View Full Version : droping to a knee while reloading from empty???

March 18, 2009, 11:38 PM
I'm new to "The Firing Line" so hello everyone. I did do a search for this question first and really couldn't find it.

my question is... If you are still in a fight and have to reload from empty, should you drop to a knee to do the reload? If so, should you pivot your feet so that you would be rotating you body presenting your profile (ie. smaller target). this is assuming that you are not wearing body armor.

Further more, would it be better to begin moving for the reload,as in change locations? (moving target is harder to hit).

I know that there's a lot of "what ifs" so I am going to give this a big "IN GENERAL"

essentially what is the accepted practice for a reload from empty during a fire fight?

I thank you in advance for any information and opinions. if anybody has disagreements on this post please be respectful, we are all on the same team here and life is to short to be pissy

Thank you

March 18, 2009, 11:46 PM
Welcome to the club. I do not think there is any universal technique. As I'm sure you'll find many different people have many different views. All give good input though. I think anything you can do to make yourself less of a target is a good thing. Especially during a reload when BG (bad guy) doesn't have lead headed his way, he could get off a cleaner shot at you. Terribly situation dependent. Best idea is to move to cover before hitting empty, then you can duck behind cover while reloading. Of course that may not work for all situations. Just do what you can to make yourself less of a target. Also get more amo in your gun ASAP. More pressure you put on BG, less chance of him getting a good shot at you. Practice practice practice for any situation you can weather it be kneeling, turning, or moving. Get smooth with your reload then you'll be able to return fire faster no matter what your legs and feet are doing.

March 19, 2009, 12:24 AM
Remember that turning sideways exposes you to being shot through both lungs, which doesn't have a good prognosis.

My vote would be: if you're not shooting, you should be moving to cover, manuevering for advantage, or retreating. Should I shoot to slidelock while far from cover, I'd stay up and reload on the move....either towards cover or to create distance. Actually, I'm all about moving while shooting, too (in absence of cover/concealment)....

Welcome aboard!:D

March 19, 2009, 12:35 AM
Years ago a bunch of guys that I work with went to an indoor paintball range. After we had played a while one of the employees introduced us to a new game. He called it 'Kill Mike" His name was Mike. He had a better paintball gun than the rentals that we all had but there were about 20 of us, all we had to do was hit mike once before he took all of us out. Mike ran and shot, he never allowed us to pin him down. Mike won, it was a valuable lesson for me.

March 19, 2009, 01:42 AM
Cover and distance are your friends. That being said, your best bet would be to practice accuracy from cover, on the move, etc so you can end the fight with less than one mag.

The Great Mahoo
March 19, 2009, 07:19 AM
I think you're better off moving while reloading from empty. It doesn't take very long to reload, if you're practiced, so kneeling would only slow you down much more than needbe. If you're kneeling behind cover, well that's the exception.

March 19, 2009, 07:34 AM
Kneeling simply to reload does nothing but takes time and introduces the potential for being off balance or losing target acquisition when going down on or getting up under stress. You can easily reload while standing or (preferably) moving while keeping the target visible. With practice, you should be able to keep the weapon on target while performing any necessary task beyond malfunction clearance.

March 19, 2009, 08:46 AM
Cover is critical, do not stay in one place, do not reload in the open unless you absolutely have to.

I have some training drills on my brothers website with video for training at movement, firing from cover, and different positions.

March 19, 2009, 08:56 AM
I say moving is best. Some say if you're not shooting you should be moving. While I agree with that, I would add to it and say you should be shooting and moving. ( if you are able ) FOF training will show that the "stand and deliver" method generally does not work out well. Good luck.

March 19, 2009, 09:05 AM
In the absence of cover, there is no reason to kneel to complete the reload of a pistol. It offers no more stability than standing and it limits your mobility. Furthermore, the closer you are to the ground, the more of a chance of riccochet into your vitals.

If you find yourself in the open and out of bullets, it's best to move quickly to the nearest point of cover to reload.

March 19, 2009, 10:14 AM
in general, I would not give up my mobility by dropping to one knee.

If there's cover and a LOT of distance (like 25 yards), then I might consider it. Otherwise, I'd haul ass for cover and reload. I could probably drop the empty mag on the way, but even sloped feed ramps might be bouncing too much to reload on the run.

