Everyone who has ever shot a handgun, rifle or shotgun has faced a dilemma. You shot your 5, 6, 17 or 20 rounds and now your gun is empty. Now what? What do you have to do in order to continue shooting? Reload. The way you reload the firearm depends heavily on the type of firearm you are using, but it also depends on your preferred technique. With a revolver you can use a speed loader or manually load round by round. Rifles may be single-shot, requiring constant reloading, or they may have a magazine that can be loaded manually or with stripper clips. Shotguns come in a variety of shapes and sizes but most require individual rounds to be loaded manually into chambers or tube magazines. Semi-automatic handgun magazines may either be pre-loaded or continuously reloaded after each series of shots. The techniques involved in the insertion of a fresh magazine into a handgun, currently in use, will be the focus of the rest of this article.

To accomplish the goal of feeding your handgun more ammunition there are a number of options:

Emergency Reload

fast-reload-lede-354x200A properly functioning, semi-automatic handgun slide will lock to the rear once the last round is fired and the magazine is empty. Once that happens to reload the gun you need to follow a series of steps; press the magazine release button, insert a new magazine, and release the slide forward. Now there are two, much debated, methods of releasing the slide. One, pull the slide stop down to release the slide. Two, bring your support hand to the top of the slide, quickly pull the slide to the rear and release the slide. The latter is better known as the slingshot method. Each option has it’s pros and cons. I recommend you practice both and find what works best for you.

Speed Reload

MG_1150-2To accomplish a Speed Reload, release the magazine and let it drop to the ground while the gun is still in battery (loaded) and insert a loaded mag. This is the quickest way to reload a semi-automatic as you do not need to manipulate anything other than the magazine release button and the spare mag. The downside is you lose the few rounds left in the magazine for the rest of the firefight.

Reload with Retention

To reload the gun while retaining the magazine, eject the magazine into your support hand, stow it somewhere on your body, grab your spare mag and insert it into the firearm. The general idea here is to not lose those few extra rounds left in the magazine. If the firefight continues, you may need those few rounds. However, it is also simpler to handle one mag at a time. Hence, the Retention Reload.

Tactical Reload

TacLoad_07_phatchfinalFor a Tactical Reload, grab your spare magazine, hold it in your support hand, drop the nearly empty magazine into you support hand, and insert the spare magazine into the firearm. This was originally designed to be used with 1911 single-stack mags but with much practice it can be done with double-stack mags. A Tactical Reload is generally expected to be performed during a lull in a firefight. The idea is to retain the few rounds left in the magazine while getting a full magazine as quickly as possible.

Administrative Reload

An Administrative Reload is generally described as exchanging an (nearly) empty magazine for a fully loaded magazine while the gun is holstered.


Which option you choose may depend on what situation you find yourself in. There are pluses and minuses to each one. Which ever method you use, make sure you position your index finger on the front of the magazine to assist you in aiming the magazine into the mag well. Also, give a tug on the magazine after seating it into the pistol. This ensures the mag is properly seated and doesn’t drop out after the first round is fired. While it is time-consuming and embarrassing (I speak from experience on this one) during a competition, it could be deadly in a firefight.

Which ever option you choose, practice, practice, practice.


Further Resources…


  1. […] How Do You Reload a Pistol? ( […]

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