Drop reloading for free ammo

Posted April 1st 2018

Associated movies

  • BCM279 - Drop reloading for free ammo (5:49)

The main form of this trick/glitch applies to clip-based weapons and effectively gives you unlimited ammo. When a reload starts, whether manually (via tapping the X button) or automatically, quickly drop the weapon by swapping for a nearby one - e.g. one you were already standing over. If done soon enough (within about 1 second is ok, or 2 for the rocket launcher), reloading proceeds regardless, and if you let it finish (which takes a bit longer than the reload audio) then pick up the weapon, you'll find that it has a full clip without any of the reserve being used up. You've gained free ammo! It's what I call a drop reload. Remember though, you need to drop the weapon before the reload has gone too far, and you mustn't pick it up too early or ammo will be taken from the reserve instead of being free.

The trick also applies to the shotgun, though not quite so handily. You need to drop it very fast, but you still might lose one or two reserve shells. The practical upshot is, you're likely to gradually eat up your reserve as you repeatedly use the trick, though you'll certainly be getting lots of free shells along the way.

Manual reload starting…

Details for clip-based weapons

For a clip-based weapon, how soon must you drop it after the reload starts? Based on careful video analysis, the cut-off time looks like being half the reload time, as near as I can tell. By the reload time I mean the normal time it takes until the HUD shows a replenished clip - which varies from weapon to weapon. For the pistol and needler you've got about 1 second to drop, for the assault rifle and sniper rifle it's close to 1.5, and for the rocket launcher 2 seconds. That's for PAL Xbox at least (my system). NTSC/PC may differ slightly.

In regard to reload animations I can say the following. For the assault rifle and pistol, the cut-off time is approximately when the new clip touches the weapon. For the sniper rifle it's a bit past the time of contact, and for the rocket launcher it's shortly before the new clip comes into view.

In general you can quickly tell whether you've dropped it early enough, because the reload audio will restart (or start, if you swapped so fast that it didn't get started already), and play out. If you don't get it, you'll know you dropped it too late. Except, the assault rifle has a quirk. If you drop it very fast there's no reload audio at all, but that's still ok.

Quick drop, reload proceeds…

How long must you allow before pick-up? First I'll deal with the case where the reserve is numerically enough to cover the amount of ammo which needs to be loaded.

With a needler you can simply watch to see when new needles appear - which happens about half a second after the relevant audio. In regard to the other weapons, let's suppose you did a 'casual' drop - by which I mean that the reload audio had time to start before the drop. That's what I'd suggest. The reload audio will restart, and if you wait slightly more than a second past the final click, that's enough. In the case of a pistol you can wait slightly less than a second, and with an assault rifle you barely need to wait half a second past the last click.

If you instead did an 'instant' drop - so fast that the reload audio didn't have time to start before the drop - it seems that you have to wait a bit longer past the final click. Around half a second longer. Except, for the assault rifle there's actually no reload audio by which you can judge things; but waiting 3.5 seconds (from the time of reload initiation) is enough.

…and free needles appear!

In low reserve situations - i.e. where the reserve is less than the amount which needs to be loaded - the weapon goes through multiple loading phases to build up the clip, playing the reload audio for each phase. Each non-final phase adds a quantity of ammo equal to the reserve (the reserve acts as a limit on how much can be loaded at once). At the most extreme, if you had an AR with a reserve of only 1 round and you exhausted the current clip, the reload would take 60 phases, loading 1 round at a time; so you'd be waiting quite a while! Of course, the moral of all this is that you should try to avoid having a low reserve, because it makes drop reloading slower and potentially tedious.

As an aside, have you ever had a weapon on the ground which sounds like it's repeatedly reloading? I've had that plenty of times and there's an example in BCM140 at 4:24 ('Spooky needler'). Looks like we now have the explanation: an unintended drop reload with low reserve. In that movie clip the visible needles can actually be seen increasing (if you step through frame by frame), which I hadn't noticed before - and the reserve was 1 needle. I'm pretty sure the needler was dropped by myself, not a covie, because it had such low reserve.

Details for the shotgun

The shotgun is very different on account of its progressive reloading. Because shells start getting transferred from the reserve fast, you need to drop it very fast - but there are still issues.

Losing a shell on a manual reload, just before dropping

With manual reloading I find that I can't drop it fast enough to avoid losing a reserve shell (losing 2 is possible if you're slow). Whether it can be avoided on NTSC or PC, I don't know.

With automatic reloading I can get around a 50% success rate (i.e. of gaining 12 shells), but in the other cases, either the reserve loses a shell or - if the drop was too fast - there's no reloading at all (I guess it never actually initiated). In the latter case, when you pick up the shotgun a reload starts and you quickly begin losing reserve shells, but you can halt the loss by switching to your secondary.

Assuming reloading proceeds after you drop it, how long must you wait before pick-up? That's easy. When the reloading completes, the shotgun spookily cocks itself! You can pick it up after that.

Uses of drop reloading

Drop reloading in a pressured combat situation would be potentially awkward and tedious, but it could be done if you want. Personally I never use weapon glitches in serious combat, as I don't like to rob myself of the intended game dynamics, and to me it's like cheating. Conjuring ammo out of thin air goes somewhat against realism, let's face it!

I'm more interested in applications to novel gameplay and trick related work, where realism isn't a concern. That's really why I've documented the trick. A good example is in the topic of fireworks, such as a goldie firework. If you're interested in putting loads of needles into your firework, you don't need to've laboriously collected lots of needlers as I originally thought. You can make do with just one (see pic sequence, in which a manual reload is started after reducing the clip to only 1 needle). Drop reloading could also enable you to give the firework massive boost by using an unholy amount of rockets.

Very old

The main form of this trick goes back a long way. I'm not sure what the original source was, but in a couple of places I saw it listed as "Infinite ammo" (e.g. in 'Halo Tricks, Secrets, and Glitches' compiled by 'Kyle Barr', a three-person collective) and described thus:

"This trick has no real tactical value, but it's a trick nonetheless. Pick up a weapon that uses clips, try the assault rifle first. Find another weapon on the ground that you can pick up. Fire the assault rifle until it's down to two or three bullets, then make note of how many clips you have left. Reload the assault rifle, but just before MC removes the clip from the gun, pick up the other gun in front of you. Pick the assault rifle back up. It should have the same number of clips, but it will have 60 shots left again."

As I recall, I gave it a try but it didn't seem to work (maybe I was picking up too soon - there was no warning about that), so I gave up and forgot about it - until now, many years later. I haven't previously seen the shotgun mentioned for this trick; only clip-based weapons. So maybe I've added something new in pointing out that it also applies to the shotgun, albeit not so handily.

Update: There's an early mention of the trick on one of Frogblast's pages, dated 29th August 2002. Someone called Ichiry had described it. Perhaps that was the first mention?