In basic training, one of the first tasks you learn with your rifle is the emergency reload. It is called an emergency because you are out of ammunition in a firefight. How long do you have to get your rifle running again? The rest of your life. While it is important to reload fast, it is also important that it is done properly so that you don’t fumble or miss a step, making the process take longer.
When reloading a rifle, there are a few things happening. First thing is that you are going to notice that the rifle is not firing anymore, and you may desire to take a split second to confirm that your rifle is empty and that it didn’t instead malfunction. Upon confirming that the rifle is empty, you can either keep the rifle in your shoulder, or take it out of your shoulder for the reloading process. It is common for people to bring the rifle out of their shoulder, in a muzzle up position, for the reload process in order to give them better control and coordination. From here, the priority is to eject the empty magazine so that you can replace it with a full magazine, or at least one that has some ammo in it. This can be done first, or you may prefer to wait until you get your new magazine out. Either way, you will first want to release the magazine and either let it drop to the ground, or retain it. Then you want to insert your new magazine into the magwell with enough force that it seats firmly and securely. From here you just need to feed the first round into the chamber by racking the action, or releasing the bolt if it is locked to the rear. Now you are back in action and ready to continue firing.
I remember being lined up in boot camp and practicing reloads with my M16A2. We were taught to keep the rifle in our shoulder with our eyes and muzzle pointed downrange at the target. We were expected to be able to conduct these reloads with our eyes closed even. We were to retain the magazine, store it with the follower up in our magazine pouch, and then find a fresh magazine. From there we learned and practiced getting the magazine locked into the magwell and use the bolt release on the side of the rifle to get the rifle back into action. It took a good amount of practice to reload the rifle quickly and get the rifles back into action. Now that is just how we learned how to conduct reloads to begin with. Later on it was acceptable to just drop the magazine or let it fall to the ground in order to speed up the process of getting the rifle running again. The process of conducting emergency reloads quickly, regardless of the method you use, takes a considerable amount of finesse, agility, strength, and coordination to do properly and quickly. But the goal is to practice the method you choose so much that the process can be done almost instinctively.
When doing emergency reloads, you may find that the process can take longer than you would like for any number of reasons. Maybe you have your magazines in pouches with velcro and snap closure retention straps. This can take time to overcome and get a new magazine out. Perhaps you have a rifle that does not lock open on the last round fired and needs you to manually cycle the action like on the Kalashnikov platforms. Basically there are innumerable amounts of variables that can impede your ability to stay within a certain window of time for your reloads. This is especially the case if the time window was established with the idea of the magazines having little to no retention.
How about the possibility that when you run dry, your threat immediately takes that split second to return fire. If this is the case, wouldn’t it be good to put more of a priority on taking cover before trying to break a world record on the time it takes for you to reload? A lot of rounds can hit you in one second, let alone three or four. This specific, and very real, possibility is just another reason why taking your eyes off the threat to reload your rifle is a bad idea. It can take less than a second for someone to pop out from cover and place a well aimed shot in your center of mass at a range of under 50 yards. These kinds of variables are things that I recommend you take into account when you are conducting any practical training and trying to establish universal standards and times for emergency reloads.
FOCUS ON SPEED
When training to conduct reloads, it is important to do them quickly. You will find yourself getting alot faster and learning how to overlap some of your tasks in order to cut some of the fat off of your reload times. You may find that ejecting the magazine first is faster than waiting until you have a new magazine ready. You may decide to hold the rifle in your shoulder to aid in cutting the time it takes to get the rifle back on target after completing the reload. Speed is very important in an emergency reload if you are in the military since most of the time you aren’t going to have a pistol to transition to if the enemy is right on top of you. Either way, you shouldn’t take your time reloading a rifle, or performing any kind of action on your rifle for that matter. You should make sure that anything you are doing that doesn’t involve shooting is done with haste. It is just a good habit to be in. But with trying to increase your speed, you do run the risk of overlapping some of the steps, and even missing one or two along the way. You have to be careful about that.
MAKE IT RELIABLE
When you are under pressure, it is common for us to try to combine tasks in order to get the process done faster. But this kind of tendency can cause problems that can have an impact on how fast we are able to reload. For this reason, some methods center around the worst case scenario and favor doing things that will work regardless of what happens and what kind of rifle you are using. For example, people train to grab the magazine and pull it out of the magwell of their M4 instead of trusting it to just fall to the ground. They also prefer to use the charging handle to release the bolt, which also works if the bolt doesn’t lock to the rear on the last round fired. This is not a bad set of precautions to add into your training, because everything has a tendency to work until you really need it to. I personally have experienced magazines failing to drop free from my rifle, which causes you to have to manually remove them while depressing the magazine release button. Whatever process you use, it is a good idea to practice it constantly and try to use a method that will cover you in multiple instances…just in case.
No matter what process you choose to use, I suggest that you practice it often. Also remember that when you are practicing the process to get it down to being second nature, slow is smooth and smooth is fast. When you do things often enough at normal speed, no matter the process, you will end up getting faster just naturally. It is just like writing. You start out just trying to make the letters right with the proper spacing and keep it readable. Then as you do it more often, you can do it faster and faster. Eventually you are able to write out sentences without even thinking about it directly. It becomes second nature, just as conducting emergency reloads should be. Just remember to practice, practice, practice.