Tuesday, January 12, 2010


'You may not realize it, but you are smarter than the gun!'


I have come to realize over the past few years that of the myriad 'tactical' carbine instructors that this country has to offer almost all of them teach different methods of rectifying malfunctions.

How can this be?

It seems as if there is almost 100% consensus on the topics of 'Loading, unloading and positive/press checks' - 'Ready positions' - 'Presentation time and set time' - 'Fundamentals of marksmanship' - 'Positional shooting' and pretty much every other lesson in the syllabus on a basic tactical carbine course. So why are there so many different techniques in sorting out arguably the most important part of 'running the gun'? Could it be that instructors are merely presenting or re-presenting information passed to them from previous courses of instruction most likely originating from their former Military units?

If this is true then I find it completely unacceptable. Part of the responsibility of the instructor as a Subject Matter Expert is to research and develop faster and more efficient tactics, techniques and procedures in his respective field. This is an implied task as the role of the instructor is to impart knowledge, skill and attitude to students.

Over the past four years I have worked for Blackwater as a lead instructor of firearms and tactics. I often train high level special operations units from the US Navy, Army and Air Force. With such diverse clientele, it is important to be well versed in the particular TTP's of the unit being instructed. From my experience it appears that not only are there different terminology and classifications for malfunctions across the services, each service teaches a different method of clearing them. This in itself isn't a big deal so long as the operator can effectively bring his weapon back up to a working condition within a certain timeframe in order to remain combat effective.

It would be nice to have commonality in small arms training across all services of the military. Although this seems like an impossibility due to the doctrinal ways of each service, it could be possible in the near future should the military continue to outsource for its small arms training.

In the private sector there has been literally hundreds of former service members trying their hands at making a buck off the '9-11 shooting school' boom. A few have made a name for themselves and secured a government contract or two. This is where we run into the same old problems of what service did the instructor come from? Was he a SEAL, DELTA, SF, AFSOC or Marine?

As a subject matter expert in small arms and combat marksmanship I am obligated to my students to get out to the range and train when ever I have the opportunity. I work with a diverse team of professionals that come from all facets of gunfighting. From Coalition SOF, SEALs, Army SF, Marines and Police SWAT. We are all very good friends and are all very competitive. When we get out and train we always have a shot timer and always test each other on marksmanship skills such as speed and accuracy as well as gun handling skills like reloads and malfunctions. When we train we are always looking for the best way to perform a drill or a skill. But, it can't just be fast! It has to be accurate. By accurate I don't just mean on target, I mean that if it is a technique that speeds up clearing a double feed it has to clear it 99% of the time. This is where I have issues with other instructors and 'their' drills. More on this later.

I served my country in the Army for 12 years, 6 of those years were at the highest level participating in training and operations on par with US Tier 1 assets such as CAG and DEVGRU. One thing that I have realized is that I am a better gun fighter now than I ever was back in the unit. I am much faster, more efficient and more accurate than probably anyone in my former unit. Why? Because the only thing that I concentrate on is shooting! I don't have to deploy for months at a time, or maintain currency as a paratrooper, an assault swimmer, a combat medic and so on. Now I concentrate on how to run the gun faster and more efficiently while still maintaining a combat mindset. And by that I mean I wear the same kit as the warriors that I teach. I don't shoot an AR that is designed for competitions with muzzle breaks and 2 pound triggers. Nor do I shoot a competition handgun with a modified load. I shoot the same guns as my students. A Berreta M9, a SIG 226, a Glock 17 and a Safariland 6004 leg holster. For a rifle I shoot a standard Daniel Defense M4 or an LMT. No trigger jobs or compensators and I shoot iron sights as much as possible. I wear combat fatigues the same as the students and wear heavy armor the same as the students. If you are going to teach combat marksmanship you should probably train and look like a warrior not a '3 gunner' or an IPSC champ.

On the range.

What I teach now is a bastardized mix of what I have learnt over the past 17 years as a combat decorated Commando and SAS warrior turned private security and military small arms instructor with Blackwater. In over a decade in Special Operations I had never heard of terminology such as 'Tap Rack Bang' or 'SPORTS' or 'type 1 and type 2' or 'Immediate Action and Remedial Action' as names or methods used to clear malfunctions until I began training US personnel. I find this really strange too as everyone uses the same weapons platform in the AR.

