Combat reloads, will you be ready? I once heard a respected police trainer say that "No law enforcement officer was ever killed because he ran out of ammunition."  During a break in the training I quietly informed him about an investigator who fired all five shots in his J-frame, had no reload and was promptly killed by his assailant. Sure, the "average" gunfight may last only three or seven shots, depending on whose statistics you prefer, but can anyone get up in the morning and count on having an "average" day?  Life may be routine, but if someone attacks you or tries to break into your home, it quickly becomes far from "average."  That's why my friend Evan Marshall has often said that "You can never have enough ammunition in a gunfight!"


Given the above, anyone who carries a firearm for personal defense should know how to reload and then regularly practice that skill.  This article will focus on auto pistols and wheelguns, since most people who carry concealed and  defend their homes, use either semi-automatic pistols or revolvers with swing-out cylinders  There are two types of combat reloads that people use for most handguns: speed reloads and reloads with retention.  When doing a speed reload the shooter simply discards the empty magazine, speedloader, speed strip or moon clip and inserts a fresh one.  The reload with retention occurs when a shooter chooses to retain an empty loading device for future use.  The speed reload is usually quicker, but in a time of social unrest new speedloaders, magazines and moon clips may be very hard to come by.  The choice of reloading technique is up to you, and also depends on the circumstances you're in when you need to recharge your gun.  Practice both types of reload and use your best judgment.


Topper Combat Reloads 1


Topper Combat Reloads 2

Instructor Wayne Dobbs demonstrates a speed reload at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference as fellow trainer Hani Mahmoud times him.


Reloading semi-autos is a matter of replacing a spent magazine with a fresh one.  That may sound simple, but it's not when a person has to do it under pressure.  In order for you to do it fast your gun's magazine well has to be designed for easy magazine insertion and you need to develop the skill to keep the gun in front of your face when reloading.  In a gunfight it's important to be aware of where the assailant is, especially if you're alone and there's no one covering you while you reload.


Topper Combat Reloads 4

This 1911 has its magazine well beveled to allow for fast, easy magazine insertion during combat reloads.


Reloading a revolver begins with choosing clean, quality ammunition.  The empty shell cases should fall freely from the gun when you push the ejector rod with your thumb.  Try several brands to make sure they eject cleanly.  Next select a speedloader, speed clip or moon clip that smoothly inserts the chosen ammo into your revolver's empty cylinder, making sure your grips don't interfere with reloading.  So with revolvers it's a matter of trying different ammo, loaders and grips until you find a combination that allows you to smoothly reload.


Topper Combat Reloads 3

Magazines, moon clips and speedloaders are the main devices for combat reloads used to keep semi-autos and revolvers in action during a gunfight.


Shop Pistol Magazines   Shop Moonclips & Speedloaders


In summary, reloading is a vital skill which I sincerely hope you'll never need.  Even so, it's best to be prepared just in case the statistically insignificant chance of needing a reload becomes your reality.


Credit: Dr. Martin D. Topper

Martin Topper

Martin D. Topper, Ph.D, is the owner of Martin D. Topper, Ph.D. Consulting, LLC in Daytona Beach, FL.  He is a freelance writer and consultant who has published over 300 articles on firearms, tactics, disaster survival and ammunition over the last 27 years. His specialties include the psychology of critical incidents, urban insurgency, continuity of operations planning, firearms and ammunition design, terminal ballistics and quality management. While employed at the USEPA Criminal Enforcement Program his duties included quality management, firearms training, liaison with firearms programs of other law Federal and Local enforcement agencies, public affairs, liaison with American Indian tribes, and testing and procurement of firearms and ammunition. He has a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Northwestern University and Post-Doctoral training in Psychiatry and Anthropology from the University of California-San Diego Medical School and Anthropology Department.