Previous Post
Next Post

Tiger McKee at writes:

There are a lot of different techniques used when fighting with firearms. Many apply regardless of the situation. Other techniques have specific applications, used in a well-defined context or particular situation. The problem arises when one technique is applied across the board for all situations. Technique is defined as the method of doing or performing an act. Some skills are the same regardless of the situation. For example, to shoot accurately you get the weapon pointing in the right direction, using the sights to the degree necessary for the accuracy needed, and press the trigger smoothly while keeping the sights on target. Remember, accuracy is defined by distance and size of the target. The more accurate the shot the more precise the sight picture and the smoother the trigger press . . .

Context is the circumstances under which an event occurs. An armed citizen uses their weapon for self-defense or personal protection. Circumstances for the armed professional, i.e. a law enforcement officer, are different. Military applications are another matter, and vary in large degrees.

The techniques or skills employed vary according to the context or circumstances. As an example let’s look at reloading the pistol. In its simplest form the sequence is: Old mag out, new mag in, chamber a round. No arguments there, right?

When it comes to where to position the pistol to reload then you start getting different opinions. One option is to keep the weapon up and on target, reloading with the arms extended. The other school of thought is to bring the pistol closer into the body by bending the elbow, with the muzzle pointing upward at an angle and the side of the pistol facing you. This puts the pistol into your “workspace.” I’m not a fan of this technique, but would I use it? Yes, in a particular context.

For example, I’m running, and I’m talking ’bout haulin’ ass, from one point to another and have to reload the pistol. It would be almost impossible to do without bringing it in closer to the body to maintain control, taking out as much of the bounce and movement as possible while running. But, that’s about the only situation where I would use this technique.

Most of the time I want to keep the pistol extended out in front of me, reducing the movement required to reload. It also doesn’t show the threat my slide is locked to the rear, which may or may not be a factor. Plus, once reloaded I’m still on target ready to shoot if necessary. This is especially true for reloading on when the target is moving. I want to keep the muzzle tracking the target while maintaining visual contact with the threat.

The problem arises when certain techniques, which are developed for specific applications, are used out of context. The techniques an eight-man team performing a dynamic assault will use are different from the skills an individual defending against an attacker needs. The same thing is true of equipment. I don’t wear a thigh-holster because I don’t wear a vest or kit rig that prevents me from wearing the holster on my belt.

Ultimately the techniques and tools you employ are determined by context, not because it’s used by a certain group or looks cool. All techniques should be thoroughly understood as to their application and the context they were designed for. Your task is to know the when, why, where and how of these things so you can choose what best fits your application.


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

Previous Post
Next Post


    • Agreed. If you draw a line from the magazine on your hip to the gun, an extended gun is farther out. I’m a fan of the “workspace” method for several reasons. It’s faster. It’s easier to manipulate because you can see more clearly. You can orient the gun to get the magazine in more quickly. You get better retention of the weapon at a key moment where an attacker may choose to rush you.

      • I have a hard time dropping my mag without turning the gun slightly. So bringing it in makes sense for me. I also do all my shooting on the one way range though.

  1. I’m no expert, but I have to say that I completely disagree with him. Watching that guy reload with the gun straight out looked awfully slow. I agree with Jack, the priority is getting that gun reloaded and back in the fight in the quickest way possible. The quickest way I can do it is to bring the gun into my workspace, not stretched out in front of me. Seems to also be the case for almost everyone else that I have seen.

    • Solution to slide-lock reloads: don’t carry a 1911 and find a gun with respectable magazine capacity.

      Jeff Cooper called- he wants his 1970s tactics back.

      Keeping the gun extended so the bad guy can’t tell if you’re reloading? Seriously? How about hauling ass to cover and getting the gun back running as soon as possible.

      • I carry Jerry Miculek around with me for protection. I know sometimes his string of fire will be interrupted for about .01 seconds while he reloads, but I can’t tell what technique he’s using.

      • A 1911 aficionado might suggest keeping ones shots on target, thus mitigating the need for a reload and that that long sight radius, short light trigger and other aspects of the 1911 coupled to the power of the .45acp make this easier to do for some with this type of pistol.

