Beating the drum about the merits of quick reloads during self-defense scenarios is well-worn territory here on Guns.com and, simply put, the ability to reload your gun rapidly is essential to your success in a firefight. But with interest in civilian militias growing and a virtual explosion of tactical gear and weapons at the fingertips of 21st century shooters, adapting fast draw techniques to your specific rig can be a confusing process. Case and point, tactical vests, also known as chest rigs or in their simplest form just ‘mag pouches’, have become exceedingly popular amongst law enforcement officers, military personnel and civilian shooters and are often utilized for their ample storage pockets that can accommodate extra magazines for AR-15 style rifles.
This article and accompanying video takes a look at some basic techniques for drawing magazines from a chest rig (I’ll leave out reloading which I basically covered here in my look at lightening fast reloads here and with more information in my article on immediate response for AR-15). Even so, remember to keep your head up, eyes up and gun up throughout the entire reloading process.
Which vest is the best?
Fully considering what’s out there in terms of tactical vests and other chest rigs would be an article in and of itself, but I can still say some things about this type of gear overall, mainly that when you’re on the hunt for a magazine pouch or any piece of equipment associated with your tactical chest rig, keep an eye towards three things: comfort, practicality and equipment retention.
Good chest rigs fit snug and are adjustable. Straps on vests should be sturdy and wide enough to fit any number of designs of magazine pouches or other accessories. Modern mag pouches are often made out of high quality polymers and should be “stiff” but flexible. Also remember, you’re going to be staging your magazines ammunition down for reloads (if you put ammo up, you’ll have to readjust the grip on your magazine prior to a reload) and your equipment needs accommodate this.
Staging for speed
If there is a secret to lightening fast tactical reloads, it’s preparation and really, staging your gear for optimal accessibility (and then practicing with this set-up) is really the only way you will be able to speed up your magazine change times. The right spot to stage your magazine will be highly dependent on your body type, and what hand you shoot with. I suggest you position your magazines pouch so that your spare AR magazines are staged low on the mid-section on the support side. If you have double stacked mag pouches on your rig or vest, draw the mag closest to your body first.
Once you’ve got the best spot on your body figured out, here’s how to proceed:
1. Stage your magazines on your support side, loaded into a mag pouch ammo down with the bullets pointing towards your weapon side (i.e. the hand you shoot with).
2. Slap the back of your support side hand back flat against your chest and then slide it down behind your magazine.
3. Grip the magazine around its middle, as if you were holding a glass of water upside down.
4. Pull the magazine for the pouch, by pulling up and then rolling your wrist over so that you are holding the magazine.
5. Reload the weapon.
Make sure that you grasp the magazine securely like a can or drinking glass rather than coming in from the top and pulling the magazine from the base like pulling a crayon out of a box. Though you may be able to reload your weapon while holding the magazine in this manner, it’s a decidedly more awkward hold and you won’t have as much control over feeding the reload into the magazine well as you would if you performed a proper tactical reload.
Practice shouldn’t hurt (you)
One other thing to be conscious of, especially if you are practicing this skill-set often, is that you shouldn’t feel any type of joint pain when performing any tactical tasks (this shouldn’t be confused with muscle or workout pain which, if you’re training right, you should be feeling). However, you should never reload with your dominate hand unless your off-hand is incapacitated. If you start getting pain in your wrist when manipulating mags you should rethink the set up of your chest rig as it can lead to wrist lock (which could seriously hamper your chances in a gun fight).
Another way to combat joint pain is to slow down and really exaggerate the steps in the reloading process. Mastering these motions gradually will allow your body to adjust to the stress.
That said, it’s a great idea to practice slowly anyway to get it right. Also, remember practicing the technique static is only the beginning. Practice on the move, in the dark or low-light, under stress, and in multiple firing positions (e.g. reloading from your chest rig in the prone while you’re laying on your mags)—bascally from any position you might find yourself fighting in.
Until next time, continue to hone your skills and keep adding to your tactical toolbox.