John Lovell insists on a "minus-one" magazine load when operating his AR-15, a slightly controversial practice that he says helps strengthen his tactical reloads. While some shooters might call this wholly unnecessary, John says leaving one round out ensures more reliability in how your magazine performs during a tactical reload.
I (John Lovell) admit that I love my AR-15 and I love tactical reloads. That's why, when I'm loading my 30-round AR magazines, I leave them one round short. Placing 29 rounds in a 30-round magazine seems ridiculous to some, but after years of shooting I hold my belief firmly about this. It all has to do with my gun's performance during a tactical reload.
What is a Tactical Reload?
During a tactical scenario such as a firefight, a tactical reload means the bolt is closed, the magazine is empty, and it's time to exchange it for a fully-charged magazine. I'm not pulling the bolt back. I'm just taking one magazine out and placing another one in.
Sometimes in the process of changing out magazines, an operator places the new magazine but it doesn't seat properly, so instead of getting back in the fight he's watching his magazine fall to the floor. Of course this can happen for a variety of reasons, but one common cause of this magazine mishap is the crowding caused by that 30th bullet.
It doesn't happen every time, but it does happen sometimes and I see no reason to avoid this embarrassing and, potentially, compromising problem. Thus, the 29-round magazine load. With this minus-one practice, you give everything in the housing and chamber enough space and spring to get the first round ready to go.
The 29-Round Magazine
That's why for me, a 30-round AR magazine should only be given 29 rounds. You don't have to agree, of course, but here's my question–if you've emptied 29 rounds and no one's dead yet, do you really think that 30th round is worth risking a magazine malfunction?
I've got five combat tours under my belt, and out of all the dudes I know who have been in gnarly gun fights from SWAT teams, federal agencies or military, I really can't think of anyone who needed to do an emergency reload because they shot through all their rounds without planning for it.
Tactical reloads are the professional practice of knowing how many rounds you've expended and planning for your next magazine exchange. When this planned and measured reload happens, the bolt is in and the gun is ready to keep shooting.
The space and springiness in the magazine afforded by the absence of that 30th round means the gun won't even know you were out of bullets. So you're doing your tactical reload. You're pulling back from the fight, scanning, and exchanging your magazine. You forcefully push the new mag in, stow the empty, give two hard taps to the new one to be sure it's seated, and you're back in the fight.
With 29 in a 30, your magazine gets seated every single time. Now, if you are a 30-round commando and this all just ticks you off, feel free to disagree!
For more on tactical reloads and this ongoing 29-round controversy with guys like Paul Perkerson, WATCH THIS: John's WRONG | Full 30 is the WAY for AR Mags!. Case in Point: Paul's 30-round magazine, in this video, did not seat properly. I'm vindicated.
Train hard. Train Smart. Don't Screw Up Your Tactical Reloads with a 30th Round.