MASTERING THE SEMI-AUTOMATIC
How can you become proficient with the semi-automatic pistol? It involves more than just sight alignment and pulling the trigger. An understanding of how your gun operates and what causes and clears malfunctions may help to save your life in a threatening situation!
We all know that the things that happen in Hollywood (no malfunctions, no jams, always full ammo) are … well, Hollywood FAKE! These things DO happen in real life! So whether you are interested in self defense or competitive shooting, an empty gun is no good. More and more laws and states are placing restrictions on magazine capacity so the ability to quickly reload a semi-automatic handgun is the essential.
There are several individual movements to properly achieve these steps. By practicing, these moves will not only be natural, but will become a single, fluid motion.
Step 1: Dump the Spent Magazine
As the slide locks back after the last round, immediately hit the magazine release button. With ambidextrous magazine releases (or a reversible release button for lefties), this is done with the thumb of the shooting hand. In the same motion, can’t the magazine well inward 45 to 60 degrees toward the body’s centerline to the side that the new magazine will arrive from. For a right-handed shooter carrying extra magazines on the left side, the mag well goes to the left. If your gun allows the magazine to drop freely, the support hand should already be off the gun and moving to the new magazine. If the magazine is not a drop-free design, the support hand lingers for a moment to strip the empty mag from the gun and discard it. These steps clear the empty mag from the gun and get it out of the way.
Step 2: Keep Gun in Position to Stay on Target
With the magazine cleared and the gun canted, bring the elbow of the gun hand sharply back until it contacts the torso, holding the gun just below eye level. This creates a consistent and repeatable position for the gun to receive the new magazine, while allowing you to keep an eye on the targets and on the gun.
Step 3: Grab a Fresh Magazine
By this time, the support hand should already be wrapped around a fresh magazine. The proper position of the magazine in the hand is with the bullets facing forward. The index finger of the hand rests along the front edge of the magazine with the fingertip just below the exposed bullet (see below, left). The three remaining fingers secure the magazine on the outside, while the thumb locks onto the magazine on the inside. This hand position encourages a smooth motion, bringing the new magazine up into the magazine well. This happens because the pointer finger on the magazine will easily find the hand wrapped around the stock of the gun—a “hands find hands” situation. Carry spare magazines with the bullets facing forward in the mag pouch as part of this technique.
Step 4: Recharge the Pistol
Insert the new magazine. With the gun in the Step 2 position and the mag well canted, it’s simple for mag to meet mag well with the pointer finger leading the way. Once the magazine enters the well, follow with the heel of the hand to seat it firmly. The thumb is then in the proper position to ride upward along the grip to hit the slide release lever, while the rest of the support hand rolls onto the proper shooting grip.
Step 5: Back on Target
As soon as the slide release is hit, rotate the gun back to vertical and push it toward the target.
When properly executed, the time between the last shot from the empty magazine and the first accurate shot from a new magazine (measured on an electronic timer) can be less than 2 seconds for the physically gifted, and around 3 seconds for the rest of us. An empty semi-auto doesn’t have to stay empty for long.