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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.