One of the pillars on which IDPA is built are the “3 IDPA Approved” reloads, which are as follows:
- Slide-lock reload – run the gun dry, dump the empty magazine, grab a fresh one and drop the slide on the new mag.
- Tactical Reload – draw the fresh magazine, drop the partially loaded magazine into your hand, insert the fresh magazine, and then stow/secure the partially loaded magazine.
- Reload with Retention – eject the partially charged magazine and stow it, draw and insert a fresh magazine into the gun.
The idea behind the last two reloads is that if you’re in a running gunfight, you’d not want to leave any ammo behind, just in case. This contrasts to the most common reload in USPSA, where you just dump the magazine, empty or otherwise, jam a fresh one into the gun and keep going, not worrying about leaving bullets behind.
Die-hard IDPA shooters say that retaining your ammo is a good idea, and the die hard IDPA-haters say that it’s a silly idea because it slows you down. Now, where the debate gets interesting is if you read the IDPA rule-book, which has the following two items in it:
HQ urges course designers to draft scenario courses that do not require tac-loads or reloads with retention to be performed “on the clock”.
Slide Lock reloads are the recommended type of reload in IDPA. Statistics show that this happens in the real world, regardless of intention or training. Tactical reloads and reloads with retention are intended for use during lulls in the action and should not be required on the clock.
There are a few ROs I’d like to show that section of the rule book to…but that notwithstanding, the fact that the IDPA rulebook itself clearly states that Tac-loads and reloads with retention shouldn’t be done on the clock would seem to indicate that they’re not really a great way to put extra magazines in your gun.
So why do ROs put these reloads into COF and have them done against the clock? I think it’s a combination of two factors. The first reason is what I call The Dark Forces factor. The name comes from a video game I played a lot as a kid – the later levels of the game ramped up the difficulty not by throwing challenging puzzles at you, but by pumping wave after wave of nigh unkillable superbadguys at you. Instead being creative to make the game challenging, they took the easy way out. That same principle applies to the reload issue with IDPA. People are looking for ways to introduce challenges into COFs, and so they throw a tac-load or RWR.
The second reason I think you see these loads on COFs is revolver shooters. I love the wheelgun guys to death, but IDPA’s dedication to being “revolver neutral” is nuts some times. A compassionate RO can see a course of fire, and call for “any IDPA approved reload” after six rounds. For the wheelgun guys, that’s no problem, because they’ve got to reload anyway. But for everyone else, they’re going to have anywhere from 2-5 rounds left in the gun, and now they have to dump that mag and perform a complicated and time-costly reload.
Of course, all ranting aside, I don’t think reloads with retention are going away. For better or for worse, ROs will continue to put them in COF on the clock, so as much as I may not like it, I need to practice it. Now comes the gamey part for you guys out there. The IDPA rule-book makes no differentiation between a tac-load (slow) and a reload with retention (less slow). It also doesn’t say anything about not putting an extra, empty magazine holder on your belt for that spare mag. I use the Blackhawk single and double stack magazine holders, which have this huge, wide mouth on them. That means that for a reload with retention, I drop the empty, catch it, slam it into an empty magazine holder, and now my hand is right next to my fresh magazines, so I can continue my reload. It’s actually quite a bit faster than the tac-load, is completely legal, and allows you to utilize roughly the same muscle memory that you’d use for a standard, slide-lock reload.
Ultimately, that’s the best solution to the “IDPA approved reload” question – practice. If you can master the above technique for a reload with retention, when you see those COF that involve that particular skill, you won’t roll your eyes in frustration – you’ll get excited to do your new, speedy-gamer reload. For your ease of training, here are the steps to the fast RwR.
- Eject empty magazine into hand
- Stow empty magazine in empty magazine holder (this needs to be a mag holder that is easy to get mags in and out of, I prefer the Blackhawk! models)
- Draw fresh magazine
- Insert fresh magazine into gun
- Keep blasting
Lather, rinse, and repeat for best training results.