Handgun go click instead of bang? Tap rack. Or, if you’re the armed robber above, tap, tap, fiddle fiddle, point the gun in a useless direction, grab the cash and go. But seriously folks, how many people who own handguns know how to clear a malfunction? What’s your opinion of the average gun owner’s general ability to safely, accurately and strategically use a firearm?

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64 Responses to Question of the Day: How Good is the Average Gun Guy and Gal?

  1. Average American gun owner? They can probably load the thing 9 out of 10 times, and make it go bang in roughly a barn sized pattern over there. Average gun carrier? Much much better.

  2. “Average” gun owner has probably never shot his/her single firearm. Just sits in the closet or in a drawer. Hanging out in echo chambers, such as TTAG, may skew one’s perspective of the outside world.

    • This is extremely true.

      Avg Gun owner: Shoots once every few years when invited out by an enthusiast, or never shoots.

      Avg Gun carrier: Carries on and off, maybe 30% of the time. Shoots a few times a year, maybe.

      Avg Gun enthusiast: Depending on interest niche, carries 60% of the time or not at all, shoots once every couple months.

      Avg Gun super-enthusiatst/ blog lurker: Shoots once a month or so, carries about 70% of the time, spends the rest of his time and energy fondling his guns, commenting on blogs and forums, and regurgitating the opinions found there.

      Avg Operator / Professional shooter: Shoots north of 150,000 rounds per year. Carries 90% of the time. Trains daily. Spends 0 time on blogs or forums.

  3. Knowing the drill and being able to execute it under stress are two vastly different things. The latter takes hours and hours of practice with both dry and live fire. To give you an idea, I average ~20 live fire training sessions (shooting and reloading on the move while navigating courses of fire) of at least three hours per year, my reloads are still rough as hell. If you want to tell how good a shooter is, don’t look at their final score, look at their reloads and malfunction clearances.

    • you could isolate and drill reload practice and get a slide lock load to 1.5-2.0 seconds. Speed loads even faster than that.

    • I think it’s a little more complicated than that. I don’t train anywhere near that much and my reloads are quite good actually (pistol reloads, anyway. My rifle reloads are still a little rough). I spend a lot of time practicing just reloading though so that might affect it.

      • Are your reloads just as smooth while you’re navigating a course of fire? Because that’s how I judge the end result. Smooth reloads in your living room don’t exactly translate to smooth reloads while moving.

        • If by course of fire you mean competition, then yes. I haven’t been shot at yet so I’m not sure how I’ll fare on a 2 way range.

        • As far as I can tell there’s 2 ways to imprint something into your muscle memory:

          1- Drill under stress. This is difficult for most of us to do, but not impossible.
          2- Drill for ludicrously high number of repetitions. This is how most of us can do it with commitment and a little patience.

          My reloads are pretty awesome (for as little as I actually shoot), so is my draw from concealment, both of these I practice around 50-100 repetitions a week.

          However my recoil control, trigger discipline, and follow up sight alignment are all pretty poor. These are things that require live fire, which I do fairly little of.

          I came home one time to find the back door kicked in. My wife (who didn’t know what was going on yet) said my draw was like lightning. I never decided to draw, nor do I remember actually drawing – but when presented with a threat the gun was suddenly in my hand. Pure subconscious muscle memory.

          Now would I actually have been able to hit anything? Probably not… hopefully we’ll never have to find out.

    • Perfection is the enemy of good enough…. i agree with pwrserg (and please tell me if im off base here) in so far as a person is only as good as they can perform in adversity… life and death struggle? gun dont work? Out of ammo? Make it work! You dont need to be super fast (although it doesn’t hurt) but I’ve seen awesome shooters freeze up when something doesn’t go to plan….. the video above may show a robber fumbling with a gun, but he used the gun effectively i.e. he stole the money he was after and got away. GOOD ENOUGH

    • This is one of those things I tend to relate to martial arts.

      Pistol reloads are generally easier than rifle reloads and for some people they are much easier. As much as we’d like to think that the adjustable stocks and other gadgetry on an MSR helps (and it does) some people’s bodies don’t match up to the rifle well and that makes reloads harder. Other people match up to the rifle well and that means their hand just goes to damn near exactly the right place without much practice.

      Same with carrying mags. There are only so many places you can carry them. Some people will find that one or more of those spots is completely natural for them. Others will find that none are. The former will always have an advantage over the latter.

