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 practicing handgun reloads, start off slowly. Unnecessary speed creates bad habits. Remember, slow is smooth, smooth is fast. As you become consistent, speed will naturally follow. It’s also a good idea to film yourself while practicing so you can review the footage and find errors in your technique.

Keep everything in the “workspace”

With all handgun manipulations other than actually pulling the trigger, it’s a good idea to keep the handgun in the “workspace.” This is the area right in front of your chest where you can see your handgun out of your peripheral while still being able to keep an eye on the target.

Keeping the handgun in the workspace also aids in economy of motion, allowing for faster handgun reloads as well as general weapon manipulation, resulting in less time with an empty handgun.

Index the 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 the handgun reloads and makes it easier to reload the handgun while looking at the target – but only after sufficient practice.

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.

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, particularly if you don’t practice. This also depends on the handgun and the hand size of the shooter. If the shooter has small hands and is shooting a full size 1911, that slide release is far away and the slingshot method is better. But if the shooter has normal sized hands and is firing a Walther PPQ, which has a very large slide release, then by all means, go for the handgun’s slide release.

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.

Push the handgun back into the fight

After the slide is forward and the next round is chambered, it is time to get the handgun back into the fight. 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.

Fast Handgun Reload

Chris Andersen’s fast reload.

When you put it all together and practice, practice, practice – it ends up looking like this and getting really fast.

Dry fire practice is critical for becoming proficient at handgun reloads

Let me repeat – practice, practice, practice.

The key to proficiency in anything, especially firearms proficiency, is deliberate practice. Thankfully, reloads can be easily trained at home with an unloaded gun during dry fire practice. Simply go through the motions of reloading, just like I did in the video.