Brian Pfleuger
March 19, 2009, 10:18 AM
Seems like to me that, if you reload properly, you'd be done before you got all the way down. Or at least close enough to done that the entire motion would be a waste.

March 19, 2009, 10:27 AM
Cover and motion are your best friends. Move while shooting, take cover to reload.

FWIW, if you need to reload, you're in a gunfight you don't need to be in or you need more practice at the range.

March 19, 2009, 10:30 AM
I wouldnt kneel while reloading. If the mag is in your pocket it would be impossible or if it was on you belt it would at least be a little more challenging than normal. I would put more emphasis on getting to cover before I need to reload.

March 19, 2009, 10:32 AM
Are you kneeling to take cover or just to kneel because this is something you saw on the History Channel on the Marines, SAS or SBS?:confused:

Marines have other people covering them when they sing out "Malfunction, malfunction, malfunction" and take a knee. I will not.

I feel the need, the need for speed (and something very thick between me and the threat).:D

March 19, 2009, 11:36 AM
If you are not shooting you had better be moving. random paths to cover, harder to hit a moving target.



March 19, 2009, 12:17 PM
Kneeling while reloading, kneeling while clearing malfunctions and shooting from the kneeling position after accomplishing these tasks is a perfectly viable option in a firefight.

Of course the best option is always to find cover but that is not always a viable option. Sometimes you simply must make yourself a smaller target (by kneeling) and you can return fire from the kneeling position as well.

If you CAN shoot and move to a better location that offers protection against incoming rounds, then do so. If not, your best option is to kneel while changing mags and then re-engage the threat either from the kneeling position or from the standing/crouching position (or charge the threat head on).

People talk about how they "shoot while running towards cover". Doing this will certainly accomplish 2 things; 1) You will not have any ammo left when you need it and 2) you will kill innocents in the vicinity.
You will simply empty your firearm of ammunition and not hit a damn thing shooting while running laterally towards cover, most likely 1 handed.

It is nice and cushy on a square range where the target is static. You might hit the target a few times with practice. But, at a full out run towards cover, you wont hit anything but other people (not your intended target).

Again, you have 2 options. You can run to cover, change your magazine and return fire, or you can kneel in place while you are changing your magazine and engage from the kneeling position and then transition to the standing, moving position.
It depends on your surrounding environment, the position of your target(s) (because you sure would feel like a schmuck when you run towards cover with an empty firearm and it turns out that another 'target' is in the cover area you chose to run towards...) and your flight-fight reaction at the moment.

March 19, 2009, 05:05 PM
If you are kneeling behind cover maybe.

Otherwise, everything else being equal, I am for reloading on the move and making tracks. Its much harder to hit a target that is running as fast as he can out of the area, as opposed to a kneeling stationary target.

Superhouse 15
March 19, 2009, 05:07 PM
I work in an indoor range and I see lots of inexperienced people shoot. Most poor shooters and many average shooters under stress pull low and left on the target. As a general rule, assuming most people are right handed, you are better off moving to your left (and maybe jumping up in the air:D) than kneeling.

March 19, 2009, 05:15 PM
This is a tactic Ive seen taught to a lot of Air Force personnel. The assumption is that you're defending yourself in an ambush, and you're kneeling behind your humvee to take cover while you reload.

I have also seen it taught to airmen who keep fumbling or dropping their mags while standing. The instructors have them kneel down because otherwise some genius will try to bend over to grab the mag and end up with his muzzle somewhere other than downrange.

As for doing this in a civilian setting, speed and accuracy is the better answer (both in real fire fights and in paintball).

March 19, 2009, 07:32 PM
Although I've seen the technique taught at various venues over the years, I believe there has been an inadvertent (and mistaken) crossover of the procedure as incorporated in some individual (civilian) defensive training.

Kneeling reload/malfunction drill can makes sense in the context of a dynamic entry by a team of assaulters (police, military, etc.). The objective is two-fold (in theory):

1. Prevent Fratricide. Any team member who is completely out of the fight (due to dry weapons or malfunction) will kneel. This will usually take the assaulter out the line of fire from fellow team members' chest-high muzzles, allowing them unobstructed fields of fire. Someone else picks up your sector of fire or continues to move past you to a strong-wall position or uncovered point of domination. Essentially it means that if you can no longer effect the outcome of the fight, get out of the way. It also means that your team members will shoot over your head (if necessary). That implies that you don't get back up without visually clearing to your sides/rear and announcing your intentions (unless you want a round in your pumpkin or backplate).

