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View Full Version : Colt's and "six up" carry


Ben Towe
February 8, 2011, 12:17 AM
Can anyone explain to me why exactly carrying six rounds on half cock is considered so unsafe? Is this a modern "age of safety" notion or was it practiced in antiquity? I know some lever rifles with half cock safeties are considered safe so why not a Colt revolver? It may seem ignorant but I've always owned New Model Rugers until I bought my Walker replica.

Ideal Tool
February 8, 2011, 12:45 AM
It was practised back in the day (19th century) Elmer keith also mentioned this and he was refering to the early 1900's.

kameron454ci
February 8, 2011, 01:12 AM
I like my right leg/foot so i carry five. i think if you just bump the hammer back when on half cock it will fall.

Ben Towe
February 8, 2011, 02:59 AM
Kameron454ci, if the half cock mechanism is the same on all Colts as on my 1847 (and it could very well be different) then the hammer will not pass forward of half cock without pulling the trigger.

mykeal
February 8, 2011, 07:45 AM
Because sears are hardened, and thus brittle, metal and they are breakable. All it takes is a sharp blow to the tip of the hammer, like dropping the gun. And once the sear breaks, nothing stops the hammer from falling. There's also the problem of a worn sear or notch - it is possible for a hammer to slip past the half cock notch if the sear and/or the notch are badly worn, a condition the owner would not necessarily be aware of.

Not all guns are nice and new from the factory. Assuming all guns work like they did when they were new is not a good idea. The half cock position is not a safety. It's better than full cock or hammer down on a loaded chamber, but not as good as hammer down on an empty chamber. And most folks prefer a full measure of safety over a partial measure. Not all, sadly, but most.

Ben Towe
February 8, 2011, 08:31 AM
Mykeal, thank you. Best explanation I've heard.

Doc Hoy
February 8, 2011, 09:38 AM
Interesting characterization your use of the phrase "modern age of safety".

I am inclined to agree with you to a point. And as nearly everyone on the forum knows, this is a hot btton with me.

Many of the safety requirements identified in industry are more like realizations of a danger which always existed but was never mitigated. As an example, I cite the requirement for climber safety devices now in occupations which formerly did not make use of them. There are probably a hundred thousand examples of this enlightened approach to safety. As much as I hate to admit it, OSHA, NIOSH, and the guidance they develop and implement do save lives and reduce illness and injury.

I do believe it is possible to be too safe. When a requirement is set forth that is difficult, costly, or monumentally inconvenient to implement and which does not actually provide an appreciable gain in safety we may be going too far.

Many people would consider my approach to safety (the fact that I believe it is possible to be too safe.) as sacrelige. I did 26 years in the Navy and safety was part and parcel of every Navy evolution. After leaving the service I became an OSHA instructor, A CSX Railroad Work Safety instructor, and a Red Cross CPR/First Aid instructor. So it may surprise you to learn that I hate fire extinguishers. I experienced three shipboard fires and not one of them was put out with a fire bottle, but in every case all of the fire bottles were emptied without effect on the fire. In the fire on USS Coyningham, they used up every fire bottle on the ship, all of the ones they could get from adjacent ships and still the extinguishers had no effect. One man killed, three seriously burned, and many mistakenly thought they could fight a fire with a fire extinguisher. 20 seconds is all you get.

I also load directly from a flask into a previously fired revolver. I know that many among you think this is dangerous and I do not disagree. But I understand the danger and know how to reduce it to an acceptable (to me) level. If you read about me in the news paper, you will know that I was mistaken. It would not be the first time.

I always load all six but then the way I shoot does not make that practice any more dangerous than loading five. I never ever shoot with other people. I never carry the loaded revolver more than about eight feet. I always load and then discharge the rounds immediately. I ALWAYS cap the nipples at the shooting bench and NEVER travel even three steps with the revolver once it hasbeen capped. I must tell that the revolver on half cock, with the hammer just three quarters of an inch away from a live chamber send chills up my spine.

madcratebuilder
February 8, 2011, 09:56 AM
Most cap and ball revolvers well have one or more pins or notches to locate the hammer down between chambers. Some C&B revolvers, like the Starr uses a extra set of bolt notches cut in the cylinder as a safety device. I consider this a safe way to carry a C&B.

Ben Towe, your Walker replica should have a single pin on the back of the cylinder to locate the hammer between cylinders. The Walker and Whitneyville Dragoons used a single pin and six pins starting some time in 1st model dragoons.

