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 often 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.

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, 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.

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Cops carried their spare rounds of ammunition in rectangular, leather pouches called dump pouches. Dump pouches typically 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 “dumping” the ammunition into their non-gun hand. The officer then fed the individual rounds into the open slots in the revolver’s rotating cylinder—one at a time. Needless to say, this is far easier said than done when someone is shooting in your direction.

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Barney’s left hand rests on one of the two dump pouches on his utility belt. His index finger touches the other. The deputy-in-training also carries two dump pouches on his duty belt. Both are directly below the ticket book. Release snaps are clearly visible near the bottom of each pouch.

*Note – The thin vertical leather strap (with center snap) located to the right of deputy-in-training’s belt buckle is called a belt keeper. Its purpose is to attach the duty belt firmly to the regular dress belt. Keepers are used to prevent the gun belt/duty belt from sliding down over the hips. In the above photo the keeper is there, but it’s obviously not used properly.

To solve the problem of slow reloading came in the form of speed loaders. Speed loaders hold six rounds of ammunition that are perfectly aligned 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 now easily and quickly re-load their revolvers in tense situations, even in the dark.


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


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.


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


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

Speed loaders are a wonderful tool. However, they don’t solve all revolver woes…

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8 replies
  1. Eric ZBD
    Eric ZBD says:

    Funny how the Mexican gov’t can afford to put an uzi or AK in every cop’s hand, and American cops are stuck with pea shooters. I hear it’s not like in the movies when you’re up against automatic weapons with a handgun 🙂

  2. Timber Beast
    Timber Beast says:

    I think the dump pouch was also known as a suicide pouch.

    NYPD put off the switch to semiautomatics (due to cost, no doubt) saying the average gun battle lasted less than three seconds with about three rounds total (going from memory here).

  3. BeckyLevine
    BeckyLevine says:

    It’s the perfect name–DUMP pouches. Because, you just know, in one episode, Barney was going to dump them all over the floor. Then Andy would get to roll his eyes and look patient, and Opie would get to help Barney pick up everything.

    I did love that show.

  4. Peg H
    Peg H says:

    LOL! I was waiting for Barney too. Barney may have had dump pouches but his one and only bullet was kept in his shirt pocket. Makes you wonder what he did carry in his dump pouches, breath mints?

    Peg H 😉

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