In my previous speed strip post I talked about different techniques used to reload with a speed strip, and the concept of partial loads. Unlock its semi auto cousin, it is possible to only load one or two rounds on a revolver, as opposed to stuff a whole magazine in the gun. This post will focus on partial loads and breakdown some of the numbers.
First, let us set a baseline. A reload with a speedloader out of a pocket takes about 5 seconds on average. A little faster if everything goes right, a little longer if it doesn’t. I mentioned before that the reason for speed strips is that they are easier to carry, so part of this analysis is understanding what is given up by opting for the easier to carry speed strip.
To have an apples to apples comparison, or at least close to it, we will start by loading six rounds off a speed strip and seeing how long it takes.
On average, it took me 8.94 seconds to load 6 rounds and then fire four rounds. My average time to the first shot fired was 8.25 seconds, with my fastest at 7.89 and my slowest at 8.87. We are looking at about a 3-4 second increase in time.
This is where I have to change my thought process a little. I come from a semi-auto world. I learned how to shoot on a Glock, still shoot a Glock, and even though I have dabbled with revolvers in the past, my thought process has often been that reloading is an all or nothing affair. After all, that is the mag fed pistol world. The gun is either loaded, or it isn’t. There is not really a middle ground. When I break away from the mag fed world to the revolver, where I can load one round, or up to eight or nine depending on the revolver, that equation changes. The gun is technically loaded with a single round in the cylinder, or completely full. If there is a need to short cut a reload, it can be done.
So let us take a step back and see where my break even point is on the revolver reload with speed strips vs. the revolver reload with a speedloader. The common practice with a revolver is to load two rounds off the speed strip simultaneously, so that is where I will start, load two and fire one, while retaining the speed strip because it will still have live ammunition on it that can be used later.
On average this technique took 5.10 seconds to get a single round on target. The fasted was a 4.49, and the slowest was a 5.52. Getting back to our comparison, on average, this technique is only five hundreths of a second slower than a speedloader reload. I was impressed, at least with the time to a single shot.
I bumped it up to a load two fire two next. The average turned out to be 6.45 seconds to load two rounds and get those two rounds off. This was in large part due to having to advance through several chambers to get both rounds fired. Claude Werner teaches on his reloads to close the gun onto the cylinder, and not to close the cylinder into the gun like I have a habit of doing. Closing the gun the way Claude teaches is supposed to put the loaded chambers in the correct location to be fired with the first one or two trigger presses. I have not mastered this, I tend to get one round on the first trigger press and then have to rotate the cylinder all the way back around to get the second one. All that to say, I think the load two, fire two, could be done quicker if I were a little better.
What happens though if I load two rounds and end up needing more than that. Pretty simple actually, just load more rounds after firing the first two. The question becomes, how long does that take? To load two, fire those two, and then load and fire two more, on average took me 11.72 seconds. That is a substantial amount of time for just four rounds.
Heeding the Wisemen and the Four Round Reload
So what are the other options other than the two round reload? Claude Werner is a fan of the four round reload on J-frames, and so is Michael de Bethencourt. This makes me think there is some viability there, even for a six round gun, so it is where I went next. On average, when loading four rounds it took 6.70 seconds to get the first round off, and 7.07 seconds for two rounds. So for about a half second difference, I can have an additional two rounds in the gun if needed vs. the load two, fire two method. If I needed to fire all four rounds, it would took on average 7.63 seconds to load four rounds and fire four rounds. Only one second longer than loading two and firing two, and just a hair over four seconds faster if only loading and firing two at a time. That to me, seems to be a significant gain for not much cost in time.
When using the load four method I also used a strip only loaded with four rounds. I noted that handling of the strip was more positive and less fumble prone, just as Claude Werner suggests. Go figure, it is as if the guy knows what he is talking about. Knowing that I was only going to put four rounds in the gun it also made it easier to load the second set of two rounds off the strip because I did not have to worry as much about getting two rounds in the charge holes immediately adjacent to the first two that were loaded. After loading the first two rounds, I still had four charge holes available to load, and it didn’t really matter which two ended up being loaded.
I also toyed with having a six round strip, but only loading four of the six and retaining the strip for the additional two rounds if needed.
It worked well enough, but retaining the strip for the extra two rounds costs a little time and having all six rounds loaded on the strip makes it a little less of a sure proposition than with only four loaded on it.
After a couple hours and a couple hundred rounds of ammo, I feel like I have a much better handle on the speed strip reload. Loading just two rounds and getting off one round, a speed strip is pretty much just as fast as a speedloader, which I guess might be expected. Where the speed strip falls off is when we need more then just one round.
The balance point seems to be defaulting to the four round reload. It puts enough live rounds in the gun to get some good work done, and while it takes longer than just loading two rounds, only marginally. I was also able to see first hand some of the handling benefits to just having four rounds on the speed strip.
At the end of it all, if loading more than two rounds, the speed strip will be slower than a speedloader, probably at least about a second. Is that second a fair trade off to have a loading method that is easier to conceal? I guess that depends on you.