasn’t wearing a helmet.

To quote General Mattis, “Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.”

It is clear that many people want to be told a single solution so they can adopt that and not have to think. What gun should I buy? “Glock 19” What do I do in the event of a malfunction? “Tap Rack Bang” etc. Having a pre-prepared response to situation isn’t a bad thing, however fighting and shooting is a thinking exercise. We need to know why we should do something, so that we pick the correct option when situations arise.

The lazy alternative is to rely on one gadget/technique/solution for each issue. Only having a hammer starts to make all problems look like nails.

Another example, often I see people who know the tap-rack-bang way of handling malfunctions. That works great on close action issues in close bolt semi-automatics. Yet I see people try it when they have double feeds (an open action malfunction) and it just ends up creating a triple feed. On the open bolt belt fed M249 and M240 machine guns Marine’s attempting to use tap-rack-bang would end up firing 1 round, before the weapon system jammed again. Instead of identifying and correcting the issue, they fire a single round, have the same malfunction, and repeat tap-rack-bang. This incorrect response turns the that machinegun into a bolt action single shot.

The problem isn’t trained responses it is that we can fall into the bad habit of relying on a trained response instead of using our brain.

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