American Outdoor Guide|September 2021
Paul Rackley

When folks get into firearms and self-defense, the first thing they put a lot of thought into is the gun, followed immediately by learning how to shoot it accurately. In doing so, they fire quite a lot of rounds … which leads to quite a few reloads.

It’s too bad most folks don’t use any of that reload time as training, because reloading skills are just as important as accuracy.

In fact, gun manipulation might be even more important than accuracy. Any person can point and pull a trigger to stop a bad guy, but it takes a skilled defender to successfully fight off assailants in an attack for which point-and-shoot doesn’t end the situation. In these scenarios, folks need to understand movement, communication, cover and firearm manipulation—which includes clearing and reloading.

And all this needs to be performed under the extreme stress of a potentially life-and-death attack.

This is why experts tell beginners to purchase a decent self-defense handgun and holster rig and then spend two to three times that amount on training—just to start. Being truly prepared for whatever comes along is a lifelong journey that requires commitment and dedication, but it’s the price that must be paid to protect the “sheep” from the “wolves.”

Understanding and mastering the various types of reloads should be at the top of every defender’s training list.

Now, the first thing to remember is that if a person isn’t shooting, he or she should be moving or reloading. If possible, reloads should be performed behind cover. With practice, reloads can be completed within two or three seconds. However, even during that small amount of time, one becomes quite vulnerable.

Reloads should also be conducted high enough to be within the field of vision—but without blocking the eyes from seeing potential threats. This basically means about chin high with semi-autos to about belly or chest high with revolvers, each of which requires different steps for both speed and tactical reloads. And, while there are other types of reloads, they’re typically used for competition.

However, this conversation is about self-defense and survival. Competitions can make a person a great shooter, and there’s nothing wrong with becoming a competition shooter. But competitions have safety concerns that don’t come up on the street, and they have rules that don’t apply in a fight, such as that a partially loaded magazine must be put away before firing after a tactical reload.

The Need for Speed

The concept behind a speed, slide-lock or emergency reload is simple: When the gun is empty, the shooter reloads as quickly as possible to get back into the fight. Of course, the actions of a speed reload must be conducted quickly, but smoothly, using gross motor skills … because fine motor skills typically disappear under stress.

Semi-auto pistols. With a semi-auto pistol, most of which lock back upon firing the last round, depress the magazine release while raising the gun to about chin level just a little to the shooting hand’s side. This helps the magazine fall clear of the gun to the ground. At the same time, reach for the spare magazine, whether it’s in a holster, pouch or pocket. As the magazine clears, index a finder along the front to guide it into the well before seating the magazine with a final “bump” to ensure it’s locked. Then, either release the slide lock or pull the slide to the rear and let it go to put the gun into battery.

The fastest method to get a pistol back into battery is the slide lock. However, it’s a slide lock, not a slide release.

On many pistols, the slide lock is large enough for easy release, such as on a 1911. However, on some pistols, such as Glocks, the slide lock can be a bit difficult to hit due to its size. Because of this, most experts recommend pulling the slide for release just in case the shooter is, for whatever reason, using a different pistol than normal. Fumbling with an unfamiliar slide lock could get a person killed.

Revolvers. Revolvers require technical procedures for a speed reload, meaning that practice is even more important. When all the rounds have been fired, the shooter must open the cylinder, remove the empty cases, reload and then close the cylinder to get the gun back to a firing condition.

A revolver reload begins in a two-handed grip, with the right hand depressing the cylinder release. The left hand should turn the gun barrel at an angle up while its middle two fingers push the cylinder out of the frame. Then, the left thumb depresses the ejector and pushes the cases out as the right-hand reaches for the loader, which, for a revolver, should be on the strong side.


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