2. Provide Friendly Visual Status Cue. By your becoming momentarily stationary and dropping to a knee, all nearby team members become subliminally aware that you are temporarily out of the fight. The flow drill continues without you until you are able to rejoin the main effort. No words need to be spoken (even if you do have SOP audible signals). Your buddies sees that you are combat ineffective and instantly assume your responsibilities and sectors of fire. It also clues those around you as to your status after a space is cleared and before your element makes its next movement. Kneeling lets your buddies know that you are not available if there is a call for support (essentially reinforcing a security position or joining a stack). Your team also might not want to initiate search / detention procedures until all shooters are "up" (hot weapons, ready to engage).

As other posters have mentioned, there can be several downsides to this technique:

1. You might find yourself without cover or concealment at the moment you kneel. That's why this technique is primarily for supported team personnel. You are getting down so that someone else can take the shot against immediate threats. If you are alone...why bother? Unless, of course, kneeling provides cover...

2. By lowering your center of mass and upper legs, you increase the likelihood of absorbing an effective rabbit round. At low angles of incidence, bullets striking hard surfaces (corridor walls, floors, asphalt, concrete, tile, etc.) will tend to richochet only mildly and actually continue to skim parallel along the struck surface at about 2"-8" out (or high). You are now positioning your torso and major femoral arteries closer to a possible line of fire. You can actually use this principle to clear a concrete culvert by fire, engage a partially exposed opponent using a barricade firing position, or direct effective fire at someone crouched behind an automobile. Kneeling or proning on hard surface is risky.

3. By drilling to this procedure, you train to a Pavlovian response to a given circumstance; time possibly better spent moving to whatever cover is available.

4. Its easier to lose psychological momentum (offensive mind set backed by aggressive action) if you are by yourself and then kneel. Once you are "down", the brain is going to catch up to the situation and usually start thinking more about self-preservation than killing the other guy. It's just something to consider.

Keep in mind that most tactical elements today practice a smooth rifle to pistol transition drill precisely to enable a friendly combatant to remain offensive instead of mucking about with a stoppage/reload in their primary weapon(a long gun).

Some assaulter units within the same organizations have opposing views with regard to this technique. And that's all it is...a technique.

Naturally, you should never kneel in the fatal funnel or on the "X". Keep moving. Standing OR kneeling in the open is a good way to absorb bullets. You have no cover, no way to reply with fire, and are providing a stationary target to your foe.

Never say never, but I'd generally advise against routinely kneeling to reload or clear a malfunction.


March 19, 2009, 09:51 PM
thank you all for the wonderfull information. I think that I am stuck in my military mindset where I have a fire team backing me up in mout and trench fighting. I have to rethink the tactics of civilian self defense. probably going to take a class. shoot- move- communitcate!

thanks agian for all the great advise.

March 19, 2009, 09:54 PM
At least one large federal agency with a very good reputation for shooting skills trains this way, but I'm not sure of the logic. Smaller target, easier to reload for some reason, or maybe just assuming a more stable position to return fire once you have another in the pipe. I'll have to ask one of their instructors.

I'm more inclined to keep moving but if you are at extended distance versus another pistol-shooter, taking a knee may give you the advantage.

The problem with most tactics hypos is the answer is usually "it depends". Generally moving (preferably laterally) at all times and never popping out from behind cover is the most sound tactic.... I think.

But I have been wrong before.

People talk about how they "shoot while running towards cover". Doing this will certainly accomplish 2 things; 1) You will not have any ammo left when you need it and 2) you will kill innocents in the vicinity.
You will simply empty your firearm of ammunition and not hit a damn thing shooting while running laterally towards cover, most likely 1 handed.

