There are several reasons why a shooter might want to practice reloading skills using only one, two or three loose rounds.
1 – A partially loaded cylinder is a fully loaded weapon. This lesson often needs reminding.
Try a simple test. If the cylinder holds five rounds and you load the cylinder with four rounds then what percentage is the gun loaded? Here is a hint – four divided by five is eighty percent. So by what percentage is the gun loaded loading if you load four rounds in a five shot revolver? If you said eighty percent you need to rethink you gun handling. Four rounds loaded into a five round cylinder means the gun is loaded one-hundred percent. A single round loads the gun one-hundred percent. You do not need the cylinder full to have a loaded weapon. At least one of the four policemen killed during the Newhall, CA shootout was reported to have died trying to load his sixth of six rounds into his duty revolver. That man died holding a weapon that was already loaded five times over. Might that officer have been better served by his instructors if they had taught him a partially loaded cylinder is a fully loaded gun? Isn’t it sometimes better to get back in the fight with a loaded revolver rather than taking the time to fill a cylinder?
2 – A partially loaded cylinder helps a shooter develop a flinch free shooting habit. Load only one or two rounds per cylinder and you will self-correct yourself every time the hammer falls on an empty cylinder and you flinched anticipating a live round.
3 – A partially loaded cylinder will help demonstrate how much more quickly you can cycle through to a live round rather than trying to manually index an available live round.
Here is a simple two-part training exercise. You will need a friend with either a stopwatch or a PACT style timer and a safe shooting area. Start with a single round. Have your friend start the timer as soon as he gives you a load signal. You can load the single round into any available charge hole. When the round is in the cylinder’s charge hole manually index the cylinder so that with the next pull of the cylinder the round will come under the hammer. Find your target, aim and fire. Have your friend record the time from the load signal to your first shot.
Now repeat the drill with one small change. After loading the single round into the cylinder make no effort to mechanically index the cylinder. Simply close the cylinder and trigger through the empty charge holes until the round rotates to the fire position. Remember to keep the muzzle pointed at your target and in a safe direction. Again have your friend record the time from the load signal to your first shot.
Compare the time differences between manually indexing the round versus reflexively triggering past the empty charge holes. You will almost certainly find that triggering past the empty charge holes is statistically faster than trying to manually indexing the next available round. This knowledge can be of valuable in certain self-defense situation
4 – If a shooter is in the habit of indexing the cylinder he may need to be reminded that under stress a partially loaded cylinder will not automatically index itself.
Once when I was at the SIG Academy I set up the following artificial drill. I told the shooter that he would have time to load two rounds but that he was to reload against the clock. As soon as he loaded his two rounds he was to turn to the target and get off two fast, accurate shots. If he got off both rounds in under four seconds he would pass the drill. The shooter rushed to get both rounds loaded, turned to the target and still racing the clock pulled the trigger three times. Click-Click-Click. Believing the rounds had misfired he dropped his shoulders in defeat and we suspended the drill. When I asked him why he stopped he told me that the rounds failed to fire. No, I reminded him, the gun was still hot. He was so used to loading the gun and indexing the cylinder that he came to condition himself to believe that the gun will do it for him in an emergency.