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.)