The workspace reload

After seven months of working exclusively with wheelguns, it’s time to get serious with semi-auto pistols again. One of the most important pistol skills for competition shooters in the Production and Single Stack divisions is the reload. An average USPSA stage will have 2-4 reloads, IDPA stages will usually have at least one. My reload technique has evolved over time, today we’re looking at the “workspace” reload.

For novice shooters, your “workspace” is the area directly in front of your face – it’s the stuff you can see without moving your head up or down. Keeping the gun “up in your workspace” is considered an advantage by some tactical trainers so that you can keep your eyes downrange even while looking the magazine home into the gun. Here’s a pretty good photo of me reloading in my workspace.

caleb workspace reload

I got pretty good at reloading up high like that, and could consistently stick reloads around 1 second from an open mag pouch. The advantage to reloading up high like that is that you don’t have to look down – even if you take your eyes off the target to look the magazine into the gun (like you should) your head is still up, making it easier to see important stuff downrange when you finish the reload.

The disadvantage to reload up so high is that as it turns out, it’s slower. It may only be a half a second or so, when compared to bringing the gun down lower, but a half-second is a long time, especially in a match. Let’s say that a major IDPA match has an average of 1.5 reloads over the course of 12 stages. That half-second per reload turns into a six second swing, which can easily be the difference between winning and losing. Since IDPA reloads must all now be static, sticking the load quickly becomes even more important to a successful stage, because you can’t move until the gun is loaded. It’s a little more flexible in USPSA, as the ability to reload while moving between positions gives you the change to take your reload as a free action on the move; but you still don’t want to have a slow load.

Ultimately, reloading in the workspace vs. a little lower isn’t a hill worth dying on. If you reload up high and like it, keep doing it. I would say that if you’re PURELY focused on shooting for self-defense and don’t care about competition, the visual advantages of having the gun up high are preferable, so work that workspace reload like a boss. Just don’t get too crazy with like some instructors teach where the gun is straight up and down, or the magwell is up in your eyeballs.


  1. At least two of the USPSA/IDPA Clubs normally shoot matches at have a “No Muzzle Up” rule imposed by the host range/Gun Club. Meaning specifically that the muzzle never rises above the top of their backstop (berm, etc.) or you’re done for the day. This in the NE US but even a couple of Clubs that were or are out in farmlands, etc. have had considerable legal difficulty with projectiles leaving their their property to the point that they’ve been shut down until the problem was resolved or forced into bankruptcy. So all this has necessitated moving ones “workspace” down considerably to compensate. It’s doable but how many more “tenths” it takes has become a none-issue if one wants to shoot, then it’s impossible to use an unrestricted reload at Club X if Club Y deems you must do a “safe” reload. One Club even requires “safe” reloads on their indoor ranges that have steel sheet in the ceiling. The various leagues only shoot indoors in the cold weather months but the host wants complete uniformity of action. So if there is an IDPA Match with a couple of “Dark” Stages it’s easy to make a costly mistake and this club is close enough to the “Indoor Nationals” that quite a few want dark or “Low-Light” stages to build up for an expensive and prestige match. Good thing is, revolver shooters are pretty much exempt and free to go full muzzle up with no worry…
    But this doesn’t solve the auto-shooters reload dilemma.

    Curious if you meant 1.0 sec. for a USPSA reload or “Flat-Foot” IDPA “slide locked-back” reload ?

    1. It isn’t an USPSA match if they have any rules but the ones in the USPSA rule book and the few allowed additional allowed rules via things like WSBs and shooters meetings. HQ approvals for local rules are few and far between.

  2. Doesn’t it also give you a clearer view of the magwell?

    Do you find any difference in the consistency of your reloads using a “workspace” reload or a lower one?

    1. I’ve found that I’m more consistent when I lower the gun to a more “middle of the chest” reload.

  3. never thought about the muzzle up “problem.” think I’ll make a point of mentioning that to my club, as we’re doing a range remodel/redesign, the HVAC is going to be ABOVE the range itself, and we host IDPA and other leagues.

  4. Funny, I haven’t looked at teh magwell while reloading a gun I have shot more than once or twice in years. . . so I leave the gun somewhere between the navel and nipples, so as not to obstruct my downrange view. Plus, it’s easier (and thus faster and less likely to screw up) for my stubby T-Rex arms to work low.

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