Top Five Ways to Carry a Revolver Reload

Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Mark Kakkuri, a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.

Read Mark’s previous articles in this “Top Five” series:

If revolvers get a bad rap for anything, it’s because in the ammo department they’re 1) relatively low capacity and 2) slow to reload when compared to almost all autos. And yet they persist as concealed carry guns.

As we’ve discussed here in the past, carrying a lower-capacity gun may not be such a big deal, as most armed conflicts require very few rounds (if any) to resolve. Still, if you carry a gun you should carry at least one reload, and if you carry a revolver, you can carry your reloads in a number of ways. Here then are my top five ways to carry a revolver reload.

1. Speed Strip

The speed strip uses a flexible carrier to hold six (or more) cartridges in a row by the rims of the cases. The strip can be dropped into a pocket or carried on some kind of belt carrier. When it’s time for a reload, you insert a round from the speed strip into an empty chamber and peel the speed strip away, allowing the round to drop the rest of the way into the chamber, and then continue doing so for each empty chamber.

Some speed strips are spaced just right to allow you to insert two cartridges into two adjacent chambers, increasing speed of reloading. Note that most speed strips can carry six rounds but are most often used to reload five-shot revolvers. Load that sixth round anyway; you never know when you might need it. Carry a second or third speed strip with .357 Magnum (assuming your revolver is a .357 Magnum, of course,) light-load .38s or snake shot to increase your options.

2. Belt Packet

If the speed strip isn’t your thing, consider carrying extra revolver ammo in a belt packet. This is a small snap-cover pouch that usually carries six rounds, nose-down, allowing you to easily grab them without having to dig in your pocket or otherwise fumble around.

Some belt packets arrange the extra rounds in pairs: when you grab for your rounds, you’ll grab two at a time and then recharge the empty chambers two at a time. These also typically carry six rounds, but again, go ahead and load up the belt packet with six even if you only have a five-shot revolver. You never know when you might need it.

3. Speedloader

Arguably one of the fastest ways to reload a J-frame or LCR is to reload all five empty chambers at once. A speedloader carries five rounds (or six or seven or eight, depending on model) in a configuration allowing them to be dropped into the empty chambers simultaneously.

Usually, the speedloader requires a twist or push of a knob to release the rounds, and they’re best carried on some kind of purpose-built belt pouch. You can also carry a loaded speedloader in your pocket but it’ll print, looking like you’re carrying a golf ball. Though it ought to go without saying, make sure to function-test your speedloaders before carrying them; some cylinders may not provide enough clearance from the frame of the gun or the cylinder release to allow a speedloader to function effectively.

Same goes for grips; too high or too thick of a grip will interfere with speedloader function. Oh, and once you drop the rounds into your revolver, don’t get hung up on pocketing the speedloader mid-fight. It’s a throwaway item, meant simply to get you back in the game.

4. Bandolier

A bandolier may seem a bit old school, and it is, but it can be a decent way to carry reloads assuming you keep those reloads concealed. (The bandolier I’m talking about is a simple belt slide model that carries 6 to 18 rounds, not the over-the-shoulder leather behemoth studded with dozens upon dozens of rounds seen in Westerns.)

Load up the bandolier and wear it where it is most natural and efficient to grab the rounds, which for me is weak side at 9 or 10 o’clock. Carrying via bandolier on a belt slide has some strengths: Rounds are located in an easy-to-reach position and grabbing them one by one means you are being intentional and probably more careful as you reload. If you drop one, just go for another.

Also, it doesn’t matter how many rounds your revolver holds, just keeping grabbing them off the bandolier until the revolver is full. You can also mix up the rounds if needed: first few from right to left are light loads, next few are snake loads, etc. Just keep track!

5. Loose Rounds

Loose rounds in a pocket may seem like the least efficient way to carry a revolver reload, and it may be. Like to admit it or not, loose cartridges in a pocket promote an inconsistent motion from pocket to gun and also force the extra steps of indexing and orienting the rounds one at a time.

There are some advantages, however. First, it is very easy to conceal such a reload, and you can walk around with as many loose rounds as you and your pocket can handle. Second, with a little practice, it’s possible to be able to quickly and deftly load a five-shot revolver as you can grab all five rounds at once and drop them in one by one. Six is a little more difficult and any number more than that, especially when you’re required to dip back into your pocket more than once, creates even more complexity, which decreases reload time.

As if it needs to be said, if you intend to carry loose rounds in a pocket, then carry nothing else is in that pocket – no pens, keys, coins, or anything else. And practice, practice, practice so you’re not just capable of reloading this way, but actually good at it.

If you carry a revolver as part of your EDC, let us know how many rounds your revolver holds and which means of carrying a reload suits you best.

Shop for a new revolver on GunsAmerica.

Discover how you can join more than 200,000 responsibly armed Americans who already rely on the USCCA to protect their families, futures and freedoms: USCCA.com/gunsamerica.

{ 22 comments… add one }
  • John J Kable December 9, 2019, 6:40 am

    +Plus+ on the extra J-frame comment!. The time honored ‘New York/Chicago/Cleveland/Detroit’ reload is undoubtedly going to be the fastest, most tactically efficient method going into a high stress life threatening real world gunfight situation while employing a revolver. Having the added weight of the ‘reload’ is a fair trade off that provides unfailing reliability as well as muscle memory familiarity. In addition a ‘standard’ reload back up for the ‘New York/Chicago/Cleveland/Detroit’ reload weighs little, does not take up much space and provides fifteen rounds total fire power for the package….

