What’s The Absolute BEST Way to Reload Your Gun?


Today, I want to start a WAR amongst gun owners by talking about the “best” way to reload a handgun.

Why a war? Because this is a constant debate amongst gun guys.

Instead of fighting about it, let’s talk about it this way:


1. What’s the FASTEST way to reload your gun?

2. What’s the EASIEST way to reload your gun, especially when teaching beginners?

What’s The Absolute BEST Way to Reload Your Gun?

Between gun guys there is a constant debate that has raged for a millenia … or … uh … at least a good bit of time on the internet.

What’s the correct way to reload your gun?

Specifically, one camp says use the “slide lock” with your thumb and the other side says that that’s too unreliable and won’t work under stress and they preach manipulating the actual slide.

Here are the four most commonly taught methods to release the slide during a reload, by Paul Sharp:

As you can see, Paul Sharp shows four methods:

1. Is the slide release using the support hand (slide release)
2. Is the slide release using the firing hand (slide release)
3. Is the over the top grab the slide (racking slide)
4. Is the sling shot grab the slide (racking slide)

Both 1 and 2 are the fastest ways to get the slide closed and get the gun back in action. This is proven, this is true, and it’s the reason why almost all competition shooters use the slide release button.

Numbers 3 and 4 are taught by a lot of “defense” oriented pistol instructors and for various reasons.

The only “reason why” that doesn’t hold up is the “stress response”. They say that during a gun fight your adrenaline and other stress hormones are so high that you can’t use your fingers to do “fine motor skills” like thumbing a slide release. These people are obviously wrong because aiming your gun using the sights, and working the trigger are also all “fine motor skills” that hundreds, if not thousands, of people have all done in a gun fight before you.

To me this is actually a simple argument and here is my answer:

Do What You Want, But One Method is Proven Faster

If you are concerned totally with how fast you can reload, then you should use the slide lock button. It’s the fastest way to release the slide when reloading. Period.

That said …

I do think that there are benefits to teaching a slide manipulating method to beginners.

In the video below James Yeager demonstrates his method to reloading the auto pistol and then shows how the same “idea” is used to reload the AK-47 and AR-15 as well — insert the magazine, run the “slide”:

The Benefits of “Non-Diagnostic Weapon Handling”

James talks in the video about “Non-Diagnostic Weapon Handling” and he actually has a good point.

He says that you’re training to handle the weapon in the same way every time. What do we do with handguns? We load them, reload them, and type 1 (round doesn’t go off or empty chamber), 2 (stovepipe, or failure to fully eject), and 3 malfunctions (double feed).

He points out that for EVERY one of those a “Tap, Rack, Assess” works for every one of those things you can do with a handgun.

Again, I don’t buy the argument of “under stress” the rack the slide method is better … but I will say … having taught and seen a lot of beginners fumble with their weapon manipulation skills and being “unsure” about how to use the handgun, that teaching ONE method to simplify the process for EVERYTHING you can do with a handgun is quite appealing.

In short, if I had one afternoon to teach someone to use a handgun, I’d show them the “Tap, Rack, Assess” method of reloading because as James points out then the only thing you need to remember is “If a Tap, Rack does not fix it then reload the gun” and then it’s the same tap, rack to reload it.

But if you’re a student of the gun … and your gun handling/manipulation skills are already good … and you want to get faster, and more efficient, then you might want to adopt the slide release reload as you improve because it is faster. I guess it’s up to you if that small improvement in reload speed

What do you think? How do you reload and why?

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Caleb Lee is the #1 best-selling author of "Concealed Carry 101" and founder of PreparedGunOwners.com. He is a civilian (no law enforcement or military experience) who shares information about self-defense and becoming more self-reliant. He's a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo, NRA Certified Basic Pistol & Personal Protection Inside The Home Instructor, Concealed Carry Academy Instructor certified & also a graduate of the Rangermaster firearms instructor course. He's also the author of numerous online courses including the UndergroundAssaultRifle.com course.


