Speed loading and speedloaders

If you can divorce yourself from nostalgia, sentimentality, and a desire to appear ‘old-school’, it’s hard to argue that for most cases of defense against things with two legs, the automatic pistol has nudged the revolver into a distant second place. That isn’t to say that people still don’t carry revolvers for defense against people (and this is an important distinction I’ll touch on later), but rather that objectively the auto trumps the revolver for self-defense in most ways.

The revolver’s strength? Cartridge selection, simplicity of use. It’s drawbacks? Everything else. For defense against more-than-two-legged things (think claws and teeth) revolvers have the advantage of being able to throw out stuff that generates a buttload of ft/lbs. that most automatics can’t. (Yes, you can carry a Desert Eagle or a Wildey in the woods and be just as well heeled as any .44 Mag toter, but you’re doing it at a sizable weight/size disadvantage.)

Having said that, there are still days I tuck a revolver into my pocket, or sli\ip one into a belt holster, when I go about my day. But I always make sure to carry spare ammo.

The NYPD (Motto: “Ahright, Shows Over, Shows over..let’s go.”) used to, believe it or not, issue revolvers to it’s troops right up until the 1990’s. And as if that wasn’t archaic enough, they had you carry your reloads in what were called ‘dump pouches’. These were little leather boxes on your belt that held six cartridges. The opening flap was on the bottom of the box. You’d pop the flap and the cartridges would fall into your palm where you would then reload your revolver one round at a time. In 1986. Sonny Crockett had a 10mm auto but NYPD cops were still loading like they were in Mayberry.

Why didn’t they NYPD issue speedloaders? Good question. Inertia and training seems to be the answer. My cursory research shows that it came down to these reasons: too complicated, too fragile, we’ve always done it this way.

And then, one day, a cop got into a bullet party with a bad guy and while reloading his revolver the cop caught a round in his melon. The subsequent outrage pushed the NYPD into allowing the use of speedloaders. (Honestly, I’d be surprised if there weren’t a whole bunch of guys already carrying them in their pockets or on their belts when they thought no one was looking.)

Brand of choice? HKS. For the most part, thats the big name in speedloaders although there have always been smaller shops making specialty ones. After HKS the next biggest name is Safariland. Once you get past the speedloaders, your next option for loading your revolver faster is two load by twosies rather than onesies – the Speed Strip. When Bianchi brought these things out, back in the days of aviator sunglasses and porn ‘staches, their advertising said that they would be offered in other calibers as well. That never happened. Fast forward a few decades and another outfit picked up the slack to give us Speed Strips (under a different name to, no doubt, avoid trademark issues) in other calibers.

When I’m carrying a revolver for protection against the two-legged, it’s usually a .38 or .357. (A J-frame or K-frame of some brand.) My personal preference is the Speed Strip if I’m just tossing the snubbie in my pocket as I walk out the the door. The Speed Strips lay flat in a pocket and are handy to use. While a tad slower than a speedloader, they are still light years ahead of the old dump pouch.

When I carry the larger framed guns (K-frame, like a Model 10 or Security Six) I carry a couple speedloaders. I used to carry the HKS speedloaders and they work fine. They’re quite reliable, well made, and can usually be found at gun shows for $10 or less for each one. The speedloader has a knob at the back that needs to be turned to release the cartridges. Drop the speedloader into the cylinder, grip the cylinder to keep it from turning, twist the knob on the back of the speedloader, discard speedloader, close gun. Shoot, rinse, repeat.

I kinda prefer the Safariland Comp I & II speedloaders. Instead of a knob to twist, the speedloader releases its cartridges when the cylinder pin contacts the release on the speedloader, Basically, you drop the speedloader into the cylinder, shove it home, and the cartridges automagically release into the cylinder. It’s not that the twist motion of the HKS speedloader is a big deal, but I find the Comp I speedloader to be wonderfully compact since it doesnt have a big knob protruding from the back.

My next revolver is going to be one of the new 8-shot Ruger Redhawks. Fortunately 8-shot speed strips exist for it, and I’ve no doubt that speedloaders will follow.

But, getting back to the first two paragraphs, my G17 without a spare magazine carries as much ammo as my GP100 with two speedloaders. So..there’s that. On the the other hand, my N-frame drops heavier and faster lead than the Glock does, which is why I carry the G17 in town and the N-frame in the boonies. (Although at some point I’ll go full Nugent and get a Glock 10mm as my woods gun.)

11 thoughts on “Speed loading and speedloaders

  1. Off topic but the Ruger PC Carbine in 9mm is back but this time it may well sell.
    It now comes with interchangeable magazine wells for use of Ruger and Glock magazines. It ships with SR-Series Pistol and Security-9 magazine well installed and an additional magazine which will accepting Glock magazines (Mod. 26 and up by the look of it) is also included. Ruger American Pistol magazine well is also available.
    How long before they add more magazine wells to the list.

