Bullshit! (Or, the Myth of the Tactical Reload)

This article is going to stir up a lot of ass pain (that’s probably why we love it). You don’t have to agree–just be concise and direct in your criticism.  Mad Duo

Bullshit! (Or, the Myth of the Tactical Reload)
Jeremy Stafford

In the post 9/11 surge of firearms and tactics training there has been an unprecedented number of shooters seeking out training. That is a good thing. There has also been an unprecedented surge in the amount of totally unqualified dickheads who have taken to teaching firearms and tactics. That, of course, is a bad thing. I’m not going to waste your time or mine on a rant about the amount of poseurs in the tactical industry, it would take too long and put me in a shitty mood. Instead, let’s talk about some of the ridiculous bullshit even some good instructors waste time teaching.

Let’s begin with some no bullshit facts. The chances of an armed civilian needing to shoot a bad guy are very low. In most cases, if you don’t go around looking for trouble, you won’t find it. In the event you do get involved in a shooting, the range will most likely be close (well within ten yards) and the number of rounds fired will generally be fairly low (well under eight). Hell, even if you make a living looking for trouble your odds of engaging past ten yards and having to reload with a pistol are very slim. I don’t bring this up because I think that shooting well at a distance or performing a reload under stress are not important, but rather to highlight some of the insane wastes of time that people who should know better still teach. Training time and ammo are important resources, and should not be squandered on Gun-Fu bullshit that’s still floating around out there like a turd that won’t flush.

The Myth of the Tactical Reload
[No, this isn’t awkward at all]

The biggest violator is the completely misnamed “tactical reload”, or (as I like to call it), the “un-tactical reload”. This particular turd has been floating around the tactical training toilet since Jeff Cooper codified the “modern technique”, which was back when single stack magazines and ball ammo ruled the roost, men were men, and sheep were scared. Here’s the deal though… It’s as worthless in a gunfight as titties on a boar hog. For those of you not raised on the Modern Technique, this particular reload involves acquiring a fresh magazine and using that same hand to simultaneously remove a partially depleted magazine and then using that same hand to place the fresh magazine in the pistol, thus allowing the shooter to retain the partially depleted magazine. All of this is supposed to take place if there is a “lull” in the gunfight.

The thing is, I’ve been in a gunfight or two, and this is bullshit. Being in a gunfight is like being pregnant. You either fucking are or you either fucking aren’t. There is no “lull.” If you are in a gunfight, don’t waste time with bullshit and tomfuckery. If you aren’t in a gunfight anymore, take the old magazine out, put it in a pocket and put a freshie in.

It’s really not that complicated.

Retention or “non tactical” reloads are an administrative function. In actual combat, there may be incidents where a magazine needs to be retained to be reloaded at a later date, but those incidents are rare. Even then the whole idea of juggling two magazines in one hand is completely asinine.

The Myth of the Tactical Reload
[Like Wolverine claws, but dumber]

“But it’s for the streetz”!

The argument that I may need that magazine and the couple of rounds left in it is so unlikely that it borders on fantasy. I have thoroughly researched my department’s history of shootings and have not found a single incidence in which the tactical reload has resulted in an officer winning a gunfight, and we are involved in well over 100 shootings a year. Even in the North Hollywood incident, no one was wasting time with “tactical reloads”. In fact, I have only seen two gunfights (not shootings, gunfights…as in, an actual fight in which the bad guy was also shooting) in which an officer actually performed a tactical reload. In both of those cases, it was unnecessary as the gunfight was already over. Another nugget to chew on is this; back when this technique was invented, single stack magazines and 7 shots were the norm. That is obviously not the case anymore. Most service pistols holding anywhere from 15-17 rounds of expanding ammunition. Reloads are incredibly rare. “Un-tactical” reloads are virtually unheard of.

The Myth of the Tactical Reload
[Much tactical. Very reload. Such Operator.]

Statistically, you would be better off training on how to dodge lightning in a rainstorm than wasting your time training on an “un-tactical” reload. Focus on marksmanship, a great draw-stroke from your preferred mode of carry, shooting in low light, and shooting on the move.

You know, things that actually win gunfights.

Shop at our store, we want your money.

Anyone dedicated to this life knows that things always evolve. Take what’s worthwhile, throw away what’s not. Take an unemotional look at this and make your own decision. But personally, I’m throwing this technique on the scrapheap of time.

Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!
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About the Author: Jeremy Stafford is a truculent old school LEO and a combat veteran of the Marine Corps. He has just one beady eye (the right), a single shriveled testicle (the left) and is rumored to be the adopted son of Burt and Heather Gummer. (Grunts: truculent). Probably only part of that’s true, but really does it matter? Jeremy has been serving with the Los Angeles Police Department for nearly 20 years, both on the road and in specialty assignments. He is currently a senior instructor at the LAPD Firearms and Tactics Division, is a Krav Maga instructor and probably the guy responsible for those few times you see some Hollywood type actually handling a gun correctly. He’s written for several publications like SureFire’s Combat Tactics Magazine and is one of the main reasons we started reading Guns & Ammo again (the other is Mudge.) Stafford teaches for the SureFire Institute, mentors local youth (including kids doing the Spartan Race) and he runs many courses himself (think marathons, Tough Mudders and assorted other needless exercises in self-flagellation). Follow him on Instagram here (@jestafford).

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  1. LOL, I guess it’s alright to learn. My shooting lasted less than t seconds. I shot dry and reloaded on the move. I think more training should be spent on muscle memory for sight alignment, that probably saved more than anything. I don’t remember looking at my sights but had 6 center mass shots, guy disappeared and shot through drywall only missing 2x’s. Sight alignment, drawing, moving and trigger press. Maybe some quality time with malfunction drills.

  2. I teach this a little differently in that ALL RELOADS (post fight) should be “tactical”. Even after the shooting is over and there is no more immediate threat your weapon should be prepared and reholstered. The adrenalin from a fight gives a lot of people tunnel vision and sometimes emotional shock…the mind tries to take in and accept what just happened and the inexperienced shooter will often forget to reload and/or be aware of their environment so SCAN, RELOAD and call the police.