Reload cheats

One of the skills needed for the FBI Qualifier is the ability to reload quickly.

String 6 has a reload and, to hit the times, we need to realize that we’ve got an empty chamber, remove the existing mag, insert a fresh mag, chamber a round, get back on target, and fire the next shot in 3.5 seconds or less.  Slow for a practiced IDPA or USPSA shooter…but it can be a bit challenging for the typical shooter.

Here’s how to make it happen.

1. Make sure your magazines are always facing the same direction. It can be “fun” to have one facing forward and one facing backwards, but that only causes problems.
Which direction should your mags face? There is some debate on this, but I will say that when I’ve shot at state, national, and world championship matches, the overwhelming majority of shooters carry their PISTOL magazines with the bullets facing forward.

2. Knowing you’re empty. In low stress situations, you can probably count your shots. That’s fine to do for the classifier, but incredibly unlikely to be predictable under stress. I’ve found that when I do keep count under stress and time my reload correctly, I am distracted for several seconds with thoughts about how cool it was that I just did what I did. That’s not desirable.

If your pistol is functioning properly, you have a proper grip, you’re using properly powered ammo, and you’re not riding the slide release lever with your support hand thumb, the slide will lock to the rear on an empty mag.

If you normally hit the slide release with your support hand thumb, that is not ideal but it is not necessarily a problem that justifies spending a lot of time trying to figure out a new position for your support hand thumb.

When the slide locks to the rear, the very first thing you must do is remove your trigger finger from the trigger guard and place it straight, stiff, and rigid on the frame or slide.  Do not leave it in the trigger guard or straight along the trigger guard.  Then, you want to depress the mag release on your pistol and either remove the empty magazine with your support hand, let it fall free, or flick it to the side.

If your slide does not lock to the rear and your gun goes “click” instead of “bang,” you have a couple of options.

  1. If you just inserted the magazine and get a click instead of bang, you can forcably tap the base of the magazine, rack the slide, and if it goes back into battery, assess and re-engage the target if necessary.  If the slide locks to the rear, then reload.
  2. If you have shot more than 2-3 rounds from the current magazine and get a click instead of bang, rack the slide.  If it goes back into battery, assess and re-engage the target if necessary.  If the slide locks to the rear, then reload.
  3. If it instantly clicks in your brain that your gun went click instead of bang because you ran it dry, then you can go straight to dropping the empty magazine and reloading without racking the slide first.

How To Rack:

With your trigger finger straight, stiff, and rigid along the frame or slide, you want to bring your pistol slightly towards your chest while keeping the muzzle pointed downrange and grab the slide over the top with all 4 fingers of your support hand like you’re wearing mittens.

You do not want to pinch the slide from the rear.  This is a fragile technique that works in low-stress, warm, dry conditions when the fingers are strong and responding correctly.  It has a much higher chance of failure than the mitten technique in non-ideal conditions.

Your technique may be different with a quality red dot.

Forcably push forward with your shooting hand while pulling towards your chest with your support hand.  When the slide gets to the end of it’s length of travel, release some pressure with your support hand and keep your support hand moving towards your chest until the slide flys forward on it’s own.  Do not “ride the slide” forward.

3.  Where to look.  Keep your eyes on the target.  If possible, do not bring your pistol “into your workspace” or “to your chest.”  Simply keep it out near full extension and rotate it 45 degrees to the side so that you can see both your target and the pistol without moving your eyes.  I keep the muzzle of my pistol between my dominant eye and target during the entire reload.  I demonstrate this in this video:

As stress and speed of movement increases, it’s natural to move the pistol closer to your body during reloads.  We should resist this, but accept that it may happen to some degree.

The act of bringing your pistol in and pushing it back out takes time, makes it harder to remain aware, and puts the arms in a compromized position that is ineffective for defense.  In addition, when you shift your eyes from looking straight ahead to looking down and then back to straight ahead, there are 2 moments of blindness called “saccadic suppression” that can each last from .10-.25 seconds or longer, even though we are not aware of them.  Long story short, don’t look down during reloads.

Shift your focus to the magwell as you’re inserting the fresh magazine.  I like using a bright paint marker to draw a dot in the magwell.  Eventually, you may not need to shift your focus to the magwell.

4.  Indexing the magazine.  You want to grip the fresh magazine so that your index finger is touching the tip of the first bullet when it leaves the mag carrier and so that the base of the magazine is in the palm of your hand.  If your index finger can’t reach the top round, then you want it on the front face of the magazine.  This will allow you to grab the magazine and forcably insert it into the magwell without having to make any grip adjustments.  You really want to smack the magazine into the magwell…especially if your slide is not locked to the rear.  If not, the magazine may fall out and/or it may not be indexed so that the top round fails to feed into the chamber when the slide goes forward.

5.  Chambering a new round.  If your slide doesn’t go forward when you insert a fresh magazine, you’re going to want to do one of 2 things.

1.  Rack the slide using an overhand rack, the housing of your red dot, (not taught today) or by chopping the ejection port (a left-handed technique not taught today).

2.  Push in+down on the slide release with your support hand thumb.  2 key points.  First, do not try to swipe the slide release.  Try to push it in+down diagonally THROUGH the frame of the pistol.  Second, use your support hand thumb and not your shooting hand thumb.  If you use the in+down technique with your support hand thumb, this is a reliable technique for getting a self-defense gun back into battery, even under stress in wet/cold conditions.  If you try to swipe or use your shooting hand thumb, the technique is much more prone to fail, especially in adverse mental or physical conditions.

6.  Rotate, assess, aim, and shoot.  Since your muzzle is in alignment between your dominant eye and the target, you should be able to continue assessing while reloading.  To get back on target, simply rotate the pistol back to vertical, aim, move your trigger finger from being straight, stiff, and rigid along the frame or slide back to the trigger, and press the trigger.

For the FBI qualifier, aim for 5 seconds initially and work your way down to the 3.5 seconds you need to pass the timed version of the FBI qualifier…then work to where you can hit 3.0 seconds reliably and consistently in practice so you can hit 3.5 seconds in the qualifier.

What is fast?

Fast is going to be anything under 2 seconds, with high end competitors doing it in less than a second.

It is more important that you make the first HIT after the reload than it is that you shoot quickly after the reload.  Even on the timed version of the test, from a training perspective, it would be better to make that first hit after the reload and run out of time than to spray and pray and shoot all of the prescribed rounds in the time allowed, but miss the target.

Why only 1 reload on the FBI qualifier?

Pistol reloads are much much more common in competition than they are in self-defense, security, or law enforcement shooting situations.

In the vast majority of situations, you’re not going to be in a prolonged gunfight with a pistol where reloads are necessary due to running the magazine to slide lock.

The most likely reason for a reload with a pistol is that the magazine in the gun malfunctions.

The second most likely reason for a reload is to top off the gun after several rounds have been fired when there is no clear and present threat to deal with.

Because of that, a reload is included on the qualifier, but it is not a skill that is emphasized.

Please follow and share:
Pin Share

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field