It is nice and cushy on a square range where the target is static. You might hit the target a few times with practice. But, at a full out run towards cover, you wont hit anything but other people (not your intended target).About half of our range drills involve shooting while moving. The groucho walk is a very basic tactic and it makes for reasonable accuracy, a little more so when you are moving toward your target (because the sway of the muzzle, although minimized, is basically up and down meaning your still hitting the target, maybe just lower than you were aiming.) We use popups. Don't really have any moving targets, but the target is certainly changing position. It does give you a bit of an advantage. After all the best cover is accurate return fire. Most badguys have very little training and most that do have only trained at basic tactics like shooting while stationary.

March 19, 2009, 10:02 PM
At my age, it's not worth the effort!:eek:

March 19, 2009, 10:04 PM
It may be good to practice this, but in a real life street-style, BG vs. civilian gunfight a reload is an unlikely occurrance.

Averages are:
Three feet (distance)
Three shots
Three seconds

After that, on AVERAGE, it is over. One way or the other.

If you are shooting and moving and reloading then you've got bigger problems. Hopefully you can shoot, maneuver (finding cover), and close to the location where your battle rifle is (vehicle, other room in your domicile, etc.)

BTW, I like this quote from the OP:
we are all on the same team here and life is to short to be pissy

March 20, 2009, 07:30 AM
After that, on AVERAGE, it is over. One way or the other.

On AVERAGE, there is little reason to own a weapon for self defense, even less reason to own ammunition, and almost zero reason to train with it.

Unfortunately, AVERAGE situations tend to happen to other people, rather than the one relying upon the statistics.

March 20, 2009, 08:39 AM
It may be good to practice this, but in a real life street-style, BG vs. civilian gunfight a reload is an unlikely occurrance. Maybe so, but it's the only way we practice. The magazine hits the grass and we do an emergency reload every single time, then re-address the targets, then holster. Every single time.

March 20, 2009, 10:13 AM
My post on changing mags from the kneeling position needs clarification.

My training and life experience is based on 12 years as a member of the Israeli security services (IDF and Border Police) as well as training annually with the top firearms instructors in Israel (ex commando's and General Security Service (SHABAK) instructors/agents). (I currently reside in TN).

Most of my training, and my advice, is based on an Israeli anti-terror / close protection platform.

We have always been instructed and drilled to go down to a knee, head up, while reloading mags. Transitions (from primary to secondary) are done while standing/moving. We are always drilled that you always move forward, towards your enemy. A combat soldier never moves backwards.

Going down on one knee does not put you in a negative frame of mind. Rather, it removes you from the direct line of fire (threat must reposition his aim since you were standing, now are kneeling) and makes you a smaller target and gives you a very stable shooting platform if needed. From the kneeling position you can transition to the standing/crouching, charging position very quickly.

In Israel, we do not have the luxury of a retreat mindset (live to fight another day) because the entire country can be run over in a few hours. You lose a war in Israel and you lose everything.

On a static range, with static targets (and yes, a 'pop up' target is a static target in my opinion), where you basically know where your enemy/threat is and is not, it is easy to shoot on the move/advancing towards cover/concealment, where you can then "trade shots" with the threat/target.

During a terror attack when you do not have the luxury of running to get behind cover while the threat goes on a rampage and you are the only person around to stop the threat from killing others, you must advance immediately with speed and extreme violence of action, towards your 'target'. (obviously using proper technique).

Most of the time this translates into charging the threat head on, shooting either while running at full speed (using proper technique)(note I say full speed, not a trot or a jog or a Groucho walk) or charging the target from an angle, stopping briefly (using proper "breaking" technique) and eliminating the threat.

You shoot until the target is neutralized, kneel, change magazine, crouch and scan 360 degrees searching for additional threats and then verify your kill. You do not train to reholster your weapon until all of this is completed.

Yes, you might not survive the confrontation. You may get wounded. But, the idea of running behind cover (which might be a distance away) while this attack is taking place when you are the person who has the ability to stop it by charging the threat, is almost unheard of in Israel.

I understand that most of what is discussed here is based on a criminal threat, but take for instance a church shooting.

A lone gunman enters a church and starts shooting. You are carrying to church (like you should be) and there are several hundred people between where you are standing and the gunner. You cannot afford to find cover and return fire from a distance, too many innocents in the way and too much ammo wasted (he will be better prepared and better stocked for this than you, no question).

You MUST take the attack to the attacker. You MUST take his advantage away. The way to do this is to move on him, towards him, either head on or using a flank.