      • You’ve haven’t lived until you tried to perform an AK “tactical” reload under stress. Most AK users have the “Spetsnaz” reload ingrained so deep into their hind brain that they fumble whenever they have to locate the mag release with their fingers rather than just sweeping it with the new magazine and kicking the old magazine out in the same motion. Combine that with the good old fashioned problem of “the AK reacharound” and you have hilarity for days.

        • I have a problem with the AK related to what I mentioned above. It just doesn’t fit me well. I always try to jam a mag through the receiver by putting it too far forward. I basically have to turn the rifle part way over so I can see what I’m doing.

          Adding a recoil pad to the rifle helped but that short armed Slavic build the rifle was meant for just doesn’t fit my body. I could probably modify the rifle further to work significantly better for me but I have a bunch of other firearms projects that are way higher on my list of priorities right now.

          I know why people like the AK and I won’t trash it but without significant work it doesn’t work for me. I’d rather have my SKS than the AK.

  4. If the perp tried to fire it at me and it jammed… He’s just told me he’s gonna try to kill me in the next moment. Game is on when the perp looks down, puts gun down and strarts to grab cash. Whether I’m armed myself or not. Only option is to fight back right now if there is no super quick escape option.

  5. Depends what your standard is. Most square rangers have issues putting up groups smaller than a palm size at 7 or 10 yards with unlimited time. A lot of timmy types struggle with this too because 3 seconds 3 shots 3 yards. Gamers would probably go to gun too soon or when the target is too close unless they’ve spent some time in the timmy realm.

    On the whole I’d suggest most “gun guys” aren’t capable with their firearms as they’re not shooters, just like most people who own guitars aren’t musicians.

  6. Was he trying to shoot the clerk and it wouldn’t fire? I’m trying to figure out what kind of malf that was. Probably not familiar with the ‘just stolen’ gun.

    • Looked to me like the slide wasn’t in battery when he first appeared. After tapping the mag a few times and racking the slide it looked like it went into battery.

      • That’s what I was thinking. It was out of battery when he walked through the door. Probably racked it on the way in and it didn’t go to full battery. You can see an inch of barrel in the first few seconds.

  7. Average? Terrible. I know from experience. I grew up shooting since about age 5. I thought I was decent until I finally took a 4 day training course at age 25. Then I realized how much better I could be.

    • Went shooting a few weeks back with a guy I used to shoot with 48 years ago. He was always a great guy, loved his guns, loved to shoot them, and couldn’t hit shit. Hasn’t changed a bit in 48 years.

  8. The shooters I see are the ones at my gun club’s outdoor range. What catches my attention are the number of malfunctions during matches. Usually, the culprit is a 1911 that fails to feed the next cartridge but I’ve seen unmodified Glocks fail, too. One would think the owners would make sure their guns worked reliably before entering a match. The average age in the club is in the 60s. They don’t move very fast in practical pistol, cowboy action or three gun matches.

    The club members are very good about following the four safety rules. They are meticulous about making sure it’s safe to go down range. The only places I encounter discourteous, potentially unsafe gun handling are gun stores. More than once, I have found myself looking into the muzzle of a gun some thoughtless a-hole was checking out. At the gun stores I frequent, the sales staff are meticulous about verifying, each and every time, that guns are unloaded before handing them to customers.

  9. “… how many people … know how to clear a malfunction?”

    “What’s your opinion of the average gun owner’s general ability to safely, accurately and strategically use a firearm?”

    Good questions.

    I would say pretty much everyone who owns a firearm knows how to clear a malfunction. Can most do it in 2 seconds? Probably not. I think the average firearm owner would take between 30 and 60 seconds to clear a malfunction. And technically speaking, that is exactly right if you are not in combat. Remember, if a firearm does not go “Bang!” when you pull the trigger and you are not in combat, the first thing you have to do is keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction for 10 to 20 seconds in case you have a defective primer (or primer strike) and your round cooks off seconds later. After that, the prudent person would slowly and safely proceed to examine their firearm, determine what caused the malfunction, clear it, and (depending on the malfunction) resume their shooting.

    Of course in combat you are not concerned about the exact nature of a malfunction or whether that malfunction could cause physical injury to you if you try to fire again because you are facing guaranteed injury without a functioning firearm. In that case you take your chances and try to clear the malfunction as fast as possible — without muzzling any bystanders or good guys in the process.

    Beyond malfunction considerations, I cannot remember ever seeing a firearm owner exhibiting consistently poor habbits/discipline. I have seen one or two lapses in people. Beyond that, everyone seems to be pretty well on top of the four rules and able to use their firearms effectively.

