Friday, March 7, 2014

Stripping Vs Dumping Magazines

If you train at any number of shooting schools long enough you will find that even if they agree on certain aspects of shooting where they can almost violently disagree is in the small stuff.

How many forum death matches have been waged over whether or not to use the slide release or rack the slide; whether to use to the strong side thumb to release a magazine or the support hand; whether to bring a gun to a low ready or high, SUL or something else?

Just as hotly debated is the sequence of events surrounding magazine changes.

For the first four or five years I carried and trained in firearms I traditionally hit the magazine release with my strong-side thumb while retrieving a fresh magazine and pretty much expected the magazine well of my gun to be empty by the time I got back with my fresh magazine.

When I went to the Tactical Defense Institute for the second time (the first time was a knife class so there wasn't a lot of talk about magazine changes) I was introduced to the concept of "stripping" an empty (or troubled) magazine from the gun before retrieving a fresh one.

With stripping the magazine, once the firearm is empty and the slide locks back, or if the gun jams to the point where a magazine change is required, one hits the magazine release with the strong-side thumb (or however they hit the release for lefties) and physically rips or "strips" the magazine from the auto-loader with the support hand before retrieving a fresh magazine.

The reasons the instructors gave for this were primarily three-fold:
1. Your magazine can get hung up and doesn't always drop free.
2. You could be in a strange position where gravity will not help your magazine out of the gun.
3. If your gun is jammed with what is commonly known as a "double-feed" (or, more accurately, a failure to extract). Your magazine will not fall free and you will have to physically tear it from the gun.

I've always appreciated the attitude of the TDI instructors. They don't go to any deep lengths to force you to do things their way (as long as you are being safe) but they do ask you at least try their method, see if it works for you and move on. If it doesn't, no big deal.

I can respect that. So I tried it. It was a heck of an effort to back pedal and unlearn just hitting the button.

It took some effort but it's become my standard reload to the point where I would have to unlearn the practice if I tried to change it again. I don't see that happening because I've seen the benefits of it several times, especially since I have been going to different classes that require shooting from strange positions with firearms and have higher rates of malfunctions because of said strange shooting positions.

The most glaring example was while I was at ECQ last fall. We were practicing drawing and shooting from all sorts of strange positions on the ground, one of them being flat on our back, shooting over our heads. I'd taken shots from all sorts of strange positions before so that wasn't particularly new and when my slide locked open upon empty, I didn't even think about it, I stripped the magazine, retrieved a fresh one, reloaded my gun and just kept shooting.

My husband happened to be taking video and took a quick screen shot.
Stripping the empty before retrieving a fresh magazine

Now, I'll be the first to say this isn't a perfect magazine change. I could have brought it back to my chest so I didn't have an empty gun just sticking out over my head, my hands wouldn't have had so far to travel, yada, yada, yada, but for the purpose of getting more ammo in the gun it was enough. I was reloaded and shooting again before it really even dawned on me that my newer practice of stripping a magazine vs dropping or dumping it made a change in a position like this a total non-issue.

Being able to strip my magazines more effectively (especially if really jammed up) is also why I have cutouts in the bottom of both of my Glocks.

Try it out. See what you think.


  1. OK, I wan't signed in and I think it ate my comment, so if you get two, please delete one.

    Two thoughts:
    1. When something like this is hotly debated within the community and the argument just won't die, it is often because both sides have equal merit and it really doesn't matter as long as you pick one that works for you and train it to muscle memory (9 vs 45, ready position, stance arguments, etc.).
    2. This is a compelling argument. I have always been a hit the button and shake it out guy, but I am now reconsidering.

    1. That's what I used to do, too.
      And I agree. For instance, I use the slide release. I can't tell you how much grief I've gotten in some circles for that but in the end it works very well for me and I have yet to miss it. I'll sling-shot the slide if I'm in a class where someone is REALLY particular about it, but when they aren't looking I go back to the slide stop.. I'm just THAT rebellious. :D

    2. hahahaha nice! Do what works. But just be able to do both as necessary.

  2. When I was being taught "defensive" shooting I was taught to strip the magazine on the reload. The reasoning was essentially the same as TDI. I have since moved away from it and now address that issue differently. If I get the spare magazine back to the gun and the empty magazine hasn't fallen free yet, it is pretty easy to transition to how I would typically do a reload with retention/tactical reload and strip the magazine at that point, just before inserting the new magazine. That way, I am not wasting time on the strip unless I need to.

  3. It's a function of priorities and understanding what should matter when the moment to perform the reload actually occurs.

    If we're working under the assumption that (a) you've shot a lot of bullets already and (b) you need more bullets RIGHT NOW then time is a factor. Going through extra motions every single time you reload because once in a while those actions might help could be very inefficient. Taken to its absurd conclusion you'd Tap-Rack after every shot just to be sure there's a round in the chamber... and then tap-rack again and... well, I did say it was an absurd conclusion.

    Like Nate, my approach is to do the most efficient, fast reload I can and if something doesn't work out THEN I deal with it. Stripping the mag in the middle of the reload doesn't take any more time or effort than stripping it to begin with, but by waiting until I need it I eliminate the effort altogether 99% of the time.

    The average untrained person sprays and prays 3-4 shots per second in your direction. Every quarter of a second you add to a task means there's one more chance for his prayer to be answered before you finish what you're trying to accomplish.

  4. I think overall the strip has more merit than the dump, but YMMV. I also like not having to make choices about which procedure to use on the fly, just do it.

    The very first semi-auto pistol I learned on was a Glock 17 back in the early 90s and it required a dump vs strip. The early Glocks were made to (as I understood it) Austrian military requirements, and one requirement was that the magazine NOT drop free - the soldier was supposed to retain magazines out on the battlefield, not drop them in the mud. You had to pull it out (and I still have that Glock, and it works fine). It took Glock awhile to change to drop-free mags, but they did so because of the huge US market, I'm sure.