The tactical reload is a term for topping off your partially empty pistol. It has been termed a method of getting your pistol fully loaded when there is a lull in the fight, but let’s examine the technique a bit further.
With one exception that I’ll get to in a minute, it is probably not a good idea to try to do a tactical reload while the fight is going on. If the fight is still hot and you can’t get away, the smart thing is to keep firing your pistol until you get to slide lock and then do a speed reload. Frankly, if there is a lull in the fight, the best thing for any armed citizen to do is to use that time to get away.
Regardless of what may be required in some combat-shooting matches, it is never a good idea to do any reloading out in the open. Cover is your friend. No matter how fast you are at recharging your pistol, standing out in the open makes you extremely vulnerable, especially when occupied with the task of recharging the pistol.
So let’s assume that you have been using your head when the fight started and have taken good cover as quickly as possible. So far, so good. But now, for whatever reason, you need to leave that cover–maybe you are about to be flanked, or you need to go to the aid of a family member. This is the exception that I mentioned about a tactical reload during a fight. You should top the gun off before making your move instead of possibly having to reload on the run, out in the open.
The tactical reload for semi-automatic handguns is accomplished by grasping the fully loaded magazine and holding it between your thumb, index finger and middle finger, just as you would do in a speed load. You move the fresh magazine to the gun and then press the mag release, catching the partially loaded magazine with the ring finger and little finger of the same hand. The fresh magazine is seated and the partially loaded magazine is put into a pocket–you might need that extra ammo before the fight is over.
With revolvers, the cylinder is opened and the ejector rod is partially engaged with the support-hand thumb, so that the cartridges are lifted up from the cylinder but not fully ejected. With your strong hand, pluck out the fired cases and replace them with ammo from your belt or speed strip. Either technique is time-consuming and is another reason that we don’t recommend a tactical reload while bullets are flying.
When the fight is over, it is an excellent idea to top your pistol off using a tactical reload. You are pretty sure that the fight is over, there are no longer bullets flying about and no bad guys in sight, but one never knows for sure.
Give some thought as to when a tactical reload would be appropriate. By all means, practice it during your dry-fire sessions. It is a valid defensive technique that could just save your life.