Reloading That Revolver.


Sure, semiauto pistols get a lion’s share of the market for defensive handguns nowadays, but there are still a lot of revolvers being sold. And we know that semis are preferred over revolvers by many mainly because of the auto’s magazine capacity and the ease of reloading them. Knowing this, we can deduce that revolvers need to be reloaded more often, and that reloading them is slower.

Well, we don’t actually “know” the last part, because with the right equipment and practice, you can reload a revolver as fast as you can an auto. (Yes, you’ll still have to do it more often.) And you are carrying extra ammo, right? So why are you carrying reloads anyway? Statistics show that most gunfights are over in seconds, and that participants fire an average of three rounds. Well, statistics show that your odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 700,000. Pretty good odds, right? Bet you don’t even think about it during a lightning storm. But for the average of 54 people a year who are killed by lightning strikes, as well the hundreds more who were struck but not killed, the odds weren’t so hot.

So, unlike autos that use a magazine to keep their ammo at the ready and hasten reloads, revolvers are a bit messier. Let’s discuss first carrying those reloads. There are a few ways of carrying your spare revolver ammo, some better (and some way better) than others.

Method One: Drop six rounds in your pocket.

loose roundsCan’t really recommend this.









  This is the easiest, least expensive approach for carrying your revolver reload. It is also by far the worst idea I’ve ever heard of. Besides carrot cake. Exactly who was the sadist that discovered you could make cake with carrots in it? So OK, the worst idea I’ve ever heard of for carrying your revolver reload. So, you’re in a situation where you need to reload your revolver, say, in the middle of an exchange of gunfire with some thoughtless cretins who are trying to murderdeathkill you. You’re rattled, your adrenalin is pumping, your fine motor skills have headed to the Bahamas for vacation. Now, all you need to do is dig six individual cartridges out of your pocket, separate them from the change, car keys, toll receipts, and lint that has been keeping them company, and cram them one by one into your cylinder, hoping you’re not trying to ram a chap stick into one of the chambers. Oh, you’re also trying to keep your eyes on the bad guys and move to cover at the same time.

So yeah, not the most optimal method of carrying your spares, which brings us to

Method Two: A speed strip.

Speed StripBianchi Speed Strip










 The speed strip is a step up from carrying loose rounds in your pocket. It keeps the rounds together and oriented in the same direction. I’m sure my fellow OCD sufferers are comforted by the picture. The one glaring disadvantage you’ve probably noticed is that the speed strip is straight, and your revolver cylinder is round. Yes, it does still work. With practice, you can load two chambers at a time with the speed strip. Line the cartridges up, slide them in, and lift the strip away. The speed strip is especially useful when doing a less than full reload, as you can extract the fired brass from the chambers and bring your weapon to a fully charged state. Speed strips are a step up, but not as fast as

Method Three: Speed loaders.

speed loadersSafariland on the left, HKS on the right.








 Speed loaders are to revolvers as close to a magazine change as semiauto shooters enjoy. These were the floppy disks of their day…revolutionary. Round like your cylinder, they line all six rounds up with the chambers and, with just a push or a twist of the knob, depending on what brand of speedloader you’re using, you’re reloaded. Speedloaders are the fastest way to recharge a standard revolver. Faster still, but an option only very few revolver shooters can use

Method Four: Full moon clips.
Moon clips are thin metal circles that hold your rounds together. They are simply dropped, intact, into the cylinder. Open the cylinder, eject the spent brass, drop in the moon clip, close the cylinder, and you’re back in the fight. If you haven’t seen the clip on YouTube of Jerry Miculek shooting six rounds, doing an incredibly fast reload with a moon clip, and shooting six more, go ahead and watch it. On the downside, your revolver will more than likely have to be modified to use moon clips. This can be expensive. Few revolvers come from the factory set up to use moon clips, and finding a reputable gunsmith to perform the modification may be challenging. Also, because the clips themselves are very thin pieces of metal, they tend to bend easily. They may bend enough that you won’t be able to close your cylinder on them.

So, now that you know what means are available to carry your ammunition, how do you carry the reloaders?

Speed strips may be carried in the pocket, provided your pants, jacket, etc. are loose enough for you to get your hand in to get it. AND that you’re NOT carrying anything besides the speed strip in that pocket. There are old school belt worn dump pouches still available, and a speed strip fits handily in them.

Speed loaders can be carried in the pocket (“Three Harry, you always carry three.”) but that isn’t optimal. For defensive use, you’ll be carrying concealed, so you want your speedloaders available but inconspicuous. The metal Safariland Split-Six and the leather pouch carries the speedloader straddling your gunbelt, making for a low profile. Carried on the dominant hand side, exactly opposite of how you would carry spare auto magazines, the speedloader holders position your reloads for ready access.

reload holders










Your odds of getting in a gunfight are pretty slim, but you still carry, right? So it just makes sense to carry a reload or three for your gun. Which ones to carry? When I carry a revolver, I carry at least two speed loaders on my belt and one speed strip in a pocket.

I’ll tell you how to reload your gun in the next installment.


The Tactical Pirate

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President and lead instructor. Follow me on Twitter, and check out our blog.

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