The extreme novice mindset


In many, if not most, martial arts one of the first things learned is how to fall safely. Often this is incorporated into a roll allowing the individual to quickly move and pop back up in a position of their choosing. Hell, grey belt training in the USMC was pretty much just 10 hours of break falls. As students of these martial arts learned to do take downs and throws, their training partners know how to safely fall, and better yet roll out of those take downs and throws.

This is a good thing, but like all good things, there are downsides. Sometimes students get so used to rolling out of a throw or take down that they will throw them selves and roll out of it when they see someone start to perform a throw or take down on them. Sometimes they don’t don’t even realize they are doing this. It can get so bad as to where you start to do a throw on someone and before you even touch them they throw them selves and roll out of it. They end up doing you a disservice as they are not giving you a good training partner.

On the other side, if you meet Joe Averageman on the street and attempt to throw or take him down, he is deathly afraid of going to the ground. His conscious and subconscious mind knows that his head hitting the asphalt from 5’10” up could well kill him. Every grain and muscle of his body is going to be resisting that take down or throw and the person performing the technique is going to experience something completely different from the experience of training with an experienced training partner who has no fear of falling.

Working with professions is so very different from working with the extreme novice that it is not comparable. Imagine being a teacher for college post-graduate students, or being a teacher for Pre-Kindergarten. As gun nuts, the consummate informed professionals we are (or think we are), we end up being so far removed from the total extreme novice that it can be easy to forget just how ignorant they are.

I often see people say stuff like how the AK is better for novices and the AR is better for experts.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

I find when I hand an AK type rifle to someone who has no experience with one, they often can not even insert a magazine. Same with the M14/M1A. Rocking in the magazine is an unknown concept. Sometimes people will even manage to get the mags stuck in the wrong position by rocking them in back to front.

Who would guess what little button, and where, holds the action open? How obvious is it?

I once had a novice shooter tell me it was not possible to lock the bolt open on the AR15 with out an empty mag inserted because there was no control for it. He was trying to argue with me over it while I locked the bolt to the rear on his AR15. His argument quickly subsided.

Now there is no good justification for a gun owner to be that ignorant. But keep in mind so much of what we would considered inanely obvious are actually complete unknowns to the masses.

Don’t get me started on novices and the Beretta 92FS safety.


  1. I was that ignorant(and with some things still am firearm related).I was lucky that folks who took me beyond shooting beer cans ect. with a .22 first instilled in me safety,safety,oh…….,and safety.My friend said as long as safe everything else can be learned/mistakes not harmful/deadly ect.

    So,take a novice out and give em a hand,starting with…….safety.

    • Yup, we all had to start somewhere. Fortunately many of us had good teachers. Some didn’t so it is good to keep them in mind.

  2. Slide mounted safeties are gross.
    It can certainly be embarrassing looking back at the things we thought we knew or just didn’t know.

    • I have a theory that one of the reasons so many younger shooters poo-poo on manual safeties so much is because of their experience with slide mounted safeties. Guys trained on the M9 or some such get a real distaste for them and reject the idea of any thumb safety. Thus we get the people who want no manual safety at all. like the glock. they never knew the pleasure of the natural and intuitive 1911 safety as God intended

      • Maybe. It’s so natural I can never understand the complaints about them. Granted I still think of them as “swenson” style so maybe I’m old fashioned.

  3. I think the distinction between AKs and ARs involves a few different factors and was standard advice that dated back before the start of the GWOT and the many AR reliability mods (particularly mags) that have come about the interim. Also bear in mid the cost difference between reliable ARs and AKs/SKSes was substantial ~20 years ago.

    Beyond reliability and cost, the M16A2’s rear sight is harder to master than the AK, the AK is easier to clean and arguably also to field strip, and jams are easier to clear in the AK than the AR (as well as typically less likely to occur vs commercial ARs of 20 years ago)… But yeah, the cost of 7.62×39 ammo and lower cost of compatible weapon systems in the first decade or two after the fall of the Soviet Union also allowed folks to get a lot more bang for buck/more training — most of that time 5.56 ammo was 50% to double the cost of 7.62×39. Nowadays, the price equations and ubiquity of the AR15 platform have entirely changed equations, but think it’s important to understand historical recommendations and beliefs in context.

    Lastly, I find rock and lock mags to have a more solid attachment, and easier for most folks to use after they understand the function. I prefer them. YMMV.

  4. Should also add the rise of optics has also vastly changed the equation in the AR15’s favor, even with quality AK mounts like RS Regulate, etc.

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