  • OFBG November 27, 2017, 9:42 pm

    JohnR asked “Does anyone out there know if any company makes a speed loader for the S&W N frame 627 (8 rounds)?” I know of one and have tried to reply to him with that information, but none of my attempts have been posted. What’s up?

    • Thetallman November 29, 2017, 4:00 pm

      Try Five Star.

    • douglas rhoads November 25, 2020, 1:31 pm

      speed beez

  • OldSchoolRevolverGuy November 27, 2017, 7:34 am

    I’m trying to figure out the “bandolier” method with carrying the reload on your “9 or 10 o’clock” position. I was always taught, and practiced, for a RIGHT handed pistolero: one opens the cylinder latch with the right thumb, uses middle fingers of the left hand to push cylinder out/through, tilt pistol up, eject rounds with right hand by using the ejector sharply, and loads with the right hand while turning the cylinder with the thumb and middle fingers of the left hand. I have always carried my reloads on the right for using this method. 9 or 10 o’clock position for reloads would seem to be on the wrong side.

  • OFBG November 25, 2017, 7:56 pm

    A few years ago I came across some milsurp belt carriers for cartridges that were designed to hold 6 and allow you to flick them open from the bottom and let the rounds drop out into your hand. I bought a couple and tried that out for grins – you have to work at it not to have any hit the floor! What I did was to mount them upside-down on my belt to carry Speed Strips. A-OK.

    • OldSchoolRevolverGuy November 27, 2017, 7:35 am

      They are called cartridge drop boxes. Lots of cops used to carry them – some were pretty fast with them too!

  • mario November 25, 2017, 9:14 am

    I think the best method to load a revolver is the use of moon Clips. Easy to load and unload. If you don’t believe me, try it But there is a catch,not all revolvers accept moon clips due to the cylinder configuration. Rugger LCR in 9mm uses moon clips.

    • TOM BROLLINI December 9, 2019, 10:55 am

      Yep! Though I carry a 325PD w/45acp, the moon clips are as fast as a mag in an auto. Not that I don’t carry small S&W 357s & use speed loaders, but I also carry 2 speed strips as back up. I’m not good at loose rounds, too much fumbling.

  • JohnR November 24, 2017, 6:05 pm

    Does anyone out there know if any company makes a speed loader for the S&W N frame 627 (8 rounds)?

    • OFBG November 28, 2017, 9:22 pm

      Speed Beez

  • Phil November 24, 2017, 12:27 pm

    You forgot belt loops for us cowboys.

  • Irish-7 November 24, 2017, 10:57 am

    I use most of the reload methods recommended. I have multiple HKS Speed Loaders for my .357 Magnum. I prefer 5-Star Speed Loaders for the Governor and Judge, as they were the only type that held .410 GA shot shells. I have moon clips of .45 ACP as well. I also purchased several speed strips for .357 MAG, .45 LC and .410 Gauge. Speed strips definitely conceal better than speed loaders, but they don’t load nearly as fast.

  • Bert November 24, 2017, 9:44 am

    Hi, a picture of each would be a nice enhancement to your article.
    Thanks

  • Ian Barnes November 24, 2017, 7:12 am

    You forgot to mention moon clips, maybe as an aside to speedloaders. More and more factory produced relvolvers are made to accept them and some even come with a few in the box. I find them to be a bit quicker than speedloaders and the ejection process is made much easier with all the shells dropping as one unit. I love your Top Five articles – great job sir.

    • Leonard Jones November 24, 2017, 1:04 pm

      Ditto that!

  • Dennis Tucker November 24, 2017, 6:13 am

    Anyone that has ever carried a revo knows that the fastest reload for a J frame is a second J frame.

    • RETiffner November 25, 2017, 5:48 pm

      Helpful and necessary Dennis.
      And do you carry you spare tire on another car.
      I like this site because it lacks the self involved prima donna know-it-all insects that infest black gun and AK sites.
      Please don’t ruin this one for me
      Hit your mark and a reload isn’t necessary

  • Will Drider November 21, 2017, 4:13 pm

    1. You can make you own speed strips from tire inner tubes. Not rocket science to figure out how to make them. It works best wth rimmed cartridges but a small hole will also hold semi-rimmed and rimless cartridges.
    2. Any method that does not index the reload to be properly grasped with the same hold as needed for loading into the cyclinder will further slow the process.
    3. Revolvers with chambers cut to headspace on the case mouth in 45APC, 9MM and 380ACP (without moon clips) can also use magazines for those calibers. Though there are mags for rounds like .357 and .44 mag it would be spendy!

    • Bob November 24, 2017, 5:58 am

      I carry JFeqme Smith with one Soeed strip in pocket loaded 5 JHP – 1 shot

      • Jon will November 25, 2017, 1:25 am

        What is a Feqme and what is a Soeed strip?

        • OFBG November 25, 2017, 6:18 pm

          They are most likely the result of either fat fingers on the keyboard or perhaps too many drinks before posting.

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