I’ve talked about this before, but it bears mentioning again since we saw it happening in a recent class. Presumptuous training is defined as presuming certain conditions are expected to happen and will warrant certain actions.
Throwing the baby out
The problem with presumptuous training is it typically works for the best case scenario only. Rarely will the presumptions work during unknowable circumstances or when things are going sideways on you because their performance window is very limited. Think of it in terms of what you want to happen versus what is actually happening. With a powerful grip some people will inadvertently press down on the slide stop so when the last round is fired it fails to lock back. There are two points to discuss here. The first was the recommendation by some to adjust your grip so you can get the slide to lock back, moving your thumb out and away. You can do that, but think about what you are actually saying. Typically this type of response opens up the grip so your grip integrity is diminished. What folks are basically saying is the reload or the 17th shot is more important than the first 16 shots fired. Doesn’t really make much sense, but this train of thought is popular. I think it is far more important to have a powerful grip to best fire the first 16 shots and deal with the possibility of failure to lock back if it happens.
Calling Mr. Murphy
As for addressing the failure to lock back, it became habit for some shooters to presume when the slide failed to lock back it was the result of the magazine being empty. A few would supersede a remedial action drill and go straight to a combat reload. In other words, they were presuming the failure to fire was a result of an empty magazine. In a sterile training environment this experience created a false positive that would affect their overall thought process. For the majority of times it worked, but Murphy will always be lingering in the background waiting for an opportunity to mix things up. Sure enough it is usually happens when it is important, like a competition, instructor observation or worse an actually gunfight.
In this case, it happened to be under the watchful eyes of our cadre. During an administrative reload a student failed to properly seat his magazine. On the subsequent drill as he attempted to draw and fire when he experienced the “click”. Due to a habit he had formed, he decided to perform the combat reload. In so doing, he sent a perfectly good magazine to the deck as he went through the reload. What we all need to remember is we are a by product of our programming, right or wrong. He really wasn’t aware of it until he was picking up his gear and noticed the loaded magazine on the ground. It happened again to a different student a few strings later.
Thinking big picture
There are ways to work around presumptions, they require a higher order type of thought to recognize, but the remedy is usually pretty simple. In this case, had he initiated his immediate action drill, he would have tapped the magazine into placed, then rolled & racked a round into the chamber. If that indeed was an empty magazine then upon racking the slide it would have locked to the rear and the combat reload would have been performed, thus completing the remedial action drill.
Think carefully about the habits you form, avoid when possible creating responses that are limited in scope and opt for broader more durable responses. Responses that are flexible enough to work in a variety of circumstances versus narrow windows.