Self Defense Tip: Practice Magazine Management

USPA is free-style,” Chuck Anderson told TTAG this morning. “You can do whatever you want with your magazines to get through the stage.” I called the United States Practical Shooting Association’s Area 1 Director ’cause I didn’t want to look like an idiot (as if) commenting on Gabby Franco’s magazine management. So, as you can see in the tail end of this video, the former Top Shot competitor has “issues.” She takes a fresh mag for her Glock from the rearmost position on her belt. After she’s done with her string, the Gabster can’t find a place to reinsert the mag. Which raises a bunch of questions . . .

Did Gabby need to keep that mag (i.e. did she need more than three more mags)? Should she have dropped it and swapped mags as a matter of course rather than reholster a dry gun? If Gabby needed to keep the mag, why not just put it in her pocket (not easy with those jeans but still)?

Gabby’s (and my) confusion highlights the magazine management challenges facing anyone using a semi-automatic handgun for self-defense (or competition). Here are three important considerations:

1. Do you carry a spare magazine?

If you don’t carry a spare mag, magazine manament isn’t an issue. Until and unless it is. The most likely problem when running a handgun: a mag-related malf. If your gun doesn’t work when you need it to, well, that sucks.

Almost as bad as not having enough rounds to stop the threat/get out of Dodge. I know: most gunfights are three rounds at three yards in three seconds. But I’m also down with the rabbi’s admonition that no one ever survived a gunfight complaining that they had too many rounds left. You have a front pocket. Use it.

2. Do you practice dropping your mag?

There is no reason to keep an empty magazine during a defensive gun use (DGU). There is every reason to let it drop. For one thing, losing the empty readies the gun for a reload. (You do carry a spare mag right?) For another, you don’t want to have an empty magazine in your support hand; you’re gonna need it for fending off a blow, calling 911, pushing innocents out of the way, etc.

If you don’t practice dropping your mag, if you strip it from the gun with your support hand thousands of times at the range, you’re going to find yourself with a handful of empty mag during a DGU. Use clearly marked practice mags and drop it every time. Train as you mean to fight (which also means moving as you draw and reload, but don’t get me started).

3. Can you perform a strategic reload during a DGU?

During a strategic reload (I prefer the term to “tactical reload”), you remove and retain a not-empty mag and replace it with a fresh, full one. As the video above indicates, a strategic reload’s about as easy as asking Klara Wester for a date. Now try doing it (reloading the gun) while moving to cover or concealment with bullets and/or a bad guy coming at you.

“Operators” may be able to master the strategic reload but I reckon it’s a bit much for your average gun guy; deciding when and whether to drop a mag or retain it in the heat of battle violates the KISS principle. The compromise: train yourself to do a tactical reload after you’ve moved to cover or concealment.

Your ammunition magazine is your friend. Your spare is your best friend. Anyone who seeks to limit your ammo capacity—and by that I also mean you who don’t think you need a spare mag—is not acting in your best interest. That is all.