Oleg on Promoting Fire Discipline

M&P 15-22 with a red dot. © Oleg Volk

Oleg Volk discusses the subject of fire discipline in a world where standard magazine capacities are larger than they were historically (6 round revolver vs. 17 round Glock) but ammunition carried by shooters at any one time remains limited.

When magazine rifles became preeminent in military use at the end of 19th century, mechanical magazine cutoffs were all the rage. You can see it in the photo above, a metal wedge designed to allow single loading into the chamber while keeping a full magazine in reserve. You can’t blame the armies for wanting those devices, as they were designed to reduce several problems at once:

An individual soldier seldom carried more than 60 rounds of ammunition and resupply was often uncertain

Rifle magazines held five to eight rounds and had to be reloaded with loose cartridges.

Other than in the UK, most soldiers were draftees with only moderate training

Black powder smoke made rapid fire relatively ineffective in short order

By the end of the 1890s, most major armies adopted smokeless ammunition and clip loading for box magazines. But the supply issue had not changed, and the magazine cutoffs remained until World War One production simplifications and combat experience relegated them to the dust bin of history.

Read the full article here.

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.


  • M.M.D.C.

    Having seen my friends start their children on semi auto 22s and the inevitable ‘gangsta’ mag dumps that ensued, I chose to start mine on a Crickett single shot. They have a magazine fed bolt action now, but they still tend to enjoy precision shooting more than spraying the range with lead so I guess it worked out ok.

    • Julio

      In praise of single-shot trainers, break-barrel and under-lever air rifles add an extra incentive to make each shot count, as reloading requires effort as well as time! That said, I think bolt-action repeaters (air or cartridge) offer a fine compromise, partly because an error of technique identified in one shot can quickly be addressed by the next.

  • USMC03Vet

    The shooter.

    The limited by design club seems to fall under the category of being unable and unwilling to trust the shooter and if that is the case they shouldn’t be shooting to begin with. Limiting the standard capacity doesn’t provide any benefits other than apparently the peace of mind of the one supervising it.

    The fundamentals of marksmanship still apply regardless of ammunition capacity. The shooter will pick this up quickly if tought correctly meaning they’ll adjust their rate of fire accordingly to hit the mark, not the other way around.

    • JLR84

      There’s not necessarily anything wrong with “not trusting the shooter” when that shooter is a child old being introduced to shooting for the first time. I don’t know if I would buy one of those single-shot 22LR youth rifles, but a 10/22 with a single round in the magazine will accomplish the same purpose.

  • Cymond

    Interesting. The 2 opinions posted before me are complete opposites. I’ll take a middle road and say “magazine fed bolt action”. A bolt-action slows things down just enough to discourage mag dumping, but still offers fairly quick follow-up shots. The magazine can be loaded with only 1 round for first-timers (emulating something like a Cricket rifle), while being capable of holding a full load for experienced shooters.
    I love my old Marlin 81 despite some mechanical issues (stupid broken feed ramp spring thingy). I’d love to have a Henry Frontier lever action. Tube-fed rimfire rifles feed LR or Shorts (22 Long hasn’t been produced in ages), as well as Aguila Super Colibri which sounds about as loud as a pellet rifle. I can only get about 3 rounds of Super Colibr into a Ruger BX-10, but about 20 into the Marlin 81. I really hate standard sheet-metal rimfire magazines because they’re hard on the thumbs. The Ruger magazines are much easier to load, so I’d prefer one of the new American Rimfire rifles if I were buying a bolt-action rimfire with a removable magazine.

  • DetroitMan

    It all depends on the new shooter. If a kid is impulsive and dumps every loaded magazine all over the range, then it is time to insist on single loading. If they are more disciplined and can handle the temptations of a fully loaded magazine, then let them load it up and concentrate on sight alignment. There will always be disagreement about the best way to train new shooters, especially kids. It’s kind of silly to argue that single shot rifles are obsolete though. Let the trainer decide which is the best rifle for training new marksmen. As long as they produce competent new marksmen, who cares what rifle was used?

    • gunslinger

      i’m with you.

      it’s the shooter who determines what’s best.

  • gunslinger

    i’ll take it a step further.

    what if the new shooter is an adult. would you give them a full auto? we’ve heard of the stories of guns running away, sometimes with tragic results.

    let the shooter get used to what the firearm can do, and then move on.

    • USMC03Vet

      I wouldn’t give anyone a automatic weapon unless it was a machine gun and they are a machine gunner.

  • Phil Hsueh

    For what it’s worth, limiting the shooter was SOP for the US military for a long time which was why the Army didn’t issue lever action repeaters (in large numbers) during and after the Civil War, the Marine Corps’ initial reluctance to adopt the M1 Garand, and the reason for the 3 round burst in the M16A2. All of that was because it was thought that the soldier or Marine, if given a rapid fire capable rifle, would lack fire discipline and would just fire wildly and waste ammo. So by giving the troops a rifle that was slower to reload, or held less ammo, or was less capable of rapid fire would encourage greater marksmanship and making every round count.