I have been using revolver speedloaders regularly for the last 37 years for both my duty and off-duty revolvers — except for a short period when I was an auxiliary Deputy Sheriff with the Licking County, Ohio Sheriff’s Office (there I carried my 12 rounds of .38 Special on a belt loop cartridge holder on my duty belt. While the belt loop holder made for slow reloading, it nicely accessorized the brass buttons and nameplate on my Ohio Deputy Sheriff’s black uniform shirt).
After about a month, I decided to switch to revolver speedloaders. At that time, the only such loaders available were from HKS, who still manufactures an extensive line of cylindrical speedloaders. The cylindrical-type loading system allows all the rounds to be simultaneously dropped into the chambers — which, with some practice, makes reloading a revolver a pretty quick feat. HKS makes a good, reliable product.
HKS loaders consist of a high-impact plastic cylinder, which holds the cartridges in place and matches the diameter and layout of the revolver cylinder it is designed to fit. An aluminum knob and locking mechanism are used to lock the cartridges in place and then release the cartridges with a right-hand twist.
At this point in my law enforcement and writing career, I figured that there was no room for improvement in technology of revolver speedloaders, especially since many of today’s concealed carry permit holders feel that they MUST carry semi-automatic pistols to effectively defend themselves. Was I ever wrong!
5 Star Firearms is a full-service gun store and state-of-the-art 16-lane firing range located in Zion, Illinois. They also manufacture billet aluminum revolver speedloaders and other accessories on their own in-house CNC machines. 5 Star sent me samples of their loaders and loading blocks for two of my most frequently carried off-duty handguns: a five-shot Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard .38 Special J-frame revolver and a seven-shot Smith & Wesson Performance Center 686 .357 Magnum snub.
I will start off by saying that the 5 Star speedloaders and stands are exquisite in appearance and construction. The operating knobs on the brushed aluminum cylinders immediately set 5 Star loaders apart from any other cylindrical loaders on the market. The silver finish makes them easier to find after being dropped in the grass following a reload. Don’t like shiny brushed aluminum? 5 Star speedloaders can also be custom ordered in 6 different anodized colors to suit individual taste.
But it isn’t just in the looks department where 5 Star speedloaders surpass the plastic cylinder loaders — it is also in performance and smoothness of operation of their design.
If you had asked me earlier if there was anything that could be done to improve cylindrical revolver speedloader performance, I would have said “no” — which explains why I am not a successful business owner coming out with all kinds of great designs on my own. 5 Star proves that there was, in fact, room for improvement.
The first improvement outside of the all-aluminum billet construction is the “fluting” on the speedloader cylinder. The other main competitors’ plastic cylinders are simply round. The fluting on the 5 Star cylinders allows a more precise and solid grasp during the reloading process, as the fingers of the loading hand — which, for right-handed shooters, is the right hand (after the revolver is shifted to the left hand for unloading and then reloading) — just naturally find the flutes. Never grasp or insert cylindrical loaders into a revolver cylinder while holding them by the knob. It’s too easy under stress to prematurely or accidentally release the rounds. After you have released the rounds into the empty cylinder, it is ok to clear the loader from the gun by pulling it by the knob (since your fingers will already be on it).
The second improvement is in the shape of the 5 Star operating knob, which turns more smoothly than the HKS knob yet still locks positively in place. Rather than being cylindrical with fine checkering like HKS, the 5 Star knob is hexagonal in shape, which makes operating it more positive due to better leverage. Rounds drop clear from the loader easily and into the revolver cylinder. Make sure you let gravity work in your favor and hold the revolver directly perpendicular to the ground when charging with fresh ammo. That brings me to the last area of improvement found in the 5 Star speedloader: the direction the knob rotates to lock and release rounds.
HKS loaders (and please understand I am not knocking HKS loaders, as I have staked my life on them for many years) load their rounds by turning the knob to the left (counterclockwise). The rounds are released into the cylinder by turning the round to the right: clockwise. 5 Star loaders operate in the opposite fashion.
I found this out after dropping rounds on the ground a couple of times loading up the 5 Star loaders. When I realized that they release by turning the knob to the left, I asked myself, “Why?” It took me a moment to figure it out. It has to do with clearing the loader away from the revolver after the rounds have been released.
The traditional operation of a speedloader’s operating knob twists the loader to the right and toward the frame of the gun during the release. 5 Star loaders are twisted to the left, releasing away from the frame and helping to direct the empty loader clear and toward the ground. While this may be a subtle difference, I do think it’s an improvement. I’ve trained a few hundred police cadets and officers in the basics of revolver operation over the years and have witnessed much fumbling with speedloaders. Even small improvements can bring big benefits. With this in mind, if you are going to switch to 5 Star speedloaders, make sure you practice with them before carrying — and don’t mix cylindrical speedloading systems after you do.
5 Star speedloaders are available in the following calibers in five-, six-, seven- and eight-shot configurations, depending on the handgun model: .22, .327 Magnum, .38 Special/.357 Magnum, .41, .44., .454, .410/.45 Colt, .460, .480 and .500 calibers. There is even a two-shot speedloader available for .410/.45 Colt Bond Arms two-shooters.
Along with the sample loaders, 5 star sent along two aluminum-billet Bedside Loading Blocks. These each hold two loaded speedloaders at the ready for emergency use. They also sent a Range Loading Block (with gun stand) that holds four seven-shot loaders, and a Range Block that holds eight five-shot loaders. The Bedside Loading Blocks are particularly handy for keeping reloads at the ready for home protection. All blocks are just as finely machined and striking in appearance as the speedloaders.
I was shocked at the prices of these finely crafted revolver accessories — in a good way. The J-frame loader and Bedside Block are $19.95 and $30, respectively. The seven-shot L-Frame loader is priced at $24.95 and the Bedside Block is $35. Range Stand Blocks are around $35 each.
I am switching to 5 Star products for times when cylindrical revolver speedloaders are called for. For more information, and to see the other equipment 5 Star offers, including carry pouches, check them out at www.5starfirearms.com.