Handguns > Revolver

Revolver Tactical Reload

Follow these tips when conducting a tactical reload with a revolver.


The defensive revolver is very much like the fighting shotgun in that it doesn't hold all that many cartridges and should be topped off whenever the situation allows. Certainly this should be done when the shooting has ceased, or when there is a lull in the fight. If, for some reason, you have to move from your cover, it is also a good idea to top off your defensive revolver before making that move.
To perform a tactical reload, the revolver is placed in the palm of the left hand, just as suggested in the revolver speed reload. The index and little fingers support the right side of the frame, while the two middle fingers are used to push the cylinder open when the cylinder release is activated with the right thumb. Once the cylinder is open, the left thumb and two middle fingers hold the cylinder and rotate it as necessary.
With the muzzle pointing down, the left thumb pushes the ejector rod just enough to raise the cartridges out of their chambers, but not enough to eject the cartridges entirely. The empty rounds are then plucked out of the cylinder with the fingers of the right hand. It is important to simply pluck the empties clear of the cylinder and let them fall to the ground. Trying to hold onto them, or throw them away, wastes precious time. Just pull them clear of the revolver and let them fall.
At this point, the right hand goes to the ammo carrier and transports fresh cartridges to the cylinder. With a little practice, most folks can easily handle and load two cartridges at a time. I particularly like the belt pouches that have three pockets, holding two cartridges each. If a speed strip is used, such as those made by Bianchi and Tuff Products, it is brought to the gun, cartridges inserted and peeled off of the strip with a twisting motion of the right hand.

It is particularly important to perform the tactical reload with the revolver held up high, somewhere between your shirt pockets and your chin. This allows the defensive shooter to remain alert to what is going on around him or her and, in particular, keep an eye on the bad guys. It's a real mistake to take the revolver down to belt-level as we often see competitive shooters do. Hold the revolver high and take the ammo to the gun, instead of the other way around.

As a general rule, we like to perform defensive functions that do not require the use of fine motor skills. When you are nervous or stressed, fine motor skills are among the first skills to leave you. However, pulling empty cartridges from a cylinder and replacing them with loaded rounds is a fine motor skill function. For this reason, revolver shooters need to spend a lot of time practicing this reload. The more you practice, the more agile you will become, even under stress.

When I am carrying a revolver, I usually wear a six-round ammo pouch on my belt and have a six-round speed strip in my pocket. Since fine motor skills are required for the tactical reload, it is very possible to drop a live round during the process. It is a waste of time to try to bend down and pick it up. It is far quicker to just go to your pouch, or speed strip for more ammunition.

Once the tactical reload is completed, the cylinder is pushed shut with the left hand and the two-hand grip is resumed on the handgun. It is important to only use enough force to push the cylinder shut. Slamming the cylinder shut may bend the crane and cause the revolver to eventually get out of time, which can cause problems with the gun.

As mentioned earlier, practice is very important if one expects to be smooth with a tactical reload for the revolver. The serious defensive shooter would be well-advised to buy some dummy rounds and practice this technique at home as part of the regular dry practice. Developing a good defensive technique for the tactical reload and then putting in lots of practice time is needed if the revolver is your choice for personal defense. 

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6 Responses to Revolver Tactical Reload

Arlen Norby wrote:
April 19, 2012

I also carry a 2x2x2 pouch with the revolver for tac reloads, however I do it with the gun at belt level as I was taught in the academy 39+ years ago.

Rob wrote:
April 15, 2012

Seems like when I went through an LE academy 22 years ago when revolvers were still issued, they taught all of the above techniques. come to think of it, speedloaders didn't get much coverage cause we were't allowed to have them in training and were required to become proficient with loops. Anyway, knowing all of the reload techniques, including how to index a wheel gun makes for a more proficient revolver shooter.

DS wrote:
April 13, 2012

The dangerous thing with doing a tactical reload with a revolver is that you cannot fire the gun when the cylinder is out and you're fumbling with the incredibly awkward process described above. This is opposed to a pistol or non-break action shotgun which can be fired during a tactical reload. Furthermore, the situation where such a reload would be possible is incredibly unlikely to happen to any civilian. Unless you're a cop (very very few of which still carry reolvers) you're not likely to be ducking behind cover during a "lull in the fighting" (whatever that means in real life). If you're getting mugged or attacked on the street the lull will come when your opponent is dead or lying there alive in which case you will not want to disable your firearm to do a tactical reload. In the house, there is little real cover, walls and most doors being easily penetrated by bullets. I would certainly not do what is described in this article. If I really need to flip out my cylinder to top up, I'll do so in the quickest way possible by dumping everything on the ground and using my speed loader. If I need those 2-3 unused rounds that bad, I'll crouch with my eyes forward and pick them up with a fully loaded gun...something safer and requiring less talent, fine motor skills, and visual concentration than what described above.

Arscott wrote:
April 12, 2012

Wheel gun be bitchin

Norbert Tanguay wrote:
April 12, 2012

If you carry your spare ammo in a speed loader this method is not possible. With a speed loader. Open the cylinder, raise the barrel and let the unspent rounds fall into your right hand, then using the ejector rod, eject the spent rounds while putting the live rounds in your pocket. Then go for the speed loader and reload the revolver. If you run out of ammo from the two speed loaders you may be glad that you still have a few rounds in your pocket to hand load.

Jerry Orcutt wrote:
April 12, 2012

A good article...I use jet loaders..but if one wants to top up, they don't work, thanks a lot