SPEED-RELOADING A REVOLVER
Awards I've Won in Action Handgun Matches
One cannot discuss fast and fancy revolver shooting without mentioning the great Ed McGivern's important book, Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting. This book is very highly recommended for anyone who wants to be good with a revolver, or any other handgun for that matter. Questions of grip, trigger control, sight picture, etc., are best referred to this book. This page focuses on reloading an ordinary revolver with ordinary cartridges by way of an ordinary speedloader.
The following technique is based on an examination of that used by champion and world-record-holding revolver speed shooter Jerry Miculek. (Here is a video of Jerry Miculek in action; his reload technique is shown near the end. Don't blink.) This technique applies to most modern double-action revolvers with swing-out cylinders. The weapon shown is a Ruger GP100 in .357 Magnum using HKS #586 speedloaders. A right-handed shooting grip is assumed, as is the unimpaired use of both hands. None of this equipment is custom or special-order; the only change to the weapon is the replacement of the original black front sight with a red replacement from Millett (a Ruger replacement, meant for the Redhawk, will also serve).
Miculek is way out of my league of course, but I can only afford a fraction of the ammunition budget and practice schedule he enjoys. Don't assume this is the only or even the best way; this is just how I do it. And bear in mind that it has worked for me. If you find a better way, use it. -And maybe share it with me so I can describe it here as a public service, or put it on your own site and send me the URL to link.
Also bear in mind that as of this writing (September 2007), Yuri Orlov and I are planning a video tutorial of this process, and the process may change as that video is scripted and recorded.
1: From your preferred shooting stance and grip, continue firing until your revolver is empty, or competition rules mandate a reload. Count your shots when possible so you don't waste time dropping the hammer on an empty case.
2: Activate your revolver's cylinder release with the right thumb while moving the support hand forward. In extended shooting sessions, the cylinder, the barrel, and the frame, especially where it meets the barrel, will get hot; be aware, and consider a support-hand glove.
3: With the middle and ring fingers of the support hand, press on the right side of the cylinder, ideally even before the latch is released. The support hand's index finger is along the forward edge of the frame for reference and stability; the support hand's thumb is on the left side of the cylinder. When the latch releases the cylinder will pop out of the frame; control it with your support hand thumb to prevent damage to the crane.
4: Turn the weapon so the open cylinder is down, while keeping the muzzle pointed at a safe backstop. Shift the right thumb up toward the hammer to get it out of the way of the ejecting cases. Turning the weapon may not be entirely necessary, but it reduces the risk of ejected cases getting tangled up in the weapon or your hand. The next step is more important.
5: Strike the ejector rod firmly and swiftly to forcibly eject the empty cases. It is not necessary to elevate the muzzle if the ejector rod is struck with enough force. They should fly out of the chambers with a single stroke, not dribble, costing you time (or blood). This can be practiced with empty cases, preferably fired cases that have not yet been resized, as these may stick a little in the chamber, giving the necessary resistance which, when released, gives increased velocity to the ejector star and therefore to the spent cases. Best of all, to practice this step, are cases that have just been live-fired and not previously ejected, to get the authentic feel, but dry practice with sized cases or even dummy rounds or snap caps will do. Unloading is as important as reloading! You can't get the new cartridges in until the old ones are out! Don't be too gentle with that ejector rod!
6: Once the empties are clear, turn the weapon back to vertical and transfer it to the left, support, hand, wrapping the thumb around the cylinder to prevent it from spinning, and the fingers through the frame for a firm grip. Use the entire left hand to control the cylinder and crane, so it neither swings nor spins. Remember that point.
7: Depress the muzzle about 45°. With your now-free right hand, reach for a speedloader. Once you get up to speed, your right hand should be moving toward your speedloader while empty cases are still airborne. I wear my speedloader carriers on the right side, forward of my holster.
8: Guide the cartridge tips into the chambers. Here you must exercise control, not going too fast or using too much force. Dummy cartridges, like the aluminum A-Zoom snap caps, are excellent for practicing this step. Dummies made from sized, unprimed cases with bullets seated and crimped are even better, to get a more authentic feel. Note that the index finger of the right hand is positioned between cartridges for reference. This is similar to placing the index finger of the left hand along the front of a pistol magazine. With that finger for reference, your brain has more data to determine the location of the cartridges relative to the chambers, just as with a pistol you can more easily locate the magazine relative to the magazine well. As you progress with this technique you may be able to reach a point where your left thumb is consistently positioned in the cylinder flutes between chambers, giving another data point, and you may even be able to reload your revolver without looking at it. I am still working on this last feature myself, having recently discovered it while training with Yuri.
9: Once the cartridges have entered the chambers, it is not necessary to push them all the way in. Holding the support hand thumb on the outside of the cylinder gives the necessary resistance to operate the HKS speedloader's knob with the strong hand; simply turn the knob 30° clockwise. If your chambers are reasonably clean (I disrecommend firing .38 Special rounds in a .357 Magnum chamber; the shorter cartridges will leave a ring of fouling which will prevent easy chambering of Magnum rounds, and this ring must be scrubbed out to restore full function to your revolver; I make my own low power loads in Magnum cases to reduce recoil while preventing this fouling), your cartridges are properly sized, and your muzzle is depressed, the cartridges should drop smoothly into the chambers as soon as the speedloader releases them. (There are other brands and types of speedloaders, such as the Safariland plunger types, but these are usually more expensive and harder to find than the HKS, which are available at many retailers. The HKS is simple, reliable, and widely available. I have five for this revolver.)
10: As soon as the cartridges are fully seated, let go of the speedloader; it should fall away unhindered. Drop it! It'll take it, and you can pick it up later, after you've neutralized a threat or trounced your competition. And if it rolls into a sewer or the like, methinks eight bucks would be a small price to pay for winning a gunfight.
11: Use the support hand thumb to swing the cylinder back into the frame, rolling the cylinder slightly to ensure that the stop bolt catches in one of its slots, so your weapon is fully in battery and ready for a complete cycle of operation. Closing and locking the cylinder should be done with the support hand alone, while the strong hand, which has just dropped the speedloader, is moved back onto the grip. Again, use the entire left hand, on both sides of the weapon, for total control of the movement of the cylinder and crane.
12: Replace the support hand in its usual position (when applicable), acquire your next target, and resume firing.
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