In IDPA, the one issue that probably draws the most commentary both positive and negative is the tactical reload/reload with retention.  Way back in February of ’09 I took a look at the reload with retention (RWR) and the tactical reload; interestingly I wrote that post well before I started shooting revolvers exclusively.  In fact, I wrote that before I had purchased my 625.  Since then, I still don’t like RWR, but they have largely become a moot point for me in IDPA.

That being said, revolver shooting has brought another component of the reloading process to my mind, which is namely “when do you reload your gun in a fight”?  The concept behind the IDPA tac-load/RWR is that during a lull in the action, you top off your gun.  In USPSA, if you’re shooting Production, L10, Single Stack, or Revolver you basically load any time that you’re not actively engaging an array of targets.  Essentially, if you’re moving – you’re loading.

The obvious answer to “when do you load during a fight” is “when your gun is out of ammo” – the slide lock reload being the most likely situation you’d encounter in an actual defensive situation.  Most of us as private citizens are not going to get in a protracted gunfight with multiple targets, so for the sake of discussion I’m going to boil this down to a simple and relatively likely (as likely as these things get, I suppose) scenario.  You’re attacked by a single assailant while strolling through your neighborhood with your spouse/partner/dog.  You’re given no option but to respond to the attack with deadly force, and put your attacker on the ground.  After surveying your surroundings and making sure there are no other attackers, do you top off your heater with your spare magazine/speedloader?

Discuss in comments – for what it’s worth, my thought is “if I have the presence of mind to remember, then yes I absolutely top off my gun.”  No one that ever survived a gunfight wishes they had less ammo.


  1. There are actually two questions here:

    (1) Do you reload?
    (2) Do you retain the ammo that was in the gun before you initiated the reload?

    The answer to (1) is yes, assuming for the sake of the discussion that I felt secure enough at the time to put my gun in ‘off” mode for two seconds to insert a fresh mag.

    The answer to (2), for me, is no. That answer depends a lot on how much ammo you normally carry on board and what you consider a reasonable supply. It’s been my contention for many years that the time and effort put into “tactical reload” training could be better spent elsewhere, and the need for such training completely eliminated simply by carrying another spare mag.

    If I don’t feel comfortable enough to put my gun back in the holster, then I’m not comfortable enough to take my gun out of the fight for the time it takes to perform a skill that was originally developed as a purely administrative task.

    Also, think about the concept of “lull in the fight.” It’s an artificiality that works only on a square range against static, non-threatening paper and steel. You can only know how long it’s been since the last shot was fired. You have no way to know when the next shot will be fired. Someone could come around the next corner, slip through the door, etc. at any time.

  2. That’s actually my biggest problem with the concept of “lull in the fight” – you only know that it was a lull after the fight is completely over and you’re doing a mental AAR.

    The other contribuiting factor to whether or not I’m going to reload has a lot to do with the gun I’m carrying. If I’m in an actual fight, there is a very real chance that I’m going to put all five rounds from my j-frame in the target; necessitating a reload.

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