How to Quickly Reload a Handgun
Reloads are quite simple when broken down into a few steps. Anyone can reload a handgun quickly with proper technique and practice.
Handgun reloads are an important skill for people interested in competition shooting and self-defense, particularly self-defense from a law enforcement standpoint. An empty gun is nothing more than a bluff – so it is critical to get a fresh magazine back into the gun as quickly as possible.
Here’s a quick overview of how to quickly reload a handgun.
How to quickly reload a handgun
When it’s time to reload the handgun, it is GO TIME. Reloading should be a fast series of actions.
To initiate the reload, instantly race the support hand to grab the magazine. Simultaneously push the magazine release with the primary hand, while keeping the handgun vertical so the spent magazine drops free.
After the spent magazine drops free, rotate the magazine so the angle will allow for an easy insertion. That position is unique to each individual, so be sure to experiment. The general advice is to strive to keep the handgun close to full extension to make it fast to get the gun back on target.
Index the new magazine
Indexing the magazine is when you place your pointer finger along the length of the magazine on the side the bullets are facing. Indexing the magazine like this allows shooters to bring their pointer finger on their weak hand with the magazine to their pinky finger on their strong hand which is wrapped around the gun. This aids in speeding up and boosting consistency of pistol reloads.
Slam the magazine home with force
After getting the magazine into the handgun’s magwell, it is important to slam the magazine home with force to reliably complete the reload. Pushing the magazine in slowly and without much force can result in the magazine not going all the way home, especially if the handgun’s slide is forward. Some handguns are worse about this than others.
Rotate the hand so the palm is along the bottom of the magazine and push hard.
Release the slide
If performing a “slide lock reload” for the handgun, the next step is to get the gun back into a firing position. Some firearms instructors recommend grabbing the slide with your hand, pulling the slide back, and releasing it – this is often called the “slingshot reload.” This is often stated as a more reliable method, but it is a slightly slower way to reload a handgun.
The faster method is to use the slide release, and it is also recommended by many firearms instructors. While faster, it is possible to miss the slide release if you don’t practice.
This is a personal decision that is determined based on how often you train, the size of your hands, and the size of your gun. Practice with your gun using both methods and see if your hands can easily manipulate the slide release. If they can, I recommend regularly working on reloads and training to a point of confidence in the slide release as it is a faster reload.
Rebuild the grip and acquire the sights
After the slide is forward and the next round is chambered, it is time to get the handgun back onto target. Re-acquire a firm two-handed firing grip and push the handgun out while acquiring the sights. Once you obtain a proper firing grip and sight alignment, take the next shot.
Putting it all together
It is possible to reload a handgun in under a second – even if it isn’t a fancy race gun with a large magwell.
The key to fast reloads is consistency – the key to consistency is practice.
Dry fire practice for reloads
Let me repeat – practice, practice, practice.
Further Training with:
Written by Brian Purkiss - always a student, sometimes a teacher.
I don't consider myself a competition shooter - I think of myself as a performance pistol shooter. I am all about performing at as high of a level as possible. Towards that end, I am obsessive about learning how to perform. I spend a lot of my life learning from the best across the entire firearms world and even into other areas of performance and other sports. I am a USPSA Carry Optics Grandmaster, currently working towards my second GM title in the Open division.