Trigger Time: AR Reload Techniques with Mike Green and Nate Stokes

So why do we need to look at how to put magazines into an AR system? I mean, seriously, how many ways are there to jam a magazine into an AR-15? And we all know exactly how to reload the best way, don’t we?

Personally, I like to look at lots of videos and listen when people are talking about certain topics. I’ve found that, more often than not, I pick up either completely new techniques, or sometimes just a tiny nuance to something I already knew. It’s often the little things that I treasure. It might be one tiny movement that never occurred to me, but it might shave a fraction of a second (or more) off of a method I’m already using. Or someone will present a different order of doing a movement and give me a sound reason on why it should be done in a specific order. I then try to incorporate that into my Tactical Toolbox.

Today we’re looking at AR reload techniques in a video put out by Trigger Time [YouTube channel]. Mike Green and Nate Stokes walk us through some methods by which we can efficiently perform magazine changes with the AR-15/M-16 platform. This is a relatively short video, just about five and a half minutes long, so it’s not a huge investment of your time.

Mike Green and Nate Stokes give us a couple of techniques for changing magazines.
Mike Green and Nate Stokes give us a couple of techniques for changing magazines.

I’ve never heard of either of these fellows before I watched this video, but they’re representing BCM (Bravo Company Manufacturing), and BCM makes some seriously high quality ARs. They’re top shelf, and I’m speaking from experience.

shooting ar-15
That rifle craves ammo, and we need to feed it quickly! Their friend, Craig Douglas, says, “Bullets in gun equals time in fight.” Makes sense, doesn’t it?

When we’re talking about magazine changes, things can become controversial very quickly. People talk about fine versus gross motor skills. Why is that important? Because fine motor skills require precision—and our precision degrades drastically during a critical incident when we have adrenaline and the rest of the chemical cocktail that our body produces flowing through our system. As my instructor friend, Bob, likes to say, “Our hands become flippers.” Been there, done that, for real! With that said, I’ve operated under adrenaline enough times so that I could accomplish fine motor skills—but it took some practice to become accustomed to doing so!

As such, gross motor skills can be more attractive much of the time for performing when the fecal matter hits the air circulation system.

Reload Techniques

For this video, there are two main reload techniques that are discussed and demonstrated.

During the first technique, the shooter fires one round and depresses the magazine release, ejecting the magazine. He then “breaks the gun down”, I.e., brings the stock in underneath his elbow and has the muzzle about 45 degrees toward the sky. The shooter keeps the muzzle skyward while turning the mag well slightly toward his body while inserting a fresh magazine. The bolt release is then pressed with the shooter’s left thumb (same hand that he used to insert the magazine). This is very efficient because the thumb is already up and close to the bolt release anyway. Using the thumb is a Fine Motor Skill.

Mike Green discussing AR reload technique
Activating the bolt release with the thumb is a fine motor skill.

The rifle stays in the “Shooter’s Box”, so that the rifle is visible to him (peripherally) and he can also keep his eyes on target while he’s replenishing is ammo supply. Keeping the rifle in your peripheral vision helps you be able to see both the rifle and your target(s). The muzzle is also pointed in a safe direction.

The next variation that is discussed is the same technique and procedure, with the only difference being that instead of using our thumb to activate the bolt release, we will use the palm of our hand. This is more of a gross motor skill. The down side to using the palm of the hand is that it might cup and not activate the bolt release, possibly requiring a few tries to get that bolt slammed home.

Mike Green reload AR with palm of hand
Slapping the bolt release with the palm of the hand is a gross motor skill.

Which way is better?

Mike Green and Nate Stokes use a timer to compare how efficiently both of these procedures are (thumb versus palm with the bolt release). In the end, neither technique is much faster or slower than the other, so it boils down to personal preference. The thumb technique was slightly faster, but it’s advisable to practice both of these and see which works faster and more reliably for you. Note: Only use live ammo if you’re on a shooting range!

It’s a good idea to practice both of these techniques because Mike Green brings up a good point: in the event something happens to your thumb, it’s a good idea to be able to transition to another technique that will work. So while we might have our favorite techniques, it’s always a good idea to have another trick or two up our sleeve.

Nate points out that techniques often become controversial because someone might learn one from a person whom he trusts. That technique becomes the only one they will trust or use, seeing it as the only “correct” way. This can be very limiting, as it closes our eyes and ears to any other possibilities.

During the video, the shooter who demonstrates the reloading techniques applies the safety before dropping the magazine. During an actual gun battle, I personally would not do such a thing. I realize that this is for safety reasons here, but as long as I have the weapon pointed in a safe direction, I don’t see a need to do this practice if I’m being shot at.

The key to these techniques is practice.

As Gunny Hathcock used to say, “Train, train, train!” Do it until it is second nature. Also, don’t forget to practice with your non-dominant hand. We tend to train the techniques that we are best at, and not so much the ones that are more awkward. Speaking for myself, doing a magazine change with my non-dominant hand is really awkward, and I should practice it more often. Why don’t I? To be honest, because I’m lazy and it’s hard to find time. Hey, I write articles with life-saving information for you to read, so give me a damn break already, okay?

Overall, this is a really nice video to watch because it’s not very long, boils things down to where it’s extremely simple, and is professionally done. The people narrating it are well-spoken and easy to understand and present things in such a way that it’s very cogent. They aren’t throwing a dozen things at the viewer at once, so it’s relatively easy to get these techniques down quickly. I recommend this one!

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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