Although I still teach a lot of classes at Black Wing Shooting Center in Delaware, Ohio, my role has evolved to include planning and administration of our training programs, as well as executing those plans. Consequently, I have become more interested in things such as instructor development and the standardization of procedures and techniques.
Among other things, we teach defensive use of the firearm, and while we recognize that a violent criminal assault is a fluid, chaotic event that often demands improvisation, that improvisation has to be born of some sensible, practiced technique.
And from what I have observed, reloading a revolver during a fight is among the most difficult, least likely to succeed tasks during an emergency. So despite my built-in suspicion of controlling the movements of others to a fine degree, here is as straightforward a practice technique as I can present. As described, this is intended for a right-handed shooter. Of course southpaws can run revolvers, but they are stacking the deck against themselves to a pretty unreasonable degree.
We start with the recognition that the gun needs to be reloaded. Bring the gun in close to your body — your retention position. Note that in the interests of clarity, the pictures do not depict the gun up close. The right thumb operates the cylinder release latch. At the same time, the left hand wraps under and around the revolver, so that the middle and ring fingers of the left hand can push the cylinder open from the right side of the frame.
As the cylinder opens, the right hand passes control of the gun to the left. The idea is that the dominant hand (with its greater dexterity) is now free to perform the upcoming tasks.
The left hand pivots the gun upward, which allows the maximum opportunity for gravity to assist the removal of the spent cartridge cases from the cylinder. The right hand reaches over and operates the ejector rod. While training, do not find and push the rod with just a fingertip. Degradation of fine motor dexterity and lessened sensitivity may make locating the tip of the ejector rod difficult. Instead, use the palm of the hand so that positive contact is assured.
With the cylinder now empty, the left hand rotates the gun to point generally downward, again allowing gravity to contribute to inserting the fresh cartridges. The right hand is at this time retrieving the live ammunition, which should be in the form of a speed loader or speed strip.
Most people tend to place the spare ammunition on the non-dominant side of their body. This works fine with semi-automatic pistols because the level of dexterity needed to perform the reload is available from the non-dominant hand. However, reloading the revolver requires more precise control, so it is best done by the dominant hand. This means that spare ammo for the revolver needs to be within easy reach of the dominant hand — the opposite of what most of us want to do.
With the revolver oriented downward, the right hand inserts the cartridges into the cylinder, freeing them from the loading device. The now-empty device has served its purpose and is dropped or discarded at once. This frees the right hand to take control of the revolver again. The right hand takes the grip and the left hand pushes the cylinder up into the closed and locked position. The left hand can now resume its place in a proper two-handed grip.
With practice, the above technique can be performed quickly and smoothly. It can even be applied to left-handed users, at least conceptually. The key ingredient is to allow the dominant hand the ability to perform the more precise or complicated tasks. This means briefly passing the gun into the non-dominant hand and back again.
Other ways to teach revolver reloads exist. My purpose here is to share what is in my opinion a good method, so that it can be a well from which a successful improvisation might spring. God forbid any of us should need it!