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Departments : Officer Survival

Rapid Reload

Make sure you always have enough bullets in your gun to keep it running.

July 01, 2003  |  by Dave Spaulding

The author demonstrates the right grip for speed loader use.

You're on patrol when you hear the sudden sound of gunfire. You pull your patrol car around and move into the parking lot of a convenience store as a masked subject runs from the front door firing a handgun.

You bail from the driver's side door and take cover behind your engine block, as you exchange rounds with the suspect. Bullets are bouncing off the hood of your cruiser as you strain to get a visual on the suspect. As you peek over the hood, you notice him trying to flank you. In an attempt to stop his aggression, you fire a round and then your gun goes "click." It is the loudest sound you've ever heard and you're convinced the suspect had to hear it, too. What do you do?

The obvious response is to reload your gun. Without bullets, a handgun is nothing more than an expensive paperweight. Reloading this paperweight with bullets quickly is a necessary skill.

There are those who say that gunfights, statistically, are over quickly and only a few rounds are fired, so why waste precious training time on reloading drills? Well, the obvious answer is that if the gun runs dry during a gunfight, the skill to refill it becomes essential.

When using a five- or six-shot revolver, reloading is more complex in that five or six chambers must be lined up with the bullets vs. the semiauto's one magazine with the magazine well, so revolver speed loading is a must. To my way of thinking, reloading is one of the basic essentials of firearms training. It rates right up there with other required skills such as trigger control and making multiple shots. With this in mind, let's take a look at a few combat-reloading techniques.


When I entered law enforcement in the mid-1970s, the speed loader was a fairly new device. In the academy, we were still instructed on how to load from dump pouches, which was a perilous endeavor at best.

The speed loader corrected this problem and made reloading the revolver a much simpler task. This device lets you load all of the revolver's chambers at once, giving the wheel gun a reloading capability similar to that of a semiauto pistol. Carrying a revolver for police service and not having at least two to three speed loaders to recharge it is, well, less than wise.

Shooting Hand Reload

When using your shooting hand to hold a gun for speed loading, use your trigger finger to hold the cylinder open.

The most common reloading technique for the revolver involves moving the gun to your support hand while using the thumb or finger of your shooting hand to open the cylinder release. For this technique, hold the cylinder itself open with your support hand. Use your shooting hand to remove the speed loader from its pouch and insert it into the cylinder, all rounds falling into place (hopefully) at once.

The biggest mistake many officers make with the speed loader is grabbing it from the pouch using the release knob to guide it into place. Not only is the smaller gripping surface hard to use when under stress, it's also more difficult to line up with the five or six chambers of the cylinder.

A much-improved method of speed loading the revolver involves grabbing the speed loader by its body with all five fingers and using those fingers as a guide into the cylinder.

When you do this, your fingertips will actually extend beyond the bottom edge of the speed loader, allowing them to slide past the rear of the cylinder, acting as a vehicle to line up the rounds with the given chambers. Once the bullets are in line, just release your grip on the speed loader, permitting gravity to drop it into place. At this point, any release button can be manipulated and the speed loader discarded.

Do not waste valuable time trying to retrieve the discarded speed loader. While this may sound obvious to most of us, what you do on the range will transfer to the street.

The reason for using your shooting hand is that many believe the stronger hand has greater dexterity and will be better able to line up the rounds.

CONTINUED: Rapid Reload «   Page 1 of 2   »

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