There are by my count six currently available speed loader styles. These are, in alphabetical order: Buffer Technologies’ Jet Loaders, H.K.S. speedloaders, Maxfire speedloaders, Safariland’s Comp I, II and III speedloaders, and SL Variant speedloaders. Gunsmith and gun writer Grant Cunningham has written on his gun topic blog that he has seen several guns whose cranes have been bent apparently due to the side loading forces of Maxfire speedloaders. Regrettably I have to concur with Mr. Cunningham’s concerns. For myself, I do not use the Maxfire speedloaders with any of my revolvers.
BUFFER TECHNOLOGIES’ JET LOADER
Buffer Technologies’ Jet Loader is one of the two oversized loaders. (The other being the Safariland Comp III) It has the advantage of being available for the five shot J-frames, and its large size works well with gloved hands. The externally wrapped driving-spring would seem to beg for all manner of pocket detritus to jam the action, but those who use it more often than I do claim no such problem.
The DADE loader is one of the easiest to load. Rounds are dropped into the individual speedloader holes and the noses of the bullets are given a light press to seat them in place. The large release button is also easy to work. Drop the rounds into the cylinder’s charge holes and press straight down on the large release knob and the rounds fall in. The rounds are kept in place via a spring the surrounds the body of the loader. Being the easiest speedloader to load it is also the loader most likely to release its rounds if the speedloader is carelessly dropped on a hard surface. The extra large release button on the top of the speedloader also makes it the easiest to accidentally self-release if it should strife something while you are toting it around in your pocket. That said the DADE loader remains my favorite speedloaders. First, its large button makes it the easiest to activate with either hand using any of nine common revolver reloading methods (five with the right hand, four with the left.) Second, it is almost as easy to manipulate for one-hand-only snub reloading as the HKS speedloader. And third, given that I spend the majority of my time reloading the snubs using an “auto-pistol” reloading style the easy to press-to-release DADE loader puts less stress on the snub’s crane and yoke screw than say the Safariland speedloaders and is more forgiving of index finger contact on the cylinder than the HKS speedloaders require.
H.K.S. speedloaders are probably the most common loaders encountered. They are compacted, well made and available for the widest variety of revolvers. The H.K.S. loader works very well using the LFI reloading method but less so with both the FBI and “Auto-pistol” methods. Alone among speedloaders, the H.K.S. loader can be quickly worked in an emergency as a one hand (injured) re-loader. The injured hand reloading method will be described in detail later in the text.
There are two common criticisms issued against the H.K.S. loaders.
First, the rounds are kept in place via a knurled locking knob, and this knob is often mistakenly used as a “handle” when loading the rounds into the cylinder. If grabbed in a hurry the locking knob can release all the rounds prematurely. This failing is in all honesty a user failure rather than a speed loader failure. As long as the shooter learns to handle the H.K.S. Speedloader by the body, oddly enough also known as the “barrel,” rather than by the knurled locking knob, the speedloader will perform as advertised.
A second and somewhat petty but not uncommon criticism is that the H.K.S. loaders “rattle” when holding their rounds. While true, this in no way affects the loader’s reliability.
Maxfire speedloaders are the only speedloaders without moving parts. The loader is a one-piece soft rubber unit with a large offset “ring” handle. The cartridges are held in place by friction in three staggered tiers. Once the rounds are inserted into the cylinder, the loader is directionally “swiped” away from the revolver. Several nationally known gun publications praised the loader, but I have yet to find an actual shooter who concurs.
SAFARILAND’S COMP I
Safariland’s Comp I speedloaders are available for five shot J-frame and the six shot K-frame revolvers. They are small enough too carried conveniently plus they lack the “rattle factor” of the H.K.S. loaders. Safariland’s Comp I speedloaders remain my first choice when carrying five shot J-frame revolvers and my second choice when carrying either a Colt or a Smith and Wesson K-frame. This is because they work equally well with FBI, LFI and “Auto-pistol” reloading methods.
There are two common criticisms regarding the Safariland’s Comp I. First, some shooters have trouble “loading” ammunition into the Comp I when it is new out of the box. While it is true that loading the Comp-I units takes a little time to master, this criticism is self-correcting with time and is a new shooter limitation rather than a speed loader failure. Second, some shooters find that the Comp-I loader is a little more “insertion-angle” sensitive that most other loaders. Since the loader releases its rounds only when the loader is pressed straight down into the cylinder, if the shooter angles or “cocks” the loader a little to much while trying to load the cylinder, the loader will often refuse to release its rounds. The simplest remedy for this condition is to not press down with the loader but rather to lift the snub up against the loader. Every shooter I have ever had in a class who had trouble using the Comp-I loaders found this a fast and effective correction.
SAFARILAND’S COMP II
Safariland’s Comp II speedloaders have all the advantages of the Comp I, with two added features. Comp II loaders posses a larger locking knob which offers a larger gripping area. Second, they feature fluted groves molded into the speedloader’s body. This aids in aligning the loader with the cylinder’s charge holes. Regrettably, they are not available for five shot J-frames sized revolvers. He Comp II is my first choice when carrying either a six shot K-frame or six shot D-frame revolver.
SAFARILAND’S COMP III
Safariland’s Comp III speedloaders are the largest of the Safariland speedloader family. They are very common in revolver competitions, and not uncommon as street speedloaders. Their large size means they share the same advantages of the Buffer Technologies’ Jet Loaders when working with gloved hands. Also regrettably not available for five shot J-frame revolvers, they are an effective six shot speedloader in cold weather.
The S.L. Variant is (regrettably) an all too rare speedloader. It offers the best features of several of the above listed speedloaders. Similar in function to the Safariland Comp III, sized like the Comp II, easy to load like the H.K.S. (though via a different system) and made for a wide variety of five, six, and seven shot revolver models. Sadly, their cost (2 to 3 times the cost of common speedloaders) and limited marketing meant they caught the attention of too few serious revolver shooters.