    • I am deliberately very slow at clearing or reloading at the range. If that offends you, that’s too bad. I also do not need people around me demonstrating their operational expertise at risk of my life. Practice your drills at home, in private.

      • I was practicing my draw and fire from concealment at the range. They know me well enough to allow that. There was a competition shooter in the lane next to me. He gave me a tip. He told me I could get my sights on target faster if I stopped crouching when I drew my gun.
        I tried it a few times and he may have been correct. But when I thought about why I was crouching with such a wide stance to begin with, I realized that I was naturally doing it because I was training to fight. Not just to shoot. I was getting in a stance that allowed me to move more quickly.
        I’m not sure I wasn’t getting to the first shot as fast as I could anyway.
        Do your thing and I will do mine.

    • “Remember, if a firearm does not go “Bang!” when you pull the trigger and you are not in combat, the first thing you have to do is keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction for 10 to 20 seconds in case you have a defective primer (or primer strike) and your round cooks off seconds later. “

      Part of why I just can’t bring myself to carry a wheel gun.

  10. I’d like to think I am above average, but that’s because I shoot a lot. I think most people can work a revolver.
    The first time I rented a pump shotgun, I would put the first round in the chamber then load the magazine. Forgetting that the gun was ready to fire, I would rack the gun and eject the first round on the floor. I must have done this three or four times before figuring out how a pump shotgun works.
    I think giving a first time shooter a semi automatic gun is like putting someone on a Bobcat tractor and telling them to dig a pond. They’re going to spend half the time figuring out the controls then spend the rest of the time learning what to do. But they’ll get the hang of it.

  11. I carry a Glock.
    What is this malfunction you speak of?

    Anyway, I can tie a handkerchief so it stays on my face. Years of playing cops-n-robbers during my youth taught me that.

  12. Observe the goddamn chamber before tapping and racking!

    Or else it’s a double feed waiting to happen.

    When unable to oberve, default to a reload. Your gun does malfunction less than once per mag, right?

  13. I remember seeing video of a gangbanger in a gunfight. He’s in a store or something and he’s shooting outside and his gun jams. He has no idea what to do and he calls a homie to help him out. His homie shows up, bangs the gun against the floor and it’s still jammed.

    You can already guess what ethnicity they were.

  14. Judging by the success rate in DGUs by untrained gun owners, I’d say good enough. Since almost all gunfights run about three rounds in three seconds there are going to be a tiny number of failures that seldom , if evet, require a combat reload.

    It would seem that many TTAG readers support the contention that only “well trained people can safely handle a gun.

    • Yeah I agree. How many little old ladies/men shoot some lowlife with essentially no training? Could I be better? Sure…but I don’t stress about it.

    • “Judging by the success rate in DGUs by untrained gun owners, I’d say good enough.”

      Exactly. The great untrained almost always win the fight. Besides, the average owner tends to own better guns than the average skell.

    • “…Judging by the success rate in DGUs by untrained gun owners…”

      Then there are the professional boys in blue who just can’t seem to get anything right, even to allowing the emptying of multi-mags in the (hopefully) direction of the ‘bad guy(s)’ and showering bystanders with numerous unguided missiles.

      To answer the question in question: I’ve seen hundreds of ‘average’ shooters in local gun clubs who’ve shot hundreds or thousands of rounds in steel competition and IDP. As well, I’ve seen hundred of ‘average’ shooters who had absolutely no idea how to clear a malf with only one hand, as well as seeing many who reuired the services of the Range Master to clear a double feed.

      ‘Average’ ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.

  15. I own crappy cars, and crappy guns. Character (and skill) building; let me tell ya. I know what to do when everything goes dark and quiet at 80Mph, and I know what to do when an empty stovepipes or my mag spring goes limp.

    All you fancy-pants with your expensive guns need to throw a couple snap-caps randomly in the magazine to practice your drills.

    Seriously though; worse jam I ever had was a cartridge halfway into battery wedged in a mag with cracked feedlips. The mag wouldn’t drop. I Couldn’t beat the slide forward hard enough to chamber the round. I wound up prying the round out with my car keys.

  16. A lot of that depends on how prepared a person wants to be. Carry a spare mag? Easy, drop the current mag and forget about it, rack the slide several times, insert new mag, rack once more and fire. longest part of that is fetching the fresh mag. (all while moving for cover of course)

    Just the mag in the gun? Pray you didn’t have a double feed or a complete failure to eject because trying to hold your gun and the mag and work the slide under stress and you’re either dead or the bad guy decided to split.

    Or hedge your bets and carry a revolver. No safety to fumble, no failure to eject or failure to load, no double feed, no racking. Just get used to the idea that you’re going to have fewer rounds to begin with.

