By Col Ben Findley
Col Findley reviews the best Pistol Reload Methods and as a bonus includes nine tip for keeping your gun magazines organized and ready.

Can you hold two magazines in one hand and perform a solid Tactical Reload without dropping one or both of them?

USA –  -(Ammoland.com)- Can you do it? Can you hold two magazines in one hand and perform a solid Tactical Pistol Reload without dropping one or both of them?

Even for trained shooters it is difficult to do and when you add the stress factor it gets very difficult. But, you’re only betting your life on it, right?

Well, you better know the best methods of reloading your gun in a deadly-force gunfight and make some key decisions. It is critical to reload your handgun using the best method for getting your gun recharged with fresh rounds in your gun and do it quickly. I want to focus here on only semi-automatic pistol reloads to keep my thoughts focused. What follows are my 4 major pistol reloads and 9 magazine (mag) tips to help you shoot faster and survive longer.

Some shooters prefer one pistol reload method over others, so these are my opinions and understandings. There are several factors that influence a safe and effective reload, like the type of gun you are using, the capacity of the particular mag, your motor skills and dexterity, training, and situational factors.

So do your own research and decide for yourself, but pray you will not have to shoot all rounds in your mag and shoot to slide lock in an actual deadly-force encounter. Here are 4 types of pistol Reloads and some suggested mag tips to consider.

The 4 major Pistol Reload Methods :

  • 1) EMERGENCY RELOAD (ER) or Slide-Lock Reload;
  • 2) SPEED RELOAD (SR);
  • 3) TACTICAL RELOAD (TR); and
  • 4) RELOAD WITH RETENTION (RR).
Pistol Reload Methods : Place Index Finger of Support Hand on Front Strap of Mag to Help Guide Mag into Mag Well
Pistol Reload Methods : Place Index Finger of Support Hand on Front Strap of Mag to Help Guide Mag into Mag Well

1) EMERGENCY RELOAD (ER) or Slide-Lock Reload

You perform a ER when the pistol’s slide is locked back, all rounds have been fired from the mag and chamber, and the gun runs out of ammo. There is NOT a round left in the chamber and the gun and mag are empty. An ER can also be done when there is a malfunction or stoppage emergency. Recognize that most properly operating semi-auto pistol slides will lock back to the rear after the last round is fired and the mag is empty and must be loaded again. So, you press the mag release to release the empty mag, insert the new fully-loaded mag by placing your index finger of your support hand on the front of the mag to guide it, and then release the slide forward. These steps are very similar to the SR steps that follow.

2) SPEED RELOAD (SR)

You can do a SR when the mag is NOT empty, the slide is forward and not locked back, and the gun is in battery with a round in the chamber. The partially-spent mag is released from the gun and allowed to fall to the ground and a new fully-loaded mag is placed into the gun. The purpose of a SR is to keep your pistol completely loaded to full capacity and quickly recharge it during a dangerous encounter, when you have a quick chance in the gunfight to do so. It is done when you have a temporary calm interval, lull, or lack of activity or movement. Your gun is still in battery or loaded.

Remember, this can be done when you have the time to SAFELY and QUICKLY reload, even when the threat or danger level is very imminent. BE CAREFUL with the SR.

Some question whether or not you should do a SR dropping the partially-loaded mag to the ground. With the SR, during the lull you need to get your gun loaded with as much ammo as you can and back in use very quickly because your life may directly depend on it. This varies a lot by the situation, gun model, number of bad guys/gals, standard mag capacity, threat level, etc. When you do your SR it’s your decision and the partially-spent magazine falls to the ground to save you some time fumbling with it.

Pistol Reload Methods: Here are the STEPS in a SPEED RELOAD:

1) Press the mag release with your strong-hand thumb to eject the partially empty mag to the ground; Keep the gun high center chest (high ready position) near your chin to concurrently scan for threats, improve peripheral vision, and see the target quicker. In a SR, an advantage is that the gun is still in battery and loaded with a round in the chamber, so you do not have to rack the slide and there is less manipulation. The disadvantage is that you have ejected a mag with rounds in it to the ground.

2) A split second before your strong-hand thumb presses the mag release to release the mag to the ground, your support hand should have grabbed and started pulling out a new fully-loaded mag from where it is stowed. You should index your strong arm’s elbow inward into the bottom of your rib cage while angling the gun in your strong hand upwards. At the same time, your strong-hand thumb should move to the mag release button.

3) Place your index finger straight alongside the front strap of the mag to guide it when you get the full mag and insert it into the mag well. The tip of your support-hand index finger should touch the top round in the mag.
Place the back of the mag into the mag well directly to the rear against the backstrap and with the rounds in the mag bullet-end facing forward toward the target.

4) Quickly move your support hand up in position to quickly rack the slide rearward to chamber a round from the new full mag.

(3) TACTICAL Pistol Reload Method (TR)

When there is a round in the chamber and you have a partially-spent mag during a break or lull in the action, it may be necessary for you to catch your breath and refresh your partially-filled mag with a fully-filled one for the action that follows. You want to retain and keep on your person the mag with the few rounds left in it that you are ejecting, while quickly inserting a new fully-loaded magazine, during the break in action. Try to get to cover first if possible and do the reload behind cover.

