Pistol Reloads
(Photo by Paul Rackley)

Most gun owners have heard of the “Rule of Threes.” Whether true or not, many shooters believe that the typical gunfight happens at 3 yards, with three shots lasting three seconds. However, some situations require reloading, whether simply topping off or because bullets are still flying.

Now there are two types of reloads — speed and tactical. Shooters perform speed reloads exactly how they sounds — fast. This is also typically performed with the pistol empty and slide lock engaged. Shooters should perform a tactical reload any time rounds leave the gun, even if only firing one or two. A good trainer or school, such as Shootrite, can be a lot of help

Speed Pistol Reloads

Many shooters often practice speed reloads, even if by accident. Every time a shooter puts a full magazine into an empty gun, he or she is conducting part of the basics of a speed reload. These actions consist of releasing the empty magazine while reaching for a spare. Then, inserting the loaded magazine and either releasing the slide lock or pulling the slide back and letting it go into battery.

Of course, shooters need to be able to perform this quickly under stress to be effective, which casually loading at the range doesn’t help. The actions aren’t difficult, however, stress adds a difficulty for which shooters must train. Shooters also need to be able to perform a reload while conducting situational awareness. Therefore, reloads should be performed up in front of the face; never looking down. This keeps the eyes up and on target, and allows peripheral vision to notice other dangers.

Additionally, shooters should let the magazine fall free during speed reloads. This is where casual range practice always deviates. Most shooters catch the magazine to prevent it from hitting the ground, possibly causing damage. What happens in training, however, is what will happen in a situation. Consider having separate training magazines and carry magazines, and let trainers bounce.

With the gun at eye level, but off to the side, hit the magazine release button with the strong hand. At the same time, reach with the other hard for the spare magazine. Draw the magazine from the pouch and slide the index finger up to the bullet of the first round. This helps guide the magazine quickly into the well. Be sure to use the palm of the hand to fully seat the magazine. Then, either release the slide lock or pull the slide to the rear. Many experts recommend pulling the slide back, as this works on any pistol, regardless of the size and accessibility of the slide lock. It is slower, though.

Tactical Pistol Reloads

A tactical reload is where someone fires a few shots, but doesn’t empty the magazine. This could be a pair to center mass or even a perfectly executed failure drill that stops the attack. Either way, shots have been fired, and the gun is no longer fully loaded.

In these cases, pistol reloads aren’t absolutely necessary, but should still be conducted; it is always better to have a pistol fully loaded, rather than down a few rounds. When performing a tactical reload, the pistol should stay in the firing grip, up and ready to reengage if necessary, as the weak hand obtains the spare magazine and brings it up. Then, release the magazine, catching it as it drops free and quickly inserting the full magazine into the gun. Once again, make sure the magazine is fully seated. The partially loaded magazine should be placed in a pocket in case more rounds are needed later.

During all pistol reloads, the eyes should be up and scanning for potential danger. If rounds are still flying, it pays to see where attackers are located, especially if they’re on the move. Just do it from behind cover if possible. However, even if the situation has ended, stay aware until help arrives. Then, follow the directions of the officers and prepare for a long night.

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