I bring examples like these for a reason.

My point is that by using cover as your primary position (and your primary thought during an attack and training tool during range sessions), you run the risk of bogging yourself down behind that cover, allowing your enemy to advance on you and/or continue on his rampage.
Realize that when you are behind cover (like a car engine block or a tree), you are taking your line of sight off of your target and allowing him to pinpoint your position, keeping YOU in place.

Going down on one knee to change a magazine will most likely be done after the primary threat is neutralized and you are about to scan for additional targets.

I am not saying that you should always be in the open, on the charge. There are certainly times where you have an ability to maintain cover and return fire (i.e. a roadblock you are at, a barrier you are already behind and the threat is close enough for accurate, deadly return fire from you, being involved in a planned ambush where you are hit by multiple threats on multiple sides....etc...)

But, in the end, the guy who is moving towards his target will rule the fight. Notice, I say towards his target and not towards cover.

YES, if you can use cover while moving towards your target, great! But you must train yourself to instantly return fire when engaged and then charge your target if he is at a reasonable distance (within about 40 feet).

I just wanted to clarify my position on the question and I do realize that this is a very circumstance based scenario question.

I know people won't agree but hey, thats why there are multiple schools of training and theory because a gunfight, a battle, is dynamic and never the same. You must use all tools available to win the fight.
My training is based on certain life experince in an area of the world where combat and anti-terror operations are common occurance for some people.

Most of all, you must use speed of action and extreme violence with no mercy.


March 20, 2009, 10:37 AM
I couldn't help but think of the bank robbery scene in Raising Arizona (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093822/quotes)...
Well, which is it, young feller? You want I should freeze or get down on the ground? Mean to say, if'n I freeze, I can't rightly drop. And if'n I drop, I'm a-gonna be in motion.

Do I take a knee or charge the threat? Mean to say, if'n I charge, I can't rightly take a knee. And if'n I take a knee, I'm not gonna be a-chargin'.

March 20, 2009, 10:54 AM
i want to train with Ben! what part of tn are you in?

in any case, our local MTU, training unit, trains us both stationary, ie; standing, kneeling, sitting and prone, and transition reload, ie: standing/kneeling, kneeling/prone, prone/standing, etc. chuck tries to instill the idea you might have to reload while relocating, and you had better be good at it. i , for one, vote that one should practice just about every circumstance one can imagine. there is no such thing as a typical firefight, IMHO.

March 20, 2009, 11:08 AM
You take the knee after the initial threat has been neutralized. The knee is for reducing yourself as a target while changing magazines and clearing malfunctions.

Realize, you are on the knee for maybe 2 seconds total. You are really moving forward the whole time, but taking a very brief interlude to change a mag or clear a malfunction. (think of it like a lunge..you are going forward, down on one knee and then back up moving forward.)

I am located in Memphis and run training sessions for people here as well as in other parts of the country and in Israel.


March 20, 2009, 11:11 AM
As an aside to matolman, I read an account of an Israeli citizen shooting a suicide bomber before any damage was done. During an interview, the hero shooter was asked if he was a police officer or IDF member. He replied, "No, I'm a shoe salesman."

That's as it should be!

March 20, 2009, 11:38 AM
Damn straight.

March 20, 2009, 12:34 PM
matolman1: But, in the end, the guy who is moving towards his target will rule the fight. Notice, I say towards his target and not towards cover.

YES, if you can use cover while moving towards your target, great! But you must train yourself to instantly return fire when engaged and then charge your target if he is at a reasonable distance (within about 40 feet).

I just wanted to clarify my position on the question and I do realize that this is a very circumstance based scenario question.

Excellent points.

We teach our guys to stay aggressive, move into the opponent/s, and deliver accurate fire while on the move (which usually dictates something less than a forward sprint). Going for cover means someplace you can reach in about 3 seconds (or matolman1's described ~40 feet). If no cover is available, move straight down his throat until you can't miss. Cover is used when you need it. If you already have the guy rattled or can put hits on him, keep hitting him until he goes away. Then seek cover. It's a judgment call and will vary each and every time.

Your worst case scenario could easily require what you have described (e.g., you are by yourself, have only a handgun, are in the open, see no/little cover, and face one or more opponents). Sheer implacable aggression can win the day when the other guy blinks.

