I'm a new pathfinder player that just rolled a gulch gunner: the ratfolk gunslinger archetype that specializes on close quarter attacks with guns to regain grit. I've tried to find a clear answer to this question elsewhere, but have found conflicting information.
From what I understand, rapid reload reduces reloading time for a single-handed pistol from a standard action to a move action. Combining this with paper cartridges further reduces reload time to a free action.
So, if I move to a spot adjacent to an opponent, perform a ranged attack, and provoke an attack of opportunity (thus regaining grit—the principal mechanic of gulch gunner play), can I use the rapid reload (pistol) + paper cartridge combo to reload my weapon without provoking another attack of opportunity that is usually associated with reloading time? Or, does reloading (even as a free action) always provoke an AoO if I am in range?