One of my many mantras is: Same gun, same location, same mode of readiness, always.
What I mean is: I carry the same gun, in the same location, with a round in the chamber, where ever legally possible. I do not flip and flop guns. They aren’t fashion accessories. I do not change how or where I carry my gun based on my clothes, but instead, I choose my clothes based on my gun. Carrying a gun isn’t simply something you do, it is a lifestyle choice.
In a high-stress situation, I favor consistency and muscle memory.
Those who switch up their carry guns very often place themselves at a disadvantage, in my opinion. The person who carries two guns needs to train twice as much, and let’s face it most people don’t train nearly enough. Please note, practice and training are not the same.
Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule. For example, if you sometimes switch between let’s say a p320 compact and a p320 sub-compact. Their sizes are nearly the same, their controls are in the same locations and require the same maneuvers and forces to operate. When this rule of consistency comes into play is when you flip flop platforms such as a Glock one day, a 1911 the next and a Beretta 92 the next, and sometimes a revolver. All the controls on these particular firearms are different, and those are just a few examples, I could rattle off a much longer list.
While firearms absolutely are tools and there is always the right tool for the job, the difference between your plumbing wrench and a gun is the fact that when selecting a wrench you have ample time to examine and determine which is the best tool for the job. If you grab the wrong wrench you can put it back and grab the proper wrench. However, when drawing your firearm extending and pressing, and needing to do this in preferably 1.5 seconds or less, you aren’t afforded that luxury of time. Forgetting to disengage the safety can cost you your life. Being used to a heavy trigger and suddenly carrying a lighter trigger WILL lead to negligent discharges, in my experience. Trying to change the mags when you’re used to a traditional American magazine release button and now you’re suddenly carrying with the HK style flappy paddles is a recipe for disaster.
I’ve concluded that muscle memory and consistency trumps all other variables in a high-stress situation through my own personal training. A few examples:
I almost always carry my extra mags on my left hip. However, I was training with a buddy and for whatever reason, I switched the mags to my vest. Every time I went for a mag change I would first go to my hip, and then look down and go for my vest. This added about 1 second to my mag changes, not to mention taking my eyes off the threat. This experience lead me to discover that carrying on my hip one day and appendix the next, and my ankle the next was detrimental to my survival. There is no muscle memory, there is no consistency.
I am not alone. I also watch shooting competitions on TV. I was watching an IDPA match, where the gun and magazine locations are staged as defined by the stage designer. In this case, the stage called for an unloaded gun and mag to be on the table in front of you. On buzzer pick up the gun, load the magazine into the gun, and begin firing. Want to guess how many competitors went for the magazine on their belt first, a magazine which wasn’t there, before picking up the magazine on the table? A second can cost you a win in a competition but can cost you your life in a gunfight.
Another example, I am a striker fire gun kinda guy. I was shooting my buddy’s 1911. Forgetting the safety was a real issue because I hadn’t carried a manual safety in years, and when I did, the safety was a different kind of safety. Further, I had my first and only ever Negligent Discharge with that gun, because the trigger was so incredibly crisp it broke with just a flinch to set it off vs the 5# trigger on my p320 which I have thousands of trigger presses. That’s not to say a Glock or a Sig Sauer p320 is better than a Nighthawk custom. It is to say they are different animals and flip-flopping was a disservice to me because I didn’t have the muscle memory necessary to be unconsciously competent with that platform.
Think of it like this. I can shoot both the AR and the AK platform of rifles. I’m better with the AR because I shoot it more than the AK. The controls are different. When I reload with my AR, I can do it with no effort. When I reload with the AK I have to mentally walk through the steps. Again that’s not to say the AR is better than the AK, only that I have burned the muscle memory into my neural pathway. I am unconsciously competent with the AR and I am consciously competent with the AK.
What do I mean by “unconsciously competent” and “consciously competent”?
To be unconsciously competent is to know what to do and perform the action without thought. If you’ve been driving for a few years, you speed up, slow down and change lanes as if it is instinctual. For a seasoned driver, checking your mirrors happens without thought. However, the consciously competent, the newer driver, may have to think about what he or she is doing before actually doing it. Their moves may appear more purposeful and choppy because they are. Shooters aren’t any different than drivers in this regard. The goal is to become a master of our chosen weapon platform. The goal is to be unconsciously competent.
I can take any weapon platform and be adequate with it on the range, but the range is not usually a stressful situation, such as a situation I would be shooting to defend my life. I wish to afford myself every advantage possible and not purposely introduce any opportunities for mistakes. I’ve found many of the people who tell me this all doesn’t matter, have never taken a defensive pistol training class or a Defensive Shooting Fundamentals course, and their training often only consists of a basic class or simply plinking on the range. Be armed. Be trained. Be Alpha.