        The truth is that there is a strategy and manual of arms for every design and all are viable options within their sphere.

        If we’re preparing for likelihoods we need 3 shots at less than 21 feet on a single attacker. Given that I don’t see 9 or even 6 rounds in the gun as a serious impediment to an effective defense.

        If we’re preparing for the 1% I want a rifle and a vest.
        Every piece of equipment has it’s place.

    • Agreed. People will develop new tactics, that’s a given. At some point something may come along that is actually revolutionary, game changing. This is not. When I teach, and I usually teach foreign police and military, I stick with major muscle movements, gross motor skills. Getting fancy is for people who train a lot, and most people, don’t or can’t. This is what I call Tier Three training, you have mastered the basics and then went on to more advanced methods. Now your experimenting with new methods and ideas. Some work, some don’t. This isn’t for the inexperienced and in fact, should come with a heavy caveat instead of a recommendation.

      • I strongly agree Brad. First decide what it is you’re preparing for, then decide what your limitations are financially, temporally, physically and be honest about motivational level, then decide what and how to train.

        The trick is to choose a skillset that both effectively addresses what you’re preparing to face and that is within your means to learn to the point of it being automatic, since good or bad it’s most likely what you’ll do when the chips are down.

        I think mag swaps in a pistol are very important to train both because I favor a 1911 and at 9 rounds reloads are a possibility and because most failures are magazine centric and can be corrected by swapping mags. I also ordinarily carry two spares, if I didn’t there wouldn’t be a point in drilling mag changes at all.

        An example of largely wasted training I often see are people, mostly young guys, practicing rapid mag changes in AR-15s. From a personal/home defense stand point I think it’s a waste because if the target is near enough to require speed in mag changes one should have stopped it well short of 30 rounds and if the target is far enough that 30 tries have failed to result in a stop then one should have moved to cover and thus have time for a slower mag change. It’s not that there is anything wrong with practicing the rapid mag changes, it’s that it’s not the most efficient use of training time since the ability to rapidly swap mags in such a rifle is highly unlikely to influence the outcome of a defensive use of the weapon.

        In this example a more productive use of time would be learning to shoot the rifle from the off hand shoulder to allow more effective use of weak side cover, such as shooting around a corner. This latter is far more likely to be a factor than the speed of magazine changes.

        Likewise I see (and there is nothing wrong with this, it’s just not likely to help in a real DGU) people practice deliberate fire at 100yards while their close handling skills are such that they could not maneuver their rifle through their own house at the ready without banging it into everything in sight. Again, one of these is apt to be at issue in a DGU while the other is highly unlikely to come into play.

        In the case of this reloading ‘tip’ it’s difficult to imagine anyone but a serious professional who is cool under fire waiting to see your slide lock then attacking while you reload or to imagine a target moving off to where it can’t be found in the second or less a good mag swap in a pistol takes, at least at anything approaching defensive pistol ranges.

        At the same time, surely and quickly getting the pistol back in the fight is highly likely to be a factor in survival if you’ve fired to slide lock as is getting to and utilizing cover. This raises a couple of questions; if you already have cover, why not move behind it to effect the reload and if you don’t have cover why are you standing still slowly and less surely reloading your pistol instead of moving to cover?

        I suppose in an empty parking lot or field this method may have some merit but then without cover or distraction how could one fail to stop an attacker with an entire magazine at ranges so close the attacker can see your pistol is in slide lock? If this is the scenario being trained for I’d suggest more fundamentals on accuracy to stop the threat on the first magazine rather than any sort of specialized reloading scheme.

        My final issue with the suggested method goes back to the idea of limited training availability (time, money and motivation) and the concept that people tend to fight as they have trained, good or bad. While there might be some scenario where keeping the pistol out and effecting a slower, less positive reload pays dividends, in the 99% of scenarios such a method is an impediment. Thus the better method is to train a reload that works both standing in the open and crouched behind cover and fastened into the drives seat of a car and supine on the ground, that is the work-space method. If under stress one is likely to default to training even if it isn’t the best method under the circumstances then let one train a technique that will work in the preponderance of circumstances instead of one questionable technique that may have limited benefit in rare and unforeseeable circumstances. This is especially desirable if the most often applicable method is also simpler, faster and surer that the less likely method.

