It’s been fifty years since John Bianchi introduced the first plastic/rubber loading strip for revolvers. Available in the early 1970s, the “Speed Strip” was made from rubber with a spring steel center. The steel insert was eventually dropped, and the composite changed to urethane to become the Speed Strip that we know today.
Originally offered in a six-shot .38/.357 format, a .44/.45 version was later added. Bianchi contributed many great ideas to the industry, maybe none more important than the Speed Strip. It remains viable because it’s an imminently practical piece of equipment for those that carry double action revolvers.
Tuff Products got into the market with their Quick Strips more recently. They have become the leader in providing strips for the greatest variety of calibers. Tuff took some heat for their original plastic being too stiff, making the strips hard to load and prone to cracking. They were responsive to criticism and changed their formula to soften and improve the strips they currently offer.
They make 10-round variants for Rimfires: one for .22 LR and one for .22 Magnum. Six and 8-shot versions for .32 Long/H&R Mag/.327 Federal Mag that will also work with 9mm. In .38/.357 they sell 5,6,7, and 8-round strips.
Tuff Products also offer a 6-shot strip for the .41 Magnum, 5 and 6round ones for .44 Special/Magnum or .45 Colt. They even have 5 and 6-shot strips for the .45 Auto Rim! All the centerfire revolver strips will work for loading single shot break open rifles, too.
Tuff’s website lists the compatibility for rifle cartridges (as an example, the .41 Mag strip will work with .243 Winchester, .257 Roberts, .270 Win, .308 Win, & .30-06). Tuff also makes strips for 12-, 20-, and 10-gauge shotguns and 40mm launchers. They make most models in either black or orange—and one (a 5-shot .38) in pink. Tuff is a breath of fresh air for those that carry revolvers in calibers other than .38.
DeSantis offers a six shot .38 caliber “Swift Strip”. If you purchase a Kimber K6 revolver, one will be supplied in the Kimber branded carrying case. The Swift Strip is softer than the Bianchi or the Tuff version and works well.
Galco has even gotten into the business with their “EZ Loader”—another soft 6-shot .38/.357 strip. The DeSantis and Galco strips are competitively priced and are a welcome addition. Strips are typically sold in pairs and can be had for eight to twelve bucks a set. I have used both and found them to be completely satisfactory for use with .38 revolvers.
Another newcomer is a company called zeta6. These folks have a law enforcement background and a passion for improving loading options for snub revolvers. They started with a J-frame specific five shot strip (J-STRIP) that grouped the cartridges 2, 2, and.
They listened to feedback from revolver guys and introduced their SYM-STRIP, also aimed at 5-shot snubbys. It has a gripping tab on either end, with rounds grouped in 2’s on the outside and a single round in the middle. This makes the SYM-STRIP completely ambidextrous and gives the user the option to leave out the center round if loading only 4 rounds. Many serious snub carriers have adopted the 4-round strip after pondering how long fully loading with five keeps their gun silent.
Also made by zeta6 are makes some really innovative non-linear strip designs. If you favor a Ruger LCR or a J or K frame S&W, you need to check out their website.
Names like “Speed”, “Quick”, and “Swift” imply that these strips make for fast reloads. Compared to a pocketful of loose rounds, or a dump pouch found on a cop’s duty belt in the 1970’s, absolutely. Pitted against any speedloader, not so much. Slid in a pocket or dedicated pouch though, they provide an easily concealed source of spare ammo that is more likely to be carried than a bulky speedloader.
With good technique and practice, strips can get you back in the fight in 4-8 seconds, depending on how many rounds you choose to load. They allow a revolver to be topped off if a few rounds have been fired where a speedloader mandates dumping everything in the cylinder.
Chances are you’ll win or lose your fight with what’s in the gun, but there’s no reason not to carry spare revolver ammo when Bianchi’s invention continues to make it so easy.