Ballistics by the inch

The Cunningham Speed Strip

Anyone who has considered a revolver as a self-defense option has confronted the question of whether, and how, to carry spare ammunition for it. Loose cartridges are just a pain to deal with, and take forever to reload. Speedloaders are great, but more than a little bulky. Commercial ‘speed strips’ are less bulky, are commonly available at a reasonable price, and are a big improvement over fumbling with loose rounds, but can still be awkward for reloading quickly. That’s because while they hold six cartridges, they’re difficult to position such that you can load an empty cylinder quickly — the close-packed cartridges actually get in the way. One common trick for using a speed strip is to only put two pairs of cartridges in it, with a gap between the two sets and the last position empty — that way, you can always quickly load two sets of two adjacent chambers in the cylinder of your revolver. This technique is perhaps best known due to defensive revolver guru Grant Cunningham.

Well, after recently taking a class with Grant, and learning this technique, I set out to make a more functional speed strip which would completely and quickly reload any revolver. One that almost anyone can make on their own, with minimal tools and expense, and customized to their revolver, whatever cartridge it shoots and whatever the capacity of the cylinder. I jokingly call it the Cunningham Perfect & Adaptable Speed Strip for Any Revolver regardless of Caliber or Capacity.  More seriously, I’ll refer to it as the Cunningham Speed Strip, (CSS for short.)

Here some pics of what it can look like:

Bianci Speed Strip and custom homemade CSS (for a J-frame).

 

6 rounds of .38sp.

 

5 rounds of .38sp and 6 rounds of .44mag.

 

And this is how you make it.

 

YOU’LL NEED:

Tools

  • A pair of common pliers
  • A hammer of almost any type
  • A pair of scissors or utility knife

You’ll also need

  • A Heat Source (just about anything from a hair dryer to a blowtorch will do — you’ll see)
  • An empty cartridge case for your revolver
  • A pen or pencil
  • A sheet of paper (really, just a scrap)
  • A scrap piece of heavy cardboard or wood
  • Suitable piece of inexpensive common vinyl (more on this to come)

 

PROCEDURE:

Select your vinyl. A wide variety of commonly available types of vinyl will work. If you look at the examples above you’ll see a piece from a 1/2″ ID vinyl tube, a piece of vinyl floor runner, and a piece of vinyl sheet used to cover food for microwaving. In other words, a wide variety of vinyl materials are likely to work.

So experiment a little. What you want is to find a vinyl which is flexible (not rigid/brittle) and sufficiently thick to hold cartridges in position, but will easily pull away when you have the cartridges in the chambers of the cylinder. The vinyl tubing is the one I like the most, and is 1/16″ thick. It has a slight tackiness to the surface I like because it makes it easier to use. The vinyl sheet is about one-third that thick, and the vinyl floor runner is somewhere between the two (though a little too flexible for my tastes).

Now, realize that it’s likely that any of these materials will tear after repeated use. These aren’t meant to last forever … but each of my prototypes have held up to at least a dozen uses so far. The idea is that they’re cheap and easy to make and replace.

 

Cut the vinyl to rough size. You want a working piece that you can trim later. Here’s what the tubing looks like when cutting:

About a 6″ piece of tubing.

 

Slit along the sides.

 

Flat section cut out.

 

Make a paper template. It’s difficult to mark most kinds of vinyl. So the easy thing to do is to make a paper template of what you want. For a J-frame, you want two sets of paired cartridges and one solo, with gaps in between the sets (as shown). For other guns, you may want a different arrangement. But in each case you want to use your empty cartridge case to draw the position of the circles on the paper.  Like so:

Paper template.

 

Also note that I have a couple of marks showing the approximate ends of the strip. You want a bit of a tab on either end, to make it easy to grab and use the strip. But the final amount (and whether square or rounded off) is entirely up to your preference.

 

Position the template and vinyl for punching.  Here I recommend that you use either a piece of dense cardboard or a scrap piece of wood. You can tape down the template if you want. But position the template, then lay the strip of vinyl on top of it in alignment with the template.

Position the template.

 

Heat up the case and/or strip. Again, the source of the heat really won’t matter. It can be a heat gun. Or a warm brick. Or a hair dryer. Whatever you have handy. Now, this may not be necessary. With some vinyls, you don’t need to really heat them up. But I have found that it makes things easier if you do, as the vinyl becomes softer and more pliable. And you can see in the image above that I have a .38sp case positioned in front of a heat gun, to make it even easier.

 

Position the case and strike with a hammer. If you have heated up the case, or if you’re worried about smacking your fingers with the hammer, the easy thing to do is to pick up the case with a common pair of pliers and then hold it in position. Put the mouth of the case over the vinyl/template in the correct position, then hit the case with the hammer.

How hard to hit, or how many times, will depend. But ideally, you want to have the case punch through the vinyl in a clean and complete way, so you have a small disk of removed vinyl left. This is the advantage of using the case instead of trying to cut the vinyl with a knife or drill bit: you wind up with a good clean cut the *exact* size of the cartridge.

 

Clean through!

 

Repeat as many times as necessary. Until you have all the holes punched out.

 

J-frame layout.

 

Anaconda layout.

 

Then trim the strip as desired. Once done, insert loaded cartridges and it’s ready to use.

5 rounds of .38sp and 6 rounds of .44mag.

 

That’s it!

I thought about patenting this idea, or seeing if I could sell it to some manufacturer. But it seemed like a good thing to just share as an ‘open source’ idea with the firearms/self-defense community so it could be used widely. If you found this instructional post useful in making your own customized speed strips, and would like to contribute a couple of bucks, just send a PayPal donation here: jimd@ballisticsbytheinch.com  Proceeds will be shared with Grant Cunningham, who inspired this design.

 

Jim Downey

 

December 29, 2019 - Posted by | .22, .22WMR, .32 H&R, .327 Federal Magnum, .357 Magnum, .38 Special, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .44 Special, Revolver | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Comments »

  1. Absolutely BRILLIANT: Good thinking men !
    I haven’t done this yet but will start the 2020 New Year looking for flexible materials to build some of these for my 327 FED.MAG. Ruger SP101. – Right now I’m wondering if rubber strips cut from old car inner tubes might also work .. but they might be too floppy eh. I plan to introduce your CSS & link to it on my blog: https://flicense.blogspot.com/

    Cheers from New Zealand

    Comment by kavpom | December 31, 2019 | Reply

    • Good luck with your experiments!

      (And I just want to say that I loved having the chance to visit your lovely country a few years back — fantastic place & people!)

      Comment by James Downey | December 31, 2019 | Reply

      • Glad that you enjoyed us down here .. come again mate.

        Comment by kavpom | January 7, 2020

  2. […] The Cunningham Speed Strip […]

    Pingback by Weekend Knowledge Dump- January 10, 2020 | Active Response Training | January 10, 2020 | Reply

  3. I used this method to make speed strips and it worked great, the only thing I did was chamfer the inside of the case before the punching process, it seemed to make that process easier.

    Comment by Todd D | January 10, 2020 | Reply

  4. BRILLIANT! I’m going to have to make some immediately! It’s like a craft project for dudes, I guess.

    Comment by Riley | January 12, 2020 | Reply


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