Wheelgun Wednesday: One-Handed Revolver Reload – Revisited

Doug E
by Doug E
reloading a revolver with only one hand

Welcome to another Wheelgun Wednesday, where we cover all things of Wheelgunnery. In my “One Handed Revolver Drills” article from last year, readers mentioned that the article skimmed over the whole process of reloading with only one hand. There was another question posed in the comment section that I’ll address here as well, so if you’re new to the defensive revolver, or just want to brush up on the topic of one-handed revolver manipulation, then I hope both articles will be of some assistance.


Just to be clear, this article is strictly covering the defensive use of Single Action/Double Action (SA/DA) or Double Action Only (DAO) revolvers. If things go sideways enough for you to lose the function of one of your arms while fighting with a modern revolver, this isn’t going to be pretty, or fast. In my mind, parts of the one-handed reload process should be done any way you can, so if you see other ways I don’t show here, please share them in the comment section! If for some reason the situation allows for you to reload one-handed, having tried it a few times should help. I’d hate to see what it looked like with Single Actions, though I’m curious all the same.


Having just expended your last round and pulled the trigger once more for good measure only to hear a “click,” it’s time to reload, but in the process, you realize your support hand is injured and unable to assist in the reload (again, assuming the situation will even allow for it).

Opening the cylinder with only your firing hand should be doable, and in my opinion, should be the easiest part of the process if you’re used to using your support hand to plunge the ejector rod. Using the thumb of the firing hand, manipulate the cylinder release, while pressing on the cylinder with your index finger and the cylinder should pop out. If that’s not working for you, or it’s your strong side arm that’s injured, you can press the revolver against your thigh or something else while manipulating the cylinder release.

opening a revolver's cylinder with one hand


This is where things get tricky, especially with a small framed revolver’s shorter ejection rod that won’t travel far enough to fully eject all the casings. One method is to work your firing hand forward on the gun and support the front of the frame with your thumb under the forcing cone, then work the ejection rod with your index finger. If the forcing cone is too hot, you can use the tip of your thumb on the frame, while using your middle finger on the rod. I found that the latter method lowered my pinky finger enough to assist in removing sticky cases if need be.

ejecting spent brass from a revolver one handed
using pinky finger to assist in one handed reloads with a revolver

Another improvised version could be using a table, tire, shoe sole or anything else to put the ejection rod on and press the revolver forward to work the ejection rod.

Using something hard to wrok the ejector rod


The next step in the one-handed reload process is to secure your revolver with the cylinder still open. As I mentioned in the other article, you can tuck the barrel of the revolver into your waistband, pocket or even your shoe. Next, grab your spare cartridges and load them into the cylinder. If your spare ammo is in your pocket, can you get to them with the opposite hand?

secure the revolver in your waistband to retrieve the reload
carrying spare ammo for a revolver


Once your revolver’s chambers are recharged, remove the revolver from it’s secured position and close the cylinder, then present the weapon as needed. Simple, eh? While this method of reloading isn’t pretty or fast, it’s a real possibility if you’re carrying a revolver for self defense.

One Handed Reload revolver 2

While the possibility of having to reload your revolver one handed due to an injury exists, it’s not quite likely. However, this skill could also be useful without even being injured as the book Street Survival, Tactics For Armed Encounters recounts a story of a police officer that ran his revolver empty in a gunfight in a warehouse and managed to tuck his duty revolver into his belt and reload it one-handed as he moved and climbed a ladder to get into a better position. Although, I should note that the story lacks enough details to track the origin. The book also points out that if you’re loading individual rounds, loading only two or three rounds may have to suffice.

Even though I haven’t shown every possible technique here, I’ll reiterate that the one-handed revolver reload isn’t a rigidly ruled process. This is a “get it done any way you can” affair, but practicing these steps every once in a while can help you in a dire situation. Give the one-handed revolver reload a try and let us know what worked or what didn’t. How do you carry a reload for your revolver?

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 54 comments
  • Paul Hacker Paul Hacker on Jun 11, 2020

    I just flip open the cylinder one handed, eject 'em with my nose, hold the barrel by my teeth, and then reload the chambers and quickly close the cylinder by slapping the cylinder with my forehead. I call it the Tarzan reload.

  • Matthew_carberry Matthew_carberry on Jun 19, 2020

    If you are for some reason loading loose rounds, you need to not lose track of the threat. Getting a few rounds in and getting back in the fight may be more important than taking the time to fill the cylinder. More is better, but sooner is better.