Those who carry a pistol every day should possess a number of pistol manipulation skills in addition to those skills that are concerned with marksmanship. Competence at getting your gun into a fight and scoring effective hits, all when things are optimal, is a good thing to have. But what about when things are not optimal; when things go sideways and you still have to fight to preserve your life? This is where you’d better have some other basic-but-uncommon skills.
One of these basic skills that all everyday carriers should possess is the ability to reload your pistol when one of your hands or arms is incapacitated or otherwise engaged. Doing so requires, of course, that you carry a spare magazine or two and that you keep them in a concealable and handy position.
For most concealed carriers, a concealable and handy position will mean that spares are in a magazine pouch inside or outside of your belt. For right-handed folks, this means either on your support-hand side near 8 o’clock or in front around 11 o’clock. Swapped sides for lefties, of course.
The process is pretty simple:
- Run dry
- Get to cover!
- Eject the magazine (use your knee for an inertial assist)
- Place the pistol between your knees, upside down, with the barrel pointing down and away from you
- Retrieve a new magazine and place it into the grip
- Smack the new magazine into place
- Grab the pistol and rack a round into place off of your belt or holster or mag pouch
- Get back into the fight
So while the process there is pretty simple, it does contain a couple of novel actions. You’ll need to practice quite a bit with a blue gun and/or an empty gun and/or with snap caps before trying this in live fire. Done properly, though, it is entirely safe and no mistake should endanger you or those around you. Done wrong or carelessly, this process can put you and those around you into significant danger. So learn the discrete steps completely and safely before using any live ammo and around others at the range.
The Complete Reload Process
Here’s a short video showing the whole process, with both the support hand only and the primary hand only. After the video, below, we’ll touch on some key components.
So the process is nearly identical for both hands. The important difference here for those who carry spare magazines on their support-hand side is that when doing this reload with your primary hand, you’ll have to reach around to the other side of your body to retrieve a new magazine. This operation is pretty simple for fit folks, but for those who carry too much extra weight, getting to your magazines in this way could be highly problematic.
The Magazine Ejection
You can greatly improve your success and speed getting the empty magazine out of the gun by bringing your forearm down against your knee as you depress the magazine release. The bump against the knee easily jars the empty mag loose to fall freely. For safety’s sake, be sure to keep your pistol pointed directly forward.
Placing the Pistol Between Your Knees
Again, keep yourself and those around you safe by making sure your muzzle is pointing down and away from you, and not at either of your feet.
Racking a Round Into Place
Pick up your pistol from between your knees with a proper grip, trigger finger straight along the frame, and raise it upside down to place the rear sight on/behind your belt or mag pouch or holster, then move the gun sharply down and away from you in a safe direction. If the first try doesn’t do the trick, just do it again. Be sure not to point the muzzle too far down toward your leg or feet. This operation will rack a round into the chamber and you’re ready to get back into the fight.
That’s it! When you practice, just be aware of your muzzle and keep it pointing in a direction that is safe for you and for those around you. Be sure to work this technique into every practice session, with both your primary hand and your support hand. It’s a technique that might save your life or the life of someone you love.
Some Parting Caveats
Some instructors will teach using your holster as a resting place for your pistol while you retrieve a new magazine. I highly recommend against this practice. All kinds of things can and often do go wrong when using this technique. For instance, your muzzle is not facing in a safe direction, so a fumbled handing or a slam-fire event can mean a severe injury or death. Moreover, the slide stop may disengage, and the slide slamming home can cause your pistol to fall out of the holster to the ground. Just use the between-the-knees position.
Some may argue that having the pistol between your knees does not allow you to be mobile while placing it into your holster does. The important point here is DO NOT RELOAD OUT IN THE OPEN. If you need to reload, run to cover where you can more safely effect your reload. This is quite mandatory if you have only one arm working with which to accomplish a reload.
Be safe and train often!