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. I think it gets people wrapped around the problem of re-pouching the half spent mag. They preach load from the furtherest away so the closest is always fresh. If I have to reload, I’m going to the closest mag. Period. SO then I worry oh crap, this half full mag is going in the first pouch when it should be in the second or whatever. Thats not what I should be thinking about at any point before, during or after a shooting.

    People get so wrapped up in dogma its scary sometimes. Large muscle motion cuz you won’t have small muscle motor control and and such. Maybe you will. Maybe you won’t. Prepare for either. Slingshot the slide or slide release. Trigger press and magazine releases are small muscle group activities that we must count on working to win. Tactical reload. Run it dry. It’s all the same argument. Times change. Each shooter is different.

  2. I have never been in a gun fight BUT, if I ever am, I will keep tripping the bang switch until my mag is empty THEN swap for a full mag, just like my drill instructors taught me in 1972.

  3. My agency has taught tactical reloads since transitioning from a revolver. The reasoning was that you had one round in the chamber to engage during the reload, should the need arise.

    We also have issued some type of S&W 9mm since leaving the revolver. All of these various guns have had a magazine disconnect safety.

    Kind of defeats the logic behind that just a bit. . .

  4. sorry for multi posts, but another example would be – Let’s say youre in a house and you encounter three targets and put three rounds in each one. Your arent in an active shoot anymore, but you would replace the mag with a fresh mag – stow the old, then continue through the house.

  5. Additionally – one would also do a tac reload in a situation where you and a team of let say cops have finished a gun fight, the action has stopped, but not “all clear”, you’d want to have a fresh mag ready to go, retaining however many rounds left as a “just in case i need a few more rounds when I’m out”, and you’d want to do it as expeditiously as you can, just in case things started popping off.

  6. I disagree 100%. the only time I would do a admin change, is when I was 100% sure i was somewhere where there was no chance of a threat. If for example, i was involved in a active situation, but i was behind cover, I would do a tac reload. You never want to keep shooting until you go dry and have to recover from the slide being locked back. that would take way too long. from behind cover, you could already have a mag in your hand (saving time because you could still be in the fight, get back in the fight because you still have rounds if need be). You can perform your mag change much quicker in case you need to reengage. And you retain however many rounds still in the mag you pulled. By changing mags when you want to and not need to, you always have a topped off mag if need be. I’d rather have 10+ ready to go, than 3 before had to reload.

  7. Although I’ve never been in a gunfight, my instructor, who is an Army Sniper Reserve member and the S.W.A.T. sniper for our local law enforcement, trained me to just let the mag fall and concentrate on correctly inserting a new mag. A magazine costs a few dollars, the time spent fumbling around with an expended mag could cost you your life.

  8. Good argument for sure but don’t forget thousands of competition shooters who know that a closed chamber with a round in the breach is Infinatly faster to reload that racking the gun again. I train PMCs and will continue to use it if only for the value of dexterity and muscle memory. As I tell my guys, if you need a pistol that close your in some pretty deep shit and you’d better be fast. AKA John Geddes, author, ”Highway to Hell’

  9. In 2001 I was teaching a class on pistol combatives. The “Tac Reload” was not part of my syllabus. A student (who had earlier made sure I was aware of his IPSC and training course experience) asked me about tac reloads. I told him not to worry about it. He looked at me like I had suggested a 3 way with his teenage daughter. Dogma dies hard.

  10. I obviously didn’t get the memo. I’ve been shooting all sorts of guns for 36 years now, including ten years infantry soldiering, and I didn’t even know this was a thing.

    Something else not to worry about I guess.

  11. I see some limited value if a suspect has fled and you intend to go in pursuit or search. That said, I’d want to have several shift mates providing cover while I was fumbling magazines.

    Of course, you can take “limited value” a bridge too far and include the tactical reload in the qualification course (as my department does).

  12. I think this is another instance of military TTPs bleeding over into the civilian/LE world. As an infantryman, hell yes I was keeping my magazine if I could. As a cop, not so much.

  13. Lol… You are so “SPOT ON”!!

    M retired Mobile Tac Team Commander and currently teach gun fighting (Not target shooting) in Katin American countries as well as in the U.S.

    Real world is a “Completely Different” animal than straight range or even so called Tac range situations. No time for drag applications such as this just kept five or six double stack mags at the ready and if you know what the he’ll you’re doing you should be just fine…..

  14. Tactical reload can be used in rifles and pistols. While I am not a fan of it, it is helpful to know for dealing with stoppages in a military setting. Unless you work for one of those departments who are obsessed with gear retention (I have worked for a couple) then just toss the mag, it can’t be fixed before the fight is over. In a scenario with multiple suspects in an environment where backup is a long way out such as game wardens, or rural patrols may need the extra ammo, but it is impractical to think they will have time to unload the bad mag and reload the rounds in a good one. Great article, I’m going to have to seriously consider the usefulness on this technique.