Two Schools of Thought: A reload story

There are a lot of different ways to reload a revolver. There is an incredible number of minor variations. We are not going to dive into the deep end on it, but we are going to dangle one foot into it. Two very distinct variations are reloading with the gun up, and in front of our body, and reloading with the gun down, and closer to our body. They each have their reasons, so lets break it down a bit.

Revolver Up Reload

The logic behind reloading the revolver with it up and in front the shooter’s face is to keep the revolver for the most part, in the shooter’s vision and the eye’s up. You actually hear this quite a bit with semi-auto reloads, the gun should remain elevated so that the shooter can see the magazine go into the magazine well, and also maintain some level of downrange awareness. It is the exact same argument with the revolver. Keeping it up and in front of the body allows the shooter to look at the reload if they need to, and also maintain a level of downrange awareness. I have heard this argument made two different places, probably the most notable being Clint Smith.

Of course, everything comes at a price. The trade off is that it is very difficult to point the gun at the ground while simultaneously holding it in an elevated position out in front of my face. This means that when the rounds are released from the speedloader to load into the cylinder, they are not as likely to fully seat in the charge holes, and can hang in the speedloader, or prevent the cylinder from being closed. One possible way to mitigate that issue would be to use a spring loaded speedloader. Probably the best for it would be the SL Variant which propels each cartridge independently, with the JetLoader and Safariland Comp III behind that.

Revolver Facing Down Reload

The other school of thought is to lower the revolver to somewhere around the belt line, with the revolver pointed directly at the ground to assist with the new cartridges falling into the cylinder after being released by the speedloader. As I understand it, this is the more traditional method, and arguably faster. The associated cost, as Clint mentions, is that if something goes wrong, the eyes tend to drop to where the problem is.

I personally reload with the revolver down, and this is my logic behind that decision.

  • A non-functioning firearm (which is what an empty revolver is), is almost useless to me in a fight. If I ran out of ammunition in the gun, that probably means my bad guy is still active, and the longer he is active without any sort of resistance on my part, the worse off I will be.
  • Loading the gun with it oriented vertically, with the muzzle down, minimizes the probability of a reload needing additional attention because a round did not fall out of the speedloader like it supposed to, or did not fully seat in the cylinder.
  • If I index the gun off my body, I am aware of its location, even if I cannot see it. So getting the reload to the revolver is not an issue. The only time it becomes an issue is if the reload hangs going into the cylinder. I can minimize my time spent looking at the revolver by only looking at the instant the cartridges are about to be lined up with the charge holes. That is the most critical point in time. I could even probably get by without doing that depending on how I hold the speedloader and index it off the cylinder.
  • I also feel like having the gun down facilitates reloading on the move a little more, as opposed to an exaggerated “up and in front” reloading position. I will be honest though, my time spent reloading on the move at this point is pretty minimal.

It is really a catch 22 though, and I don’t know that I would fault someone for doing it the other way as long as it is done relatively quickly.

What is everyone else’s thought on the revolver reload? Do you reload with the gun up, or down around the belt line, and why? I would be interested to hear what other wheel gunners are doing and their own thought processes.


3 thoughts on “Two Schools of Thought: A reload story

  1. Nice article. I agree with your assessment. I reload an auto loader in front of my face but I reload a revolver down low. Keeping the revolver high in the workspace makes it significantly more difficult to reload and takes much longer.


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