Revolver Reloads Part 4: Right-Hand-Only

We all know that a gunfight is a “two-way range,” where bullets coming at us may find their mark. It is imperative to know how to continue – and terminate – the deadly fight after being wounded. Therefore, we need to know how to effectively shoot a handgun with one hand only and, if necessary, reload with one hand only if that is all the wounded defender has to work with.

Given the revolver’s limited cartridge capacity, one-handed reloading is more important than with the higher-capacity autoloading pistol. We won’t talk about “strong or weak hand” or “dominant or non-dominant hand” here but rather right and left. The reason is simple: since the guns aren’t mirror images, we need different techniques for each hand. We’ll start with right-hand-only today and get to left-hand-only in a later article here at MagLife.

Cover

Obviously, we’re helpless as long as we don’t have a loaded gun, so ideally, we’ll be getting behind cover to do the reload if at all possible. Trying to do it on the run is not a good idea. Getting to cover and then reloading seems to be a better plan under most circumstances.

Safety

In the interest of safety, these techniques are best learned with dummy cartridges and, ideally, under the supervision of a qualified instructor.

Step-by-Step

First, we have to open the cylinder. With the exception of a rarely-encountered mirror image variation of the Charter Arms revolver, the cylinder will swing out from the left side of the frame. For the right-hand-only reload, begin by using your thumb and forefinger to open the cylinder. The thumb pushes forward on the release latch of the Smith & Wesson, Taurus, Rossi, or Henry revolver, presses inward on that of the Ruger or Kimber revolver, or pulls back on the American Colt, the Filipino Armscor, or the Japanese Miroku. While maintaining pressure on the latch, use the right index finger to push the cylinder as far out of the frame as it goes, as seen in the lead photo above.

Dexterity seems to improve with the hand closer to the body; rather than do it at arm’s length, most of us find it easier to pull the gun into the chest area, still pointed downrange, to open the cylinder.

To eject, once the cylinder is open, let the fingers slide forward, with the thumb catching in the area under the “hook” of the hammer spur. This will bring the middle finger, the longest digit on the hand, within reach of the tip of the ejector rod.

open revolver in hand
The thumb slides under the hammer spur as the fingers slide forward. (Photo: Gail Pepin)

Point the muzzle skyward. This will maximize the helpful effect of gravity as the middle finger executes one decisive stroke of the ejector rod, releasing it immediately and allowing it to spring back forward. Don’t rapidly or repeatedly pump the ejector rod; this is associated with spent casings getting caught under the ejector star. If there’s still a spent shell or two that hasn’t ejected all the way, shake them out.

ejecting cartridges with right hand
The middle finger performs ejection with a single sharp stroke. (Photo: Gail Pepin)

Now that we’ve cleared the chambers to receive fresh ammo, bring your thumb to the ejector star and hold it there firmly. We are going to push that gun someplace where if our clothing pushes that ejector star up, live rounds can get caught beneath it or fail to seat fully in the chambers.

Hand on revolver
The thumb holds the ejector star down as an open revolver is thrust into the holster. (Photo: Gail Pepin)

Now, if you have a suitable holster, place the open-cylindered revolver there, with the cylinder between your body and the frame of the gun. Absent such a holster, turn the gun butt forward and shove the barrel into your waistband with the cylinder hanging out.

NOTE: With a very short barrel revolver, this is going to be precarious. Lean back at the hips and let the gun rest against your belly for more stability.

Grab your speedloader and insert it. With the Safariland or Jetloader type, a push will automatically release the cartridges into the chambers. If your loader is an HKS or Five-Star with a turning knob, you don’t have fingers to stabilize the loader and keep it and the cylinder from turning without releasing, so push down and then turn the knob simultaneously. The rounds should drop into the chambers.

reloading with a speedloader
The speedloader is inserted, and rounds are released. Here HKS loader has been pressed down into 3″ S&W 66 to stabilize, and the release knob is turned. Let the empty loader fall away. (Photo: Gail Pepin)

Finally, let the empty loader fall away. Grasp the revolver in a firing grip but with the trigger finger outside the trigger guard and away from the trigger. To close the cylinder, if you reload the gun in the holster, just close the cylinder against the ribcage as you draw. If you’ve had to shove it into your belt, you’ll turn your palm out and perform a “cavalry draw” and, keeping the muzzle down and not pointed at your leg, close the cylinder against your thigh.

revolver reloaded
The reloaded revolver is drawn with the cylinder closed against the ribcage, ready to do what needs to be done. (Photo: Gail Pepin)

Your revolver is now reloaded. Assess the immediate here-and-now situation (remember, you’ve been concentrating on reloading the gun, not on making deadly force decisions) and proceed as necessary.

This reload is relatively straightforward, but it’s still advisable that you train with it through repetition and get used to it. After all, practice makes perfect, right? But don’t forget to move to cover first. Never try to reload while out in the open and exposed to potential threats. From what I’ve seen and experienced, reloads of any kind never work out too well when out of cover. So, keep your head down, play it smart, and stay in the fight.

Stay tuned: we’ll be along shortly with the left-hand-only reload for the double-action swing-out cylinder revolver.

Massad "Mas" Ayoob is a well respected and widely regarded SME in the firearm world. He has been a writer, editor, and law enforcement columnist for decades, and has published thousands of articles and dozens of books on firearms, self-defense, use of force, and related topics. Mas, a veteran police officer, was the first to earn the title of Five Gun Master in the International Defensive Pistol Association. He served nearly 20 years as chair of the Firearms Committee of the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers and is also a longtime veteran of the Advisory Bard of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. A court-recognized expert witness in shooting cases since 1979, Ayoob founded the Lethal Force Institute in 1981 and served as its director until 2009. He continues to instruct through Massad Ayoob Group, http://massadayoobgroup.com.

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