Wednesday, March 15, 2017
REVISITING THE REVOLVER AMMO DROP POUCH
Yet another reminder that I’m rapidly approaching Old Fart status is the fact that when I took a Police Firearms training course in college, we were still using the old Smith & Wesson Model 10 “Barney Fife Special” and I learned how to properly use speed-loaders with said revolver.
Training with double-action revolvers later did come in handy since I moved to Montana. With very few rather expensive exceptions, semi-automatic auto-loaders just don’t come in calibers sufficient to deal with a grizzly bear. So, since we live, hunt and recreate in grizzly country, both my wife and I pack a S&W .44 Magnum revolver when we’re out and about. I used to reload my own special anti-griz ammo, but now we’ve taken a real shine to Montana’s own HSM Ammunition and their .44 Mag Bear Loads. They launch a 305-grain hardcast flat-nosed “Keith”-type bullet at good velocity but cost less than half the price of the Federal or Buffalo Bore bear loads. Naturally, we still practice all the bear country precautions to avoid the need to use a gun in the first place but for reasons I'll detail in a separate post we don't rely on mere pepper spray.
Back when I had vision in both eyes, and 20/15 in the good one, I used to decapitate occasional mountain grouse for supper with my 6-inch Model 29 during my travels. In the summer, especially when fishing along the Yellowstone or the Missouri, we also have to contend with rattlesnakes. At the ranges involved, .44 Mag CCI shot loads full of #9 splatter ‘em good. We also use these shot loads around the yard so we can whack gophers in the vicinity of the rock retaining wall without worrying about ricochets.
For spare ammunition, we used to carry six-round HKS speed-loaders in a double belt pouch. Over the years, I found these to be both heavy and bulky to carry on the belt; after all, they are the same size as the revolver’s cylinder. In addition, they were designed for law enforcement officers back in the day when revolvers were standard issue so that, in a gunfight, if a policeman emptied his gun, he could rapidly reload all six rounds at once. On my own, in the woods, I’ve never actually emptied my revolver nor needed a combat reload. I think that if I lived in a place where I had to routinely administer some critter six 305-grain .44 Mag slugs and still needed another six immediate follow-ups, I would probably just move back to Iowa.
Almost without exception, when I actually do use my revolver I never fire more than one or two rounds, say to finish off an already downed game animal or take care of a rattler in the vicinity of my feet. In such cases, especially since I save my brass, speed-loaders are more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to replacing only one or two rounds in the cylinder.
So I recalled the old drop pouches used in the really old pre-speed-loader days. With nothing more than the idea rattling around in my head, I began experimenting. The goats have long since outgrown the training soft packs I made for them out of some old Army surplus gas mask cases, so I had plenty of stout canvas and nylon material to work with.
The old gas mask carriers also yielded Velcro I could re-use to keep the top flap down. I had a bunch of Swiss surplus OD green nylon cargo straps, so I sacrificed a couple to make cartridge and belt loops. I sewed it all together with my C.A. Myers “Awl for All”, which I actually get a whole lot of use out of for my various projects…goat soft packs, rifle stock shell holders, made-to-fit belt pouches for odd-sized objects like a range-finder.
The beauty of this design is that it requires nothing more elaborate than a simple rectangle of material, folded roughly in thirds, to start with. I folded over a little less than a quarter of an inch of material and hemmed it with the awl on the top and bottom edge to prevent fraying. I did the same with the sides after I completed the shell loops, sewing down the seam through the ends of the cartridge loop straps. Then I sewed on Velcro strips to hold the top flap and voila, I had a drop pouch. Later, I treated the fabric with a spray-on water-resistant shield.
The Mark I pouch with the cartridge loops sewn directly to the canvas was simple, functional and compact.
On the first example, I simply sewed the nylon strap into loops around empty cartridge cases directly to the canvas of the drop pouch. This worked, and made for the lightest and most compact “model” but tended to curve and bunch the material a bit. Plus, once I get to tinkering, it’s hard to stop. Afterwards, I took to cutting a piece of leather from an old rifle sling and sewing to shell loops to that while simultaneously attaching both to the canvas backing. This may or may not be necessary, it’s more a matter of personal preference. One modification I did really like was the attachment of a small tab on the top flap to make for easier and quicker opening.
Just playing around, I backed the cartridge loops up with a piece of leather and made a big 12-shot version. The little tab for opening the top flap actually was a pretty nice addition.
Various attempts were also made for belt loops, the most simple and effective being simply a length of webbing or nylon strap formed into a circle and sewn to the back of the case. When I used the thinner nylon material for the body, I also backed the points where I sewed on the belt loops on the interior with small square pieces of strap for reinforcement. With nylon strap material, the cut edges should be melted with a lighter to keep them from fraying.
Belt loops were easily made with a loop of webbing or strap sewn on. I put ALICE clips on the big 12-shot model so I could put it on the LBE that I wear hunting and hiking.
For the fun of it, I made Ben a 5-shot model for his puny .357, using some old .38 Special cases I had to get the size of the loops right.
Once complete, the drop pouch goes on your belt in front of the revolver holster. When folded up, the cartridges are actually upside down. When it comes time to reload, you simply pull open the top flap, the flap holding the ammunition drops down, and you can pluck out one, two or three rounds; whatever is necessary. I use my index finger to push upwards on the tip of the bullet from below while grasping the rim of the case with my other fingers. I've carried them around on my belt during the day and they've stayed shut and the ammo remains secure. Nothing fancy or revolutionary but it works. I'll keep a couple for myself, let my wife chose one, and give the rest to my hunting buddies who carry hoglegs.