While attending the 2016 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, a 30-something shooting instructor approached me from a large federal organization. His question caught me off guard: "How do you get shooters past the urban legend of not placing their M4 or AR-15 magazine on the ground while shooting?" I was befuddled; we had slayed this Holy Cow years ago in the secretive sects of Special Operations. I thought, How could shooters in 2016 be stuck in 1968? He went on to say there were several influential shooters in his world that worshiped at the altar of, "Thou shalt not use thy magazine as a monopod." An easy fix to this is to simply rattle off with a, "Dang. You dumb!" Of course, that isn't going to fix the problem of shooters believing what they read or hear from other shooters whose so-called facts are based on hearsay and B.S.
The bottom line is this: if you have a magazine that doesn't work when pressed against the dirt, ground, concrete or green, green grass, get rid of it. Magazines are cheap in more way than one. You can buy them inexpensively — unless an anti-gun politician threatens our Second Amendment rights, in which case you might need a small loan for 30-rounders.
Some magazines are truly cheap in their make. If you purchased bad mags, then you are in for many malfunctions, and the magazines could stick in the magwell or could come apart as you're shooting. If you purchased or were issued good magazines, there is absolutely no reason not to place it firmly in the dirt to aid your shooting position. Additionally, if you have bad magazines, placing them against the ground as you shoot will be the least of your problems.
The only detriment to placing the magazine on the deck would be to induce a stoppage. With regard to malfunctions, please see my previous statement. Cheap magazines may cause malfunction issues no matter how you hold your mouth while shooting. I can say that standard magazines bearing the markings of Magpul, Troy, Lancer, Colt and Smith & Wesson will work no matter the pressure exerted downward. The bottom line is that there are zero reasons not to place your magazine down firmly.
So, what are the benefits to placing your magazine on terra firma? There really aren't many advantages unless you want to shoot faster and more accurately while keeping your overall profile lower. And in a gunfight, you're minimizing an otherwise large target.
Using the magazine to stabilize your shooting position allows you to have a more durable position. This is advantageous if you have to be in a position for a long duration, such as a police officer on perimeter duty. Resting the magazine on the ground takes unneeded stress out of your elbows and neck. In fact, you can actually relax in this position. Many soldiers have taken catnaps like this while pulling security. Waking up with a charging handle impression on the side of your face is hard to hide, but the sleep is well worth the possible smoke fest that could follow.
Accuracy is attained with consistency. Placing the magazine on the ground affords a consistent cheekweld, which enhances accuracy. It is almost like placing a bipod on your firearm.
Don't hurt yourself reading this, but here is a fact: speed kills. Therefore, why wouldn't we want to have the ability to shoot faster in the prone, especially with heavier recoiling rifles? When shooting from your elbows with the magazine elevated above the ground, additional recoil will drive you away from the target. Having the magazine on the ground, when possible, helps with follow-through back to the target. So far I am guaranteeing that you will shoot faster and more accurately. What a bargain.
Why wouldn't you want to lower your profile to keep from becoming an easier target? Placing your mag on the ground helps get your noggin lower so the threat has a lower chance of being successful.
There are times when this won't work. One of those times is when you are in the prone shooting downhill, and even sometimes on the flat range and your body style or attached gear isn't magazine-in-the-dirt friendly. I notice some shooters placing so much gear on the front of their armor vests that this position isn't easily attainable. Just because this happens on the flat range, don't give up on trying to get your magazine in the dirt when you move ranges or to uneven ground.
Lastly, let me ask: Do you really believe that with my shooting instructional livelihood and credibility dangerously dangling over the precipice of tactical obscurity that I would even consider teaching a technique that would cause inaccuracy, unreliability and diminish confidence amongst VTAC's student base? Of course not.
Repetitive problems on the range and in the real world have caused the evolution of gunfighting techniques in America, and one that changed many, many years ago was putting our magazines in the dirt. The benefits outnumber nonexistent problems. If you're going prone, drop quickly into a stable position, plant that magazine in the dirt and start slaying the sacred cow.