We give you three lightning-fast revolver reload techniques to swap six in a hurry.
What Are The Techniques For Reloading A Revolver:
For this bit of instruction, we’re going to ignore reloading with loose rounds, such as from a box or bucket … or (horrors!) a pocket.
As far as equipment is concerned, you’ve got two choices for doing it quickly: first, a gizmo called a “speedloader.” This holds six rounds in a pattern identical to the diameter and spacing of the cylinder. This is important, because there’s no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to speedloaders. You need one specific to your wheelgun.
The other piece of equipment is a “moon clip,” which can be a half-moon or a full-moon version. Obviously, a half-moon holds a half-cylinder full of bullets, and a full moon clip … well, full.
There are two, solid, dependable methods of revolver reloading, along with one that’s faster but requires a whole lot of practice. We’ll do the solid ones first.
Method #1: The Thumb Press
You’ve just fired your last round in the cylinder. Slide your left hand (we’ll assume you’re right-handed, because lefties have to go through a whole lot of contortions to reload) off the grip and forward a bit while you use your shooting hand to press the cylinder latch. Your left hand cups under the trigger guard and, as the cylinder unlocks, you push the cylinder open with the fingertips of your left hand.
Push the cylinder open and then your fingers through the frame opening while you let go with your shooting hand.
So far, both methods are the same.
The first, and traditional, method is to push the ejector rod with the thumb of your left hand as you turn the revolver muzzle-up. Do this so the empties will fall to the ground and not get hung up on the grips. As you do this, your right hand is reaching for the speedloader or moon clip, so you have more ammo ready just as soon as you rotate the muzzle back down to load.
Method #2: The Palm Punch
The second method is to turn the muzzle up and use the palm of your shooting hand to briskly punch the ejector rod. This revolver reloading technique is favored by those who’re shooting full-power magnum ammunition, because the thumb-press method might not get the fully expanded empties out. Also, some revolvers—snubbies, in particular—don’t have a full-length ejector rod. By briskly whacking the ejector rod, in both cases, you make sure they have enough momentum to get clear of the cylinder.
In the second method, you reach for the speedloader after you’ve punched the empties out. This method is a bit slower, but the speed loss is the cost of reliably ejecting the empties every, single time.
Finessing for More Ammo
Getting more ammo into your revolver requires just a bit of finesse.
With pistols, reloading is “fast-slow-fast.” You get the next magazine out and up to the pistol fast; you slow down to align it; and then, you slam it home in one move. With revolvers, you go “fast-slow-hands off.”
Get your hand to the speedloader fast, and get a good hold. Snatch it off your belt or out of the holder and get it to the cylinder quickly. Then, slow down. Tip the speedloader at a slight angle and line up two of the cartridges. No, not all six—just two. Once you get those two started, bring the speedloader into alignment with the cylinder and press it forward. And, during this time, you do not take your eyes off the loading process: Glancing up, even briefly, is likely to make you mess up the reload.
At this point, you also have two equipment choices to hasten revolver reloading (well, you’ve made the choice already, but they work differently here).
One is the spring-loaded speedloader. As you press the loader fully forward, the latching mechanism releases the rounds, and the built-in spring pushes them home.
For the other type, you’ll have to turn a knob or press a button. (The button-press ones are old tech, and you might not encounter them these days.)
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In either case, spring or knob, you push the speedloader all the way to the cylinder, and then you come to the most important detail of all—one that requires its own, separate paragraph:
Let go of the speedloader! Do not lift the speedloader from the cylinder or try to do anything with it except let go of it and let it fall to the ground. Any extra handling you do risks binding a cartridge rim inside the speedloader and lifting it partially or fully clear of the cylinder. If you do that, you’ve either created a malfunction or dropped as much as 20 percent of your ammo onto the ground.
Once the spring pushes them in—or you turn the knob—let go and let the speedloader fall to the ground. By letting go of it, you ensure each cartridge can cleanly leave the speedloader on its own.
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The process is the same right up until you introduce the rounds to the cylinder. If you’re using round-nosed FMJ bullets (this would most likely be for competition work), the rounds are, in all likelihood, self-centering, and you simply have to get any one of them started. Gravity will do the rest.
My friend, Jerry Miculek, has reloaded a .45 revolver so many times that he really just drops the moon clip from several inches away and it self-centers and slides home. (Practice 100,000 times, and that will probably work for you, too!)
If you’re using JHPs, you’ll have to use your moon clip the same way as you would a speedloader: Get two started—on an angle— and then align and press home.
Both of these methods require that you, having reloaded, get your firing hand back onto the grips while moving your left hand to close the cylinder and then slide it back into your firing grip.
Method #3: The Strong-Hand Method
The speedier method is one I thought I’d learned from Jerry Miculek when we were both shooting bowling pins back at the old Second Chance match. There, a single run was your score for the revolver event. You could shoot it many times, but only one run (your best) counted for score. So, saving even a single tenth of a second was important.
With the speed method, you do some things the same way, but your firing hand never leaves the grips. Your left hand pops open the cylinder, but you also use your left hand to snap the ejector rod to clear the empties. The muzzle can’t point down very much and, as a result, this works best with moon clip revolvers. Then, with your left hand, grab a new moon clip, toss it into the cylinder, and close up.
When I was reloading wheelguns this way in IPSC competition at World Shoots, the moon clips would sometimes sail past my head, making the RO have to duck occasionally. It’s difficult to load this way with speedloaders, because you can’t guarantee that every empty exits (because they aren’t all clipped into a moon clip). And, the speedloader has to have the cylinder gripped so it can’t rotate as it feeds in. Moon clips don’t care. I learned to use the tip of my trigger finger to keep the cylinder from rotating.
When this is all working smoothly, you do save a tenth to a half a second on a reload, compared to an equal speedloader reload. But, it’s a high-wire act; and, if anything goes wrong, you lose more time than a dozen reloads completed this way saved you.
In talking with Jerry many years after the old pin shoot (there’s a new pin shoot now, held in the same place as the old one), he told me he never reloaded that way. So, I clearly must have made it up to try and catch him, or I stole it from someone else (whose name is now lost to history).
Wheelguns might only hold five, six, seven or eight rounds, but you can get them stoked back quickly if you know how—and you practice.
The article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.