When it comes to selecting gear for your personal protection it makes sense to select the best gear that you can get your hands on and afford. I know it can be tempting to save a few dollars on your handgun and accessories, but at the same time, if those savings come at a performance cost, I avoid it. Magazines are one of those places where you can save a few bucks, but when you do, one of the things you might discover is that your bargain magazines don’t drop free from your gun. On the range it can be annoying. In a match it can mean the difference between winning and losing. In a violent encounter it can mean you face the worst consequences.
It is for this reason that I recommend to my students that they make sure to select magazines that drop free from their defensive handgun. Let’s begin our discussion with some thoughts on what “drop free” actually means when we are talking about defensive guns.
What Drop Free Actually Means
When it comes to defensive magazines being drop free is important. I’m going to outline three reasons why drop free magazine matter. Before we head down that road, it makes sense to make sure we are on the same page with terminology.
First off, It is important to know that I think mags having the tendency to drop free is important in DEFENSIVE GUNS. That is any gun that you plan on using for the defense of your life or the lives of those that you love. Dropping free can be a great quality for a competition gun, or for a plinking gun. When it comes to defensive guns, I consider it virtually a requirement.
Next let’s examine what it means to actually drop free. It’s really pretty simple. When your magazine is empty and you press the magazine release button, the magazine should drop free to the ground. You shouldn’t have to help it out of the gun with your support hand, or even contort your primary hand drastically to allow the mag to drop. This is tougher with smaller guns and why I developed Plan B for the S&W M&P Shield. When you run dry and the button is pressed, the mag needs to be on its way out all by itself.
Now, let’s take a look at why this is important.
#1 You need that drop free magazine because your support hand has a job.
When you are forced to reload in a defensive situation your support hand has a job. It doesn’t have time to try and fish your empty mag out of the gun because it’s job is the retrieve a fully loaded magazine to reload your gun with. It isn’t an impossible task for your support hand to help the mag out, it is simply inefficient. When fractions of a second can be the difference between safety and the severe consequences of violence, I want to take the streamlined route. As the gun is coming back toward the chest the support hand comes off the gun to retrieve that fresh mag. That means your empty needs to drop free.
#2 Your defensive mags need to drop free because your support hand could be occupied.
Let’s face it, humans use their hands to do stuff. In cooperation with our brain the dexterity of our hands is how we have survived. When we face life threatening stress our hands work like vises, firmly grasping anything that we are holding on to. It might be your weapon, it could be your child, the blade that you are being attacked with, or even something silly like a shopping bag.
Depending on what you are holding and it’s value to you, you may not be able to, or even want to, let go of it when you face a life threatening attack. If you find yourself in the dire circumstances where you need to reload, you may need to do it one handed and having a mag that reliably drops free makes that process faster, easier and more efficient.
#3 Your support hand could be injured.
When we talked about the fact that your support hand could be busy doing something else I mentioned that it could be holding onto the bad thing that you are being attacked with. In that case, your hand won’t just be busy, it could also be injured. Never forget the idea that when you are talking about self defense you need to consider the actual circumstances you could face which include injury when you are attacked. Your support hand could easily be injured in a potentially lethal encounter. If you find yourself with an injured hand and the need to reload, that drop free magazine will make the process of reloading the gun more simple.
The solutions is simple. Make sure that you purchase high quality defensive tools. You are almost always safe if you purchase factory mags for your defensive guns. Both factory GLOCK mags and M&P magazines are designed to drop free. So it doesn’t matter if you buy new or used mags, you should be good to go.
When it comes to other aftermarket magazines, stick to the reputable companies to increase the likelihood that your mags will drop free. Magpul magazines are a great bet for GLOCKS or AR-15s. Finally, make sure you test. Get out to the range, and make sure that when your mag is empty and you press the button your mag drops free.
I don’t think that most people need to spend a ton of time training for these worst can scenarios that we have examined here today. They are certainly rare situations. It is incredibly uncommon to need to reload in a defensive gun use in the first place and to experience an injury or the inability to use your support hand would be even more uncommon. The facts are simple however, if your mags don’t drop free, your training is going to be less efficient and should you find yourself in a situation where you do need to reload “in da streetz” having inadequate gear just made your job more difficult.