We cynically refer to this move as "Going Leroy Jenkins" (named after a certain gaming clip floating around on the internet).

It has (on occasion) worked exceedingly well during the thousands of raids conducted by my unit across Iraq and Afghanistan. It has (on occasion) worked exceedingly poorly when someone ignored readily available cover in favor of offering themselves up as a bullet sponge.

The circumstances of each gunfight vary and a lion can become a gazelle in an instant (depending upon the volume of fire directed against your person). A stream of nearly in-effect bullets can change your outlook (and plan) in a microsecond.

Your point about ruling the fight through aggressive forward movement is well taken. This thought encapsulates the entire psychological premise for prosecuting a successful bayonet charge. Use the enemy's Fight or Flight Reflex against him. The guy who blinks, panics, misses, or runs...loses.

Indoors (with armed backup), I'll kneel if that's the SOP. Out of doors, anything I need to do to my weapon, I will do somewhere else. I'm not stopping until I body slam the opponent or find cover (whichever comes first).

In a mall, suburban street, bank, or WalMart parking lot...I'm going to be a lot more deliberate and conservative about rushing into anything. In such a circumstance, you are on your own. Find cover and evaluate the situation that you and your handgun find yourself in.

My frame of reference is my 30+ years as a current member of (and tactical instructor for) US Army Special Forces and (previously) the 75th Infantry Regiment. Iraq, Afghanistan, Balkans, Africa, the Levant, Central America, Middle East, Europe, etc..

I still won't kneel in the open (unless it instantly provides me at least some cover or concealment).


matolman1 - Regards.

March 20, 2009, 02:13 PM
+1 on your service Chindo! Now, let's go and take over a small country together!!! :cool:

March 20, 2009, 02:29 PM
if i kneel...my creaky knees would not get me up fast enough. :P


there is a lot of good info above..take what works and use it in your training. i've been trained to take a knee when paired up and you have an inoperable weapon so buddy # 1 can press up and cover you..but that does not apply to my daily carry.

i train to shoot, move to cover and communicate.

March 22, 2009, 01:43 AM
I am really glad I posted this question! thank you all for your input. I had a great time reading all of the replys. Alot to think about and I really respect ideas and opinions that I read.

thanks again for all your help.

The Canuck
March 22, 2009, 05:55 PM
I have been trained that the only time your drop to one knee for stoppages and reloads is when doing entry. I won't bore you with the details, but long story short, it keeps your guys from firing into you as you are now pretty much usless until you get your firearm running again, and then you don't move until it is called all clear. Standing up can get you shot otherwise... Having just read Chindo's & matolman's posts, they cover the details better than I am willing to.

In other situations, you move as fast as you can and get to cover ASAP while reloading. Under fire hard cover is your best friend, concealment is a nice acquaintance to make for a short period of time. As has been said, cover is only to be used to keep your momentum, not to cower behind until the shooting stops.

March 23, 2009, 09:33 AM
It will depend on circumstances but for most part you always want to keep moving,a moving target is harder to hit,never go to prone or knee to reload it slows you down and makes you a stagnant target practice loading on the move,if your behind cover yes go to your knee of course again depends on your circumstances but also remember your circumstances if the aggressor is shooting at you with a .30 rifle dont be hugging that concrete block that .30 cal will come right thru and get you along with fragments sometimes you need space between your cover for more then one reason! Buy a good book on Tactics

March 26, 2009, 03:15 AM
An interesting drill (watching El Al shooters train) draw, stepping to left at the same time, retract the slide, fire three times into target 10m away, then run like mad, covering that 10m very quickly!

Shoot ballon taped to deck! If you are shot whist running forward?
Sxxx happens. Terrorists don't go home.

Yes, and always take a knee when empty.

March 26, 2009, 08:27 PM
Yes, and always take a knee when empty.

FWIW, we are taught to never, ever go to our knee(s) for anything... The lone exception being when restraining an already compliant suspect while they are prone on their belly. It's also worth noting that our partner would be covering you while you did so...

Best bet: End the fight quickly, if you can't, you need more range time... Honestly, with most gunfights happening between 3-20', you should not need to reload if you've done your homework at the range and/or training course...