The shooter gets a new mag with his support hand, moves it toward the gun, releases the mag in the gun to the support hand where it is held at the same time the new mag is inserted into the mag well. The shooter has two mags in his support hand at the same time. BE CAREFUL! Dexterity and fine motor skills are involved. The partially-spent mag is stored in the pocket or elsewhere. There are different options for where to put the new mag, like between your two middle fingers or between your fourth finger and last/pinky finger. It’s a personal preference and you must consistently practice whichever one you choose. Remember, you do NOT want the ejected mag to go to the ground so it will be readily available later. Do NOT drop one or both mags or fumble with them. Practice helps. The major advantage of the Tactical Reload is that you have a few extra rounds or so already in the partially-empty mag for later and have a fully-loaded mag immediately. The major disadvantage is that it requires fine motor skills and dexterity to satisfactorily do it.

Here are the procedural STEPS in a TACTICAL RELOAD:

1) Grasp the new full mag from your pouch or pocket FIRST with your support-hand thumb and index finger and move it toward your gun’s mag well.

2) Eject the partially-empty mag into your support-hand fingers that are together to form a pocket to catch the ejected mag. Do NOT eject the mag to the ground. Put the mag between your two middle fingers OR your fourth finger and last/pinky finger. You should decide your technique before an encounter, so practice each and decide for yourself which works for you. You must be able to effectively manipulate 2 mags in your support hand at the same time. Be sure and keep the gun in your high center-chest area near your chin when doing manipulations to better scan for threats and see the target quicker. Also, index your strong arm’s elbow inward into the bottom of your rib cage while the gun in your strong hand is angled upwards.

3) Insert the new mag held by your support hand’s thumb and index finger into the mag well. Use your support hand’s index finger extended straight alongside the front of the new mag to index and guide it and insert it into the mag well. Be sure the tip of your support-hand index finger touches the top round in the mag.

4) Store the partially-loaded mag that you removed from the gun somewhere on your person. The gun will still be in battery and loaded, so there is no need to rack the slide rearward to chamber a round.

(4) RELOAD WITH RETENTION : Pistol Reload Methods (RR)

With the RR, you first release the partially-loaded mag into your support hand, stow it in your pocket (NOT onto the ground), then get a fully-loaded mag from your pouch, and place it in the gun, with rounds still in the magazine, one round in the chamber, and from a tight, close high-ready retention position. This is a more basic and efficient reload method than some of the others and is preferred by many shooters, since there are less manipulations and only one hand (support hand) is used. It is intended to be used when the bad guy/gal’s action has stopped. I prefer the RR Method myself.

Pistol Reload Methods: Here are the procedural STEPS in a RELOAD WITH RETENTION:

1) Eject the partially-loaded mag in the gun into your support hand;

2) Stow it in your pocket or appropriate place on your body with the support hand;

3) Grasp the new fully-loaded mag from its mag pouch with your support hand; and

4) Insert the new mag into the gun’s mag well with your support hand.

9 Mag and Reload TIPS to Consider:

Tactical Reload Tips
5) Ensure the Mags Always Face the Same Direction in your mag pouch, so you can grab them and insert them correctly and quickly in the gun (I like to face the bullet-end of my rounds in the mag towards the front);
  • 1) When you grab or acquire a mag from the pouch or insert it into a mag well, always index and guide it into place by extending your support-hand index finger on the front strap of the mag;
  • 2) Always safely keep the gun’s muzzle pointed downrange or slightly up to the air on your right side, while grabbing the mag from the pouch and performing the reload;
  • 3) Hold the gun up high in the chest or chin area (high retention position) with arms in close to the body during reloads and mag changes;
  • 4) Label your Mags by Priority (1,2,3,4), so you will know which ones are the reliable ones and your frequency and order of use;
  • 5) Ensure the Mags Always Face the Same Direction in your mag pouch, so you can grab them and insert them correctly and quickly in the gun (I like to face the bullet-end of my rounds in the mag towards the front);
  • 6) Rotate & Shoot your Various Mags Often (especially carry ones) to ensure they function well (I try to change my carry mag springs once a year or so);
  • 7) Never Place EMPTY Mags back in the Mag Pouch so you can expect the mag you reach for to be loaded; some say put ONLY fully-loaded mags in the pouch, while others say put the partially-loaded mags in your pocket or in another pouch or at the back position of a double-mag pouch (your call);
  • 8) Divide your mags into 2 categories: Practice Mags and Personal Protection-Carry or Home Defense use, based on their reliability and length of use;
  • 9) Have at least 4 Mags Per Gun, since they are easily damaged, are perishable, and will not last forever; your purpose and use for the gun influence the number of mags you should own. (Don’t Delay, Order Extra Mags)

Continued Success & Safety First Always!

Photos by author.

Note: This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and a certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.


About Col Ben Findley

“Col Ben” is retired with 30 years service in the U.S. Air Force, with joint services Special Ops duty and training, and is Air Force qualified as “Expert” in small arms. Ben is an experienced NRA-Certified Pistol Instructor, NRA Range Safety Officer, and FL Concealed Carry License Instructor.

Ben recently wrote the book Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials for Personal Protection with 57 comprehensive Chapters about concealed carry and handgun principles, techniques, and tips for both experienced and new shooters. His book is endorsed by several organizations and is available on his website at www.FloridaHandgunsTraining.com. Contact him at [email protected]

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