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Departments : Officer Survival

Rapid Reload

Make sure you always have enough bullets in your gun to keep it running.

July 01, 2003  |  by Dave Spaulding

Support Hand Reload

If you index your shooting-side elbow against your torso when reloading, the magazine well will always be in the same general location for loading.

I admit there is a certain logic to strong-hand reloading, but many revolver shooters, especially those who compete with revolvers, have gotten used to loading their revolvers with their support hand. The reason for this is the same as for a pistol: The gun stays in the shooting hand, eliminating transfer time and making it ready to shoot much faster.

If you think about it, it does make sense. If we can train officers to reload with their support hand when using a pistol, then there is no reason that it cannot be done when using a revolver.

To load using your support hand, open the cylinder with the thumb or a finger on your shooting hand and rotate the cylinder open with your support hand. Use your trigger finger, which should be off the trigger anyway, to hold the cylinder open. Use your support hand to grip the speed loader as described above and drop it into place. Then use your support hand to rotate the cylinder into the gun so you can continue firing.


Reloading a pistol is usually broken down into three categories: speed load, tactical load, and administrative load.

Administrative Reload

The administrative or "in-the-holster" reload is done without the gun ever leaving the safety of the holster. This comes in handy when you want to reload or top off a magazine. Eject the magazine from the gun while it remains in the holster and when you're finished, just reinsert it from the rear and push until it locks in place. This is a range or locker room safety maneuver and it has no tactical validity on the street.

Speed Reload

The speed or fast reload is normally reserved for situations where the gun is empty or the need to reload is so overwhelming that trying to save a partially reloaded magazine should be ignored. When performing a fast reload, it is important to first make sure that you have a fresh magazine to replace the spent one. Dumping a magazine without making sure you have something to put in the gun may leave you with a fairly useless club.

It is critical, when using this technique, that you get the same grip on your spare magazine each and every time, much the same as drawing your firearm. The number one impediment to achieving this is the protective flap that is standard on all duty-style magazine pouches. A Velcro closure can be especially problematic.

While somewhat unorthodox, I have found that I can sidestep this problem by laying the magazine pouch sideways on my belt on the support side of my body with the magazine flaps pointing outward. I have put two plastic inserts under the snaps, so if I sweep my hand back in a "karate chop" fashion, I can keep my hand under the flap during the entire process. This action is similar to the arm action utilized to remove a magazine carried upright on the offside, but without a protective flap.

Once you remove the magazine, insert it into the magazine well of the pistol with your index finger pointed straight down the front end of the magazine body.

Having your finger in this position accomplishes two tasks: One, it lets your finger naturally guide the magazine into the magazine well. Second, you can use your index finger to flip off any "long rounds" protruding from the top of the magazine, which could hinder insertion.

The most reliable way to insert a magazine into a pistol is to lay the flat back of the magazine against the flat back of the magazine well. By doing so, you attain proper alignment and the magazine can be forcefully pushed into place.

To help keep the pistol in a consistent location when loading, I bring my shooting arm back so that my elbow is indexed against my torso. Doing this ensures that the pistol will be in a similar location each and every time.

Tactical Reload

Do a tactical, or slow, reload when you want to retain a partially loaded magazine for use at a later time-when it's safe to do so. There are two ways that I suggest this be accomplished. The first was developed by Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch and is accomplished by removing a fresh magazine from your magazine pouch and bringing it up to the pistol, just below the magazine well. Slide your index finger to the thumb side of the magazine, holding the fresh magazine between the index and middle fingers. This will allow you to drop the partially spent magazine into the web of your hand, between the thumb and index finger where the greatest level of dexterity is achieved. Once the used magazine is removed, rotate your hand over and push the fresh magazine into place.

An alternative method is even simpler. Remove the partially spent magazine into your support hand and drop it into the support side pocket. Immediately move your now-empty support hand to your magazine pouch and reload the pistol the same way as described in the above fast reload technique.

Whatever techniques you use, practicing reloading your service sidearm is a sound survival skill. It can be done in your own home without firing a shot and will go a long way toward keeping you alive if you are ever faced by that armed gunman running from a convenience store.

Lt. Dave Spaulding is a 27-year veteran of the Montgomery County (Ohio) Sheriff's Office. He is a member of the POLICE Advisory Board and the author of "Defensive Living" and "Handgun Combatives," both available from Looseleaf Law Publications (

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