Kyle Lamb Transition From Rifle To Pistol

Today we’re looking at a drill from Viking Tactics [YouTube channel]. Kyle Lamb, former Special Forces Operator, explains the nuances of transitioning from the rifle to the pistol.

Kyle Lamb of Viking Tactics holding a rifle
Kyle Lamb served in the US Special Forces and has solid, real-world knowledge of tactics.

One thing you will note if you ever work with or watch Kyle is that he is a firm advocate of putting weapons on Safe when they are not being directly used.

Training to Transition from Rifle to Pistol

The transitions that Kyle discusses in the video are in the instance of the primary long arm going down, whether it runs dry or experiences a stoppage. At that point, the operator transitions to a handgun. Rather than attempting to remedy the stoppage or reload the long arm, the pistol transition is so much faster and more practical if the threat is close. There are a couple of different ways to train for this transition, each with a different setup.

Dry Weapon 

For this drill, he begins with a rifle that is unloaded. He brings the weapon up, squeezes the trigger, and gets a “Click” as the hammer falls on an empty chamber, which is the indicator that something is wrong and he needs to draw his pistol. He then engages the target(s) with his handgun, makes sure the threat is neutralized, and reholsters. Next, he recycles the bolt on his rifle and places the safety on.

Kyle emphasizes the need for the hammer to be dropped by pulling the trigger on the rifle so that we receive that audible “click”, indicating that the weapon is not firing. If that happens with the weapon, the hammer will be forward, and we should make an attempt to sweep the weapon onto safe. But if we have a properly functioning weapon (AR-15/M-4 platform), the weapon won’t go on Safe. Regardless of whether or not the weapon will go on safe, we still drop it and go to the pistol.

Kyle Lamb transitioning from rifle to pistol
When the primary weapon goes down or runs dry, Kyle accesses his handgun. It’s far faster to draw the handgun and engage than to reload or reduce a stoppage.

Chambered Round

The second method that we can use for training for the transition is to load one round into our rifle. Once that is completed, Kyle removes the magazine and places it back into its pouch. When he comes on target and squeezes the trigger, he’ll get a “Bang.” Does he transition because he knows there was only one round in his rifle? No. He squeezes the trigger again and gets that “Click.” Only then does he transition. He still advocates trying to sweep the weapon onto Safe.

Kyle Lamb shooting rifle
Everything is going great as long as the primary weapon is working.

I have to interject for a moment here, in that I’m not sure the fraction of a second it takes to sweep the safety on is time well spent in a gunfight where threats are close. I’m sure Kyle has solid reasons for doing so, but if I just dropped the hammer and got a Click, I’m not sure what the advantage is for taking time to activate the safety. I believe that getting on that pistol that much faster is going to be time better spent. I’m all for safety, but with rounds coming at me, that safety lever is realistically going to be the last thing on my mind at that point. Your mileage may vary on this topic. This is really the only thing that I slightly differ with Kyle, and I won’t belabor it; we just have a slightly different view on this point.

Fully Loaded

Now we’ll conduct the drill as though we have a fully loaded weapon. If we shoot the weapon dry, Kyle admonishes not to look at the weapon to assess its status; if it’s not working, and we’re that close to a threat, “By all means, start slinging lead with your pistol.” I agree wholeheartedly! He further expounds that, at night, we won’t be able to tell our rifle’s status anyway by looking at it to assess its status because it’s going to be dark, so we might as well train as though it’s night all the time. Good points. Sure, maybe we’d be able to diagnose our rifle’s issue (stoppage or ammo related), but it takes up time that we don’t have at that moment.

So for this drill, Kyle shoots the weapon until it has a stoppage or runs dry. At that point, he conducts a transition.

Kyle Lamb shooting pistol
Continue firing until the threat is neutralized. Once you’re clear, then get that rifle back up and running.

One thing to note here is that we can conduct these drills without using a ton of ammunition. This is especially true if we begin the drill by dropping the hammer on an empty chamber, which uses no ammo other than the round or two that we fire from our pistol. If you want to really take it to the extreme, load your pistol with a snap cap and simply dry fire the pistol shot, in which case you’re not using any ammunition at all (and you don’t even have to be at the range to perform this type of drill, which also saves time). Just be aware that all live ammo should be kept in a separate place and all mags and weapons should be laboriously checked and rechecked to ensure that no live ammo is present!  That said, always practice in a safe area and point weapons in a safe direction, remembering one of the a major rules of firearms safety: treat all weapons as if they are always loaded. 

Kyle cautions against practicing while going from rifle to pistol and back again many times in a row with loaded rifles and pistols. It’s unrealistic and unsafe. He advocates unloading everything between sets so that we are starting from Square One each time. Aside from the safety aspect (because at some point, we will forget which one is loaded or unloaded), it makes training more deliberate.

Who can use these drills?

These drills are primarily relevant toward police, tactical teams, and military operators who routinely carry rifles and pistols and engage people who are trying to revoke their birth certificates.

Could this skill be useful for regular people? Absolutely. If, in any instance, you see yourself carrying a rifle along with a pistol, this is great stuff to know. What sort of scenario might occur to warrant such an instance? Well, these days, it seems that nothing is certain. There is unrest everywhere we look; in various countries, as well as our own back yards, depending on where we look. Riots have been prevalent around our country, leading to widespread civil unrest. The uncertain future has spurred many people to purchase weapons that they may have, at one time, never considered. And yet, here we are. Firearms sales are higher than ever before in history. That means that there are a lot of people out there who are untrained. The fact that you’re watching this video and taking the time to explore techniques and options puts you head and shoulders above most people. Maybe take it a step further, if you’re able, and enroll in a class with a professional instructor.

As such, many people might want to put this knowledge into their Tactical Toolbox. The main thing is to do this safely and keep your mind on what you are doing, whether working with live ammo on the range or with dummy rounds practicing elsewhere. The potential for disaster is very real.

All in all, this is a great video because Kyle boils down the subject matter in simple, easy to understand terms with good visuals. He presents the material in a clear, concise manner and the video is not terribly long, so you don’t have to invest a lot of time watching it. Definitely worth watching.


Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.

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