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The Big Debate About Pistol Reloads: Slide Stop Lever or Over the Top?

The Big Debate About Pistol Reloads: Slide Stop Lever or Over the Top?

Posted by Warrior Poet Society on Mar 1st 2024

There's a big dilemma at the end of every pistol magazine–do I reload this way or that way? The law of tactical dynamics states that for nearly every tactical opinion, there is an equal and opposite tactical opinion and a fair amount of good reasons behind them both. I (John Lovell) prefer using that little button on the side of my pistol when I'm reloading. Plenty of other highly respected tacticians prefer the over-the-top method, which means racking the slide to get the chamber ready. Just choose one and be consistent.

To inboard slingshot or not to inboard slingshot. That is the question. But it just shouldn't cause a lot of stress.

An empty magazine in a firefight needs to be replaced, and there are two options after you've dropped the empty and placed the new. Your slide is back, and it needs to close.

Option 1: Press the lever.

Option 2: Rack the slide.

In this matrix, though, both the red pill and the blue pill will take you to the same reality and destination. Your slide will close and that first round will be snug inside the chamber and ready for action.

Press the Slide Lever

I prefer the slide stop lever. It's become a smooth workflow for me after all these years of doing it, and I just sort of appreciate the one-two punch of putting the magazine in place and thumbing that lever. It just feels simple and congruous.

Some might say it's a fine motor skill and those are denigrated in a firefight, but that's not been my experience. That's a terrible argument, actually. The key here, though, is that it's become so integrated into my system, through consistent training and drilling, that it's kind of second nature.

I also think it's just a little bit faster.

Here's one caveat though: If your magazine isn't fully placed before hitting that lever, you might experience a round-slide collision and a bit of a jam. So you've got to get that sequence down tight. That's why it's important to follow my rule of thumb, literally: make sure your thumb is staged above the lever and not on it.

Magazine goes in. Thumb goes down.

And this is one of the reasons that a lot of shooting instructors will insist on the inboard slingshot method: placing the magazine and racking the slide.

Rack the Slide

For new defensive shooters, a lot of instructors will train in the over-the-top method, or inboard slingshot approach, to reloading.

It's a bigger motor movement, you're less likely to run into the sequencing problem I mentioned above, and it doesn't limit left-handed shooters on a right-handed gun. So it provides universal action across multiple platforms as some pistols don't have ambidextrous functionality. Also, on subcompact guns, the slide stop lever might be a little harder to get used to. The caveat with this method, though, is not to miss when grabbing the slide. And this does happen.

RELATED POSTS | Are Pistol Compensators Worth It?Debate: 29 rounds in a 30-round magazineIs Your EDC Pistol Mission Ready?

Our Conclusion: Pick One and Train Consistently

Obviously I have a preference, but this doesn't make it a supreme principle, when it comes to reloading your magazines. There are many more important things to geek out on and debate about, because the pistols are designed to work both ways and plenty of great shooters out there disagree with my chosen approach.

Both methods work very well. So pick one, have a good reason, and train on it consistently and often.

Train Hard. Train Smart. Reload.


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