Tactical Tailor

Gunfighter Moment – Frank Proctor


I live by 2 very easy to follow gun handling rules: #1 keep the pointy end of the death machine in a safe direction. #2 if you’re eyes are not connected to the sights then the trigger finger is connected to the frame of the gun. For the AR-15 I add rule 2a if the eyes are not connected to the sights the rifle is on safe and some positive pressure up on the selector lever. These rules have served me very well in every situation.

When this segment on reloads went on Trigger Time TVs youtube channel It got a lot of push back in regards to putting the rifle on safe during a bolt lock reload, as well as when I posted it to my company Facebook page.

Here is my detailed response to why I believe in doing it:

I’m more than happy to explain everything I do. Everything I do and believe in has a reason behind it. I’m also very open minded to new ideas and thoughts on how to do things better. I was a Green Beret for 8 years before I changed to my current rifle reload procedure. I was taught that it was OK to keep the rifle on fire during a bolt lock reload and when I was the Primary Instructor for the Special Forces Advanced Urban Combat Course I also taught it that way. It never felt right to me when one of my guys would ask me “do we keep the rifle on fire during the reload?” and I would say yes. I justified it in my mind by saying it’s OK because at that point we are still in the engagement. Through my entire Army career since I was 18 years old it has been programed into me to keep the rifle on safe when not shooting.

When I was going through the Special Forces Qualification course I developed another habit with the M-4. I put my thumb under the selector lever and push up against the selector lever as an extra measure of safe gun handling. I think it was some sort of subconscious thing that happened to prevent my gear or all the brush I was walking through from effecting the selector lever and firing the gun. I also press my trigger finger into the frame of the rifle when my eyes are not connected to the gun. These extra safety measures have never cost me even a tenth of a second getting the gun into operation and getting an accurate hit.

So I was watching some YouTube one day in 2012 and saw Pat McNamara talking about how he does rifle reloads. Pat puts the rifle on safe during the bolt lock reloads. Pat retired from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment (D) and was the marksmanship instructor for his unit for awhile. After hearing pretty legit dude like Pat talk about it I decided to try it. It took me about 20 deliberate reps to program getting the gun on safe into my bolt lock reload. Since that day in October 2012 I haven’t lost even a tenth of a second on a bolt lock reload due to putting the rifle on safe during the reload. In my courses I will start the reload session with a competition. I have the guys set up for a bolt lock, 1 round in the gun and an empty mag. I compete against the whole class 1 shooter at a time. I let the other guy start, he shoots first and starts his reload to another shot. After his first shot I shoot, get bolt lock put the gun on safe and work my reload to another shot. I’m around 98% on getting 1 shot reload 1 shot on target before the other who had about a 1 second head start and they aren’t putting their gun on safe. I’m not saying that I’m magic, I’m a fan of proven reliable mechanics and very efficient mechanics at that. I do it this way to make a point that what I’m saying works and that getting the gun on safe won’t cost anything.

Pat’s term is “Always an enabler, never a disabler” in regards to the selector lever, and I completely agree and dig it the most. I’m not a fan of scenarios and “what ifs”. I am a fan of solid fundamentals and programing them to a point where you instantly apply those fundamentals to any situation you find in order to solve problems without overthinking. There are however some what ifs that can make it make sense when I say that the world could change in the amount of time it takes to reload a rifle. Let’s look at one of many scenarios that support putting the rifle on safe when the eyes are not connected to the sights. If I were deployed with my team and during a bolt lock reload I didn’t put the rifle on safe, I get the mag in then the bolt forward then get shot in the head and fall down and a rock or something fires the gun and my rifle shoots our only 18D in the head. That’s a pretty sad face day right there for a whole ODA that could have been avoided by a very easy mechanical function. As I said you can what if stuff to death but at then end of the day, it’s too easy to put the gun on safe during a reload and I’m gonna keep on doing it because I believe in it and based on my experience it works.

-Frank Proctor


Frank Proctor has served over 18 years in the military, the last 11 of those in US Army Special Forces. During his multiple combat tours in Afghanistan & Iraq he had the privilege to serve with and learn from many seasoned veteran Special Forces Operators so their combined years of knowledge and experience has helped him to become a better operator & instructor. While serving as an instructor at the Special Forces Advanced Urban Combat Course he was drawn to competitive shooting. He has since earned the USPSA Grand Master ranking in the Limited Division and Master ranking in the IDPA Stock Service Pistol division. He learned a great deal from shooting in competition and this has helped him to become to become a better tactical shooter. Frank is one of the few individuals able to bring the experiences of U.S. Army Special Forces, Competitive Shooting, and veteran Instructor to every class.

All this experience combines to make Frank Proctor a well-rounded shooter and instructor capable of helping you to achieve your goal of becoming a better shooter.

Gunfighter Moment is a weekly feature brought to you by Alias Training & Security Services. Each week Alias brings us a different Trainer and in turn they offer some words of wisdom.

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16 Responses to “Gunfighter Moment – Frank Proctor

  1. Mandaloin says:

    While I have no doubt it’s just as fast and doesn’t cost anything, I’m wondering why I should bother with it. The gun is in bolt lock, with an empty magazine. It can’t fire anyway, no matter what safeties I do or don’t have.

    But hey, it works for you then keep on. Doesn’t sound like you’re trying to force anyone to do it so more power to you.

    • Felix says:

      He explained why to vorher:

      “..didn’t put the rifle on safe, I get the mag in then the bolt forward then get shot in the head and fall down and a rock or something fires the gun and my rifle shoots our only 18D in the head…”

      As you said, its still very fast. We were taught in German Military to put the safety on whenever we move reload or whatever, we also teach this to our students and it works fine.

