Wheelgun Wednesday: One-Handed Revolver Drills

Doug E
by Doug E
TFB’s Wheelgun Wednesday: One-Handed Revolver Drills

For this week’s TFB Wheelgun Wednesday, we’ll explore some revolver drills that focus on using only one hand to shoot and reload your defensive revolver. The whole premise of one-handed revolver drills is that one of your arms or hands have been injured, or that it’s being used in another capacity. Statistically speaking, armed encounters last only seconds, with an average number of rounds fired being roughly two. The law enforcement community has had noted cases of officers having to reload their revolvers with only one hand. However, it does take time that is rarely afforded in the close, one-on-one (or several-against-one) encounters that concealed carriers may face. Regardless, if you regularly carry a revolver, or keep one on your nightstand, these one-handed revolver drills can make you better prepared for the worst.


Perhaps this goes without saying, but defensive revolvers should be used with double action only, when practicing. For just plinking it’s not an issue, guns should be fun too. However, getting your trigger finger and sight picture accustomed to the full weight of the double action trigger is necessary for being quick and accurate. Dry-firing can help tremendously while keeping your sights on a small target. It doesn’t take too long to get the feel of it. If you shoot semi-auto pistols regularly, but also carry a revolver from time to time, it’s a good idea to still dry fire your revolver from time to time to refresh your memory of the difference between the two types of handgun triggers.

This photo shows a two-handed grip, but shows the use of the double action trigger. Becoming accurate with double action takes practice, but is completely achievable.


Firing one-handed from the hip, or “from retention”, can save a lot of time if your attacker is within arm’s reach. It also helps keep your gun away from the bad guy. This can be practiced at home ( see the four rules of gun safety though) while dry-firing. Naturally, doing it from your preferred method of carry is best to build up muscle memory. Just as with semi-auto pistols, canting the revolver slightly away from your body can put space between yourself and the hot gasses coming from the cylinder gap. It also helps us stay consistent between drawing the two types of handguns. If your shooting range allows, try this with live fire as well to get the feel for it. Just remember to keep your other hand in a safe place.

TFB's Wheelgun Wednesday: One-Handed Revolver Drills


The speediest way to reload a revolver requires two hands. Since we’re discussing the chance that you just lost functionality in one of your hands, we’ll need a third one. Fortunately, since you’re carrying a firearm, chances are good that you’re also wearing a belt. If not, perhaps you’re wearing shoes or have a pocket. Hopefully, you’ll be able to open the cylinder with one hand, eject the empty casings, then shove the barrel of your revolver into your belt or shoe with the cylinder facing out. The two inch barrels may not want to stay in certain places, but the S&W 36 seemed to work okay in my belt.

TFB's Wheelgun Wednesday: One-Handed Revolver Drills
TFB's Wheelgun Wednesday: One-Handed Revolver Drills
TFB's Wheelgun Wednesday: One-Handed Revolver Drills
TFB's Wheelgun Wednesday: One-Handed Revolver Drills


Carrying reloads for a revolver can be a pain no matter what type of method you choose. Carrying your reload in the pocket can be convenient in terms of keeping it concealed, but then, it can take time to get to it, especially if you’re having to use the arm opposite the pocket. Carrying a reload on the belt eliminates the reachability problem, but may increase the chance that someone will see that you’re carrying ammunition, which means you’re probably carrying a gun. However you carry a reload for your revolver, make sure you practice getting to it with each hand.

How do you carry a reload for your revolver?
TFB's Wheelgun Wednesday: One-Handed Revolver Drills


As I mentioned in the beginning, reloading a revolver may not always be possible if the situation and distance won’t allow. Although, each deadly force incident is different, and it’s best to know how to be the most efficient with the tools we carry, even if it’s only with one hand. One thing I didn’t cover in this article was the one-handed ejection. There are numerous ways to get that done, but I think we’ll take a look at that separately in a future Wheelgun Wednesday.


Do you carry a revolver or keep one handy for when you hear a bump in the night? Have you practiced one-handed drills with your defensive revolver? What have you found that works best for you? Let us know in the comments section below.

Doug E
Doug E

Doug has been a firearms enthusiast since age 16 after getting to shoot with a friend. Since then he's taken many others out to the range for their first time. He is a husband, father, grandfather, police officer, outdoorsman, artist and a student of history. Doug has been a TFB reader from the start and is happy to be a contributor of content. Doug can be reached at battleshipgrey61 AT gmail.com, or battleshipgrey61 on Instagram.

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2 of 18 comments
  • Retfed Retfed on Oct 31, 2019

    Maybe I've missed an earlier article, or I'm anticipating a later one, but "Hopefully, you'll be able to open the cylinder with one hand, [etc.] . . ." sorta glosses over one of the most critical and difficult phases of the whole process. Will there be a future article that explains the best one or two ways to open the cylinder, etc., with one hand (the techniques are necessarily different for the right and the left hand)? I'd like to see one.

    I started shooting revolvers when we had to shoo dinosaurs off the range, so most of this is review, but I never saw the shoe trick before. I guess Mom was right about keeping my eyes and ears open so I could learn something new. Thanks.

  • Gunsandrockets Gunsandrockets on Nov 01, 2019

    Perhaps this goes without saying, but defensive revolvers should be used with double action only, when practicing.

    So SA revolvers can't be used defensively?