As I continue to work with the Ruger SP101 I further refine many revolver-specific tasks to a level that I never have before as I now work with a wheel gun to a greater level than ever in the past despite the fact that I have long relied on a revolver for my deep concealment needs. I have historically been strictly a speed strip guy as it proves a convenient way to carry spare ammo for a revolver despite being slow as all hell to actually use. I always carried a strip though I admit that I never put any stock in it as a realistic means of reloading under stress. The strip proves more aptly suited for topping off a revolver after the smoke clears. The truth is, I maintain a similar outlook on even the speedloader as it is still too slow to be a mid-fight solution, although it is more possible than with the speed strip.
With my adoption of the SP101 as my deep concealment solution came the ability to use Safariland Comp I speedloaders. This particular brand does not work with my previously utilized wheel gun, the Ruger LCR, and I always hated the twist knob speedloader variants that do work with said gun. The Safariland is a great speedloader and it works well with the SP101 which led to my abandonment of the speed strip despite the fact that the strip does lay in a pocket with absolute discretion. However, the improved speed and consistency of the speedloader outweigh the convenience of the strip for me.
Just recently I acquired a JOX speedloader pouch for belt carry of the loader. The JOX pouch is great, it is the best speedloader belt pouch I have ever come across. I slightly modified my JOX loader pouch, however: I glued a couple of rubber spacers to the belt clip right under the loader pouch to make the speed loader hug even tighter to the body under a shirt. Now it is truly concealable. So, with the Safariland Comp I carried in the JOX pouch, under concealment, I can consistently reload the SP101 in about 5 seconds, last shot to first shot. In my mind that is still absurdly slow. It is, however, very consistently 5 seconds and it is far less fumble-prone than the strip. With the strip I could at best get 4 rounds into the gun in six seconds. Often, however, I would fumble that. The speedloader is hardly fumble-free, but it is much more consistent. Still, five seconds seems an eternity compared to my 1.5 second reload of an autoloader with a belt carried and concealed magazine worn in the same location.
The guys who work a lot with a revolver seem to be able to reload with a speedloader from concealment in about 4 seconds. Sure, USPSA revolver guys can do it much faster than that with their competition rigs but that is a totally different discipline with different gear so we need to compare apples to apples. I would love 4 seconds but I seem to only be able to squeeze out a 5 second reload currently. I think there are two reasons for this:
First, guys doing a comparatively fast revolver reload are usually using larger frame guns, like K or L Frame Smith and Wessons. The smaller Ruger SP101 is much more akin to the diminutive J Frame and it is significantly harder to manipulate as the cylinder sits very close to the frame on small revolvers. I have to position the Comp I loader just right or it binds against the grip of the revolver. This seems to slow down the process compared to doing this with a larger frame gun and the associated larger and more dexterity-friendly speedloader. Small five-shot revolvers are great for concealment but leave a lot to be desired for ease of manipulation.
The second reason that I believe I am maxing out at a less-than-stellar five seconds is my technique. Being left handed I stand at a bit of a disadvantage since I use the universal revolver reload, which for me entails switching the gun briefly from my left to my right hand to unlatch the cylinder and then placing the gun in my left hand to cradle during the reload. I do this so that I can reload with my support hand, which is the right hand in my case. One reason the universal reload is popular is because most feel more confident using their dominant hand to manipulate the speedloader. In my case, I choose to use my support hand because I want the consistency of reloading with my support hand as I do with my autoloader. I may stand to gain some more speed if I utilize a different technique, but I like doing things as consistently as possible between different weapon platforms. My belt-worn concealed speedloader sits in the same location as my belt-worn concealed spare magazine. I like that consistency.
So, my revolver reload is currently an unremarkable five seconds, but it is consistent with a small frame gun, and at this point I don’t see a reason to change technique as gaining an extra second in speed is not worth the squeeze as it is investing time and effort in a task that is still, in my humble opinion, not likely to ever be pulled off while under fire. I stick to my position that the small-frame revolver is great for being armed in non-permissive environments and it is an alternative to no gun rather than an alternative to a more capable gun. You will be limited to the five rounds on board as getting the gun reloaded is unlikely during a fight. However, for most situations a civilian defender may encounter the revolver will get it done and carrying a reload makes good sense even if you are unlikely to use it. Your mileage may vary, I simply share my experiences to give my fellow shooters something to ponder.