APRIL 5, 2011

Skill Set: The Tac Load

by Rich Grassi
Figure 1. This is the way to hold a magazine. The index finger along the front indexes and the grip keeps the magazine in your firm grip.
Misunderstood and often poorly used, the tactical load is perhaps misnamed. When troops went afield in the era of the detachable box magazine, it was understood that loose ammo would be more likely found than loaded magazines. It made sense to save magazines whenever possible. The common story is that Chuck Taylor, an early Operations Manager at Gunsite, arrived at the tactical reload doctrine and technique. A Vietnam Vet, his military experience no doubt had an impact on his thinking. It made good sense to us at a sheriff's department that was among the earliest to go from revolver to auto. We were issued an auto that featured a magazine disconnector. Often misnamed a "magazine safety," it simply prevents firing without a magazine in place. It made sense to us to teach the tac reload as a way to keep those partly depleted magazines if a deputy was in a firefight - it could take 30 agonizing minutes to get help to someone. Currently there's debate over the point of doctrine calling for the tactical reload whenever there's a "lull" in the action. To simplify, if you're not being shot and you're down to about ¼ to 1/3 magazine capacity by your estimate, it's time to reload. There's no excuse to look down to do it. It should work as smoothly at 3AM as it does at 3PM. If you're in a downed cover position, you could use Massad Ayoob's TFE reload. Without identifying the initials, simply speed load. When it appears safe to do so, snag the partly depleted magazine from the ground and stow it. That was tough . . .
Figure 2. From the side, you see the magazine to be inserted into the gun (demonstrated empty) and the magazine behind it is the one withdrawn from the gun. Keep the full magazine in that good grip. If we drop a partly depleted one, it's less tragic.
The typical magazine juggling act won't work if you have fingers numb from cold, the magazines are too big, there's blood on your hands or a range of other issues. The competition reload (with retention) is speedy and secure. "Flip it and strip it" - turn the gun inside your grip to get the magazine release button to the thumb. Press, dumping the mag to the support hand which stows it, snatches a loaded magazine and drives it into the magazine well. Quicker than it sounds, it's very secure. Too much downtime? Don't forget the round in the chamber. Pass on by the magazine disconnector guns to do this one! Whenever you "make ready" from empty, you'll do the tac load. This is because you fed a fresh round up into the chamber from the full magazine. Press check to feel the cartridge in the chamber. Draw the full magazine from the rear-most pouch and hold the magazine as shown in Figure 1. Bring that support hand up under the gun and drop the "one-down" magazine between the ring and small fingers. Withdraw it, seat the full magazine and stow the "one-down." After going through the holstering ritual, take that magazine and replace the round to put it in a pouch. You're ready to go. Some years back, a student recounted the story of an officer on his team. They were on a high-risk warrant service and, for whatever reason, the first officer in was armed only with a handgun. He found himself required to shoot an individual in that first room. Relieved by the arrest team, he was called over in support of an officer continuing the search of the premises. He patted up and through the door they went.
Figure 3: This is a view of the magazines from the rear. The one on the left is full (empties used as demonstrators) and most important. The one on the right is partly depleted.
Later, a detective came into the scene asking, "Who shot?" Our first officer in made himself known and the detective asked about it. The officer replied that he'd fired his handgun into the subject now in custody. The detective told him to leave the weapon holstered until they got to the station. On their arrival, the detective supervised the officer drawing and clearing his sidearm. There was a round chambered over a full magazine. "I thought you said that you shot," the detective said. The SWAT cop patted himself down. In the cargo pocket on the non-dominant side of his uniform, he found the partly depleted magazine. After his suspect was in custody and before moving to back another officer, he'd topped the gun off - and it was automatic to the point he doesn't recall doing it. That's the tactical reload.