The great Tactical Reload Debate

There is a huge, 11 page thread going on over at Pistol-Forum about Tactical-Reloads. The only time I’ve ever gotten into a debate about whether or not a tac-load is a good idea has always been in the context of IDPA. After following the entire thread, here are the facts I was able to glean about tactical reloads.

  1. Having more bullets in your gun is a good thing
  2. Running out of bullets if people are shooting at you is a very bad thing
  3. Putting more bullets in your gun when you’re done shooting at people is a good thing
  4. Defining “done shooting at people” is incredibly tricky and many pixels have died trying to pin that down.

Number four gets even murkier because you have at least three different types of people who could need to reload their gun: military dudes, cops, and armed citizens. As near as I can tell, the circumstances for each are quite different, because if as a legally armed bro I’m in a situation where I have to perform any kind of reload, I am have a Very Bad Day indeed. Contrast this with a Highway Patrol officer who may get into a gunfight with the closest backup 20 miles away, which is further contrasted with a small unit of operator dudes who have to reload repeatedly through the course of a 30 minute engagement.

Basically, the whole conversation is a giant mess. Which is why I generally don’t get involved beyond outside commentary. Generally speaking from an armed civilian point of view, I find the tac load to be irrelevant. If my gun runs out of bullets, I’ll reload it. If I’m done shooting at people and it’s time to put my gun away, I’ll reload if I have available rounds. But let us be honest with yourselves: how many of you carry a spare magazine every day? I sure don’t.


  1. I’m not criticizing, but if you’re carrying a gun, how much harder is it to throw a spare mag or speed strip in a pocket, or your off-body bag if you carry one? Or just keep one in your glove box (assuming you aren’t in and out of military installations).

    I can see not wanting to haul around a “bat belt”, but a spare mag in a minimal pocket holster doesn’t weigh much and doesn’t take up much room. It’s just one more bit of pocket litter.

    1. For me at least, my primary carry is a J-frame. I reckon that if I need to reload it, I should probably just grab my knife and start cutting people.

      1. I’m not really thinking of a “tactical” reload while the threat is still ongoing, but rather in the interim between the immediate threat being down and the 4-10-20 minutes until the cops show up.

        New threats can arise in the interim and it would be handy to have a reloaded gun in case someone calls Rabbit and 8-Ball to tell them some guy killed T-Bone and they make it there before the fuzz.

  2. “But let us be honest with yourselves: how many of you carry a spare magazine every day? I sure don’t.”

    Always, always always. Mags can jam, and I might need more rounds. I NEVER go anyway without at least one mag, and its usually two. And now I’m thinking of upping that to four.

  3. I would run about 50/50 on carrying a spare but after the Westgate ordeal, I’m totally packing more rounds. Even if I AM having a very bad day, like the one-armed guy in The Unforgiven said “I don’t want to get killed for lack of shooting back.”

  4. I’m not thinking as a tactical reload. Just to not be standing over T-Bone with an unloaded gun while you wait like a good citizen the 4-10-20 minutes for the police to show up.

    You are betting their response time to a 911 cal will be faster than 8-Ball and Rabbit’s to a bystander’s text telling them their bro got waxed by some dude or that the gathering crowd won’t have someone looking to make a name for themselves.

  5. My wife and I both carry two extra mags whenever we leave the house. If I wasn’t so scrawny and had more belt real estate or my pockets weren’t already loaded with knives and other EDC essentials I’d probably carry a third.

  6. I’ve seen way too many competitors (well seasoned ones too) juggling their magazine trying to do a tac reload at an IDPA match to even consider it during or even after a “real” shooting event. Just being different than USPSA doesn’t justify it.

  7. I judge the tactical awareness and capability at first glance by which other LEOs carry spare magazines. It seems so easy to me (1x for double stacks and 2x for single stacks), and such good insurance, I can’t imagine not doing it, even off duty. Just witnessed a brand new P226R have a total magazine failure during a training course – it was a solid reminder why we carry spare mags. Also, a J-frame as a primary carry piece without a reload – come on. You can’t carry a bigger, more potent, easy to reload and fight with gun? I’d say the argument about Tac Reloads is moot if you aren’t prepared for a serious gunfight. Reference Crunkleross – the tac reload is post engagement, once you start breathing again. Extensive FoF and combat courses has shown the prepared Operator does a tac-reload as a post shooting ritual. See Henk Iverson for more on that.

  8. The most likely causes of failure in an autoloader are magazine related, so at least one spare is a Good Thing.

  9. Matthew Carberry – “New threats can arise in the interim and it would be handy to have a reloaded gun in case someone calls Rabbit and 8-Ball to tell them some guy killed T-Bone and they make it there before the fuzz.”


  10. I ALWAYS have at least a spare mag in my rear pocket when I’m armed, if not a spare mag in an IWB carrier.

    Admittedly, I only carry 2 spare mags (even when carrying a single stack pistol) if I’m wearing a shoulder rig — and then it’s as much a matter of trying to balance the weight a bit as anything. But I’m not an Operational Operator Operating on Operations.

  11. look almost everyone here is in agreement… yes a reload is good to have!

    but as to Crunkleross’s point of juggling the reload: why not just dump the damned mag on the ground and police it up if you have time latter? Look this may not be ideal for everyone but since I carry 3 spare for my Glock 17 (when I bother to carry it at all), why not? If I need to reload at all I have bigger problems than juggling mags and stowing a partially depleted mag.. just saying

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