With few exceptions, trainers have been profoundly influenced by Colonel Jeff Cooper’s scientific method. We attempt to work in the spirit of his words to solve particular problems. In firearms, we take advantage of the newest materials and processes for reliability and accuracy. By the same token, we have to ask ourselves from time to time if our training and techniques are the best for our particular situation.
Prior training may not have been ideal for our own situation. Many of us fall back on training we received decades ago. While we had little choice at the time, today we may address the shortcomings of what we were taught and adopt more beneficial tactics and movements. We are all a product of our experience. Sometimes reasoning trumps experience and we find a better way. After all, while quality gear isn’t expensive, skill at arms is purchased with a different coin.
I was taught to extend the arm fully and reload with the handgun at the point of this extension. The goal was to keep the sights on the threat. Sometimes this is uncomfortable, and it isn’t the best choice for execution when firing from behind cover. I now bring the handgun in closer to reload, with less stress and extension on the arms. It works for me.
Another consideration is how to release the slide after a reload. It is often touted that instead of releasing the slide lock, we will grasp the rear of the slide to release it and allow it run forward, loading the handgun. This is good for some situations and isn’t as difficult for some of us to execute. But is it really best? For many, it depends on hand size. If the hand is large and the thumb long, the slide lock may be hit and the slide dropped more quickly.
If only one hand is available, there isn’t another option. Sometimes the handgun must be canted slightly to one side in order to hit the slide lock with the thumb, especially if, like myself, you have a short thumb. There are different ways to release the slide, and one will be best for you most of the time. Be familiar with each. Hand size will rule the choice. Be certain the slide returns sharply.
When reloading, taking the muzzle away from the target or downrange isn’t a good choice. So, we bring the pistol in close but try to keep on target. After all, we are reloading to address the target again. One of the advantages of the semi-automatic pistol is that the piece is easily reloaded and the muzzle may stay practically on target as we reload. The pistol may be reloaded quickly, and moving the muzzle back toward the target should be rapid. Don’t attempt awkward movements that limit dexterity, but work on smoothness and a rapid reload.
A questionable tactic that was once part of police qualification was firing from kneeling. This involves going to one knee and bracing the handgun against the weak-side knee with the support arm. While it is fairly solid in a range environment, I am unaware of this technique being used in a critical incident. An advantage is a solid firing position and a smaller target.
At gunfight ranges, you will not have time to assume the kneeling position. It takes time to get into this position. I don’t see competitors using this position but rather addressing targets from a strong two-hand firing position. Once you get into the kneeling position, it is difficult to get out of it, the more so if you have not practiced. Finding cover is more important than firing from a kneeling position. Does kneeling actually reduce the target size? Hardly.
We are not taught to fire for the legs, and the legs are a pretty thin target. We fire for center mass, and more than likely so will the bad guys. Kneeling simply lowers the torso, the primarily aiming point, and folds the legs up. This position is more difficult as you grow older. The time to learn if it is useful for you is on the range, not in a critical incident.
I have often scratched my head at the propagation of the tactical reload. This is simply reloading the piece before it runs dry. You have fired a number of rounds and the threat may still be active, so you remove the magazine and retain it, in case you need those rounds, while inserting a fully loaded magazine. I just don’t see it. When most shooters are carrying high-capacity magazine handguns, this isn’t viable.
Most gunfights are over within a few rounds fired. If you have fired half a magazine, I would recommend bearing down and hitting the target with the remaining rounds, not reloading and continuing to miss. While the tactical reload may have a place in competition, I seldom practice it with handguns.
Base the techniques you use on actual practice in manipulation. Orderliness and coherence are practiced on the range, and you will become smoother with practice. This is the stone to your foundation and the basis of your formidable position in personal defense if you train consistently. It is all about matter in motion. We should practice variations on proven drills and also practice new techniques that may be better than the ones previously adopted.