Occam’s Razor for shooters….


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The Ockraz Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

William of Ockham was an influential medieval philosopher who is recalled chiefly for the maxim attributed to him known as Ockham’s razor. Also spelled “Occam’s Razor”. The words attributed to him are, entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem…or “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity”.

I bring this up because I have just read a quote from the Dokkodo, the “The Solitary Path”, which is a short piece written by Miyamoto Musashi shortly before his death:

Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what can be of use to you.

I see a link between the philosophies of these two men and an application to weapon training. I will attempt to explain.

These philosophical issues come to mind because I was recently involved in a friendly conversation debating that “Less Filling. Tastes Great” topic of using the slide release vs “power stroking” the slide on a handgun during an emergency reload.

I have a post here regarding this very issue BTW.

Debate points that always seem to come up when discussing emergency reloads are:

“I use the power stroke because I may be using a weapon I am unfamiliar with and running the slide is fairly universal for all pistols while slide releases may vary.”

and

“I use the power stroke because the actions are similar to the manual of arms for clearing malfunctions.”

Being a fairly recent convert to the slide release method, Occam’s and Musashi’s quotes kind of cut me both ways.

I argue that the “It’s universal for all pistols” point either means you own too many pistols or you are saying you are going to be doing a combat pick up of a pistol…or a disarm.

Per Occam/Musashi…if you have so many different pistols that you may/may not be carrying at any one time, you are violating their precepts. I’m not against collecting guns, I’m not against having different pistols/rifles for different applications, but if you worry that you may not be able to “auto pilot” your weapon because you may be carrying something different on any given day, that’s a problem IMO. Pick one and make it a part of your hand.

The combat pick-up/disarm argument doesn’t hold much water for me either. I’m probably not going to disarm an attacker of his weapon and magazines and have to do an emergency reload with them. And the combat pick-up is such a statistically rare issue that I don’t see it as a valid point. Either way, if they worry you then do the power stroke method if that ever happens.

The second point…”I use the power stroke because the actions are similar to the manual of arms for clearing malfunctions.” Is a more valid argument when applying Occam (Musashi doesn’t really apply here). Having one way of operating the pistol regardless of reason (malfunction or running dry) is a stronger point IMO and I have much to agree with.

However I would counter that Occam said “…must not be multiplied beyond necessity” he didn’t say “never multiply”. The slide stop method has some things going for it; speed, efficiency, the weapon/hands stay more oriented to the threat, etc. The necessity of multiplying your manual of arms to gain those advantages may be debatable, but I would debate it.

Either way you choose I find Occam and Musashi’s points as interesting ways to analyze our choices when it comes to weaponcraft. What do you think?

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7 thoughts on “Occam’s Razor for shooters….”

  1. For starters I am glad you cited the source of Musashi’s quote from the Solitary Path, as I am unfamiliar with that piece of work and will have to find it and read.

    In the last few years I’ve transitioned from the Slide release method to the Power Stroke (I largely blame Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch for this). While not necessarily sold on one being superior to the other I think (personally) it would be hard to argue against the slide release in terms of speed, and it could hold inherent value in a very tight CQB (do we still use that term?) if in the event of a reload one suddenly found there weak hand needed for other things.

    Lastly and as always, It is always refreshing to come get some validation in the Samurai code that a few of us “get”.

    Don’t stop writing.

  2. Love all the great info you share and points to consider. Personally I transitioned away from using the slide stop when a new Glock proved dificult for my little fingers to reliably and quickly disengage it. Old habits die hard and for quite some time I yearned to put in an extended release.

    Some gun mag writer once postulayed that using the slide stop had a slight risk of misfeeds due to the decreased travel/spring tension as opposed to fully cycling the slide back. Seems iffy to me, but whatever. What really sealed the deal for me, personally was fumbling with it when my hands were gloved, wet, or numb from cold. On many pistols it wouldnt be an issue thanks to plenty of area and leverage afforded by the release, but with Glocks those conditions created issues for me.

    Slide reelase is faster for me–except for when I fail to make it happen.

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