Revolver speedloaders make the process of reloading an appropriately matched revolver much faster than reloading one round at a time. Swing-out and top-break revolvers are designed to eject all cartridges with one movement, and speed loaders allow loading with but a single additional step. Speedloaders also provide a convenient way to carry ammunition for a revolver. Speedloaders do not allow revolvers to be reloaded as fast as semiautomatic handguns, at least, not without considerably more practice.
Prior to the introduction of speedloaders for revolvers, reloading of revolvers was typically accomplished by manually loading each cartridge into each chamber from dump pouches, cartridge pouches, and other cartridge holders.
Prior to the introduction of cartridges, circa 1861–1873, older black powder cap and ball revolvers often were used with multiple replaceable cylinders functioning as speedloaders. As the reloading process for a cap and ball revolver was rather lengthy and time-consuming, carrying already-loaded cylinders with percussion caps placed on cylinder nipples was a considerable savings of time for reloading one's revolver. This practice was primarily done on Remington revolvers, as their cylinders were easily removable and were held by a cylinder pin, unlike the early Colt revolvers which were held together by a wedge that went through the cylinder pin.