A Brief Guide To Using Speedloaders

Bigfoot's How To On Using Revolver Speedloaders

Oh, you think the tactical reload was for semi-autos only did you? Wrong! Speedloaders have been in use for decades, and with practiced hands are quite efficient with them.

Granted, some wonder if perhaps a New York reload is a bit quicker.

That said, there is a Way Of The Speedloader, some guiding principles and techniques to using them. Let's dive right in and see just how wheelguns can get reloaded on the fly.

Speedlaoder Are Available In Circular Latch, Rubber Ring or Press-Release Styles

There are multiple types of revolver speedloader. The classic design is probably what you're picturing in your mind, which is the circular latch speedloader. The advances of time and so on have yielded some new takes. Two more common designs are the rubber ring design and press-latches.

Circular and press latch speedloaders rely on a mechanical gate. You open the latch, and seat the rounds in the speedloader by inserting the rim through the cylinder. Then you close the gate until time to use it and insert the fresh rounds into your .22, .38 Special or what-have-you revolver. Open the latch and the rounds drop into the cylinder.

Circular latch speedloaders have a rotating knob. You rotate said knob clockwise or counter-clockwise - it depends on who makes it - to open the latch and insert new rounds. Rotate the other way to close the latch, and again to open it in order to reload the pistol. A press latch uses a button or plunger for the same action. Press to open, and insert fresh cartridges. Press to release into the gun.

The rubber ring style are a whole lot simpler. They're made of molded rubber, with a small notched sleeve that the rim of the cartridge slides into. Each little notch has a hole in it for the cartridge to be slid out of, all facing the same direction. You place rounds in, put the rounds in the pistol and slide the speedloader away, pulling it free and dropping the bullets into the cylinder.

The latter-most style is the cheapest. However, the press-button and circular latch speedloader designs are a bit quicker to use.

Though you can drill to use the weak hand, the strong side hand is more dexterous. You'll have to find the reloading technique that works for you. That said, let's go over some reloading methods.

The FBI Reload

The FBI had its own revolver reload technique, often called the "FBI reload" because no one thought to give it a cool name.

In this technique, the strong hand opens the gun and the support hand grabs the cylinder by threading the fingers over the forward end of the trigger guard and through the frame to grab the cylinder while tilting the barrel up.

The thumb of the support hand actuates the ejector rod while the strong hand retrieves a speedloader. The loader is brought to the gun and the rounds inserted. Let the loader drop free, push the cylinder back into the frame until it latches and away you go.

It's fast and uses a bit more intuitive motion than the stress reload. However, there are some known issues.

First, the longer case of the .38 Special and .357 Magnum rounds don't always drop free with this method, especially if the cylinder is rather short such as with snubbie or compact medium-frame guns. Usually, those guns only have a half-length ejector, whereas full-size revolvers have a full-length ejector rod.

Also, the fingers can get perilously close to the forcing cone which can get quite hot, especially if shooting .357 Magnum. This can cause burns or even force the shooter to reflexively drop the gun.

Support Hand Reload

The support hand reload uses only the support hand, and is very intuitive to learn. However, it does have some weaknesses.

The strong side hand for right-handed shooters opens the latch, with the support hand guiding the cylinder open as the gun is brought fully upward. The support hand slaps the ejector rod plunger, dropping the spent rounds free.

As the gun is brought downward, the support hand retrieves a speedloader, bringing the fresh rounds to the gun. The rounds are inserted, the loader gate released, the loader dropped free and the cylinder latch closed.

The weaknesses are the same of the FBI reload, as half-length ejector rods don't always push full-length cartridges free if the gun isn't fully tilted skyward. Also, you have to be careful when actuating the ejector rod. Hit too hard, and you'll bend it.

The Stressfire Reload

The "Stressfire reload" or "Stress reload" was developed by the Lethal Force Institute, the training company established by Massad Ayoob, in the 1970s. Well-drilled, it's fast and very effective.

Right handed shooters started by actuating the cylinder release with the strong side hand and - if possible - pushes the cylinder out using the index finger. The gun is rotated upward until at near a 90 degree angle, with the thumb holding the cylinder in place.

The left hand quickly slaps the release plunger with the web of the hand, which will prevent the ejector rod being bent. After the rounds fall free, the hand rotates around to grab the cylinder and a bit of frame, if possible. The thumb should overlap the cylinder to keep the crane open.

The gun is rotated down and the butt brought to the belly. The strong-side hand grabs the speedloader, placing the latch in the palm and the fingertips being ahead of the nose of the bullets. Bring the strong side hand to the cylinder and feel for the edge, which will also allow for indexing the cylinder in the dark. Push the loader forward until the bullets seat in the cylinder, and actuate the latch.

Lefties, however, actuate the cylinder latch with their strong hand or with both thumbs, then grabbing the cylinder out with their right hand. The strong hand hits the ejector rod, then the weak hand brings the butt to the belly and pointing the gun straight down. The strong hand grabs the speedloader in the same manner. The speedloader is then brought to the gun and the chambers are reloaded.

After reloading, let the loader drop free, and grab the grip of the pistol. The support hand releases the cylinder. The support hand thumb presses the cylinder latch back into place, and you can get back on target.

The advantages are the speed of clearing the gun, but without the potential for missing a shell or two in the cylinder.

Reloading Drills

Reloading drills with your speedloader

Now that you have some reloading techniques to experiment with, you'll want to incorporate reloading drills into your shooting practice. The good news is that all of these techniques also work with moonclips as well, so if you get a reloading technique down...you don't have to change anything.

One of the simplest drills and probably the one you should start with is to empty the cylinder into the target, reload and repeat while running a timer. Shoot a few rounds, reload, shoot a few more. Start slow enough to do it correctly, and just keep doing it. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast; do it right and speed will come.

There are plenty of reloading drills out there; find a few and start incorporating them into your practice. Getting some professional instruction can also help a great deal. Granted, whether you'll want to carry extra ammunition is up to you; not everyone does. That said, speedloaders are one of the best ways to do so with revolvers.

Sam Hoober 

About The Author


Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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