When I was first approached to write an article about immediate action drills, I will admit that the first thing that came to mind was small-squad tactics regarding enemy contact. My mind raced back to another place and time. After the slingshot effect returned me to the present day, I realized the intended meaning—clearing a malfunction.
The most sickening sound in a gunfight, or even on the shooting line during a competition, is click! If you ever find yourself in that situation, and your mind races before quickly coming up with the solution, I am sorry to tell you, but it is too late. You are likely either dead or, at a minimum, the first loser in the competition. Quite simply, you should not have to think about what to do—not even for a fraction of a second.
Immediate-action drills reinforce the Tap-Rack-Bang! action necessary to get you back into the fight. Tap-Rack-Bang!—Let us examine that. The action is certainly simple enough.
Tap—Smack the bottom of the magazine with your palm to ensure it is fully seated. While that is most likely to happen after the first shot, an improperly seated round in the magazine also can cause the condition. Often, shooters insert a fresh magazine, chamber a round, drop the magazine and top it off before reinserting. I often do this just to get that one extra round, but offer this caution: tap that mag and re-seat the rounds before inserting it into the mag well. Then, tap it home when you reinsert it into the mag well.
Rack—Rack is the action of cycling the slide. For example, reaching over the gun with your weak hand, gripping the slide and pulling it back to eject hammered, faulty or unseated rounds and re-chamber a fresh round. This should return your weapon to condition 1.
Bang!—Quite simply, this refers to a return to the fight or competition in full operational condition—both mechanically and mentally.
You must execute the procedure subconsciously. Therefore, you must spend copious amounts of time running drills to commit the action to your subconscious.
Snap Caps: Benefit or Detriment?
The biggest failure generally noted in training (for this drill) is a failure to tap. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, the shooter panics. The brain goes to a bad round, or perhaps the shooter sees a stove-piped round blocking the chamber and immediately racks the slide to clear the malfunction. Occasionally, that may clear the problem. It also may lead to a situation in which the shooter enters a continuous cycle of pulling the trigger and racking the slide in a futile effort to clear the malfunction, particularly if the problem is a poorly seated magazine.
The second cause is using snap caps. Snap caps are great little tools I often use in training. However, when used in a Tap-Rack-Bang! drill, you can clear the dummy round without tapping the magazine. That reinforces bad habits and could mean disaster at the worst possible time.
Taking into account the potential downsides, I still use snap caps in my training. They are best used with a second person loading the magazines and randomly inserting the caps. It shows when a shooter is flinching and anticipating the recoil, throws off round counts and creates a malfunction, which forces the shooter to clear. However, it does not force the shooter to tap the magazine.
Unseating the Magazine
In training, you can chamber a round and then depress the magazine release. You will have to hold the magazine with your pinky, but it will cause a failure to feed on the second round that requires a tap-rack to be ready to fire again. Yes, you will know it is about to happen, but you will reinforce the critical tap and develop muscle memory. Later, you can add the snap caps to your training and practice the Tap-Rack-Bang! with less knowledge of when the failure is going to happen.
Another tactic that works with many guns is to wrap a couple pieces of tape around the bottom of the magazine. That prevents it from fully seating, but with a solid tap, you will seat the magazine. Play with it a couple times and determine the proper amount of tape to cause a failure but still allow you to seat the magazine with a solid tap.
The Tap-Rack-Bang! should be performed in an area generally stretching from about the jaw to the center of the upper chest. The muzzle should remain pointed at the target. That will allow you to get back on target quicker after successfully clearing a bad round and chambering a fresh one. It also reinforces gun safety in case of a slam fire when the gun accidentally fires as it chambers a round.
Do not get in a rush when performing a Tap-Rack-Bang! Muscle memory and committing the action to subconscious memory are the goals. Always remember, slow is smooth. Smooth is accurate. Accurate is fast. Speed will come in time—never try to force it.
Another way to practice Tap-Rack-Bang! is during a magazine change. When you drop a magazine, seat the next one with a tap and rack the slide—do not use the magazine stop. That reinforces the drill. If you already have a round in the chamber, you will eject that round, but it is still worthwhile to reinforce the drill and ensure you always have a live round in the gun. That harkens back, reminding me of time at the sherriff’s academy. The firearms instructors constantly recited the mantra, “A loaded gun is happy gun.” If you are going to carry and always assume and treat a gun as if it is loaded, you should learn to carry it loaded. As soon as we stepped on the range at the academy, we had to load our weapons with rounds in the chambers. Our sidearms had to then stay loaded. That is a personal philosophy and not suitable for everyone or every occasion, but let us just say, to this day, I have a lot of “happy” guns.
Have you practiced the a Tap-Rack-Bang! drill? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section.