Heel type magazine releases

I like heel-type magazine releases. I can’t help it, maybe I’m sick but I just like them. For my readers from clanBOB, there are two major kinds of magazine releases for semi-automatic pistols. The most common is the button type (or American), which you’ll find on 99.9% of American made pistols. It’s a button located on the grip of the pistol, which can be pressed with the thumb to release the empty magazine.

A “heel-type” or European magazine release is located on the bottom (or heel) of the grip, and physically retains the magazine by overlapping it at the base of the pistol. To release a Euro mag release you have to push the switch back with the hand not holding pistol, then the empty magazine drops free.

The heel-type release was extremely popular on European made pistols through WWII and the late ’50s. Because the American style was much faster and easier to operate, it eventually replaced the heel type release except on a very, very small number of pistols.

You’re probably thinking right now “If it’s slower, and takes two hands, why in heaven’s name would he like it?” Well, I’d say the first reason is that I kind of like old things, but there are legitimate tactical reasons for having a heel type release. One of the best explanations that I’ve found for them was at Gunblast in their article on the CZ27. Their reasoning (which I agree with) was that for a soldier in the field, a heel-type release drops the empty magazine into his hand where it can be retained for later use. A pistol without any magazines is pretty useless, especially in a fight. While the primary reason to have a pistol (especially for a WWII infantryman) was to fight his way to a rifle; he’d have much better luck if he keeps his magazines.

For modern pistol competition, a heel type release is pretty useless, because it’s not as fast. However, if you’re doing Gunsite style reloads with retention, it’s a pretty good idea; as again the empty mag drops into your waiting paw so can you pocket it an keep the rounds. I’m not saying that everyone should stop making pistols with button type releases, because that would be insane. However, I could see heel type releases being used on small pocket pistols quite successfully, with the thought in mind that if you have to reload you .32 ACP in a hurry, you’re probably screwed anyway.

Actually, to reveal my true motivations, I’m just defending another anachronistic firearms design component. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something satisfying about dumping the magazine out of my M1935 Beretta into my hand. YMMV.