The Reload

I had hoped to write all about that new SIG Sauer RomeoZERO reflex sight for my P365XL… but the Optics Planet order, placed in August 2019, is yet to ship. Their site says it will ship next week, but I’ve long since stopped holding my breath.

While I’ve been waiting for the lock-down to end, I’ve been practicing my reloads. My goal is to be able to effortlessly change magazines without thought. I am building muscle memory, like driving a car. Daily manipulation of your firearm is essential to gaining that familiarity which brings smoothness to your actions. They say slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. It’s true. If you spend 3 to 5 minutes each morning with a few dry fire exercises and slide manipulations, you’ll be a more confident shooter and more relaxed when you’re on the range. As usual, don’t be “that guy.” Always confirm the firearm is unloaded before dry fire exercises or manipulations.

My favorite target these days is a pack of unruled index cards from Office Depot. Canary yellow or cherry red are my favorite. A pack of 100 cards is less than $3. If you want to take that 50-foot shot at a murderer across a crowded church sanctuary, put an index card in front of your face and you’ll see why this is a great target with which to practice. Center-mass shots too.

I staple an index card near the left side of my target backer and another near the right side, then push it out to 21 ft. That’s our Tueller self-defense line. (If you haven’t read about Sgt. Dennis Tueller’s analysis with the Salt Lake City Police Department, time to use the Internet.

I start with a full magazine in the mag pouch on my hip. I load ONE round in a magazine and rack the slide. Holding the gun at a low-ready, I bring it up and take the shot at the left card. The pistol goes to slide-lock. Drop the empty mag, load the full mag, drop the slide, and take the shot at the right card. I now drop the near-full mag and put it back on my hip and put the now-empty mag back in the gun. Be careful, there’s a round in the chamber! Back to low-ready and do it again, and again, and again… With a 17-round magazine, and six full mags on the table, I’m getting a lot of practice.

When someone asks, “Do you practice reloading?” I just grin. Yesterday I did it over 100 times…

Here are 10 pointers to make your reloads effortless.

  1. Go SLOW! Very, slow. Like a slow Laurus (look it up). It makes a big difference. Your sloppy maneuvers are actually slowing you down. You’re practicing bad habits.
  2. When you bring the pistol back towards your face, into what we call the “shooter’s box.” It’s a one-foot wide box in front of your face. Be sure it stays at the same height at which you were shooting. Don’t bring the pistol to your chest, keep your eyes on the target, looking past the pistol. When the new mag is in, you simply push back out to the target. This is tough and takes practice.
  3. When the pistol reaches your shooter’s box, the empty mag should be gone. Don’t wait until the pistol comes back to press the mag release. Get your muscle memory in gear. When you feel the pistol go to slide-lock, press the mag release. The pistol is a funny-shaped hammer until you get another mag in there. Even if you’re not planning to take another shot at the moment, the empty has to go.
  4. Move both hands at the same time. As your shooting thumb is pressing that mag release, your support hand should be reaching for the full mag. When my granddaughter runs towards me for a hug, BOTH HANDS go out wide to catch her. They move at the same time. Don’t tell me you can’t do this!
  5. Stop the pistol in your shooter’s box and angle is slightly so you can see the far-edge of the magwell. I use a line of yellow or red paint on the far side of the mag well to practice. If I can’t see the line, the pistol is not oriented properly towards the incoming magazine.
  6. When you grab the mag on your hip, be sure the palm of your hand is in contact with the magazine baseplate. Don’t grab it with your fingertips. Palm it and get your fingers extended along the length of the magazine – even if you can’t actually touch it because it’s still in the carrier, or inside your trousers. When you pull the magazine out, your index finger should be along the magazine (and unless it’s a giant 50-rounder, your fingertip should be at or beyond the end of the mag.
  7. Use the index finger of your support hand to POINT AT the pistol’s magwell. This is probably the hardest step to remember. Move the magazine into the well with a thud. Don’t move the pistol. Bring the mag all the way into the magazine well as you flatten your hand (we don’t want to get pinched.) Slap! In goes the magazine. No bumping the sides. No fumbling the fingers. Everything depends on the original proper grip on the baseplate of the mag and you pointing the mag into the pistol.
  8. You’ve been keeping your eye on your target up to this point. Just as the magazine reaches the mag well, drop your eyes – not your head – to start the insertion. As soon as the magazine gets started, flip your eyes back on target. You should not be able to measure how long your eyes were off target. It’s quick. Real quick.
  9. Now is the moment of truth. You have to do three things immediately, and without thinking. The slide needs to go into battery. The support hand has to get a perfect support position. The pistol must come on target to shoot the other card. Wow. So, decide how to get the pistol in battery. You have two choices. You can press the slide stop lever (slide release) or you can pull the slide back slightly and release it. There is no right way. I practice both. The latter will work on ANY pistol. The former may not work at all – especially if you’re shooting a European gun, like a Walther PPK, which has no slide stop lever.  If you’ve added that Vicker’s Tactical extended slide stop to your GLOCK, it’s the fastest choice. Either way, the key to this step is to ensure your support hand gets back into the perfect shooting position as you move the gun on target. You’ll be able to tell if you cheated… your support hand will move when you take the shot.
  10. Compare the two cards. The first shot was taken under no duress. It should be perfect. You should have one ragged hole. (If you can’t shoot a single ragged hole at 21 feet, then you need accuracy practice too.) The key to this exercise is what the SECOND card looks like. If you’re like me, you’re trying to move too fast, and the second card looks crummy. SLOW DOWN. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Slow it down until your second shot is as good as the first one.

You don’t need a timer for this, but you can use one. I ask the shooter in the next lane if he can help me with my reloads. Who would say no?? I ask her if she can try to take her shots about one per second, whenever she’s shooting. A nice even cadence. Then, as I’m practicing, I try to take my shots with her. The first shot is easy. Can I get that second shot off with hers, while doing a reload in between? In truth, I can. With 100 rounds of reload practice every week, yes, I can take the shot, change the mag, and take the second shot with her nearly all the time – AND SO CAN YOU.

See you at the range!


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