Semi-automatic pistols have three advantages when compared to revolvers: they provide increased ammunition capacity, they allow faster reloads that are easier to achieve, and they are easier to shoot well.
For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll limit our focus to the first two items.
Ammunition capacity can be an important feature. Although many, if not most, civilian self defense shootings involve a fairly small number of shots fired, they don’t always. Bill Davidson of Tac Pro in Mingus, Texas, was involved in a number of handgun fights while doing executive protection and related security work in SE Asia and Africa. Based on his experiences, he is of the opinion that a self defense handgun should hold at least 10 rounds.
The Speed Reload could also be called a Proactive Reload. If you have fired your handgun in defense of your life, odds are that you will be somewhat excited and will not be able to count shots fired.
Among our students here in the US we have had shootings requiring 8, 11, and 12 rounds in the past few years. Fortunately, the students involved had guns that held enough ammo. Multiple attackers are becoming more and more common, and it often takes several shots per assailant to solve the problem. A high capacity handgun helps avoid the dread disease, Ammunition Deficit Disorder, which can be fatal.
As noted in the opening paragraph, one advantage of the autoloader is that loaded spare magazines are very easily carried on the person, and they make reloading a fast, simple procedure. In this article, let’s examine two reloading techniques: The Speed Reload and The Emergency Reload, which serve different functions.
The Speed Reload could also be called a Proactive Reload. If you have fired your handgun in defense of your life, odds are that you will be somewhat excited and will not be able to count shots fired. After decades of investigating shootings, it appears to me that most people fire more shots than they realize. This means that your gun is probably closer to being empty than you realize.
So, at the first lull in the action, get a spare magazine into your support hand, get it right up by the gun, then jettison the partial magazine from the handgun and insert a new, fully loaded one. Your reload is completed when both hands are back on the gun and you are ready to fire again if needed. The goal is to get the new magazine right up by the gun and exchange them quickly, so the gun is not unloaded for any length of time.
Have your students imagine lines extending forward from their nose and their chin. Inside this space, right below the line of sight, is the best place to conduct the reload. This keeps the gun in the shooter’s peripheral vision and prevents looking down at the gun, thereby losing track of the assailant(s).
If the handgun runs out of ammunition while you are still engaged in the fight, that requires an Emergency Reload, which is also called a Reactive Reload. If you look in your dictionary for the word “emergency,” it says, “Your gun is out of ammo and someone needs to be shot right now!” The procedure is largely the same as for a Speed Reload. Keep the handgun in the “work space” described above. At the same time, get your gun hand thumb onto the magazine release and grab a fresh magazine with your support hand. Eject the spent magazine as the new one comes to the gun. Insert the full magazine, continuing upward with the support hand to grasp the slide and jerk it rearward, chambering a fresh round. Get your hands back on the gun and go back to shooting.
Claude Werner, formerly the chief instructor at the famed Rogers School, opines that the main reason people need to reload is because of missing the target. He’s right. Learn to shoot well and practice frequently to maintain your skills. Throw in multiple attackers, partial targets obscured by cover, movement, and the chaos and stress of real life and death encounters, and the need for more ammunition than your gun holds may materialize at the worst moments. Knowing how to quickly and efficiently reload is the remedy.