  1. Just asked Ruger yesterday about using the slide lock to release the slide on my SR9C.
    They told me that it wasn’t designed to be used that way and would damage the mechanism.

    • My SR45…with the black slide (Ruger’s stainless tooling was awful on the one, a mess inside and out, that I returned for replacement) slam loads, a feature that some poly frame pistols intentionally have, but isn’t publicized or even admitted.
      1) Eject spent mag
      2) Slam home new mag with heel of hand…slide releases automatically without another function operation, placing gun into battery.
      3) BANG !
      4) Repeat as required
      It’s lightning fast and I really like it.
      Sharp’s Method 1, offhand thumb slide release, is what I use on 1911s etc.

  2. I do not have the finger or thumb strength to release the slide lock, so I grab the rear section of the slide with my fingers over the top to one side and the base of my thumb on the other. I use this for all slide manipulation. This method works well for women, most of whom do not have the strength to use other methods.

  3. Both Rick and Nancy have valid points. I watched a video of two Navy Seals who were demonstrating reload methods while being timed. Using the slide release as opposed to using the off hand to manipulate the slide, was shown to be a little over one second faster. In a gunfight, one second less time reloading could be a life or death matter. However, if a lack of hand strength means you can’t use the slide release, then you rack the slide- it’s your only option. In that case, I would advise some intensive practice to get as much speed as possible. As far as being told that using the slide release will cause damage to the mechanism, more research needs to be done if that info is correct. The slide release is called that because it releases the slide. On every auto pistol I own that has a slide release, that’s how I release the slide. Being left handed,I use my trigger finger, as my thumb is on the wrong side of the gun. I have been doing this for years and have experienced no breakages. Ruger is well known for building really strong guns, and I find it hard to believe the information from their employee. Either he was ill informed, or if this is one of their new polymer guns, they may be more fragile than a steel gun. I think this needs another call to Ruger and a talk with some one higher up the ladder. If that info is correct, it’s the first I’ve heard of it. Of course, I’m only a shooter, not a gunsmith and what I’ve given is an opinion, for what it’s worth.

  4. I occasionally use the slide lock to release some of my guns like my Desert Eagles, but it doesn’t work well on 1911s. They just don’t work that way. Military training says work the slide.

    When shooting my EDCs which are either a G21 or a Jericho 941, I simply slam the new mag home and the action closes. Now, some people would say these guns are defective in some way, but they have both worked like this since they were purchased, so I just go with it.

    • Slam Load is designed in to some models, mostly poly frame.
      I have it on an SR45, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
      It’s a great feature and is lightning fast placing the gun into battery.

  5. You have great articles on semi pistols but not everyone have a semi, I have a 357 revolver, granted its only a five shot but they will go though what a 9 mil won’t and that could save your life. I do have two speed loaders and that gives me 15 rounds, equal to a 9 mil. If you have to fire more than 15 shots you better carry a ammo can course your in a war!

  6. I would prefer to use the slide lock to release the slide, but had read the owners manual, and it called for pulling the slide off the catch.
    I will train to try to shortent he time it takes to do that, as opposed to possibly being unless for several weeks, if it has to go back to Ruger.

  7. I have a pair of 9mm XD Mod 2’s (4″ & 5″) with 16 round magazines. I carry a 16 load plus one, and two spares. I practice with caps at home both racking and slide release, ambidextrious too (I shoot RH R eye but am a natural lefty so I don’t want to lose that option) Time wise, it’s a draw. If I need more than one mag, I’m gonna wish I bought the 32 round aftermarket and stuffed it into my jeans. Just sayin…

  8. There’s an even faster way to reload. It’s called the “reduced capacity reload”. That means you change magazines BEFORE you run out and the slide locks back. This takes some prior planning and, a lot of practice but, it is faster by far than any of the before mentioned methods. If you’re in a gunfight, you should be doing one of two things, firing or moving and, anytime you move you should have a full magazine. This may not be practical for every day carry here in the US but, in full out “combat” it’s the preferred method.

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