Saturday, December 11, 2010

Guns: How to I reload a revolver

Despite the fact that the design has been around for over a century, there is still no one “correct” way to reload a double-action revolver. For instance, here are two very different methods being taught Two People Who Know What They’re Doing™, Clint Smith and Massad Ayood:

Part of the reason for the wide array of techniques is that reloading a revolver presents the user with two contradictory challenges. The first is that fitting fresh cartridges into a revolver cylinder requires enormous amounts of fine motor skills (even single-loading rifle cartridges into a bolt-action is easier). The second is that the revolver’s cylinder is best emptied and refilled when the gun is pointed in certain directions - straight up (relative to the ground) for ejection, straight down for refilling.

When you isolate and solve the first problem (as Clint does by keeping the revolver out in front of him, in sight, and pointed at the threat in the above video) you invariably compound the other problem (IMHO, Clint’s method is geared toward moonclips - speedloaders don’t work reliably when the gun is horizontal).

The method that seems to work best for me is taught by snubbie revolver guru Michael de Bethencourt:

I break it down into three main steps:

1) Two Pinches - I call this step “Two Pinches” because you’re essentially pinching the cylinder with your left hand and pinching the rest of the gun with your right hand. From a standard firing grip, place your right hand thumb on top of the revolver and your right hand index finger alongside the cylinder. Place your left hand thumb on the cylinder release and your left index finger alongside the cylinder. Roll open the cylinder, being careful to control it with both index fingers and the left hand thumb. After the cylinder is open, jam your right index finger onto the cylinder to control it.

2) Hands Up - Bring your hands up, palms toward you, and use the left hand to strike the ejector rod to dump your empty cartridge cases. With “Hands Up,” the left hand can eject the fired cases while still being ready to ward off blows or deliver a strike to an attacker that has closed to bad breath distance. Since your revolver is in a full firing grip, you can also abort the ejection, close the cylinder, and use the revolver as an impact weapon, if need be.

3) Hands Down - Bring the revolver butt to your hip while reaching for your reload with your left hand. Reload the revolver, and close the cylinder, letting the speedloader or speed strip fall away. From this position, you can keep the revolver at your hip and fire from retention, or raise both arms to assume your shooting stance.

I like Michael de Bethencourt’s reload because you do not switch the revolver from one hand to the other. Switching hands takes time (since you have to break and then reacquire your firing grip); most importantly, switching hands is less secure and less positive (generally, in a fight, you want to maintain a hanging-on-for-dear-life-deathgrip on your gun, lest you lose it). The other advantage to this method is that it works naturally with how most people carry their guns (standard right hip holster, reloads on left side to balance it out).

There are some disadvantages, of course. The main drawback is that you may not have enough dexterity with your off hand to fish out your speedloader/speed strip/moon clip and place it in the revolver. Bringing your hands up to reload with palms inward also tends to telegraph the fact that you’re out of ammo. All in all, I think it’s important to figure out which method works best for you and to practice it regularly.


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