“It’s nearly impossible for a qualified firearms instructor to get their message out by using YouTube. It is so full of people doing ‘stupid human tricks’ that thoughtful advice gets buried under all the bullshit.” That quote came from a recent text conversation that yours truly had with one of the most qualified firearms instructors in the United States. The man in question, in addition to being a combat veteran and firearms trainer, has a doctorate in education.

Paul G. Markel - Host Tactical Masturbation

Paul G. Markel (host) enjoying a hug with his AK

Tactical Masturbation

Though you may not have put a name on it, we have all witnessed tactical masturbation. Like the more traditional form of self-gratification, tactical masturbation might be enjoyable, or a good way to pass a short amount of time, but in the end it has little practical application.

Tactical masturbation fits the description of ‘stupid human tricks’ as my friend mentioned at the outset of this piece. There are entire YouTube channels devoted to the the performance of shooting tricks and flashy showmanship; the design of which is to give the viewer a quick thrill for two or three minutes.

I would shun flashy trick-shooting — grandstand play — as I would poison. – Wyatt Earp

These flashy shooting tricks are seductive. The YouTubers in question may have gotten 100,000 or even 1 million “views” by performing them. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that 1 million views somehow equates to realism or practicality. People see others performing stupid human tricks, take note of the online “popularity”, and believe that they should do their best to emulate them.

These grandstand plays can be even more seductive when performed by people of which we hold in high regard, competition shooters are the number one category. Surely someone with big name sponsors, who consistently ranks high in national shooting competitions, would only behave in a way that is tactically sound, right?

During this article I intend to point out three of what I see as some of the most prevalent forms of tactical masturbation. It looks cool, might be fun, but has essentially nothing to do with gunfighting or tactics.

Catching Live Rounds

This one is so prevalent and seen so often on YouTube and at live events that I thought it merited first mention. By catching a live round, I mean ejecting a live, unfired cartridge out of a semi-automatic handgun in such a way as that the shooter catches it mid-air with their non-dominant hand.

This action is normally performed as a part of the “Unload and Show Clear” retarded Kabuki dance that is a part of almost every pistol competition in existence. As the stage of fire has been completed, rarely will range officers ever call the shooter out on it, unless they muzzle the crowd or fumble the gun.

I won’t even address the pure-fucktardation of forcing “master class” shooters to holster empty guns in the interest of safety, particularly during events that claim to be “practical” or “tactical”.

Catching unfired rounds, instead of just letting them fall harmlessly to the ground as God intended, instills some dangerous habits. First of all, in the effort to look cool, the shooter stops focusing on handling their gun properly and focuses instead on juggling pistol and cartridge.

This also shows a demonstrated lack of seriousness on the part of the participant. Rather than treat the exercise like serious preparation for a potential deadly force event, we instead are transported to the circus. The shooter adds purposeless movements to their routine. Rather than paring the action down to only the most necessary and required motions, we add to the mix.

Efficient and effective firearms manipulation, mastery if you will, does not result from continuously adding to the process. Like sculpting from stone, the masterpiece is not revealed by addition, but by removing all that is superfluous and unnecessary.

Keep in mind, that technique is for the benefit of the viewer, not the shooter. – Jay “Nightmare” Gibson

Racing Back to the Holster

Though no one ever gets bonus points or time removed from the competition stage for getting back to the holster the fastest, we still witness people who seem to believe that the opposite is true.

This is not just true with competitors, if you ever have the chance to observe institutionalized law enforcement or military training, you will see men and women racing back to their holsters.

I’ve seen it a thousand times, and when I was young, I was most certainly guilty of racing back to the holster. The actions play out like this: “Shooters, on command fire 2 rounds.” “Fire!”  Bam, Bam. The shooter draws and fires two shots and is back in the holster as fast as humanly possible, like a shooting robot. It soon becomes a source of pride for the good shooters on line to draw, fire, and be back in the holster before other slower shooters have even completed the drill. We become masters of reholstering.

The problem is that we go out on the street and perform motions exactly as we have mastered them on the square range. A threat appears, we draw, fire two shots and race back to the holster only to realize that the shots did not vaporize the villain.

What is worse is that people will race back to the holster, rushing to get the gun put away and cause a negligent discharge because a finger, piece of clothing, or some other foreign object has found its way into the trigger guard area. We rapidly, if not violently, attempt to put the gun away. More than one ND has occurred due to the shooter being in a hurry to get their gun back in the holster.

"We've Always Done It That Way" Intellectual Laziness and Fear in the Firearms Training World Tactical Masturbation

“We’ve Always Done It That Way” Intellectual Laziness and Fear in the Firearms Training World

Press Checking

I actually saw a post online where a firearms training site was promoting the “press check” as a “Critical Survival Skill”. Was I taught to press check? Yes, I was. The press check, for the uninitiated, is the act of putting a light to moderate amount of pressure on the action of a self-loading firearm in order to look in the chamber area to ensure a round has been chambered.

Yes, I know some of you are having convulsions and possible tremors right now, but be intellectually honest enough to keep reading. The press check originated from the institutionalized stupidity of forcing or encouraging people to carry unloaded or half-loaded guns. People who habitually carry guns with a magazine inserted and chamber empty suffer from a constant nervousness that their guns are not actually loaded, even after they have gone through the loading process.

The other big reason is that people have no faith in their equipment or confidence in the hardware they are carrying. “But, what if the spring in my magazine did not provide enough power to put a round in the chamber?” “What if I short-stroked the slide and didn’t chamber a round?”  We go right back to equipment and training.

Habitual press-checking is one of the top reasons for shooter-induced stoppages in self-loading guns. If you want to teach a shooter how to induce a stoppage like a champ, teach them to press check. I have witnessed, on numerous occasions, shooters in the middle of a shooting problem, reload their guns and then, rather than continue to engage targets, stop and perform a press check. That is not a bad shooter, that is bad instruction.

I have seen a video of the senior firearms instructor (from a big name school) who began a shooting demonstration by drawing his pistol, performing a press check, and then commenced engaging the target.

Parting Thoughts

Not all tactical masturbation is the fault of the student. Far too many shooting instructors and schools still teach and/or allow wasteful and unnecessary motions and movements to become part of the exercise.

If your desire in the use of arms is merely self-gratification and gamesmanship, drive on and feel free to disregard the previous. However, if your stated purpose in owning, training, and practicing with arms is the perfection of martial discipline, stupid human tricks should have no part in your routine.

The only true way to discern the good from the bad, fact from bullcrap, is total immersion in the subject matter. Train with numerous instructors and schools, read and research, seek out those whose reputations have been built upon carrying a gun and fighting with one.

The Cigar and the Student

Stick Review (Cigar Smoked)

La Palina, Nicaragua Oscuro “Gordo” 6x58: Good ash. Strong flavor, but not overpowering. Excellent draw and even burn. Well made. 8 of 10 stars

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Paul

Founder & President at Student of the Gun
Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly twenty years with hundreds and hundreds of articles in print. Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and old for decades and has worked actively with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines and a Bachelor’s degree in conflict resolution; nonetheless, he is and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.

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