By Lt. R. Michalik
Don’t underestimate the value of a bad ammunition magazine. If you’ve been around guns for any amount of time, you’ve almost certainly run into them. Whether you purchased a questionable no-name mag at a gun show or one came with your or your buddy’s gun, we have have experienced a magazine or two. It doesn’t matter if you own quality guns like a SIG SAUER, Smith & Wesson, GLOCK, FN, Ruger…whatever. Shoot them enough and magazines will eventually fail.
You can usually get them back into service and extend their useful lives by cleaning them and replacing followers and springs, but at some point, they’ll give up the ghost. Instead of throwing those bad handgun or rifle magazines away, though, here’s another idea.
Remember how to get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. The same goes for getting good with your guns. And practice is especially important if your job involves carrying a firearm or if you take your own self-defense seriously.
Besides improving your marksmanship, some of us take it a step further by practicing firearm manipulation, mag changes and reloading with our off hand, one-hand drills and/or failure drills. We’ll even put dummy rounds in the mix and practice clearing a round.
But if you go to the range alone, it’s hard to surprise yourself. Drills can become rote and predictable. So why not deploy that bad mag to vary things?
You know the one. The magazine that jams every so often. The one that fails to pop the next round of ammo up leaving the chamber empty or the one that refuses the cleanly deliver a round leaving the pistol out of battery.
This isn’t a problem, it’s an opportunity.
I started collecting these magazines. Some were purchased on the cheap because I don’t like dumping my good factory mags if I don’t have to. Most were gifted to me by some very disgruntled shooters. And they’ve been invaluable as training aids for me and others. Especially since you can let the trainee load the magazine and they’re none the wiser to what lesson they’re about to face.
In my law enforcement career, I was a lead instructor for over seven years. I had an AR magazine that would jam every single round that went through it. Every officer who crossed its path the first time ended up doing the same thing. They would fool with it repeatedly until it was empty, wasting a lot of valuable time.
The next officer in line who witnessed the malfunctions would then do exactly the same thing. Only one person ever threw it down after three attempts and inserted a new magazine into their rifle.
A funny thing happened after that…the next officers up, after seeing that, then started discarding the bad magazine after a few attempts and loading a functional one.
Handling failures to feed is a critical part of your training. Practicing what to do and doing it quickly should become second nature to you. But that can’t happen unless you practice these situations. A lot. And it could very well save your life.
Equipment failures happen. They’re a fact of life when you’re a gun owner. They also seem to follow Murphy’s Law as they tend to happen at the most inopportune times. But the last thing you would want is to be taken completely by surprise and be unprepared in a time of crisis.
That bad magazine can be more valuable than a good one when used the right way in your training. That time spent dealing with a bad magazine might even save your life one day.