Wheelgun Wednesday: The Pros And Cons Of Loose Cartridge Reloads

Doug E
by Doug E
Pros and Cons of Loose Cartridge Reloads

Welcome back to TFB’s Wheelgun Wednesday, where we cover any and all revolver topics under the sun. We’ve been gradually covering different styles of revolver reloading techniques and devices in our Pros & Cons series, and this week rounds that series off with Loose Cartridge Reloads. If you’re reading this, the odds are pretty good that you’ve shot a revolver at least once or twice, and I’m guessing that involved loading the cylinder one chamber at a time on a static shooting range. But what if you needed to reload that way to defend yourself or your loved ones? Let’s find out the Pros and Cons of Loose Cartridge Reloads.

Wheelgun Wednesday @ TFB:


If you’ve chosen to carry a revolver for self-defense, you’re probably painfully aware that you don’t have a lot of rounds to solve a deadly force encounter, and if you expend a 5, 6, 7, or even 8-round cylinder, you might need to refill some, or all of those chambers to stay in the fight. If you’ve also decided moon clips, speedloaders, and speed strips aren’t for you, you’re either not carrying any extra cartridges, or you’re carrying loose cartridges for your reload.

There are several different ways to carry those individual cartridges, short of going all out Western with a full-size cartridge belt, a low-key option would be a belt attachment that has a short section of loops that hold each round individually. Don Hume sells a belt attachment that holds three pairs of cartridges for $36.45, but other versions like the Safariland belt slide cartridge loops can also be found on eBay.

How to reload a revolver

Another low-profile method to carry individual rounds is in a dump pouch, or dump box, where gravity is used to empty the rounds from the belt-worn pouch into the shooter’s hand, which can then be fed into the chambers one at a time. The dump pouch, or dump box was used extensively in law enforcement prior to, and during the rise of speedloaders. They’re still available, however, you’ll typically find them from custom leather smiths, or as vintage surplus on eBay. The $42 Alfonso Dump Box model below can be found at VintageGunLeatherToday.com. Prices range from about $20 on eBay, to around $80 for custom versions.

Image credit: Vintage Gun Leather Today
Dump pouches seen on Adam 12 television show. Image credit: Mk VII Ltd. Production Company

The least appealing method would be to carry loose rounds in a pocket. Check the Cons section for that option!


The most advantageous aspect of loose cartridge reloads for revolvers is concealability. A belt-worn dump pouch or cartridges on loops can disappear under an untucked shirt, and the dump pouch specifically could possibly be worn openly and has the appearance of being a Zippo lighter pouch. I’ve carried looped cartridges for a time, which made it quite easy to grab two rounds at a time and load them simultaneously before going back for another pair.

Reloading a revolver from cartridge belt

You’ve been using your fingers before your waking memory, so there can be a less mechanical technique to master compared to a specific loading device such as a speedloader or a speed strip.


A neutral aspect of reloading a revolver with individual rounds is that you can keep the gun running by loading two or three rounds at a time, rather than filling the cylinder to capacity before returning fire. However, this also becomes a negative when comparing this “ability” to reloading a cylinder with a speedloader, moon clip, or speed strip.


The biggest negative associated with reloading a revolver one round at a time is the lack of speed. Despite my quick two-at-a-time reloads from the belt loops, my hand had more distance to cover several times over to reload my wheelgun. Compare that to a speed strip, where all of my cartridges are already in my hand, correctly spaced and oriented. Belt loops took care of the orientation problem, but dump pouches were not known for spitting out all six rounds into the hand facing the same way, which requires more time to figure out which rounds need to be turned around, all while keeping an eye on what our adversary is doing.

revolver for self defense

I mentioned in the Pros section that we’ve known how to use our fingers to feel and manipulate objects since birth, but doing this five, six, seven, or eight times can only be so quick. When your life is on the line, let’s face it, it’s slow.

A tertiary concern with carrying cartridges in leather pouches or loops (particularly loops), is that over time the leather will draw moisture from the air and corrode and gunk up your ammo. If there’s enough buildup on the outside wall of your cartridges, then it will make seating them in the chamber a bit slower and potentially make the inside of the chambers sticky.

Carrying a pocket full of shells while plinking at a shooting range probably isn’t a big deal, but for an everyday carry method, I’d be nervous with exposed primers bumping into cartridge rims. Aside from the risk of setting off a primer, and the subsequent gunpowder in my pocket, it’s adding a lot more friction and fumbling (more time) to get to the rounds you may be depending on to save your life.


Despite being the slowest method to reload a revolver, using loose cartridge reloads is still better than not having any extra rounds to feed your revolver. Even though most defensive shootings don’t involve reloading at all, there are outlier cases, and revolver shooters are already starting out with fewer rounds than semi-auto users. I actually carried the belt-slide cartridge loop holder featured here for a number of years, and while I knew it wasn’t the fastest, I loved its concealability.

What do you think about loose cartridge reloads? If you have found a great method or holder to carry loose cartridge reloads, please share what you use. If you’re just starting to carry a revolver, check out our other Pros and Cons on revolver reloads linked above.

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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3 of 17 comments
  • John John on Jun 01, 2023

    The issue of reloads is an old one. Remington percussion revolvers were often ordered with a second cylinder that, owing to the design, could be swapped in relatively quickly. Being left handed, all of my handguns are revolvers (autos are fine at arm's length, but in a retention position lefties can run into problems). Also, being currently trapped behind enemy lines (California), it's possible depending on how a couple of court cases shake out that the only handguns I'll be able to get in the future will be single actions. So, I've thought about this quite a bit.

    We need to take a few lessons from our ancestors. First, most defensive uses of firearms take place at ranges measured in feet. It's unlikely you'll have the time and space to reload, no matter how fast you are. So, learn not to miss. The only rounds that matter are the ones that hit the target. Second, the fastest and surest "reload", particularly with single actions and/or at close quarters, is to draw your second gun. The weight of two (or more) revolvers may be inconvenient, but it's much faster than a speed loader. I'd still carry some extra ammo though.

  • Shane Shane on Jun 02, 2023

    Honestly, I am starting to dislike semi-auto pistols for a number of reasons. I have several revolvers and but only a single semi-auto, a Sig P226.

    Thinking of getting rid of it and getting a Ruger SP101 in 9mm. Uses moon clips. Only 5 shots but reloads would be very fast with moonclips. And a 5-shot 9mm moonclip is pretty small so easy to carry in a pocket or on a belt pouch.

    • @Shane A revolver means that you are prepared for one threat, who isn’t that skilled in violence and doesn’t have a gun. A threat could take 6 357 magnums to their heart and lungs and still be ambulatory. It is like how a heart shot deer does a death sprint until the oxygenated blood is expended. That translates to a human threat being able to magazine dump at your loved ones our yourself.

      Sir, stand in front of your shower when it goes from cold to hot. If you flinch or gasp, then do not endanger your family or yourself by intentionally limiting the rounds you can put down range at a threat. Any of us, who have ever been shot at, would never say I wish I had fewer rounds to put down range to make the tango quit shooting at us.

      It will simulate your startle response, which determines if you get into the fight quicker, and it is a part the 2nd Amendment that the older folks try to make illegal, using superior violence on a threat to Life or Liberty.
      Congratulations, that you don’t have a realistic expectation of violence occurring because of the demographics of your area, that is not sarcasm, not all of us do.