  2. When I carried a S&W model 19, I preferred the Safariland speed loaders. But now they have been exiled to the long term storage locker, and I have upgraded to a high capacity 9mm. 357magnum had GREAT stopping power on man or beast. But with recent improvements in bullet technology, I don’t feel under gunned with a CZ75 and two spare mags. Just my 3 cents worth (adjusted for inflation)

  3. Zero

    As per usual your common sense reading works. I only have 2 revolvers to the 8 or so autoloaders i own, but one is a Taurus Tracker, 4 inch in .44 mag. This is a beast when I apply full power 240 grain bullet wrist buster loads, but quite acceptable with loaded down .44 specials. That is my woods gun, and deer hunting handgun when I have to hunt in areas that prohibit rifle use.

    By the way I have a SIG P220 in 10mm. Outrageous price but what a nice piece. Heavy sucker though. Prep on bro.

  4. I as w/MI SP for 16 years. We were issiued m10 K-frames w/dump pouches and a full-flap crossdraw (left hip, only!). I alwauys carried speed strips, and once I got on straight 8pm-4am shift I put speedloaders on my duty belt. I avoided brass hats religiously, but word got out that I was “not uniform” (a mortal sin in MSP) and our District Commander called me to task for it. When he looked the ‘loaders over, he marveled at their efficiency and demanded to know when they had been invented. I told him I had an old set of steel ‘loaders made about 1930. The DC, despite not liking me, declared that his district was allowed to carry HKS or Safariland speedloaders in high-shine pouches. MSP soon followed suit.
    I’ve been retired since ’90, and still carry a 2.5″ m10 round butt revolver with a J-frame backup, or a pair of the 2.5″ m210s. Great old guns, and plenty fast enough for me.

  5. Annoyed that Safariland never made a mod I or II for the 5-shot .44 guns. The HKS type allows the cartridges to wobble very badly, making loading a distracting process. Getting all 5 to line up at the same time doesn’t happen without help from tapered bullets. This is aggravated with hollowpoints catching on stuff. Might have to order some more Tough Strips to replace them.

    Not much reason to have a Deagle in .44, especially since they are now all built on the .50AE chassis. That would be my preferred Portable Bear Repellent ™.

  6. IIRC, SanFranPD also lost a cop while reloading a revolver. Took a class in ’96 that had a female SFPD newbie larning to use their recent Beretta 92 issue.

    I was told by a cop around ’90 that a popular backup gun for SFPD was a Deagle .44 in a shoulder rig. (They wear jackets year ’round (cold place). Said the reason was Pacific Islanders on PCP. Procedure was fire a round with the issue .38spl, drop it, and switch to the heavy hitter. Said they didn’t seem to notice a hit from the .38 revolvers. Even head shots were considered a dangerous waste of time.

    • I cannot, for a moment, believe that anyone on SFPD carried a boat anchor like the Desert Eagle. I’m not saying you weren’t told that, just saying I can’t believe its true.

  7. Z, RE: 8-shot Redhawk. Good luck with that, and I hope every problem you encounter with it gets solved in 8 rounds or less. I ran a 627 in ICORE for a few years, and tried different reloading methods (the 627 was worthless in IPSC Production because IPSC doesn’t care how many holes your cylinder has, you’re allowed to use only 6 of them). I’ve been Jonesing for S&W’s 2 1/2 inch 627 for years, but still can’t find a use for it.

    Trying to line up 8 long 357 mag cases with their holes is a task requiring great patience unless the speed loader holds the cases very, very tightly. 38 Special isn’t any better, and while the 627 cylinder is cut for moon clips, moon clips and 357 or 38 is a no-go due to any slop in the fit between brass and clips kills the deal. It becomes one of those kid’s games where you have to keep tilting the game to get all the little balls to fall into the holes. Which is why the 627 shooters in ICORE use 38 Short Colt brass – which is the same length as 9MM brass – and thicker clips that fit the tightest (FYI, Winchester brass has the thinnest groove) and truncated cone bullets. ICORE’s power floor is 125, so a 140 grain hard cast truncated cone Cowboy bullet at 895 FPS makes it, easy to do in 38 Short Colt. Very fast reloads that way, but kinda defeats the purpose of using a 357 magnum in the first place. I don’t know what the pressure limits are on 38 Short Colt brass, but it shouldn’t be hard to work up a load with a 125 grain HP at ~ 1200 FPS or so, but I don’t see much point in having what’s basically an 8-shot, 3 pound, 9MM revolver when there are so many good higher capacity choices in semi-autos. There might be a condition in which the gun has 8 357 mag rounds, and reloads – if necessary – are handloaded hot 38 Short Colt in moon clips, but a better solution is to just buy the G20, some spare mags, and be done with it (don’t overlook the EAA Witness in 10MM, the Elite line has won LOT of matches and has a lot going for it, the Witness Polymer is priced like the G20, the full-size all steel version about $100 more. Steel Witnesses are based on the CZ75 design, so that’s a winner as well).

  8. A couple week ago I shot a night of IDPA with an old K frame. Had a holster but no speed loaders or pouches. Literally had a pile of bullets in my sweatshirt pocket.

    It shot well but reloads were an issue. On a timer one reload was 30 seconds!

    Safariland speedloaders and pouches are on my Christmas list (Dad life I get stuff a paycheck later).

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