In the community there are three arguments on how one should reload their semi-automatic pistol. Some say to use the slide release, a very limited few say to jam the magazine in as hard as possible, and some say to just sling-shot the slide.
For all intents and purposes, I am not a “trained professional”. I am first and foremost a hobbyist that learns primarily from trial and error. Initially I was a fan of hitting the slide release/lock to drop the slide. Am I still though? Below I’ll be going over by what I meant above and my thoughts on what is the best way to reload your pistol for defensive purposes.
Hitting the Slide Release/Lock
I see this method of reloading being taught a whole lot and there isn’t inherently anything wrong with it. A lot of manufacturers will say it’s a “lock” and not a “release” but it gets used just the same, so we aren’t going to dive into the argument here. Essentially, what happens is your slide locks back on the last round, you put a new mag in, and you release the slide with the slide release/lock. There are some critical points to think about when training with this method.
The first is if the slide doesn’t lock to the rear. It happens, for some of us it happens a lot more often. In this instance, you aren’t going to be able to drop the slide to chamber the first round…in turn you will have to “sling-shot” the slide more or less.
In my running with this method it hasn’t been often, but I have noticed that the round can failure to chamber/slide fail to go into battery. Occasionally this results in a seized slide (needs racked via the rear sight on my holster/belt/shoe/table) that can be difficult to clear. Other times the round gets stuck against the feed ramp (even ball). And occasionally the slide appears to have gone into battery, but I have a dead trigger.
Jamming The Mag In
This is an option that a LOT of people have never heard of. On a lot of handguns if you ram a loaded mag into the pistol, it forces the slide to release, and chambers a round. Initially this was something people though Glocks did exclusively. Today we’re seeing it happen with CZs, HKs, etc.
There’s a few things about this reloading method. The first is, it might happen involuntarily. If you’re running the gun as fast as possible, you may force the mag in hard, and cause it to chamber a round. This is both a good thing and a bad thing, let me explain.
If you ram the magazine in hard enough you get more or less a reload without much effort; awesome. If you don’t ram it in hard enough the the first round might get stuck on the feed ramp and the slide will partially close on it. Overall, this isn’t a reliable mode of reloading your gun to rely on. If you do it inadvertently, chances are it chambered though.
Slingshotting the Slide
Every individual that I have talked to who has received extensive training prefers this method of reloading, even current and former law enforcement. Basically the slide locks (or doesn’t lock back) when empty, you insert a fresh magazine, and you rack the slide as needed.
Here are the benefits to this method of reloading. If the slide locks back, the additional inertia from being pulled back slightly almost entirely alleviates a malfunction that can happen with one of the options above.
No need for an extended slide release/lock if you have short thumbs. Extended slide releases/locks cause prevent the slide from locking on the last round (due to your grip), they can also cause the slide to lock back when the gun isn’t empty.
You always rack the slide for the reload so it doesn’t matter if the slide locks back or not.
Now there are some potential issues that come up with this specific method as well. If the slide doesn’t lock back, you have the chance of short stroking the slide. This can result in some form of malfunction or the belief that the gun is loaded and ready.
Overall, my preferred method is slingshotting the slide. Not hitting the slide release is an extremely difficult habit to break. Typically with my grip and my hand size the slide doesn’t always lock-back for me when the magazine runs dry. With that, training to just rack the slide when empty has proven to be very beneficial for me.
Obviously your mileage may very, but think about this… has your slide always locked back for you? If not…it might be worth building the muscle memory up of just racking the slide whenever you’re empty.