        Also I wonder how one keeps ones eyes on the target while attempting to reload a pistol held straight out at arms length. It would seem difficult to do without looking at the gun instead of the target while the workspace method allows positive no look reloads while still eyeing the target, even while moving to cover.

        I know I can be acerbic about such things so I try hard to keep an open mind, but this sounds a lot like the sort of thing ‘gurus’ come up with either because they legitimately think it will help somehow or merely to look as if they are ‘tactical’ and on the cutting edge.

        Being that armed combat is highly unforgiving of mistakes I strongly recommend that these types of things are tested with simunitions before those who tout them attempt to foist them on the public. Not everyone can afford to test such things in this manner on their own, or are so inclined. Practical firearms instructors though ought to both have access to and be inclined to test such things and I don’t trust much of any of it that they won’t put in the ‘pain game’, on video as evidence of the methods efficiency/supremacy to existing tried and true methods.

  2. This sounds like excellent advice for someone who expects to be in a protracted gun fight where he has moved to offense/pursuit.

    As a citizen interested primarily in DEFENSE if I have used up my initial 11 rounds and need a tactical mag swap I think I’m going to have more important things on my mind than keeping my sights on the BG(s) while getting the next mag in.

    “Ultimately the techniques and tools you employ are determined by context, not because it’s used by a certain group or looks cool.” – Truer words were never spoken.

  3. So he is advocating different reloading tactics than both Damneck and Cag? They use the bringing the gun into your work space method and I am pretty sure they are about as good as you can get in CQC.

  4. Moreover, this reminds me of the old spetsnaz crap where they keep an empty weapon oriented at the enemy while they transition to a secondary… for some inane reason. Unsat. If I’m pointing a weapon at you, it has a round chambered and I’m able to mitigate you as a threat with it.

    • From the few Russian sites I’ve been on, most troops use a 2 point sling. To keep the rifle out of the way while reaching for the pistol, they hold it with their left. The muzzle is still pointed forward as a side effect of being cradled and a bladed stance.
      The Russians seem to have a thing for strong side operation (reloading, pistol on right side, etc.)

  5. I want to see that even Jerry Miculek does a workspace reload, although its so fast I can hardly tell. At my level of training, I just don’t see anything better than the workplace reload. I will do a tactical reload while moving to cover or in cover unless actively firing.

    Tilting an AR is pretty much a workplace reload as well. Hmmm.

    I just don’t see any value in pointing an unloaded weapon way out at arms length towards an identified target in a CQB scenario.

  6. I doubt the ‘arms extended’ technique is faster than the ‘workspace’ method (first time I’ve heard it called that btw). Speed is the game in reloading under stress, not hiding your locked slide or keeping sights on target. The first is just silly and the second is nigh impossible. Fine motor skills disappear under the stress of combat. The sights cannot stay on target while exchanging mags at arms length without sacrificing a good deal of speed and/or precision of the mag exchange itself.

    Speaking 1911 (cuz that’s all I know), the ‘workspace’ method is simple, fluid, and fast, and because of solid body indexing can be done blindfolded. The pullback/mag drop happens at the same time as the weakhand new mag grab. The pullback helps dislodge the empty mag and the weak hand/new mag meet the mag well before the empty mag hits the ground.

    Ideally never run the pistol dry. Top off at the first pause and/or gaining cover/concealment. A few rounds left will cause the spent mag to virtually shoot out of the frame, and there’s still one in the chamber throughout the process. Of course you have to carry spare mags for this to apply.

    Never, ever, eject a mag into your hand. Always let it fall to the ground or table. You will fight as you train. I’ve been told plenty of cops have been found dead with a handfull of empty brass, cuz they did what they did at the range, caught their spent brass instead of reaching for the reload. Seriously, put a piece of carpet or cardbord down if you’re worried about damaging mags, but always let the mags drop, don’t catch them with your weak hand, ever.