Australian Special Operations have been using the AR platform ever since it first showed up in Vietnam. My fore-fathers carried versions of the M16 and CAR 15 during operations along with the MAC-V and LRRP during the late 60's. So 'we' have as long a heritage with the AR as the US does.

SASR Vietnam.

Having said that, Australian SOF has simplified correcting malfunctions over the years and simply put when the weapon fires then stops, you carry out the IA - Immediate Action drill. The IA for the M4 is 'Tilt Look.' Tilt the rifle over to the left and observe the ejection port opening. After inspecting the ejection port you can determine what the problem is.

If the bolt is forward - Tap the magazine and charge the weapon. Reacquire sights and reengage if required. If a round is ejected the operator should take mental note as this is an indicator of the cause of the malfunction.

'Weapon fires, weapon stops!' - 'Carry out the IA'


'Bolt fully forward'

Here is where you have to be smarter than the gun! After leaving the regiment and taking up a career as a tactical small arms instructor I have adapted a different approach to malfunctions. The first thing I want to know is where the bolt is. In this example the gun lets you know exactly where it is because the last thing that the gun did was go 'CLICK'.

What does 'click' mean?

It means that the bolt is fully forward and in battery. The weapon is working just fine, it just didn't go 'BANG'!

This can only mean that there is either a bad round in the chamber or no round in the chamber and quite frankly I don't care which it is!

If I know that the bolt is fully forward I don't have to waste time at 'Tilt Look'. If I tilt look I see the bolt is in battery.

The Jason Falla Immediate Action drill for a gun that goes click is - 'Tap-Tug, Rack, Re-acquire'. However, I will throw in a caveat and that is that during combat operations it may be difficult to hear/feel the click. If this occurs I recommend the default setting of 'Tilt Look'.

If the weapon fires and then stops but doesn't go 'click' then the bolt must be out of battery. This is confirmed by a dead trigger. In order to identify what malfunction has occurred you must 'Tilt Look'. The good thing about tilt look in this case is that the gun has let you in. You can now see inside the weapon and select the right drill to rectify the stoppage. It may be difficult to determine an empty magazine from a double feed during heavy combat operations. Therefore tilt look is the order of the day.

'Weapon fires, weapon stops. Carry out the IA.'


'Double Feed'

The Jason Falla method of rectifying a double feed.

1. Lock the bolt to the rear.

2. Remove the magazine.

3. Bring the weapon to the work station and inspect the chamber.

4. If the chamber is clear place the magazine back on the weapon.

5. Release the bolt.

6. Continue firing as required.

I'm a big proponent of retaining the magazine rather than dumping on the ground for several reasons.

1. We never under any circumstances take bad magazines on operations. All magazines are to be test fired prior to heading out to ensure proper feeding. So it won't be a magazine issue unless your using standard GI magazines and haven't downloaded the rounds for some time. You will know that the spring has failed when you look at the magazine while inspecting the chamber. If you see the spring has collapsed and rounds just floating in the mag, dump it for a fresh one.

2. Special Operations operators are carrying less magazines on target than ever before. Some units SOP is to only carry 4 mags. (Statistically it's likely that a DGI M4 will malfunction after 68 rounds fired according to military test figures.) So if I dump two mags after two stoppages, potentially I could be loosing up to 50% of my front line ammo. A big reason why these units turned to the HK 416 with its piston operating system.

3. I don't want to leave ammo on the battlefield for the enemy to acquire to use against me or anyone else if I can help it.

So what happens at night when I can't see into the chamber area to see if it is clear? At night the double feed drill should be modified to include a compulsory three racks of the bolt. This extends the time of the drill but gives the shooter a 98% solution. If after completing this drill you find yourself back in double feed mode there will most certainly be bigger problems. Such as a broken extractor, or the rim torn from the case.
If your mission is being conducted in a permissive setting such as LE SWAT or other domestic CT units, dumping the mag may be acceptable. If however you are operating in a non-permissive environment then I would hazard against dumping magazines and ammo on the deck.

I refer back to my original statement that you should be smarter than the gun and also smarter than basic drills! It may seem like I teach complex malfunction drills. But the more proficient you become with the rifle the less complex they become. There is no point in having a student with a double feed, tap and rack! I have seen this technique taught for double feeds. Tap rack does nothing but waste time!

I will be covering bolt overrides on my next post. So check it out if your not 100% with clearing them.

Most people spend minimal time on the range performing malfunction drills and shows during range practice and stress courses. So take the time to get out there and square away your stoppage drills.

Take care.


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