Lessons learnt the hard way

Firearms and Training has posted an essay written by a Marine who was badly wounded in combat, and only realized his mistake after taking tactical training courses.

The reason for this belief of mine is fairly simple: When I was engaged in combat the day I was wounded, I made several critical mistakes resulting either from training scars or from simply not being trained how to do something in a certain manner (if at all). I know that training, tactics and procedures (TTPs) and SOPs have changed greatly over the past 6 years since I was wounded, but I guarantee that they are still lacking enough to where I would strongly advise anyone who is planning on going into harms way, either on foreign soil or here domestically in our own nation’s cities, to reach out to the private sector for some enhanced weapons training. I believe that it could save lives, and could prevent a lot of men and women from being needlessly wounded (not all by any means, but quite a few such as myself).

He does make it clear that he does blame the Marine training for his mistakes.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • SpudGun

    Isn’t this a cyclical argument? The training courses being provided now are for urban combat in the Iraq / Afghan theatre – but they couldn’t teach these new courses unless soldiers came back injured. (I hope I’m making sense)

    If the wounded soldier had taken the private course before the initial invasion of Iraq, would the lessons he was being taught then have stopped him from being wounded?

    We know that military training for Iraq / Afghanistan deployment has changed hugely since the conflict begain. Such as –


    Hindsight is 20/20 as they say.

  • Whatever

    Wasn’t the first mistake made by this soldier not having someone else there with him to cover him and vice versa? No matter how fast you can manage a reload of your weapon, the guy next to you with a loaded rifle will get off a shot quicker than you will.

  • Interesting, I am curious about what the ‘training errors’ were. Honestly I would tend to lean sort of in the opposite direction on the whole thing. I am not so certain about the genuine real world qualities of the training at various schools. If you looked at the total amount of gunfights of the folks in Joes Spifffy CQB training school and the folks who plan the Marines combat/ CQB training have been in the two will almost surely not compare.

    In my humble opinion the world of ‘training experts’ is probably a bit full of neatly pressed 5.11 pants and a myriad of competition wins but often less genuine seeing and doing than an 11B PFC with two tours.

    I do think the military tends to lag awhile behind the real world and do not mean to discount what this brave hero said. Also after reading his letter I note that military training has come a LONG WAY since 2003. Standing squared off with SAPPI plates toward the enemy, reloading tactically (IE frickin fast while looking at the enemy) and such are all practiced.

  • jdun1911


    Those thing he mention isn’t new. Those are fundamentals that have been taught for some time. At least in the early 90’s with the tactical reloads (IDPA).

    He was taught one type of reload and that was reload with retention, the slowest of the four type of reloads. I don’t use reload with retention in my training drills. I prefer tactical reloads. With that said the chance of fumbling your magazine with reload with retention is much much lower then tactical reloads in stressful situations.

    The four type of reloads from fastest to slowest.
    1. Speed Reload
    2. Emergency Reload
    3. Tactical Reload
    4. Reload with Retention


    The only thing he can fault himself for is the assumption that he got a hit on the guy and that hit was fatal. You have to make sure visually that your opponent is dead or unable to fight back. Otherwise all bets are off.

    He took cover when doing a reload with retention because there were no threats nearby, which was the right thing to do in that situation based on his assumption. What he should have done was an Emergency Reload in cover because his gun went dry. It would have been a lot faster and could have made a difference.

    You do Tactical Reloads or Reload with Retention when there is no immediate threats to your life and in cover. Otherwise 10 out of 10 times speed reloads is the way to go.

    You can’t fault the Marine training because it is base on squad/fire team tactics. You have heavily armed friends to back you up most of time in the military. In civilians and LE, you’re mainly alone and fighting one or more opponents. So the training will be different between Military and Civilians. Base on the finial result with over 100 enemy combatants killed and none on our side speak for itself.

    Anyway for those guys that lack the resource or transportation to attend private combat training classes, there is a less expensive alterative, i.e. DVD. The Magpul Dynamics The Art of the Tactical Carbine 3-disc Training is probably least expensive training DVD out there for $38. It’s very good at teaching you the fundamentals.


    • jdun1911, +1 it is a very good video.

  • SpudGun

    jdun1911, as always, I agree and disagree with you (I’m a complex individual) :).

    I would imagine that the Marines teach their reloading drills based on a number of factors, most likely they wanted something that would work 100% of the time or they were just tired of picking up dented magazines dropped by Marines.

    The intial invasion of Iraq was based on a desert war with waves of Iraqi tanks, scud missiles and chemical attacks being the prime concerns. The drawn out, urban based, insurgency took many people by surprise.

    I think these expensive and intensive carbine courses are ideal for SWAT types, but in the overall grand military scheme of things, wouldn’t have much impact on a Marine squad with all of the assets at their disposal.

    Civilian wise – as much as I fantasize about being in a Die Hard / Dawn of the Dead style situation – it most likely will never, ever happen, so I’ll spend my money on other stuff.

    Personally, if a situation ever arose, I’d rather call in an Apache then have to kick down a door to deal with an armed threat.

  • jdun1911

    The military teach reloading with retention because it is reliable and it helps conserve ammo. When battles can last for hours it is better to put your partial mag back into the pouch to be use later in the fight.

    Civilian gunfights in reference to police on avg. last around 2 seconds from the first shot fire to the last and within 7 feet. Very fast very brutal.

    Lance Thomas got into five gunfights. He shot a man in the face point blank in his first gunfight and you know what that guy survived.

  • jdun1911

    It was four gunfight that Lance was involved not five after re-watching the video.

  • SpudGun

    Thanks for the link jdun, I hadn’t seen that interview before.