    This kinda reminds me of that ‘compressed ready’ stance what’s-his-name teaches. Personally I think that looks like a good way to shoot your own face off but whatever. I think a lot of ‘new’ techniques are just tactical schools trying to seem cutting edge by reinventing the wheel.

    • I have to disagree with you. If you have a second to reload behind cover and you’re not running the pistol dry; why would you discard a magazine if there is still ammunition in it? if things go badly you might need those few rounds later on…

    • Agreed on your last point. Like all industries, the gun training “Industry” needs new products or they become obsolete. So we get this and other “new” tactics designed to bring in customers. Personally, I think they’d all be better emphasizing what works and providing refresher training along those lines, with the goal of increasing the stress while doing so. Getting someone to do the same thing proficiently under stress is far more advantageous than teaching this stuff. Gunfighting is not an art, it’s survival under the most stressful environment ever devised by man. I’ve seen people throw up after an incident because that’s how their body reacts to the stress. I know others who black out immediately after and claim they don’t know what happened. It only comes back to them later. You’ll never convince me that deviating from muscle memory training is a better way to go.

  7. I reload while running full-speed, with both arms rod straight out in front of me. Even if running is unnecessary. Like at the range. On Tuesday.

  8. Oh thank God, I was going to say this was probably not the “best”, even borderline stupid, method. There is no one “right” way, but I’ll be damned in there isn’t a “wrong” way, such as this.

  9. I have found that one of the greatest challenges when you start taking defensive gun training is to break a lot of bad habits developed via the “stand on line and take a shot every few seconds” approach, aka, “do it yourself training.”

    Learning to reload quickly and effectively in your “workspace” is key, as well as making sure you get off double-taps effectively, rather than taking one shot, watching to see where it hits, then moving on to your next shot.

    I know there are some folks on this forum who are absolutely convinced they need no professional training and can just “learn themselves how to shoot” by spending time at their gun club, but … take even one truly professional training class and you will come away astounded by how much you have learned and how much you didn’t know before you began.

  10. I read that the actor, Daniel Day Lewis, learned to reload a flintlock rifle while running, for the movie Last Of The Mohicans.

  11. For running, workspace seems more natural for the arm pumping motion for balance, I understand the point of the article and agree with everything other than the reloading technique.

  12. Thinking on this further, Frank Proctor teaches workspace and he teaches both the spec ops crowd as well as the competition crowd.

  13. So what I am reading is that “staying versatile” in a gunfight means holding your arms out at full extension and taking 3x-4x as long on that reload.

    No thanks, and another instructor crossed off the list. I have already learned what not to do from him. I can only imagine the remainder of the decades old doctrine that he teaches. I wonder if he locks into a highpower sling for his combat carbine classes.

    Dave Sevigny reloading:

    Travis Tomasie Reloading

    Todd Jarrett reload

  14. Versatility here is the key. The article could’ve gone a lot more in depth while still staying away from the “when X do it like this, when Y do it like that” all while hoping Z doesn’t show up.
    Seemed to be a short, one-off write up without much effort put into it beyond “oh yeah, im supposed to have a piece submitted by now so let me spit something out while I’m on the shitter”.
    The overall idea has great potential and really should be discussed much further (yeah I know this is an old article. Still haven’t seen much real in-depth articles on “unconventional” shooting on this site though).

    Some thoughts…..

    1. Fast reloads……
    They’re important. You should always carry 2 reloads in addition to what’s already in the gun. Not necessarily because you’ll need to dip in to that 3rd magazine to solve whatever the problem is but because a lot of malfunctions can be magazine related. You need to be able to simply drop one, stick in another, and not have that one be your only one.
    For revolvers/shotguns/others 2 reloads simply because of reduced onboard capacity.

    2. Not reloading until it’s empty…..
    Don’t do that. When the next few seconds can literally mean the difference between life and death you reload or top off (revolvers/shotguns/lever actions/anything that doesn’t have a removable/replaceable magazine) whenever the opportunity presents itself. You don’t concern yourself with using up the last couple rounds in that magazine or cylinder before getting a full one. That’s just dumb. It’s also dangerous.