    • If I lived in a restrictive State, I’d carry a revolver in a heartbeat. Not for reliability. Just if I can’t carry 16 rounds of sweet shooting 9mm, I’m going for 6 of a hot .357 magnum.
      The above post about shooting crappy guns so you learn quickly how to clear malfunctions actually has merit. I might justify buying a 1911 for this very reason. I’ll be pissed off if it runs perfectly.

      • You seem to have quite the beef with 1911s. They’re not my style, I don’t like the SA only triggers. The only experience I have is with my father’s Colt Model 70 Gold Cup. It’s a sweet shooter. It’s also probably better than 95% of 1911s out there. I’m more of a CZ-75 fan myself.

        Speaking of revolvers though, that .327 Federal round looks pretty sweet. 6 shots in a cylinder the size of a 5 shot .38, or 7 shots in the size of a 6 shot .38. Performance according to the internet (totally on point I’m sure) says it puts about the same weight lead down range at the same speed as a 9mm +P albeit in a slightly smaller hole. If I didn’t already have a conceal carry pistol in 9mm and a revolver in .357, I might have gone that route.

  17. I don’t need to reload unless I have more opponents than rounds in the gun. Since everybody loves me that is pretty darned unlikely.

  18. Tough question actually.

    How good is the average person? Hmmm… honestly I don’t know. I’m tempted to think about this along the lines of George Carlin but that’s probably too harsh.

    Realistically I think the question here is what metric are we using to compare people to? Average for people at the local range? Good enough for average DGU? Meets or exceeds FBI or local LEO qualification standards? Good enough to be a SEAL? The vaunted and coveted, but never achieved except by the Master himself, Gecko45 status?

    Realistically I’d guess that on a scale of (own it but never fired it before) 0-10 (Gecko45) the average is probably a three, maybe a 3.5. But, in terms of your average DGU your average BG is probably a 1.5 or two at best and that’s if they even hit one so 3-3.5 good enough.

    Could people be better? Sure, everyone can get better at anything but at some point you have to just admit to yourself that you’ve hit the point of diminishing returns and it’s not worth doing anything more than maintaining your current skill level because the cost is astronomical. This is why, realistically speaking, I don’t see these multi-thousand dollar training courses as a good investment unless you’re just blowing spending money by running them for fun/fitness/competition tricks and tips. You’re not Jason Bourne and you’re not going to get attacked by a well trained SWAT team or hit squad. Crackheads are not going to come roping down from the ceiling dressed in black and full battle rattle and firing MP5’s. Hell, none of us even warrant a visit from Agent 47.

    You can kill 16 paper guys with 15 shots, execute a combat reload, tactical roll out from behind a car, pull a headshot at 75 yards then dive over another car hood while firing two right past the paper hostage’s head and get the last paper guy who’s holding the hostage and rescue the paper damsel in distress with James Yeager yelling at you? Hot damn. Great! IRL the forth guy shot you twice in the chest and his buddy finished you with one in the head. The hostage was later raped and murdered (or gave up her secrets and Spectre took over the world, whatever Mr. Bond).

    OK, that’s a massive exaggeration on my part, but seriously, tactical training courses are for fun and maybe some tips and tricks you can use in competition. You’re never going to have to gunfight your way past 12 dudes to get out of the 7/11. So have fun and enjoy this type of training but unless you find yourself in Mogadishu or some other war torn shithole all you’re doing is paying to have fun with live ammo.

    • Word. Or lots of words. All good. Too many of the tactifool crowd have watched too many sly, arnie and bruce mega shooter movies.

      All those classes, beyond the basics of how to safely handle your chosen firearm and when to shoot or not shoot are just adult boys playing with adult toys.

      It’s their money to waste.

  19. Semi-auto malfunction in a gun fight? New York reload to your revolver (and then to the little semi-auto BUG in your ankle holster)!

    One gun is none, two guns are one…..etc.

  20. Videos like these are the perfect illustration of why you should shoot when someone is “just robbing you” or why “just go along with it” is flawed.

    That guy walked in and tried to shoot the cashier immediately. The cashier didn’t even have time to refuse to open the register!

      • You might be right, I did not notice until now that the gun was out of battery.

        However, to me it looks like he tried to shoot from at about the 14 second mark. His fingers move around an awful lot on the hand gripping the gun, in a way that I would think is consistent with squeezing or tightening his grip. The resolution is poor but also around 14 second you see something moving around by the trigger, I take that to be his finger.

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