There are lots of motivational sayings relating to not giving up until you quite literally can’t go any further—”don’t leave any gas in the tank,” for instance. These relate to the idea that you never quite know when success is right around the corner and just hanging in there for a tiny bit more time might get you to your objective. There are sayings for that as well, including, “The night is darkest just before the dawn,” but I like to think of this one in a more military way and use the analogy of not leaving any rounds in the magazine.

This one stems from the concept of leaving a cartridge or two in your magazine in the combat environment in order to give yourself the option to turn the rifle on yourself as an alternative to falling into enemy hands if all has gone to custard. It is the stuff that gets glamorized in war movies for the most part, but something that I actually found myself pondering seriously prior to my first tour of Afghanistan.

It was assumed that any coalition soldier falling into enemy hands in that theater was in for a particularly rough time, and the thought of a swift ending at your own hand might have been a fairly reasonable alternative. I dismissed the idea outright myself for a couple of reasons. First of all, I was always pretty rubbish at counting the number of rounds that I had shot, especially under the heightened state associated with a tactical situation, and I figured that I would have little to no chance of pulling up with one or two rounds left in my final magazine if it came to that. Secondly, you just never know how things are going to play out.

It would be a terrible shame to turn the rifle on yourself only to have a helicopter gunship show up overhead a few seconds later or a support element arrive to save you only to find you with a rifle in your mouth! In my opinion, I might as well keep shooting until my rifle goes click instead of bang, and then cross that bridge when I got there. I had a lot to live for and I was committed to staying alive at all costs and seeing how the chips might fall in the worst-case scenario. Many years later I had the chance to hear a firsthand account from a British SAS soldier from the ill-fated and much-publicized Bravo Two Zero patrol in the first Gulf War who had been captured and tortured by Iraqi forces and then subsequently released. While his vivid recollections of the torture he endured were chilling to say the least, to his credit he had managed to physically and psychologically move past the ordeal and return back to his role as an SAS soldier. Hearing his remarkable story solidified my stance for future deployments that I would leave no rounds in the magazine if it came to it and see how it all played out. Thankfully it was a decision I never had to make for real.