Reload Lookiloos

9-Apr-13 – 15:54 by ToddG

tlg-reload-middle.jpg When I first got serious about defensive/tactical shooting about twenty years ago, one of the golden rules was never take your eyes off the bad guy. Specifically, they applied this rule to reloads. It was the height of suicidal stupidity, they said, to look at your gun when reloading.

But as I got more involved in competition shooting I also got more serious about tracking my shooting skills. Pretty quickly it became apparent that my reloads were substantially slower than many of my peers’. One thing they all had in common was that they used their eyes instead of trying to depend on the Force to guide their magazines. After all, no one ever tries to thread a needle with his eyes closed. Using your vision to aid in complex geometric tasks improves both speed and reliability.

Of course, I still run into students who have a hard time accepting the idea of looking at the gun instead of downrange. The argument is pretty simple: what if the bad guy does something and I don’t see it?

You have two choices then:

  1. Reload slower, and in the extra time it’s taking you to get back into a fight you’ll enjoy a nice view of the bad person shooting at you.
  2. Reload faster, and regardless of what the bad guy did at least you’ll have something other than a paperweight in your hand to deal with it.

Seriously, in the fraction of a second it takes to glance at the magwell as you insert the magazine what exactly do you think is going to happen? Unless you’re fighting The Flash, the guy can only move so far. So even if you’re flat footed and nowhere near cover (neither of which is an ideal tactic) I still can’t figure out where the overwhelming danger comes from.

On the other hand, it’s pretty well settled that the average poorly trained “gunfighter” lights off a shot every quarter second or so. That means if you fumble your reload just a little bit or have to slow down because you’re not watching what you’re doing you might add a few quarters of a second to your reload which means the bad guy gets to shoot at you more than if you’d finished faster.

Is it really that hard a choice?

Another argument is that looking at the magwell will spoil one’s ability to reload in the dark. Setting aside the questionable hypothetical in which someone is actually forced to reload his gun in a pitch black environment, it still makes more sense to practice the visual approach. Just like aiming the gun or any number of other things we want to practice until they happen subconsciously, learning the best way to reload the gun (which is aided by looking at what you’re doing) is going to make your blind, in the dark, under stress reloads much more likely to be on the money. Put another way, why purposely do your reloads in a subpar (blind) way all of the time instead of some of the time? That’s like saying that because your gun may malfunction, you purposely set it up to malfunction always.

magwellpaintFor years I’ve been using a little spot of paint on the inside of my magwell as a visual indicator to help me with my reloads. Competition shooters have been doing this since before I was born, probably. There’s a pretty strong correlation between my fumbled reloads and those times when I didn’t see the paint mark.

It also helps if your chosen reload technique involves having the gun up in front of your face, of course. If you reload at your belly button then you’re going to be visually disengaged from the downrange scene for a much longer time. Personally, I like to reload with the gun in a position that keeps the front sight in front of my eyes and in line to the target I’m going to shoot next. That makes it very easy and natural to pick the front sight up again visually as I press out after the reload.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 15 Responses to “Reload Lookiloos”

  2. But, OMG!!!!!! the guy in the pic has his muzzle pointed over the berm, people are going to DIE!!!!!!!!!! because of that……

    By Chuck Haggard on Apr 9, 2013

  3. “Competition shooters have been doing this since before I was born, probably.”

    Unfortunately for production shooters that is no longer allowed.

    By PPGMD on Apr 9, 2013

  4. PPGMD: “Unfortunately for production shooters that is no longer allowed.”

    And people say IDPA is the one with the stupid rules.

    By ToddG on Apr 9, 2013

  5. ToddG: “And people say IDPA is the one with the stupid rules.”

    I wouldn’t be surprised if IDPA has the same rule. So it likely isn’t a IDPA vs USPSA debate, simply a stupid rule debate.

    By PPGMD on Apr 9, 2013

  6. That whole never look at the gun thing hasn’t ever made sense to me. If the gun is at or near chin level during the reload the amount of time it takes to glance at the white spot on the inside of my mag well is so small I don’t believe a critter can do much to hurt me in that amount of time. I he/she can move that fast I’ve probably got bigger problems than the speed of my reloads.

