Hogue Cylinder Release Lever: Speed Up Your Revolver Reload

With the right revolver, accessories, setup (gear positioning), technique and practice, a determined revolver shooter can reload his or her empty handgun just as fast as, if not faster than, many semi-automatic pistol shooters. This is a particularly important concept for those of you living in locales that now limit you to a seven-round magazine capacity in most semi-automatic pistols, even if they can hold more. In these unfortunate places, a six- or seven-shot revolver might be the defensive option that keeps you from getting into trouble because of the magazine capacity issue. (Don’t worry, criminals will still be able to carry all the ammo they want…)

If you doubt this assertion about potential revolver reloading speed, just watch famed Smith & Wesson revolver shooter Jerry Miculek in action.

While I am not saying you will be as fast as Mr. Miculek, you can improve your speed significantly via the five factors I mentioned in the first sentence. Mr. Miculek just represents what a human being wielding a revolver is theoretically capable of.

Recently I evaluated and recommended utilizing 5 Star’s aluminum speedloaders (www.5starfirearms.com) as a way of increasing your reloading speed via accessories. It is also important to have those loaders available on your strong-hand side (holster side), since the reload will be accomplished by inserting the loader in the cylinder with the strong hand. When reloading a semi-automatic pistol, the opposite is true, as the magazine will be inserted by the weak hand. This is what I meant when I referred to the setup of your gear.

As you practice your revolver reloading techniques — on the range with live ammo, off the range with dummy ammo — work on this precept: “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” Slow is smooth, smooth is fast simply means that you should work slowly at making your revolver reload smooth. Reloading a revolver definitely takes more finesse than reloading a semi-automatic pistol, and it won’t respond well to quick, jerky movements. By working on being smooth, you are also working toward being fast.

Recently I found another product that I believe helps enhance smoothness and finesse in reloading the defensive revolver: the Hogue (extended) Cylinder Release lever.

Before I describe the Hogue release further, I need to mention that this replacement release is only available for conventional Smith & Wesson K- and L-frame revolvers with side-mounted cylinder release latches. It’s not available for J-frame Smith & Wesson revolvers.

The Hogue release is also not available for Ruger or Colt revolvers for a couple of reasons. A standard Smith & Wesson release works by being pushed toward the cylinder recoil shield. In the case of Ruger revolvers, the cylinder release is a button that is partially recessed in the frame. Since the button is pushed straight down, an extended latch wouldn’t be of any benefit. The Colt cylinder release operates by being pulled back toward the rear of the frame, and in any event, they aren’t easy to remove.

I requested two stainless-steel Hogue Long Cylinder Release Latches to try out on my 1980s vintage six-shot S&W Model 67 K-Frame .38 with a 4-inch barrel and my S&W Performance Center seven-shot .357 Magnum with a 2.5-inch barrel. A short release latch version is also available, as well as blued-steel latches in both sizes. With my medium-sized hands, I prefer the longer latches for both guns.

I don’t claim to be the most adept at mechanical stuff. However, even I found it extremely easy to install the Hogue cylinder release latch. All you need is a good quality screwdriver. Simply remove the cap screw, remove the thumb latch, put the Hogue extended latch in place and replace the screw. It took me exactly 30 seconds.

So what does the L-shaped Hogue extended latch do for you as a defensive — or recreational — revolver shooter? Simple. It allows you to open the cylinder without having to first twist your grip to reach the release. Instead, your shooting hand thumb simply moves up, back and then forward against the grooved latch, which is positioned perpendicular with the tip of the thumb (rather than parallel with the pad of the thumb). Through increased economy of motion, releasing the cylinder becomes smoother — and eventually faster.

After working with the Hogue release on both handguns, I found myself wondering why someone hadn’t thought of this before — or better yet, why I hadn’t thought of it myself. I definitely felt that the Hogue latch improved reloading smoothness — and found myself wishing that Hogue had models available for J-frames. Hopefully those will come out later. The Hogue release really makes it easier to begin the revolver reloading process.

A couple of things should be mentioned here. First, if you are planning on using a high or forward-thumb grip on a revolver, don’t. This type of grip is an especially big “no-no” on a revolver with the Hogue latch release mounted, as it would be possible to accidentally activate the latch and lock the trigger during firing. All of this can be avoided by using the traditional revolver grip.

I also had some concerns about the Hogue latch interfering with the leather thumb break holsters I had for both handguns. Initially it seemed there was a problem with the Model 67 and a Gould and Goodrich Model B803 thumb break belt holster; I was unable to snap the thumb break. As it turned out, the problem wasn’t the Hogue Cylinder Release; it was using the release in combination with a Crimson Trace Lasergrip. The laser module at the top of the right grip panel was already taking up some of the slack available in the thumb break strap. Once I removed the Lasergrip and replaced it with the original S&W grips, I was able to secure the holster. However, a holster by Falco Leather I was testing for the 686 accommodated both the Hogue Cylinder Release and the Crimson Trace Lasergrip simultaneously. So if you are planning on using both, it may take some holster shopping.

The Hogue Cylinder release is a quality accessory that is not a gimmick but rather an actual improvement of revolver design. Price is $69.95. For fans of Smith & Wesson K- and L-frame revolvers, it is an improvement you may want to consider. Learn more at www.hogueinc.com.

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