A center fire SA without the transfer bar should have the hammer resting on a empty chamber.


I also load directly from a flask into a previously fired revolver. I know that many among you think this is dangerous and I do not disagree. But I understand the danger and know how to reduce it to an acceptable (to me) level. If you read about me in the news paper, you will know that I was mistaken. It would not be the first time.

I agree Doc. I just can't see "glowing embers" lasting so long as to be a hazard when reloading a C&B. Now if I was using paper cartridges I would be more cautious.

Hardcase
February 8, 2011, 10:33 AM
I'm with Mykeal 100%. And with Doc, too, except that I don't always practice what I preach. I'll get it straight one of these days.

Interesting point, Doc, about the main space fire on Gus. We talked about that fire and its fallout on my ship, particularly why that officer died. Oh, and about the wisdom of aluminum fixtures on the DC deck (given that my ship had an aluminum superstructure, it seemed important...) I was in the process of getting ESWS qualified, so I was paying a lot of attention.

Sorry, didn't mean to derail the thread.

rdstrain49
February 8, 2011, 01:22 PM
load 6 on the range if you wish, but 5 on your belt.

Model-P
February 8, 2011, 01:33 PM
I know some lever rifles with half cock safeties are considered safe so why not a Colt revolver?

If you ever get a chance to compare the hammer and trigger sears of a single action revolver hammer and a lever action rifle hammer you will see the difference right away. The rifle sears are much more substantial.

Also, a handgun hitting the gound is much more likely to be pointing at you than a long rifle would under the same circumstances.

BTW, even the half cock safety on a lever action rifle is not foolproof. They can also break under the right (wrong) circumstances.

bighead46
February 8, 2011, 01:41 PM
The half cock notch is undercut and normally carrying it that way isn't much different than a percussion lock muzzle loader being carried around on half cock. I think the big danger is that with a rifle you have less of a chance of brushing the hammer against an object that could slightly pull back the hammer and let it accidentally fire. Such an occurrence would be a lot more likely with a revolver being carried in a loose fitting holster, PLUS the revolver is aimed at your leg. In any event the time honored carry on a SAA Colt is five with the hammer down on an empty chamber. It is historically correct. At the range go ahead and load six.

Ben Towe
February 8, 2011, 01:48 PM
Madcratebuilder, I found that pin. That little guy is hard to see, and the fact that they don't come with much of an instruction manual to tell you things like that doesn't help.

I think that safety has gotten a little out of hand in some instances, I just didn't know if this was such a case. Apparently not.

SIGSHR
February 8, 2011, 03:10 PM
From what I have read over the years the main function of a half cock was to keep the revolver from firing in case the shooter's hand slipped while drawing to full cock, and also to disengage the cylinder during loading. It is really not a safety as we think of if.

madcratebuilder
February 9, 2011, 08:25 AM
If you ever get a chance to compare the hammer and trigger sears of a single action revolver hammer and a lever action rifle hammer you will see the difference right away. The rifle sears are much more substantial.

The sear ledge on Enfields, Swiss k31's, and Mausers is much smaller than a typical SA Colt. The sear on a AR10/15 and Marlin 336 is about the same size as a SA Colt, or DA Ruger, S&W, Charter Arms....

Hardcase
February 9, 2011, 10:06 AM
MCB, I don't think that any of those rifles use half cock for a safety :D

bighead46
February 9, 2011, 11:29 AM
Not to keep repeating myself, and...I'm far from ever being accused of being a safety nut, but...I've NEVER heard of a Colt SAA being carried in a half cock position. The only advanatge you would be gaining is a sixth shot. As most gun fights go; if you haven't hit the other guy by the fifth shot you are probably in big trouble anyway.

junkman_01
February 9, 2011, 11:37 AM
As most gun fights go; if you haven't hit the other guy by the fifth shot you are probably in big trouble anyway.

But what 'IF' you have to engage multiple adversaries? That sixth shot just might be the one that saves your life!

Model-P
February 9, 2011, 12:00 PM
I've NEVER heard of a Colt SAA being carried in a half cock position.

Neither have I. But the op didn't mention SAAs. He was referring to cap-and-ball revolvers. Even though he didn't specifically say so in his first post, I assumed as much.

Others went on to mention the SAA, and just went with the discussion of sear design in general, the quarter cock and half cock sears being essentially the same in construction and strength. I suspect we all know that on a SAA it is the quarter cock notch that is/was used as a "safety".