    By longball on Apr 9, 2013

  7. PPGMD — I don’t think it’s against the rules in IDPA. At least, it wasn’t back when I was going to Nationals. It’s been about five years since I’ve been seriously involved, though, so perhaps something has changed.

    By ToddG on Apr 9, 2013

  8. Unfortunately for production shooters that is no longer allowed.

    That would obviously lead to an equipment race, forcing people who can’t afford a $1.98 paint marker out of contention, and would therefore violate the spirit of Production Class.

    Strikers and trigger bars machined from pure industrial diamond by $4,000/hr Swiss machinists are okie-dokie though…

    By Tam on Apr 9, 2013

  9. ToddG – I’ve always lived by the mantra, if it gives a competitive advantage, and not specifically allowed under the IDPA rules; you should assume that it is banned in IDPA, or will be banned if you beat a 1911 in CDP with it (the last part also known as the Langdon corollary).

    But I checked as far as I can tell it hasn’t been banned in IDPA yet. But OTOH it wasn’t banned in USPSA Production until someone brought it up with the NROI.

    By PPGMD on Apr 9, 2013

  10. PPGMD — I can’t call that paranoid since I was figuratively “at the table” when the Langdon/P220ST silliness erupted with IDPA HQ.

    Not sure about how Production handles gun finishes I did a bit of googling and came up with this thread at the Enos forum. Who even cares enough about things like that to make rules for it?

    By ToddG on Apr 9, 2013

  11. This is worse than the people who insist that you not look at your holster when reloading. Who cares if you snag your trigger and have a AD? Just don’t look at that holster!

    My police academy instructor would jump all over us for looking at our holsters and also taking our eyes off the bad guy for reloads.

    By SPD7171 on Apr 10, 2013

  12. ToddG – My head hurts after reading that thread. Does that mean I am bumped to open if I show up at a USPSA match with my Bianchi gun which was a Bianchi inspection sticker on the slide?

    Painting the inside of the magazine well was legal until this thread:

    Anyways people that keep making rules, or cause the NROI to make rules should be flogged. The joke about not reading the USPSA rule book is starting to become less true. But hey I just shoot Steel Challenge and Bianchi anymore.

    But OTOH the IDPA Rules Committee is still sitting on a decision to allow Glock beaver tail backstraps now that it is a factory part.

    By PPGMD on Apr 10, 2013

  13. PPGMD — No question, IDPA has some amazingly bad rules as well. But there’s at least some hope that they’ll take all the feedback from the past year and produce a better rulebook (which is supposed to be finished before the end of the year).

    Even though “KSTG” will probably never grow beyond my local club, when SLG and I wrote the rulebook years ago we took it very seriously. I understand how difficult it can be to cover all the nuances of shooting. I’m not concerned that the USPSA rulebook never said anything about painting the magwell, or that the IDPA rulebook never said anything about Glock beavertails. The blame lies with the decision-makers who, upon receiving the question, abandoned all logic.

    By ToddG on Apr 10, 2013

  14. Guess I need to remove some fingernail polish from my Production pistol. What a stupid ruling. But yea, I look. And I do it at my belly button because if I don’t, my range says I will shoot over the berm and hurt people-every time.

    By Matt S. on Apr 10, 2013

  15. I always believed and taught that when doing a reload, the gun was up at eye level so you could see both the gun and the bad guy you were watching…… You don’t have to have finite focus on either to get the reload done.

    Have you done testing to see how much slower it really is, or does it just seem like it takes longer.

    Under the stress of being shot at, or shooting at someone, I’m not sure they will look at their gun, focusing on the bad guy is what normally happens.

    By KennyT on Apr 10, 2013

  16. KennyT — Excellent point and I’m in complete agreement. Much like pistol sights, there are two reasons to practice with a visual index:

    (1) by practicing the movement efficiently and properly for many reps you’ll be more likely to be “on target” even if you do become threat focused under stress.

    (2) if you habituate the technique to the point that you’ll perform it properly even under stress, that’s a bonus.

    Practicing aimed fire improves both aimed fire and index/target-focused shooting. Practicing unaimed fire only improves unaimed fire, and arguably not as efficiently.

    By ToddG on Apr 10, 2013

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