How To Shave Seconds From Your Score By Mastering The Table Start

posted on May 17, 2018

Whether a shooter is competing with the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA), the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) or the International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts (ICORE), at some point they will be confronted with a Table Start.

The gun will be staged on a table away from the starting position, unloaded with the action closed, and the muzzle pointing down range. At the BEEP, the shooter will move to the gun, load it, and then begin the Course of Fire (COF). Sometimes, COF descriptions will mandate the ammunition be on the table with the gun, or the COF can require the ammunition to be located on the body.

This is a distinct departure from the normal “Load and Make Ready” at the starting position. It should be a simple evolution, but in their haste after the BEEP, some shooters begin to resemble a bulldog pup playing with a football. That’s a result of shooters being confronted with a situation they seldom see and haven’t practiced, but are trying to execute at high speed.

In this case, “slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” The key is to properly position the gun and ammunition so that those slow and smooth movements can translate into speed on the clock.

If the COF description states the magazine will be on the table with the gun, but doesn’t specify the magazine position, the fastest way to load is to position the gun with the muzzle downrange and the magwell facing to the strong side (facing right for right hand shooters). Place the magazine pointing into the magwell mouth, but not touching the gun. At the BEEP, the support hand corrals the top of the slide to secure the gun, while the strong hand guides the magazine in and slams it home. The support hand flips the slide up, allowing a strong hand grip on the gun, and then rides over the top to rack the slide and chamber a round before dropping to assume its support hand position on the gun.

Mastering the table start | Semi-autos
Placing the magazine to lead into the mawell provides a perfect positioning to speed the loading process.

It can be one fluid movement. Timed tests on this writer’s range show that standing at the table, making this load, then hitting an eight-inch plate at 12 yards, is about 1.5 seconds slower than hitting the same plate from a holstered draw.

Mastering the table start with Chris Christian | SSUSA
1) Support hand corrals the slide while the strong hand guides the magazine into the magwell; 2) strong hand slaps the magazine home; 3) support hand flips the gun up to allow a strong hand shooting grip, then rides over the top to rack the slide, chambering a round; 4) support hand then moves to the full shooting grip. It can be one fluid movement.

If ammunition is required to be on the body, the gun position is the same. Draw the magazine before reaching the table, grab the gun in the strong hand, rotate it to the shooting position, and slap the magazine in with the support hand, which then racks the slide before achieving its support hand position. It’s almost as fast. Times for this writer run about 0.35 seconds slower than the magazine on the table position.

Wheelguns take longer to load from the table because unless you have monster-sized hands, it takes both hands to open and secure the gun before the speedloader or moon clip is reached for. A key is to position the loading device close enough to the gun to keep movements short, but not so close that it might be knocked over as the gun is grabbed. Trying to capture a speedloader or moon clip rolling around on the table as the clock is running, is definitely “bulldog pup and football.”

Mastering the table start | Revolvers
This speedloader position makes it easy to grab the gun without knocking it over, yet keeps movements to reach the speedloader to a minimum.

If a shooter favors a strong hand load (gun held in left hand and rounds inserted with the right: sometimes called the FBI Reload), standing up the speedloader about six inches to the right side of the revolver grip in a direct line with the butt, provides quick access with minimal chance of knocking it over. The left hand grasps the top strap, flips the gun up to allow a right hand to open the cylinder, and then controls the cylinder while the right hand grabs the loader, inserts the rounds, and drops the loader. The hands then close the gun and assume the firing grip, whether right- or left-handed.

Revolver table start
1) Strong hand grabs the gun while the support hand moves to the top strap; 2) which flips the gun into position for the strong hand to open the cylinder; 3) which then opens the cylinder while the support hand secures it open; 4) speedloader is now there to be grabbed, with minimal hand movement; 5) inserted to load the gun ...

A weak hand reload (gun held in right hand, loads inserted with left hand) is often favored by those with moon clip guns. Here, the moon clip is best placed on the left side, about six inches outward of the forward end of the cylinder. The left hand flips the gun up, the right hand opens the cylinder and holds the gun while the left hand grabs and inserts the moon clip.

Mastering the table start | Revolvers
and 5) inserted to load the gun; 6) then dropped while the two hands close the action and … 7) achieve a shooting grip to start hammering targets.

For this shooter, either load takes about 2.6 seconds longer to hit the plate than from a holstered draw. What’s more, those times are about the same if the ammo is on the body, as the movements to open the gun and then acquire the loading device are about the same.

Seconds count on the clock and no shooter likes to give them up. But if you can execute this load two seconds faster than your competition, you’ve just received a scoring gift!

Those who practice and master the Table Start can find Christmas arriving early.


Fixitsticks Fieldpistolsight 1
Fixitsticks Fieldpistolsight 1

New: Fix It Sticks Field Pistol Sight Tool

The new Fix It Sticks Field Pistol Sight Tool is designed for adjusting polymer rear sights.

Joe Fanizzi Repeats As Jack Link’s Cup Sporting Clays Champion

Team Winchester’s Joe Fanizzi wins second consecutive Jack Link’s Cup title at this year’s competition, held at Quail Creek Sporting Ranch in Okeechobee, Fla., Feb. 13-18.

Review: ALG Defense El Jefe

The El Jefe is a premium milspec AR-style rifle.

ISSF World Cup: Vincent Hancock Collects Men’s Skeet Silver Medal In Morocco

Federal Ammunition’s Vincent Hancock earned an ISSF World Cup silver medal in Men’s Skeet, plus Skeet Mixed Team gold with teammate Kim Rhode at the 2024 competition in Rabat, Morocco, Feb. 4-13.

Catching Up With Olympic Medalist Mary Tucker

Tokyo 2020 silver medalist Mary Tucker is aiming for gold in Paris this summer.

Collegiate Rifle: Akron Misses The Mark At NCAA Qualifier

Akron senior Gavin Perkowski has a solid chance at an individual NCAA championship invitation after the Zips competed at the 2024 NCAA rifle qualifier held in Columbus, Ohio, Feb. 17.


Get the best of Shooting Sports USA delivered to your inbox.