Revolver Reloads Part 6: Without Speedloaders

In the last five installments, we’ve shown the revolver reloads of FBI, FLTEC, and StressFire, and one-hand only reloads with either hand. We all know the speedloader or moon clip is the fastest way to reload a wheelgun, and we used the speedloader to illustrate those five installments.

Alas, some people find speedloaders too bulky and inconvenient for concealed carry. This forces the revolver user to go with something more concealable but slower. Let’s explore the options, working from slowest to fastest.

Loose Cartridges

If nothing else is available, a pocket full of loose cartridges is better than no spare ammo at all. If you’re forced into this situation, the best option I’ve found is to put them, if possible, in a jacket pocket (in pants pockets, you really have to dig for them because the fabric is holding them tight against the leg). With the revolver in the right hand, open the cylinder, turn the muzzle upward, and eject with a sharp downward slap of the left palm.

Keeping the open gun in the right hand, grab the cartridges in the left hand. Turn that hand palm upward, and slide the ejector rod between the index and middle fingers. Don’t open the fingers to make room, or one or more rounds may spill from between the fingers. Keep the fingers tight together and push the rod in between them. Let your thumb encircle the cylinder.

Your palm has now become a loading tray. Use the right hand to insert the cartridges, one at a time or, with practice, two at a time. The thumb can turn the cylinder as you reload: It’s easier to insert on the outside edge of the cylinder than on the inside, where the frame can get in the way of the hand. Close the cylinder and get back to work.

Dump Pouches

These were once the national standard for police uniform wear and were largely hated by those forced to wear them. For one thing, the leather shrank over the years. We saw cops on the firing line having to jump up and down, hoping to bounce the last one or two cartridges out. Many cops lined theirs with sheet metal to make the drop easier. They were also known as spill pouches, an apt name because sometimes the flap would be accidentally opened, and the rounds would fall to the ground.

If you’re right-handed, carry the dump pouch on the left side. Eject as described above, and let the left hand pop the flap and catch the rounds in the palm of the hand. Then, slide the ejector rod between the first two fingers as described above and make your hand a “loading tray” again. That’s a whole lot easier and more positive than holding all the rounds in one hand and trying to sort and insert them one at a time.

using a dump pouch
Keep the gun in your right hand, slap the ejector with the left hand, then dump cartridges from the pouch into your palm (left) and slide the ejector rod between the tight index and middle fingers (right), creating a “loading tray effect.” Use a similar technique for “handful of loose rounds.” (Photo: Gail Pepin)

Personally, I think the best use for dump pouches is as holders for Speed Strips.

Speedstrip in a dump pouch
The dump pouch is used as a Speed Strip container, and both are by Bianchi. Revolver is 3″ S&W m/66. (Photo: Gail Pepin)

Belt Loops

Lying flat against the body, cartridge loops conceal well under un-tucked closed front garments and are much faster than pouches. Beware, however, that leather shrinkage over time can make the loops too tight. You want a belt slide that holds the loops at the top edge. Use your fingertips to push the cartridges up (two at a time, with a little practice), and then grasp them between your thumb and index and middle fingers and insert them into the chambers.

loops to hold ammo on belt
Index and middle finger push cartridges up from loops two at a time, then thumb joins them to load both rounds into this 4″ Moran Custom Colt Python .357. (Photo: Gail Pepin)

The single best loop system I can recommend is a recent development designed by Cecil Burch and produced by Dark Star. The solution features synthetic construction that won’t shrink, holds two cartridges per unit (you can stage them in different places for better concealment), and is faster because the cartridge heads are already “pushed up” for quick access.

2 round belt loop holder
Mas holds the Dark Star 2-round belt loops designed by Cecil Burch, which he considers the best available concealment belt loops. Two more on the belt back up the Laser-Gripped S&W M&P 340 in hand. (Photo: Gail Pepin)

Speed Strips

Pioneered and still produced by Bianchi, the Speed Strip can hold up to six rounds, and the competing Tuff Strip can be had with more. Flat enough to fit in the watch pocket of jeans or the business card pocket inside suit coats and blazers, this is the most convenient system to carry and can be as fast as loops. Different instructors stage the cartridges differently. What I’ve found to work best is five rounds in a Speed Strip, leaving the bottom cell empty. That allows the middle finger to encircle the strip there for a positive hold, with the index finger on the spine of the strip as if one were holding a scalpel.

Using a vertical rather than lateral peel and dropping the strip can be pretty fast. Use the thumb to rotate the cylinder as you go so the same movement takes place over the same part of the cylinder.

reloading with a speedstrip
Bianchi Speed Strip feeds Speer Gold Dot 125-grain +P two at a time into the S&W J-frame with the best technique the author has found. (Photo: Gail Pepin)

2x2x2 Pouch

There are good pouches, and there are not-so-good pouches. The old spill pouches kinda suck…but the one that works is the 2x2x2, produced by DeSantis and others. It was standard issue for the FBI in the last of the Bureau’s revolver days, along with the Safariland speedloader. As the name implies, the pouch doesn’t spill but rather tilts forward about 45 degrees, stops after you’ve popped its flap, and holds two cartridges primer-up in each of three adjacent cells. It’s actually a bit faster than belt loops because the cartridges don’t have to be pushed up. Its design is also less vulnerable to shrinkage. They’re also discreet: with the flap closed, this unit resembles a business card carrier.

reloading with the 2by2by2 carrier
Mas reloads Python 2 at a time from a 2x2x2 carrier. (Photo: Gail Pepin)


Thus far in the series, we’ve been talking about the speed reload, or emergency reload: the gun has run dry, and we have to refill it quickly. The above systems come into their own for the tactical reload, in which there are some spent casings and some live rounds in the cylinder, and you think you have time to top them off. As with all reloads, practice makes perfect. When practicing, however, be sure to use snap caps or dummy rounds before moving to live rounds. Be safe, have fun, and be ready for anything!

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,

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