Skip to main content

Speedy Reloads

Speedy Reloads

Technique and practice can save even the most fumble-fingered.

I am a borderline klutz, the guy who reaches into the medicine cabinet for the aspirin bottle and knocks over everything else on the shelf. In elementary school, I was the kid who could not hit a baseball or shoot a basketball; my hand/eye coordination was dismal.

I was in junior high before I realized that I could run fast and jump pretty far, which helped me win a track and field scholarship to college. Once there, I came to realize that track is a very technique-driven sport and that while natural ability is always a factor, a person with fewer natural gifts could still be a darn good track athlete if he or she focused on the technical aspects and practiced hard.


Early in my law enforcement career, I was sent off to semiauto pistol instructor school when our newly created SWAT adopted autoloaders. I worked hard and was able to get through the course without looking too foolish, but after my return, I was not much of an instructor as I had difficulty performing the skills I'd learned.


Thinking back to my track and field days, I pulled out some of my old training books and began to review the sections on physiological efficiency and started to apply them to pistol shooting. Thus began my journey to find the simplest and easiest way to shoot a semiauto pistol, a journey that continues to this day.

I quickly realized there are only so many ways to work a pistol, but by applying the physiological efficiency lesson I had learned, I was able to put together a "package" that worked well for me.


The first thing I realized is that both the magazine and gun must be motionless in order for the insertion to take place. That does not mean the shooter could not be moving, but the gun and magazine must be stabilized at the moment the two meet.


I discarded the technique of keeping the gun extended out in front of me and bent my gun-side elbow so it would rest against my torso. I found a location that is comfortable and natural and would allow me to re-create it by feel and without conscious thought. I learned how far to twist my shooting hand so the magazine well would meet the spare magazine at the angle that my support hand was in naturally.

On the bottom inside edge of the magazine well I placed an orange dot so I could re-create this same angle. By doing so I could quickly glance down and see that the grip-to-magazine angle was correct, and I could do it consistently every time.

I also noticed that as my shooting hand thumb depressed the magazine release button, my forearm muscles tightened up. When these muscles tightened, my gun arm was more stable than during any other time during the reloading process. With the elbow braced against my torso and my forearm stiff, this was the best time to insert the magazine. Thus, I started to hold off ejecting my spent magazine until I had my spare out of the pouch and near the bottom of the pistol.

By doing this, not only did I ensure that I had something to put in the gun before I released my magazine, I was able to make use of the stability of the locked arm while inserting the spare. I discovered that with a bit of practice, I could coordinate this activity quickly and easily. (A word of warning: Make sure the magazine button is released before the new magazine is slammed home or it will fall out.)

In the beginning, I would look for the orange dot on the inside of the magazine well, but with time I was able to re-create the correct angle by feel, which allowed me to reload while keeping my eyes downrange--even when I was moving.

Though I tried different ways to grip the magazine, I found the tried and true method of placing the index finger along the front of the magazine was best. The best way I have found to achieve the index finger grip is to insert the thumb behind the magazine first and let the rest of the hand fall in place.

The major problem for uniformed personnel is that most duty pouches have a flap over the magazine to help hold it in place. When worn in the upright position, there is little if any room to get the thumb behind the magazine. For this reason, I have found it easier to wear spare magazines on their side, which does offer some space to insert the thumb to the rear once the flap is open.

I would also suggest the use of snaps instead of hook-and-loop fasteners such as Velcro on duty pouches because a snap can be released with one motion while the hook-and-loop style must be pulled or ripped open. I continue to index the back of the magazine against the back of the magazine well, although master shooter and instructor Frank Garcia makes an excellent argument for using the side of the magazine against the side of the well as it offers a longer surface--especially with single-column magazines. I show my students both methods and let them pick the one that works best for them.

After perfecting this method, I was able to get my shot-to-shot reload time to less than one second with my Glock 19. But the government was paying for my ammo at the time, and a lot of bullets went downrange to get there.

These days I find I can do a shot-to-shot reload in 1.5 seconds with considerably less practice, and while half a second may sound like a lot of time, keep in mind that a blink of an eye is .32 seconds. If you have an efficient reload, then don't mess with it. But if you struggle with it as I did (and still do), try the method I have described here and see if it doesn't help you.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Dealing with Subcompacts

Dealing with Subcompacts

Jim and Rich cover the benefits and the challenges presented by very small pistols.

Ruger Security 9 Compact

Ruger Security 9 Compact

This handgun lives up to what Ruger wanted to build: a solid, dependable, easy-racking carry/home defense pistol at a better-than-reasonable price.

Federal Premium Punch Defensive Handgun Ammo: Reviewed & Tested

Federal Premium Punch Defensive Handgun Ammo: Reviewed & Tested

Handguns editor Scott Rupp fires some Federal Punch .380 defensive handgun ammo into ballistics gel the range for a performance test run.

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these two models – the KelTec PF9 9mm and the Ruger LCP II .22LR – are no exceptions. They are effective for personal protection but only if you put in the time to practice.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these two models – the KelTec PF9 9mm and the Ruger LCP II .22LR – are no exceptions. They are effective for personal protection but only if you put in the time to practice.Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice Training

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Handguns Staff - August 14, 2020

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these...

One of the newest in the Micro 9 series, the Kimber Micro 9 Nightfall is a serious pistol designed for personal defense.Kimber Micro 9 Nightfall Review Compact

Kimber Micro 9 Nightfall Review

Jeff Chudwin - January 29, 2019

One of the newest in the Micro 9 series, the Kimber Micro 9 Nightfall is a serious pistol...

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo with these 10 low-priced pistols.10 Cheap Guns Under $250 Compact

10 Cheap Guns Under $250

Evan Brune - September 24, 2015

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo...

The new Ruger-57 looks to put a charge into the 5.7x28mm pistol market—and you know you want one.Ruger 57 Pistol Review Reviews

Ruger 57 Pistol Review

James Tarr - June 05, 2020

The new Ruger-57 looks to put a charge into the 5.7x28mm pistol market—and you know you want...

See More Trending Articles

More Training

Good stance capitalizes on posture and joints to minimize the effects of recoil.Shooting a Handgun - Stance Matters Training

Shooting a Handgun - Stance Matters

Eve Flanigan - June 14, 2018

Good stance capitalizes on posture and joints to minimize the effects of recoil.

An ordinary smartphone with slow-motion capability will reveal flaws in your draw stroke you didn't even know you had.Improve Your Draw Stroke Through Slow-Motion Video Training

Improve Your Draw Stroke Through Slow-Motion Video

Richard Nance - September 17, 2018

An ordinary smartphone with slow-motion capability will reveal flaws in your draw stroke you...

The Hard Swing Drill will help you improve your draw speed and target transitions—along with reloading skills and sight picture and trigger control.Hard Swing Drill Training

Hard Swing Drill

Josh Froelich - September 12, 2019

The Hard Swing Drill will help you improve your draw speed and target transitions—along with...

When training with your concealed carry gun, train for how you conduct your daily life.Concealed Carry Training: Practice for Your Reality Training

Concealed Carry Training: Practice for Your Reality

Richard Nance - November 13, 2020

When training with your concealed carry gun, train for how you conduct your daily life.

See More Training

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Handguns App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Handguns subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now