We have brought up Pat McNamara on this blog in the past when he said “Give me my M4 back” regarding the HK416. The guy is a long time special forces veteran and someone who just seems to speak with the right intensity and language – I get a lot out of his teaching. In the video below, he addresses magazine changes with the AR-15, or M4. He has been doing work like this for years since he left active duty in the service of the US military. In this case, he is teaching US Army soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division.
If you aren’t getting training from experts at rifle courses in person, this is the next best thing to watch, and replicate. Even if you are getting training at rifle courses, this is excellent supplemental material to consume.
The importance of training and repetition
Training is not just something we should do for fun, although it can be. It should be done to simulate combat conditions in some sense. However, the most important part of training is to build muscle memory and allow you to operate at a subconsciously. Training and repetition is the only way to get it.
Anything we do enough of, with repetition, becomes ingrained into us so we can operate like it is second nature. So, it is important that we train the way we would fight. Pat calls this “meaningful repetitions so we can etch that into our hard drives so we can access it at a subconscious level.”
When to do a magazine change
Pat teaches that we do magazine changes “when we want to and when we need to. Now, in a perfect world, you’re doing it when you want to and not when you have to.”
Further, “We want to do this mag change when we want to. We’re going to force however, when we have to because the sound and the feel of an empty gun is unique. Now it becomes an immediate action drill. We do not have to analyze it. Through analysis comes paralysis.”
In other words, we train for these instances because in a gun fight, magazine changes are inevitable. When that time comes, we need to be able to react in a manner that is second nature. We will perform the move with speed and fluidity and we can use our conscious mind to work on strategy and other problem solving.
5 things that should happen during magazine changes with the AR-15
In the video, Pat goes though 5 steps that you perform immediately in a magazine change, simultaneously. They are:
- Safety on
- Drop empty magazine from the rifle
- Reach for a new magazine
- Centerline sweep
- Perform a focal shift
After that you place a new magazine into the weapon and with the same hand (for righties) you move your thumb to the bolt catch release and let the bolt chamber a new round. You can then flick the safety back off and look down the sights to re-engage the target.
For left handed shooters, this drill is a little slower. All the more reason to get more practice for left handers.
Pat suggests that soldiers have a “fast mag” on themselves for these types of magazine changes. Not all magazines are going to be as accessible in your kit as that magazine.
Magazine change drill
The drill that Pat has the troops perform is loading two magazines with 3 rounds each. They fire 3 rounds, perform the magazine change, then fire 3 more rounds from the second magazine. This drill is repeated ten times at a range of about 7 yards.
“That’s not nearly enough to etch it into our hard drive, but it’s enough to get us started.”
He also emphasizes that while you can decide the pace you want to perform the drill at, you need to be accurate in hitting the target. This drill is not meant to be difficult or even super realistic for combat purposes. It is to simulate the magazine change process. It should be performed often and with regularity.
Conclusion – Magazine changes with the AR-15
One nice thing about this drill is that it does not require a lot of ammo. I will also add that you can come up with your own variation for practice at home. The entire magazine change process wouldn’t change, just the live fire aspect of the drill. Just be sure to practice safe gun handling under those conditions.
Use quality training videos like this from qualified experts like Pat McNamara to learn drills. Then use repetition of those drills in order to create muscle memory.