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  • Writer's pictureBrad Parker

Defensive Shooting:Losing a Kingdom Over a Nail

Updated: Mar 14

For the Want of a Nail

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.

For want of a shoe the horse was lost.

For want of a horse the rider was lost.

For want of a rider the message was lost.

For want of a message the battle was lost.

For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The above is said to have been a popular proverb and nursery rhyme from the 1400s.

Painting of William Shakespeare with quote from Richard III play.

It's thought it refers to King Richard III’s death during the Battle of Bosworth. William Shakespeare’s play Richard III dating back to 1597 used a form of this. A popular French nursery rhyme used this proverb as a way to teach children that our actions, even the most minor, can lead to significant consequences.

For us, it reminds us to pay attention to details.

For example, the untied shoelace can cause a trip, fall, and possible serious injury. Or, you are a legendary knight who trips over his cloak and dies.

Or loading your carbine magazine to 30 rounds. What?

We recommend loading our 30-round carbine magazines to 28. Not the the advertised capacity of 30. Or worse, to 31 if we find our particular magazine can hold 31.

But more is better, right? Especially in a life and death firefight? Ordinarily we say yes, except when the consequences can be disastrous.

An example highlighted in class shows how trying to carry an extra round in magazines can have potentially disastrous effects. I've found the most common problem I have with trying to load a full magazine with 30 rounds into the mag well with a closed bolt on a chambered round. Sometimes the magazine does not fully seat. I've had mags fall free after I've shot the first round. And I've had mags fall out while I'm on the move before I've fired the first round.

Loading to 28 corrects this problem.

I've also seen the same problem with Glock magazines. A full magazine on a full chamber can keep the magazine from seating all the way in and you'll get a failure to feed after your first shot.

For pistol mags I generally download one round.

Here are two other examples of how to lose a kingdom by not paying attention to this detail:

  • In a competition, a well-meaning guest loaded a 5.56 magazine for me right before a run. Unfortunately, the magazine was not loaded to capacity and I literally ran out of ammo during that stage. Apparently this person had interpreted the resistance felt when the spring was getting compressed to mean that the magazine was "full enough". My fault. I thought it was nice that this guest wanted to be helpful. I should have checked first. In this case I simply did not finish the stage of fire and was penalized for all of the shots I did not take -- they all counted as misses. In a real-life firefight, I could have been rendered defenseless -- and dead.

  • Only full magazines should be stowed in magazine holders/pouches. I've heard a dramatic example shared with PFC students regarding a potentially disastrous situation with a law enforcement officer. This officer completed his annual qualification by shooting all of his duty ammo and receiving his fresh ammo for the year. On his way home he was distracted by a family emergency (everything turned out okay). The gut punch of the story, however, is that the next quarter this officer went to shoot at his next qualification and found that his magazines were empty. No rounds in any of them. He had forgotten to load his new ammo into his magazines (because of the emergency distraction). For an entire quarter, this officer went to work with an empty gun and empty magazines. Only full magazines in your pouches or holders. Otherwise, temporarily stow your empty magazines in a dump pouch or your bag.

Pay attention to details:

  1. Magazines loaded to optimal levels

  2. Only loaded magazines in your pouches.

We are responsible for everything.

No one is coming to save us.


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