    3. My pistol/rifle holds 17/30 rounds, if that won’t solve the problem 17 or 30 more probably won’t either….
    Wrong. See #1.

    4. Getting to what should’ve been the point of the article…..
    Do not train to do things one way and expect that way to work in all situations. That’s the whole point of being versatile. It’s better to be a jack of all trades, master of none, than it is to be a highly polished expert in one narrow area or way of doing things then find yourself in a situation that’s outside your specialty. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, etc. Do it however it works best for you in that moment and don’t worry about whether some publish or perish writer or fill seats or starve trainer has coined a name or technique for whatever the hell it is you just did. Your results are the only thing that will tell you if it’s good or not….For You. Someone else may have a different way of doing it that works best For Them.
    You’re both right.
    That doesn’t mean just stick with that way because it works. It’s more of a fallback method you can go to if other things don’t work as well. Always try new things.
    Always look to improve.
    Always consider new ideas.
    Somebody somewhere will come up with something you haven’t tried that may work even better.
    Just saying know yourself, your abilities and limitations, find what works, and don’t concern yourself over whether some super secret bearded squirrel tattooed operator does it that way in their class. We can all learn an incredible amount from those folks but that doesn’t make what they say gospel. If their way just doesn’t work as well for you (after some honest effort to train to it) and some other way does, then it just does.

    5. And what really should be #1 is the biggest mistake most people make when it comes to training….
    Thinking they’ll always have both hands available to do whatever it is they need to do. Can include having clear vision, clear thinking, and clear hearing along with that as well. In self/home defense life can go from normal to oh shit in the blink of an eye. You do not get afforded the opportunity to first wake up, have some coffee, don your superfantastic noise cancelling ear pro, assume a textbook stance and two-handed grip, acquire target grade sight picture, or any of that stuff. Not only should you spend at least as much and preferably more time shooting one-handed, both strong and weak hands, more on the weak side, doing it point shooting, from the hip, while laying down, bent over, behind you, mid-stroke while making babies, jumping out of the shower slippery wet with soap stinging your eyes, and every other weird position or situation you can dream up, you should also practice clearing, reloading/topping off, and making ready to fire your weapon one-handed while wearing a blindfold and ear plugs. And I don’t mean your expensive electronic noise cancelling amplified headset. I mean old school foam earplugs that just clog your ear canal and muffle all the sound and if you got a pair of winter weather ear muffs to put over that even better.
    The point is you need to be able to effectively operate the thing without all your faculties. And yes that one-handed stuff goes for rifles and shotguns too, including and especially manual action types.
    There’s a reason army basic training teaches (or at least used to, not sure nowdays but it’d be dumb not to) everyone, not just infantry, to clear, field strip, reassemble, and make ready to fire their m16 while blindfolded in under a certain amount of time (that’s a good start but they still let us use both hands). Likewise all of us should be able to do the same with our weapon(s) of choice. No looking at it or hearing clicks, all by feel (short of a full teardown obviously).
    Think about it. You don’t need to look at it to draw it or bring it up to the ready, you don’t need to look at it to switch it off safe or cock the hammer, you don’t need to look at it to cycle the action whatever type it might be, you don’t need to look at it to pull the trigger, why would you need to look at it to reload it?
    It makes no sense. You already know where you keep the additional rounds or magazines, they’re an instinctive natural grab or at least they should be. You can already perform all the other functions of the weapon by feel alone. What do you need to see the reload or hear the action click for?
    The only place your eyes should be is on the immediate threat, scanning for possible additional threats, seeing what is beyond and beside these targets, and maybe the sights, that’s it.

    This all not to poo poo controlled target shooting or anything. Proper stance, grip, sight picture along with slow fire, deliberate, accurate target shooting should be part of every training regimen. In fact it’s a good way to end a training session of any type. It builds and reinstills and sharpens the fundamentals all that other stuff stems from. Without it you really are reduced to “spray and pray”. Just keep in mind it’s just one part of many many parts that all add up to effective defensive gun use.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here