Skills Drills: Pistol Reloads; Tactical vs Speed

By Paul Rackley, Editor

The rule of threes is everywhere in society. It is used in facets that many don’t even realize. Photographers and companies use this rule to focus attention and influence purchases. However, the rule of threes is also quoted in the self-defense world. This sometimes leads to people overlooking an important type of training, pistol reloads. 

In the gun world, the rule of threes purportedly explains the average distance, duration and shots fired in a self-defense situation. Many claim that most defensive gunfights happen at around three yards, lasting about three seconds with three shots or fewer fired. While there is some evidence suggesting this might be true, people need to prepare for everything possible. This includes an extended fight that can require reloads, both tactical and speed. 

Speed Pistol Reload

Speed reloads are supposed to be conducted exactly as they sound, fast. This is where the shooter runs the pistol completely empty and needs to quickly reload to get back into the fight. The concept is easy, but execution can be more difficult. Especially in the pressure of a defensive situation. 

The main problem many shooters have is that they catch the magazine as it drops at the range. This prevents the magazine from being damaged on the ground. However, this is a bad idea as people fight the way they train. Those who catch the magazine at the range will also do so during a situation. Remedy this by having training mags and carry mags and train at the range as if in a fight. 

The first step is keeping your hands in front of your face, but off to the side. If you drop your hands, you will probably drop your eyes, reducing your peripheral vision and possibly losing sight of the assailant. 

Hit the magazine release, while obtaining the loaded magazine with the support hand. With most pistols, magazines drop free. However, you can speed this up by quickly lifting the gun or by flipping the magazine away. Also, align the support hand index finger along the front of the magazine. This helps line up the magazine for entering the well. 

From here, you can either depress the slide stop or pull the slide back to release it into battery. While releasing the slide stop is typically faster, many experts recommend pulling back on the slide. This is because it works with all pistols, even those with small, hard-to-hit slide stops. It also provides a small amount of additional travel to ensure the pistol goes into battery. If possible, perform this from behind cover. 

Tactical Pistol Reload

The tactical reload is for topping off the gun while hanging onto the partially loaded magazine. For this reason, the magazine coming out of the gun doesn’t hit the ground. Instead, it’s caught and held by the shooter. 

It’s performed after shots have been fired and the situation seems clear. You want the pistol fully loaded, but don’t want to lose rounds that might become necessary later. The attack might be over, but the assailant could reengage or have friends. 

It’s simple math. The pistol holds 10 rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber. Three rounds fired brings the total to eight in the gun. Replacing the magazine brings available firepower back to 11, with eight rounds in reserve. 

Now, start the tactical reload, once again, with the hands up for awareness and engagement. Grab the loaded magazine with the support hand and bring it to the gun, just like the speed reload. This time, however, hold the spare between the thumb and forefinger and catch the dropping magazine with the open fingers. Insert the full magazine and place the new spare back in the carrier or a pocket. 

Now, the best way to defeat an attack is via awareness and avoidance. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible. And while many attacks end quickly, with just a few shots fired, you need to be prepared for more. This is where realistic reload training becomes so important. Use the speed reload when shots are still ringing and the tactical in case the fight resumes.  

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