What’s the deal with pistol heel magazine releases?

    Mike answers the age-old question of what on earth is the point of a magazine release on the heel of a pistol rather than the more usual push button?

    Guns in this video:

    SIG P210

    Tokarev TT33

    FN 1910

    FN 1910/22 / 1922

    Erma EP 552 (similar to a Walther TPH)

    SIG-Sauer P226

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    Transcript …

    – Hi! This is Mike with TFB TV.

    Now, I was going through my collection of handguns a while back, and realized I had an awful lot with magazine releases on the heel of the butt.

    Now… What on earth is the deal with that then? I mean, nowadays we’re pretty much accepted that we need a push-button release here, so that we can (click) drop a mag, or if you’re Walther, maybe a flappy lever there.

    Anyway… (clicking) Whatever the magazine release is, it’s not on there anymore, but back in the day, an awful lot of guns had heel releases…

    Like that.

    There’s a few aberrancies with a release on the toe of the butt, but heel release was pretty well accepted.

    Now I think what we have to do is go and look a bit in the context of when the semi-automatic pistol was kind of a new deal, and John Browning was kind of the big guy inventing all sorts of things and he didn’t seem to come down on one side or the other on it, because for instance we have…

    Here, an FN Model 1910, which is a John Browning design: Heel release, and then you’ve got 1911, which I don’t have.

    So, eh, I’m sure you’re all aware of the 1911, but it’s got a push-button, just like this, 226.


    A hundred and odd years later, we’re all very much used to the idea of what a pistol should be, what it’s ergonomics should be, but back in the day, this wasn’t the case, people didn’t really know.

    The other thing that we’re used to is the idea of magazines being relatively cheap…

    although anyone who’s got an expensive racegun and is paying ridiculous amounts of money for a magazine might disagree with you…

    But bog-standard, normal magazines are, compared to the price of the gun, not enormously expensive.

    Back in the day, they were relatively precision-made…


    Now, this modern idea that we’re gonna drop magazines (click) on the floor, particularly on the range, that just wasn’t a thing.

    So, in any case, you’re always gonna be retaining the magazine, so your hand is always gonna be up near the butt of the pistol, irrespective of whether it’s a Luger with a push-button, a 1911 with a push-button, or an FN1910/22 with a heel release, you’re going to be stowing that magazine, getting a new one, putting it in, racking the slide, and carrying on.

    This even hung around until fairly late.

    Here’s a SIG P210, so… very much a modern…

    pistol, and…

    It has a heel-release.

    But why? There’s gotta be something more to this than just a choice between two competing systems and…

    Actually, there is.

    Now if we look at the types of holsters of the day, I mean this is a post-war, German police holster for…

    this FN1922.

    Now I know the 1911 gets it right, but for instance on a Luger the push-button is actually, sits quite proud of the grip, and it’s quite easy, if you are wearing this and then are pushed against something hard, it’s entirely possible for you to accidentally drop your magazine, and when you need your gun, you’ve got one round or no rounds depending on whether you’ve got one up the spout or not.

    And then if we go over into pocket pistols, that might just be carried in a pocket, a push button has a much higher chance of being accidentally pressed in the pocket than a heel release.

    And that’s basically what it comes down to, it’s that back in the day, they weren’t thinking of shooting a 40-round course of fire in a USPSA match, or possibly getting into an engagement with some bad guys and needing to very very quickly reload several 15-round magazines.

    Handguns were badges of rank, they were for police to fire a few shots at a ruffian, we’re talking, to repeat myself from earlier videos, pre certain recreational pharmaceuticals, so, you’re not expecting to have to fire a large number of rounds.

    I mean, for instance…

    a German policeman armed with one of these has two magazines of nine rounds each, and that’s it, with a 32 ACP as well, so not exactly pokey particularly ammunition in modern standards.

    And you see this, here’s a Tokarev, TT33, and what they’ve done is they’ve made the push-button mag release, because this is based on a 1911, but they made the mag release hard to get at, and you’ve got to push it really quite hard, you can’t accidentally… This is very difficult to do, I’ve not got very long thumbs but I struggle, to do a quick reload, sort of in front of your face reload with this, I-I got it that time…

    This is a non-trivial design choice to try and stop people dumping their mags in their holsters.

    Now this isn’t an issue anymore because we’ve got only got the designs of the gun right in terms of the position and the force required to press the button, but also we’ve got the holster design right with modern hard or padded holsters that are basically impossible to press the button accidentally with.

    So there you go! Hope you enjoyed the video, thanks for watching, please consider liking, subscribing to TFB TV, thank you very much to our patrons who help to make this kind of content possible, and not forgetting our sponsors Ventura Ammunitions and Proxibid.

    Bye! (marching band)

    Mike B

    Mike was lucky enough to go to a school with a 25 yard smallbore range, only 25 minutes from the centre of British shooting at Bisley, and had a firearms certificate before he had a driver’s license. Moving to a more gun-friendly country has allowed him to service his milsurp habit. He lives up in the mountains in Switzerland and vlogs at YouTube as Bloke on the Range. He can be reached at [email protected]