Tiger McKee writes:
When your firearm runs empty you need to reload it as efficiently as possible. On the range this is easy. During a confrontation you have to reload and stay plugged into the fight – moving, communicating, using cover, maintaining awareness, assessing and making decisions. Now, if you haven’t truly learned how to reload efficiently one of two things are going to happen. Either you’re not going to be able to reload, or you’ll stop doing everything else to reload . . .
In its simplest form the sequence to reload, say with an AR, is “old mag out, new mag in, bolt release.” Any additional actions required to perform the reload add time to the process and makes the sequence more difficult to learn and apply. And, according to a study done in 1960 by Henry and Rogers, the more complex the action the more time will pass between when you run empty and then mentally make the decision to reload.
I’ve seen a lot of variations when it comes to reloading the AR. In one version the shooter presses the trigger, usually a few times without result, so they roll the rifle over to look at the ejection port to confirm it’s empty. The stock drops out of the shoulder, the muzzle tips up and the empty mag is stripped from the rifle with the support hand. Then the support hand grabs a new mag, seating it into the rifle.
The shooter’s eyes are looking at the rifle the entire time. A round is chambered, and the rifle is brought back into the shoulder pocket and firing position and visually reacquiring the target and sights. Another variation includes flipping the rifle back and forth to sling the empty mag out of the magwell.
Method two: You feel the rifle run empty. (Yes, with practice you’ll feel the bolt group lock to the rear.) Finger comes off the trigger to press the mag release. The stock stays in the shoulder, muzzle and eyes on the threat, continuing to track the target if it’s moving.
At the same time the support hand is grabbing a fresh mag, bringing it up to the rifle, and if the empty mag hasn’t dropped free strip it out with the support hand. Insert and seat the loaded mag. Slide up the mag and magwell, with the thumb extended and press the bolt release. You’re still on target, and now ready to fire.
Visually the first method looks fast because there is a lot of unnecessary motion occurring. The second method reduces the motion and actions required to reload. It may look boring but it’s smooth and efficient. Compare each reload on the timer. The timer doesn’t lie; the difference is dramatic.
Time isn’t the only factor. In the first technique the shooter drops the stock out of the shoulder, looking at the rifle. This motion informs the threat your rifle is out of the fight. Visually you lose contact with the threat, which is moving and using objects in the environment as cover and concealment. Also, the additional actions in the first method take longer to learn than the simplified sequence and make it more difficult to execute properly under stress.
Equally important is the fact that according to the study mentioned above, your reaction time required to initiate a response increases as additional actions are added to the sequence or the length of time to perform the sequence increases. It’s an easy decision to perform a simple act.
Your goal, through training and practice is to mentally and physically simplify, stripping everything down to the minimal amount of action required to perform any task. Reloads and such must be learned in advance, because there will be lots of other things to be thinking about when faced with a life threatening situation. Simple is good, especially when it comes to fightin’.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of “The Book of Two Guns,” writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk’s DVD, Fighting With The 1911.