Revolver Reloads Part 5: Left-Hand-Only

Let’s assume you’re having a really bad day in which your right hand has been injured or wounded, your revolver is empty, and you desperately need to reload it using the only hand you have remaining. We won’t talk about the “dominant and non-dominant” hand here; since the cylinder comes out on the left side of the revolver, each hand must adapt with separate techniques. See my previously published “Revolver Reloads Part 4: Right Hand Only” article.

As with most reloads, in an ideal world, you’ll get behind cover to perform this complicated technique if you need to employ it “for real.”

Safety

These techniques should be practiced extensively with dummy rounds or snap caps before being attempted with live ammunition. Ideally, it should be done with instructor or safety officer supervision.

Step-By-Step

Pull the revolver back and touch the backstrap of the grip frame to the left side of your chest. This will stabilize your grasp. Slide your hand into a position where the bottom of the trigger guard is centered in the hollow of the palm of your left hand. You’re now in position for your left thumb to activate the cylinder release latch while the fingertips push the cylinder out into the open position.

Open revolver in left hand
Slide the palm of the hand under the trigger guard (Left), putting the revolver in position for the thumb to work the cylinder release and fingertips to push the cylinder out (Right). (Photo: Gail Pepin)

Leaving the fingers in that position – reaching through the open window of the frame and holding the cylinder out – turn the muzzle up so gravity can work for you and minimize the chance of a cartridge rim getting caught under the ejector star. Use your thumb to push the ejector rod with a single purposeful stroke, the so-called “FBI ejection technique,” and punch the spent casings out.

demo of ejecting
Grasp open the revolver as shown on the left, then turn the muzzle up and eject with the thumb as shown on the right. (Photo: Gail Pepin)

Now, bring the thumb to the back of the cylinder and press the ejector star firmly to keep it in place, as seen in the uncaptioned lead photo here. Thrust the barrel of the gun into the left front of the waistband with the open cylinder and ejector rod hanging out in front of the belt. The thumb on the star will keep the belt from pushing up the ejector star and preventing full seating of cartridges.

open revolver in waistband
Insert into the front left waistband like this. The thumb on the ejector star is important to keep the star from rising. (Photo: Gail Pepin)

Grasp the speedloader with fingertips in front of the bullet noses and guide the cartridges into the cylinder. With moon clips, the job is done right there. With speedloaders, we have to activate the release. Further, with a straight-push-release design, such as the Safariland series or the JetLoader, just a push should drop the rounds into the chambers. With a turning knob release, such as the HKS or the Five-Star loader, turning the knob will turn the cylinder without releasing the rounds, so you have to stabilize it. I’ve found the easiest way is to put my ring finger in one of the cylinder flutes. Now thumb and forefinger turn the knob, releasing the payload into the cylinder.

loading with speedloader
The author performs LHO speedload. Note thumb and forefinger on release knob of HKS loader in 3″ S&W Combat Magnum, ring finger stabilizing cylinder. (Photo: Gail Pepin)

Let the now-empty speedloader fall away. Take a firing grasp on the grip with the trigger finger straight, lift the gun out of the waistband, and use that index finger to close the cylinder. (Don’t close it as you swing it up, or a round may start to back out of its chamber, which will block cylinder closure.) Close the cylinder and then bring the muzzle up on target, and you’re ready to go back to work.

clyinder closed
The reloaded revolver is drawn, the trigger finger closes the cylinder, and the gun is ready to come up and into action again. (Photo: Gail Pepin)

Other Considerations

Most people are right-handed, meaning that if they have injured their right arm before they can draw, right-handed shooters need to have practiced using their left hand to get the gun out of the right-handed holster. Weak hand draws from strong-side holsters are something we can discuss in another article.

The one-hand-only reload can be done from belt loops, pouches, or strips. Obviously, though, a speedloader will be advantageous. That is even more true for the one-hand-only techniques than it is when the shooter can use both hands.

The New York reload – dropping the empty gun and drawing a second, loaded one – is the fastest way to get back into action in these circumstances. It is generally a good idea to keep the second gun where the non-dominant hand can reach it easily in case the dominant hand is taken out of play.

The one-handed reload is relatively complicated. It needs lots of practice. The good news is that it can easily be practiced while watching TV or listening to music with dummy rounds. It’s a skill you’re unlikely to need… but one which, if you do need it, you will need it desperately.

Parting Thoughts

As with any reloading drill, practice makes perfect. Don’t just read this article and assume you’ll remember how to do this under stress. Instead, abide by the age-old rule of “practice, practice, practice.” Run the drill until it becomes second nature. In a real-world scenario, we rely on muscle memory as adrenaline takes over and our mind goes foggy.

Train and train often. Without proper training and practice, you’re more of a liability than an asset. Remember that.

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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