Ben Towe
February 9, 2011, 01:44 PM
Well I was talking about Colt revolvers in general, be they cap and ball or SAA. The 1847 just happens to be the first "Colt" I've ever owned.

Fiv3
February 9, 2011, 02:43 PM
I don't trust the safety notches or the pins on C&B revolvers enough to rely on them. I don't see them as UN-safe. However, I know that it is really easy to thumb back the hammer accidentally just enough that the cylinder rotates so that the hammer is now resting on a live cap:eek: Shooting at the range I load all six. I might even load all six and cap them if I am driving right to the range to shoot. I'm not scared of a revolver holding 6 up, but I don't like carrying that way.

What I do if I am carrying a cap and ball where I want to keep 6 loaded but fairly safe, I rest the hammer on the safety notch and leave the cap off the first nipple the gun will rotate to if the hammer is slightly cocked. I still have the powder, wad, and ball in there, just no way to set it off. This gives me 5 for sure and a 6th if I deem I need it. Sure it's slow to cap a nipple in a crisis, but it's a hellova lot easier than loading power and ball AND a nipple in a crisis;)

Generally speaking, my BP guns are just fun range toys. For defensive purposes, I have much better arms. However, I do sometime carry a smoke wagon with me out in the woods for fun. The 1847 is next on my list. I hope to have one before there are buds on the trees:D

Ben Towe
February 9, 2011, 02:56 PM
Um... an uncapped, charged cylinder is begging for a chain fire! I can't say this is a good idea.

As far as for personal defense I doubt I'll ever carry the Walker. It is far too large to even attempt to conceal and weighs as much as some rifles. My question was more out of curiousity than any intent to use it for defensive purposes.

Fiv3
February 9, 2011, 05:24 PM
opps:o I forgot to mention my little plastic booty that I keep over the nipple:p Sorry. Yes, an uncapped nipple COULD result in a chainfire. I get these little electrical connector pieces at work. They ship them with these little protective booties that are just about perfect for slipping over revolver nipples. They are just deep enough to seal the flash hole yet long enough to give me a little nub of a purchase to pull off. As a matter of fact, they might be nice for humid days when you want to load up the gun but keep it uncapped until you are ready to fire it. I haven't tried that just yet, but it MIGHT work:)

I have about 100 of them, so if I ever need to pull on off and toss it...no big deal:)

Thanks for pointing out that part, Ben.

Ben Towe
February 9, 2011, 05:43 PM
That makes me feel much better, lol.

Sent from my DROIDX using Tapatalk

bighead46
February 9, 2011, 06:27 PM
Cap and ball? Oh boy- we had a big discussion on that a while back. I was in the minority as far as carrying those loaded with 6 chambers but there was such an uproar that I decided even on a percussion only load 5 and have the hammer on an empty cylinder.
BUT, just to be a (&*%^&* I'll say that a few percussion revolvers have good pins or deep cuts that OUGHT TO make carrying six okay except if you catch the spur of the hammer on something, etc. In any event, I'll go along with the crowd and say load just five.
They say the average gun fight is at 7 yards, I've had two home invasions and both times there were multiple guys- 2 once and 5 on the second. I'm not sure if a 6th round would make all the difference if the shooting started. Dive for cover.

bedbugbilly
February 9, 2011, 07:22 PM
I'm with what was said by one . . if you're at the range then carry six if that's your desire . . . . as far as "carrying" . . . I've always left an empty. Maybe it's necessary . . . maybe it isn't . . . . but if you get in the habit of veing as safe as you can, the "freak accident" has a higher probablilty of not happening. I don't even carry my "modern" revolvers with six . . just a habit I've developed. In the field, there's always a chance of stumbling, falling or whatever. Whether SA or DA, if it's carried on an empty, the next one coming up when you cock (SA) or pull the trigger (DA) is going to come up hot. Even on my New Vaquero with a cross bar safety, etc., I still only load five if I'm going to carry . . at the range, I'll do six. If it comes down to an incident of wondering whether the "sixth" round would have made the difference . . . if I'm carrying because of that possibility, that's why I'm carrying a semi-auto with a 17 round clip. Just my 2 cents .. . :D

arcticap
February 9, 2011, 08:50 PM
Can anyone explain to me why exactly carrying six rounds on half cock is considered so unsafe? Is this a modern "age of safety" notion or was it practiced in antiquity?

During the days of the Mexican-American War and the Texas frontier, the military mentality to load and carry 6 must not have been such a big deal. Those who wouldn't load more than 5 were probably the ones that were considered to be paranoid. :rolleyes: