In the days before semi-automatics took center stage in the world of law enforcement, police officers carried revolvers as their weapons of choice. Cowboys called them six-shooters and gun buffs refer to them as wheel guns. Shooting enthusiasts love them. Why, then, did police officers make the switch? The answer is simple. Law enforcement officers were being outgunned by semi-automatic-toting bad guys.

Most revolvers are capable of firing only six rounds of ammunition. Semi-automatics can pop off fifteen or sixteen rounds as fast as a shooter can pull the trigger. During a gun battle, revolver-toting officers had to reload two or three times before the crook emptied his first magazine.

Reloading a revolver has always been a problem, especially when the officer was under fire. Cops carried their spare rounds of ammunition in rectangular, leather pouches called dump pouches. Dump pouches hold six bullets and are attached upside down to the officer’s utility belt.

To access the extra bullets, officers simply unsnapped the pouch cover to “dump” the ammunition into their non-gun hand. The officer then had to feed the individual rounds into the open slots in the revolver’s rotating cylinder, one at a time. Needless to say, this is much easier said than done when someone is shooting in your direction.

Barney’s dump pouches (two pouches) are on his utility belt, to the right of his tie (his left). The two release snaps are clearly visible near the bottom of the pouches.

The answer to faster re-loading—speed loaders. Speed loaders hold six rounds of ammunition. The rounds are automatically positioned to line up with the bullet slots in a revolver’s cylinder. A twist of a knurled knob on the end of the speed loader releases all six rounds at once. Shooters could then easily and quickly re-load their revolvers in tense situations, even in the dark.

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Revolver, speed loaders, and speed loader pouches. The pouches attach to a police officer’s utility belt.

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A revolver’s cylinder is designed to swing out for reloading. The knurled button between the hammer and the wooden grip is the cylinder’s release button.

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Speed loaders position rounds so they line up perfectly with the bullet slots in the cylinder.

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A twist of the knob in the officer’s right hand releases all six rounds at once.