The Trigger finger
Magazine Release

Southpaws had one advantage — until now!
27

John Strayer’s Springfield TGO-II .45, with right-side mag release from Mitchell Custom.

The magazine release button on most semiautomatic pistols is on the left side of the frame near the bottom rear of the trigger guard. For decades, I’ve told left-handed students not to complain about this but to rejoice because it lets them dump an empty magazine faster than their right-handed brothers and sisters.

A right-handed shooter often has to shift the gun in the hand to hit the button with their right thumb; I know I usually have to. On most pistols in most left-handed shooters, though, the index finger just comes right out of the trigger guard to the release button without changing hand placement, unless said digit is unusually long or is stiff from injury or arthritis.

Mag releases switched to right side. Clockwise from top: GLOCK 19 Gen5, Wilson Beretta 92
Compact, Springfield XD(m) 3.8 and SIG Legion P229, all 9mm.

Righties Caught On

A number of righties caught on to this. It’s a selling point for Springfield Armory’s XD pistol line, which comes with a magazine release button on each side. Police officers with Beretta and SIG SAUER duty pistols caught on, too, and on those guns it’s a simple job to switch the mag release button from port side to starboard. Ditto Gen4 and Gen5 GLOCKs when they came along.

It’s possible on a 1911 too, but more difficult. My friend John Strayer is a Five-Gun Master in the International Defensive Pistol Association and has long since forgotten how many matches he’s won, but like most champions he never stops looking for an edge. Shooting XD pistols, he found the trigger finger mag release technique faster. Also competing with 1911s, he had his match versions fitted with a southpaw mag release kit from Mitchell Custom (bulletworks.com). Currently using XDs for everyday carry, his well-practiced reloading technique transfers perfectly to self-defense needs.

Releasing mag with the trigger finger has long been SOP for lefties, as seen
here on a 9mm Ruger SR1911 Commander.

Orthopedic Factor

What got me into it personally was a few years ago, advancing arthritis caught up with my right thumb and I started having trouble hitting the mag release in conventional fashion. Flipping the mag release on my Gen5 GLOCK 19 brought reloading back up to speed and I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of time carrying and teaching with this gun ever since. Also shot a couple of IDPA matches with it, winning Concealed Carry Pistol division in one of them. The mag release buttons have since been switched on my SIG P229 Legion and one of my Wilson Beretta 92 Compacts, too.

The trigger finger is safely out of the trigger guard as it hits mag release on author’s button-reversed G19.5.

Safety Issues

The magazine release on the dominant hand side of the pistol impacts safety in a couple of ways. One is positive and one isn’t, but can be mitigated.

On the positive side, it’s common to see right-handed shooters flipping the gun muzzle to the left so they can get their right thumb to a magazine release on the left side of the gun — it ain’t the right way to do it! The movement should be a turning of the hand on the gun, not a turning of the gun in the hand. In other words, we want to keep the muzzle straight downrange and turn the hand so the proximal joint, the base joint, of the index finger is under the grip tang. This brings the thumb close enough to the mag release button to depress it.

By simply bringing the index finger back from the trigger to a right-side mag release, it’s easier to keep the muzzle straight on the target or backstop during a reload. It also affords the additional safety enhancement of guaranteeing the trigger finger leaves the trigger guard during this procedure. If the finger is on the trigger when the slide slams forward at completion of the reload, the momentum of the slide coming back into battery can drive the trigger into the finger, causing an unintended discharge.

The Bad

The negative element is when you are wearing the gun the mag release button is now on the outside perimeter of your body. It’s something southpaw pistol-packers have had to cope with all along: there is the possibility of pressure or impact will unintentionally release the magazine. It will be out just enough your 18-shot 9mm may turn into a single-shot just when you need it most and recoil may cause the mag to fall the rest of the way out so you can’t even do a tap-rack to get it back up and running.

If you’re going to carry like this put the unloaded pistol in your holster or pocket with empty mag in place and deliberately use your body weight to press it against a door jamb or something similar. Test it with seat belts. Test it in arm chairs. I’ve found my reversed-button G19.5 cope with it fine but my holsters may be different from yours. It’s one reason I don’t care to carry a standard button mag release auto pistol in my left trouser pocket. A gun that won’t go bang when you need it to can be literally a life-or-death safety concern.

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