Baselines #4 Reload Drills

If you are following this series, you have seen that I lay out some baselines then some drills on how to gauge or establish that baseline. In the last article, I wrote about reloads so this one is some thoughts on how to learn or test reloads.

First, let me tell you all I am not a fan of the shot reload shot drill for live fire. This drill is an Instagram staple and while it is awesome to watch, it is completely staged. If you set up for this drill, you KNOW its time to reload. Action is always faster than reaction and when you know its going to happen it gives you a false indicator of reload time. Also, the training scar created by firing immediately after the reload can be detrimental. Any time we take our attention away from the target, we must reacquire and access the situation.  I also don’t subscribe to the live fire version of burning through all you mags doing the speed loads.

Reality Check

Unless you are counting rounds, the indicator to reload will be either tactical decision, seeing the slide lock, feeling the bolt lock or a dead trigger. A dead trigger forces you to look to see the problem. If it’s a malfunction and you hammer a fresh mag in you just made it worse. You can see rapidly if it’s just need more ammo or something worse.

Now, as I talked about before, in real life an empty gun is a failure on your part. I can’t stress that enough. Creating your own personal emergency in the middle of a much bigger emergency doesn’t make sense. Yet I see people running their stuff dry all the time.


Reload practice for speed is a dry fire intensive task. Making the reload efficient can be done without firing a round in the comfort of your dryfire area. I highly, highly recommend a Mantis X for this type of training. You will get a time and know the quality of the follow-up shot.

My practice sessions for reloads look like this. ( I always have music playing in the background.)

Using the Mantis on Open training, I will conduct a magazine change when the song changes or at magazine capacity. I have a couple of magazines without followers to keep the bolt or slide from locking. Since my reloads match, I practice in both types of reloads this way. Occasionally, I put in an unmodified magazine, which at some point during reset will lock back. This forces an emergency reload with slide or bolt release.


There are a few ways to do realistic live mag changes. The most important part is keeping your firearm topped off. You know the drills you are running and the round counts so this should be easy without gaming it.

If you don’t empty the magazine, you will end up with several magazines that are not full. The first part of your day should be changing magazines when you want to. Continuing with these magazines on you will force emergency reloads. You may or may not know how many are really in the magazine and they will at some point run out causing you to diagnose and reload.

Action is always faster than reaction. Change the mag when you want to not when you need to. This is a sign of a seasoned shooter vs a novice.

Until next time…


Ash Hess
A competitive shooter and Gov Sales Specialist at Knight's Armament Company.

I am also a Retired US Army Senior NCO. My last assignments included serving as the Senior Writer for Small Arms in the Weapons and Gunnery Branch and the US Army Infantry School Marksmanship Program developer at the Maneuver Center of Excellence Fort Benning, Georgia.

Army Schools include US Army Master Marksmanship Trainer Course, Rifle Marksmanship Instructor Course, Urban Combat Leaders Course, Air Assault, Rappelmaster, Senior Leaders Course, Army Basic Instructor course, High Angle Marksmanship Course, and Unit Armorer course.

I also attended the TigerSwan Basic Carbine course, Defoor Proformance One day Carbine Refresher, Advanced Carbine and Scoped Rifle courses, Sionics Weapon Systems M4 Armorer course, Modern Samurai Red Dot Pistol, and the MDTS Practical Small Knife 1course.

Four combat tours totaling fifty-two months overseas.
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