The Army has a system of evaluating unit readiness called “Objective-T” which is supposed to measure unit readiness by hard metrics such as equipment status, number of training exercises conducted, number of key leaders at each training exercise, and other hard metrics. However, it is unofficially called “Subjective-T” by people who practice inputting the numbers into the system. Despite the successive failure of “Objective-T” to actually predict unit performance (units that look good on paper can perform horrendously in the field due to things like maintenance issues or toxic leadership) it does remain an interesting way to look at the concept of “readiness.”
One of the many arguments I’ve heard against carrying on an empty chamber is that it is “like driving with your seatbelt off thinking you can buckle up just before a crash.” Which is a nice pithy soundbyte, that has no basis whatsoever in the reality provided by the data available on actual violent encounters between non-LEO violent interactions. However, fundamentally this argument is one of “readiness” in that somehow carrying with a round in the pipe is more “ready” than someone who is not.
This is a problem. Simply carrying with a round in the pipe has actually nothing to do with how well trained you are at situational awareness, threat identification, and transitioning to stopping a threat. Those things that actually deal with a situation, are actually more difficult to train than practicing your draw, present, pull trigger drills to ensure you can get a firearm out from under cover and into a situation.
Conversely, “if you don’t have a combat tourniquet on your belt you aren’t ready!” is another common lament I hear. But simply throwing a tourniquet on your belt isn’t the same thing as being proficient in applying self aid, or first aid. And ironically, that “round in the pipe” was supposed to help you deal with that problem before you needed medical aid right? I added that a silly argument just to make this point, there are no tactics that are 100% guaranteed to work, only things that are safer bets in more generalized situations.
So no matter how you carry, and no matter what you carry, are you untrained, trained, or proficient at using it? How do you know? Clearly getting ambushed by some random stranger (or hiring your Chinese butler to attack you Pink Panther style) is probably not a good way to test readiness.
I think competition is the best compromise to test your readiness. Whether it’s pistol only, some form of 2 gun or 3 gun, competing to beat your previous time is probably the combination of “performance under stress” events you need to ensure that you can perform under stress. Of course is isn’t the same as being attacked at random when you least expect it, but then again NOTHING is.
To sum up this post, don’t substitute any sort of tactical dogma for actual measurement of your performance. Don’t worry about how your time on a course fits against others, it is your job to improve you. I’d rather someone be completely proficient with a 5 shot snubby revolver, able to rapidly assess, engage, and reload (if necessary) than someone carry a Glock 19 with a round in the pipe, two spare mags, and a tourniquet who hasn’t shot at anything but an indoor range that doesn’t allow shooting from the draw in a few years. Your gear isn’t what “is gonna get you kilt on da streetz!” It is your ability to maintain situational awareness, assess threats, and ability to transition to threat engagement.
And even then, there might be more of them than you have bullets. But if that happens, may you go out surrounded by the corpses of your attackers.