Travis Haley — AK Magazine Changes

What’s the secret to how to reload an AK fast? Let’s spend a few minutes with Travis Haley to hear his views on changing magazines for the AK-47. This is a short video, just over five minutes long, so it won’t take too much of your time. In the video, you’ll find some fundamental principles for efficiently changing your AK magazines. 

Travis Haley demonstrating how to change AK magazines
For those who don’t know, Travis Haley was a Recon Marine and is an accomplished instructor in firearms and tactics. Actually, that is an understatement, the man is incredibly talented.

Why do people love their AKs so much?

As we know, the AK series has become extremely popular here in America, and for good reason.  The rifles and ammo were available, at one point, for insanely reasonable prices. Now that the ammo madness has settled slightly (at the time of this writing, although who knows what tomorrow holds), 7.62x39mm ammo is once again among the least expensive of the rifle rounds. 

Aside from the economic price, the AK is legendary for its reliability, which is usually the very first attribute cited by its fans. In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m a fan and yes, I do like that reliability factor quite a bit. 

Other factors that are attractive include moderate recoil and decent stopping power from a .30 caliber cartridge (or 5.45 for the AK-74).

If the AK is popular in America, it is standard issue in Middle Eastern countries. For those who operate in that region, it’s a good idea to have an intimate knowledge of this weapons system, which is preferred by our enemies. You never know when you may have to pick up an AK as a battlefield pickup.

How can you get better and faster at changing your AK magazines?

Back to the original question, what’s the secret to reloading an AK, fast? Travis answers the question right away with the statement, “Here’s the secret: there is no secret.”

Instead, it takes deliberate practice and minimizing excessive motions that waste time. I agree. The best thing we can do is find sound techniques that work, and then practice the hell out of them. Travis advocates a couple of concepts for training:

  • Train correctly to the point where the motions are ingrained.
  • A trusting mindset, where you let your mind go and trust it to operate as needed under stress.

There there are many methods for how to load/reload the AK, the “Iraqi Reload,” the “Russian POI Reload,” and the “Thumb Reload,” to name a few. Travis likes to find the one with the least amount of steps. Again, I agree completely, being a fan of the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

In keeping with this idea, he chooses the Thumb Reload method. 

Thumb Reload Method

To practice this reloading method, Travis suggests beginning with an empty magazine in the gun and one round in the chamber, with a full, spare magazine in a pouch on the side. (Obviously, this needs to happen on a shooting range). 

To begin training, Travis tells us to begin slowly and use a five-second count so the movements are not rushed, but done properly. Here are the steps:

  • Fire one round.
  • Attempt to fire another round, hearing a click on an empty chamber.
  • Do a “Static Reload” where the stock stays in the shoulder as he accesses his spare magazine on his side.
  • While holding a magazine in the left hand, thumb the release to eject the empty magazine.
  • Insert fresh magazine.
  • Charge the weapon. Travis prefers to put his hand underneath the weapon to charge it. He says it is more efficient to charge underneath, especially if you’re running optics on top of the weapon, which get in the way of your hand going over the top.
  • Now that the weapon is charged, fire the second round.
Travis Haley accessing spare magazine with left hand
Keeping the rifle stock in his shoulder, Travis Haley accesses a magazine with his left hand.
Travis Haley activates AK magazine release with thumb
Activate the magazine release with the thumb.
Travis Haley Inserts fresh AK magazine
Insert the fresh magazine.
charging AK by reaching underneath the weapon with his left hand.
Travis Haley prefers to reach underneath to grab the charging handle due to optics being mounted on top of the weapon.

From there, he instructs us to continue our deliberate practice by keeping our feet set and our focus strong.

Tactical Reload

For the tactical reload, Travis does not bring the weapon to his shoulder. He accesses the full magazine with his left hand and uses that same hand to eject the magazine from the weapon. Since this is a tactical reload and not a speed reload, he holds onto the magazine he just ejected because it still has ammo in it. And, this is not an emergency, so he is reloading at his descretion, not because the magazine is empty.

tactical reload
A tactical reload is done at the operator’s discretion.

As his practice progresses with several repetitions, Travis reduces the time — usually by about one second. Eventually, this process will become subconscious, just like any other weapon handling procedures that you practice.

Travis cautions against overextending your left arm out too far when ejecting the magazine. It is a complete waste of time and energy. The arm is extended almost straight out and then it has to come all the way back to the magazine well of the rifle, which costs valuable time.

Watch the full video:

Remember, there isn’t a secret to getting better and faster. Just hard work. Try out Travis’ deliberate practice for reloading AK magazines and let us know how it goes!

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.

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