Reloading an AR-15

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Understanding how to reload the AR-15-type rifle, carbine, or braced pistol is very important if you stage one for home defense. The way you reload should be congruent with the context of use, without visual reference, making sure the magazine is seated and running the charging handle. Rob Pincus demonstrates the proper reload procedure step by step.

The Reload

While shooting the AR, you will recognize by kinesthetic feel when the bolt locks open and the weapon is empty. As the empty magazine drops to the ground, bring your weak hand back to your spare magazine. Pull the spare magazine out of its mag pouch, index the front of the magazine, find the edge of the magazine well, push the magazine in, and make sure it’s seated. Come back up (still with the weak hand) and run the charging handle to get the AR back into battery.

Then you can continue shooting or put the safety on and leave the AR in the ready position.

Eyes Up

Note which steps Rob performs without looking at what he is doing. Through your rifle training and practice, you should perform this procedure enough times that you can do it by feel and keep your eyes on the threat. Doing it by feel means you will also be able to perform the reload in low or no light.

Keep the AR Down Low and Close

Rob lowers the AR and brings it in close to his body while doing the reload because a real-life situation will probably not have the wide open space of a shooting range. He may be moving, around a car, back behind cover, in a narrow hallway, or any other confined space in a house. He can move much more efficiently with the gun down low and close in to the body.

He may turn the AR in slightly to find the magwell.

If you have questions about shouldering an AR pistol with brace, check out our video on this topic.

Review

Rob demonstrates the reload again, with close-up camerawork.

Discussion
  • (will not be published)

12 Responses to “Reloading an AR-15”
  1. Jesse

    Curious why he opted for using the charging handle after bolt lock rather than the thumb for bolt release. Other than initial loading or malfunctions what would be the benefit over the other? Seems faster and more fluid to run the bolt release, for myself anyways

    Reply
    • Frank Stabler

      I agree with you. I tried to post a comment twice saying that I would really interested in Rob’s answer, but they never published it.

      Reply
      • Customer Service

        Hi Frank. We have submitted your question and it is currently being researched. When we will let you know the answer as soon as we receive it. Thank you for your patience.
        Jean-Personal Defense Network Video Membership

        Reply
  2. zan

    Hi, normally if the last firing, and for reloading, we don’t need to pull the charging handle again, only push the bolt catch. Except the weapons no mechanism of Holding Opening Device (HOD). Thanks.

    Reply
  3. Frank Stabler

    I was also wondering why not use the bolt catch. I’m very interested in his reasoning.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Frank. The quick answer, using the charging handle will always load a properly working gun. If for some reason the bolt didn’t lock to the rear or it fell forward during the reload pushing the bolt catch won’t do anything and at best you will then need move to the charging handle (or worse case you try to shoot and realize the gun isn’t loaded). The deeper “why” case for using the charging handle is that you are pulling the bolt back from the bolt catch and getting some extra force/momentum helping ensure a new round is loaded and the bolt locks. Also, when using the charging handle you are getting additional tactile and auditory feedback such as, did the bolt feel like it was moving slowly and did it sound “normal”.
      Thanks
      Deryck-Personal Defense Network

      Reply
      • Frank Stabler

        Thanks for the answer. That sounds very similar to the reason that I don’t use the slide release on my 1911.

        Reply
  4. Kevin

    Hi, I’m not that familiar with an AR(I just purchased 1) but if you are empty shouldn’t the bolt lock back and you would use the bolt release to load first round?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Kevin. The recommended way to load the AR is to use the charging handle. When using the charging handle you are pulling the bolt back from the bolt catch and getting some extra force/momentum helping ensure a new round is loaded and the bolt locks. Also, when using the charging handle you are getting additional tactile and auditory feedback such as did the bolt feel like it was moving slowly and did it sound “normal”. Finally, using the charging handle will always load a properly working gun. If for some reason the bolt didn’t lock to the rear or it fell forward during the reload pushing the bolt catch won’t do anything and you will then need move to the charging handle.
      Thanks
      Deryck-Personal Defense Network

      Reply
  5. Frank Stabler

    I’m really interested to hear Rob’s explanation of why he used the charging handle rather than the bolt release.

    Reply
  6. Frank Stabler

    Commented twice here asking the same question about using the charging handle instead of the release. So far they haven’t even published my comment.

    Reply
  7. William Bell

    I know that holding the grip with the right hand is what the majority of shooters do but I am left eye dominant and use my left hand on the grip. Take a few minutes and show how it works from the other side.

    Reply

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