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Reload vs Transition - A Test

The discussion regarding whether it is faster to reload your rifle or transition to your handgun has been a longtime topic. I have seen some shooters who were blazingly fast on a rifle (AR) reload and others who could transition quickly as well. But what is the difference for the ‘average’ shooter?

At a recent rifle class, one of my instructors said, “Why don’t we time the reloads and transitions and see what the difference is?” Since we were going to do both drills anyway …

We had a small group of five students - one did not participate in the drill due to a physical ailment - so it seemed a perfect time to conduct the assessment. The assessment was done at the end of the day, and everyone was a bit tired as it had been warm, and they had been shooting all day. However, by conducting the drill at this point, I thought would render a more realistic outcome.

The participants were average shooters, and all had attended other courses but were not LEO, military, or hardcore competitors. Most were using their EDC gun and the rifles were all AR-15 variants in .223/5.56 with one 300 Blackout. Pistols were Glocks with one SIG, all in 9mm, and two were equipped with an optic.

The purpose of the assessment as stated above was to see which technique was faster – reloading the rifle or utilizing the ‘New York Reload’ and accessing a handgun. Instead of running the rifle completely empty (i.e., bolt locked open), we opted to leave a round in the chamber and just reload a new magazine. The thought being there would be a similar result with the main difference being our method would be a bit faster due to not having to manipulate the bolt release. We believe the result would have been the same with the difference being a larger gap between the reload and transition times.

Shooters were set up on the 5 yard line with a Warren Tactical IPSC Target Facer down range. In addition, shooters were instructed to keep all shots within the ‘tombstone’ area of the target. This helped ensure accuracy standards were maintained.

The start signal came from a PACT Club Shot Timer 3 and times were recorded after each string. No split times were recorded as the object of the assessment was a bit more pedestrian without going too deep into the weeds. We may conduct the test again and collect a bit more data for a more complete overview.

All shooters shot each drill five times and the times were recorded. Three of the shooters (*) ‘bobbled’ the reload. In these instances, their other four times were averaged, and that time was used in place of the actual time. After averaging the times, it was decided to toss out the high and the low times (Avg/-Hi/Low) and recalculate the average. I feel this gave us a more realistic time.








4.01 (6.05*) 4.64 4.14 3.78 3.48


3.32 3.04 3.00 2.71 2.66




5.25 4.38 3.79 4.27 4.14


2.97 2.67 2.74 3.12 3.05




6.27 7.51 (15.22*) 8.09 8.35 7.33


5.15 3.15 7.73 5.64 3.85




5.77 6.27 6.70 6.84 6.39 (8.06*)


3.17 3.23 3.29 3.46 3.19



In the end, there was a significant difference in the two methods showing the transition to the handgun was between 1.06 – 3.22 faster for an average of 2.14 seconds than conducting a reload.

There have probably been more in depth and detailed studies conducted regarding this topic. However, our purpose was to show our students – in real time, with their equipment and no preparation – the difference in the two methods.

Try it for yourself - let me know your results.



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