      • Mandaloin says:

        Makes sense in the scenario he’s describing. Not so much on the range, which where I use my rifle. I’m down for flicking on the safety whenever I move or even just lower the weapon, but this seems excessive.

  2. Chris K. says:

    Frank you are a renaissance man when it comes to tactical shooting. Good to see world class instructors who work to improve and not just rehash. And who can shoot on the ragged edge.

  3. regularguy says:

    Interesting stance, but even more intriguing is the mindset. I wished more shooters, not just instructors, adopted an openness to understanding/finding better

  4. All the former SPEC OP guys I take training from drill into us that at any point when the weapon is not on target and ready to be fired, to make sure it is on “safe” … no matter what we are doing. By doing this each and every time you develop a consistent pattern of making safe the weapon, you don’t even have to think twice about it. Weapon comes up on target, safety goes off, finger on trigger, finger off trigger, sights off target, safety on. No exceptions.

    And I’m also a big fan of using the thumb to apply pressure on underside of safety at all times a well with a chambered weapon. Just another way to assure safety and no AD.

    It is all about mindset, habit, and drilling, drilling and more drilling.

  5. Trajan says:

    I’ve tried this, and I can’t get it to work with me. I have to break my grip to re-safe. If I don’t, the side of my thumb is just digging into the bottom of the selector. Either way, can’t do both at the same time.

    How does this idea transfer over to pistols? Can’t put a Glock/M&P/VP9 on safe period. Can’t put a 1911 on safe when it’s out of battery.

    • Matt says:

      By that logic (no safety on glock), there is no need to ever use the safety on an AR.

      Clearly faulty thinking, when considered that way. It’s simple, really. Mr. Proctor is advocating a consistent manual of arms applicable to a weapons system. It will be different depending on the weapon system, as each is different. It will NOT be different depending on what state the system is in. His argument is that using the system is “free” and not using it could have a consequence.

      I agree and it’s how I’ve done business in spite of counter instruction from some well known instructors. If sights are not on target for any reason…downtime, malfunctions, reloads, handling, movement, etc…then safety is engaged. Much simpler than having a bunch of if/then exceptions.

      Further, I have never picked up my glock and tried to mimic the controls or handling of an AR. My hands/eyes/mind interface knows the difference in systems.

      I, too, find myself using my thumb to “lock” the safety in place. This is as much about indexing the thumb to the selector for faster engagement than it is for security. It cuts down on time, and AR selectors are easy to flip with pressure to the underside. I understand this might be a function of hand size, but works well for most. It’s like indexing your finger to the side of the weapon when not on target, and is done simultaneously. It becomes automatic very quickly.

      Simple…hand on grip = trigger finger & thumb acting in concert to achieve bang/no bang.

      • Matt says:

        First para, last sentence should have read:

        His argument is that using the safety is “free” and not using it could have a consequence.

      • Trajan says:

        Nice straw man.

        No, a Glock is “safe” when it is in the holster. AR should be on safe when it’s slung because who knows what could get in the trigger guard.

        Either way, the gun is in your control (your hands) and your finger is off the trigger (if you are right handed, the AR forces your finger off the trigger to reload). So they are both perfectly safe.

        It has nothing to do with mimicking the controls, it has to do with the entire logic of “Gun A is dangerous during a reload solely because it has the ability to be put on safe, while Gun B isn’t because it doesn’t even have such an ability”.

        Either finger straight is safe, or it isn’t.

        I will safe the gun if I’m moving, but during a reload I won’t. Only have one hand on the gun at that point, and it would require me to shift the only grip I have to reactivate the safety securely. Seems more dangerous to me to compromise the control grip.

  6. Dellis says:

    I follow this approach with rifle training. I have drilled it into my sons head with his ar the safe comes off when ready to engage. Goes to safe when moving or when in a transition from rifle to sidearm.

    Then with the sidearm it’s about where is your trigger finger? Again only on trigger when target is being fired at. If you move, trigger finger is outside of trigger. When reloading same goes. It becomes muscle memory after a short while.

    I will admit that I do need to work on the reload=go to safe mode. I never gave that much thought but after reading this I realize now its importance.

    Thank you Frank for a great article.

  7. Bill says:

    Another thought provoking article. I guess my concern would be why the rifle is empty, and what I plan on doing once it’s reloaded. If I’ve run dry in the middle of a fight, and need to get back to shooting right away, do I want to add another step, or actually two steps, to the process? Odds are it would be a non-issue for me as I want to be moving while I’m reloading, and safe the rifle when moving anyway.

    I don’t want to train people to be “too safe,” to where it gets in the way of finishing the fight. Unfortunately, I doubt we’ll ever have a reliable database describing when and how NDs occur in training or in actual gunfights, so assessing the extent of the problem is going to be impossible, so will measuring the effectiveness of safety measures.

  8. Irving McCallister says:

    This method doesn’t work with my Mini-14 and 5 round magazines.

  9. Rob says:

    Damn rock or something. It wasn’t around when I was trying to heat up my jambalaya!

  10. John Smith says:

    I have to fight the muscle memory of flipping the selector at any point anyway. I can’t tell you how many times I have been “reminded” not to put the rifle back on safe after an engagement in my sector (or for that matter reindexing a target.) On the chalk board it makes sense that the extra step could be costly but in the real world I see very little difference in the speed of engagement.

    As long as the right thumb is educated- I think this is cheap insurance.

    Of course, if you are wrong you have the rest of your life to figure it out….