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Old November 6, 2013, 09:22 PM   #1
dakota.potts
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Loading and Unloading Single/Double Action Revolvers

I would like to take my NRA Basic Instructor/Basic Pistol Instructor classes to get an Assistant Instructor acknowledgement and begin trying to apprentice with teachers in my area. I've begun studying the pre-test and other things I'm going to need and it's mostly fairly simple -- clearing malfunctions, hitting your target with a certain spread, etc.

I am experienced with semi automatic handguns but less so with revolvers. I'm not sure if anybody in my area rents them and I don't have the money now to buy one out right.

I know the basic function of these revolvers, but there's a question I have in regards to loading and unloading. I know that a lot of people will load 5 rounds in the cylinder and then go hammer down on an empty chamber. Will I be expected to load and then decock the firearm? If so, would they want me to go hammer down on an empty chamber or load all 6? I know that with modern safeties it's not necessary to do so to prevent them from going off if dropped, but I'm also not sure I'm comfortable with decocking on a live round.

Am I maybe over thinking things? I'll either try to find a friend with a revolver to borrow or rent one to become familiar with working it, but I'd like to spend extra time practicing the way that's going to be expected of me when I show up.
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Old November 6, 2013, 09:38 PM   #2
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You don't need to cock the hammer to load a DA revolver.

A modern DA revolver is safe to carry with a full load and the hammer down.

For reloading the DA revolver, see here: http://www.corneredcat.com/article/r...oad-revolvers/

SA revolvers are different and have different rules.

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Old November 6, 2013, 10:10 PM   #3
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and you feel you're ready to be an instructor?
I'm sorry-just being totally honest.
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Old November 6, 2013, 10:40 PM   #4
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Mobuck, it's totally acceptable.

I don't feel I'm ready to be an instructor. I feel I'm ready to get the certification necessary to apprentice with great instructors in my area and learn from them. Every path has to start somewhere.

Whether I'm far enough along to start the journey yet will be seen through the testing and the people I work with to prepare me.

I didn't learn music in a year, and I didn't learn how to play music on a semi-professional level by practicing by myself.

Your hesitation is well placed and I'd probably say the same. But, like I said, I want to begin studying now and honestly a single action revolver is something I don't have too much interest in and probably would never study without an outside influence such as this.
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Old November 6, 2013, 10:43 PM   #5
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pax, thanks for the great links. I read your blog often and get a lot of inspiration from your writings. I had seen that post before but it was really relevant now.

As I suspected, I'm really overthinking the handling of a double action revolver. I figured they wouldn't have me cocking and decocting it if it's a DA/SA. What about loading a Single action though? Is it acceptable to load a full six with the hammer cocked or will some other procedure be warranted?
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Old November 7, 2013, 01:42 AM   #6
Frank Ettin
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Single action revolvers can get a bit complicated because there are several common variations.

However, with the Colt Single Action Army or any of the numerous clones available, it is not safe to load six rounds. If you were to load six rounds the hammer mounted firing pin would be resting directly on a primer. A soft blow could then fire that cartridge.

To load a Colt single action or clone --
  1. Fully cock the hammer.

  2. Lower the hammer to half-cock. You can do this by holding the hammer with your support hand thump, pressing the trigger, begin to lower the hammer a bit, and then let up on the trigger as you lower the hammer further to the half-cock position.

  3. Open the loading gate and load one cartridge.

  4. Turn the cylinder to expose the next chamber. Do not load a cartridge into that chamber. Instead skip it and turn the cylinder once again to the next empty chamber.

  5. Load a cartridge into that chamber and the next three.

  6. Fully cock the hammer.

  7. Then hold the hammer, press the trigger while continuing to hold the hammer. Keep the trigger pressed and the hammer under control while lowering the hammer all the way.

  8. The hammer mounted firing pin will now be resting on an empty chamber, and the revolver is in a condition for carrying.

Modern Ruger single action revolvers has a transfer bar safety and may be loaded with six cartridges. To do so, just open the loading gate, turn the cylinder loading each chamber as it is exposed.

But early model Ruger revolvers, unless converted by Ruger, are similar to Colts and must only be loaded with five rounds.
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Old November 7, 2013, 10:36 AM   #7
g.willikers
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Why fully cock the hammer when loading and unloading?
Why not just use the half cock coming and going?

P.S.
If you do go the full cocking routine, just as a precaution, when letting the hammer down, put a finger from the other hand in front of it, just in case.
It will prevent loud noises and maybe getting pummeled by others in the vicinity.
Just a thought.
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Last edited by g.willikers; November 7, 2013 at 10:43 AM.
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Old November 7, 2013, 11:10 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pax
For reloading the DA revolver, see here: http://www.corneredcat.com/article/r...oad-revolvers/
Good link, but just a note that if you're going to shoot immediately after a reload, "wiggling" the cylinder after closing is unnecessary and time-consuming: The hand rotates the cylinder to the next chamber as the trigger's pulled, so the act of pulling the trigger correctly indexes the cylinder correctly. If you're loading the gun before holstering, though, a quick wiggle wouldn't hurt.
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Old November 7, 2013, 11:59 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by g.willikers
Why fully cock the hammer when loading and unloading?
Why not just use the half cock coming and going?
You fully cock the hammer before loading to rotate the cylinder to the point at which an empty chamber is fully exposed in the loading gate (and coincidentally an empty chamber is centered aligned with the hammer and barrel at the top). Then the hammer is lowered to half cock to release the cylinder lock to allow the cylinder to rotate for loading.

After the five chambers are loaded (leaving one empty chamber), the hammer is fully cocked to align the empty chamber at the top directly under the hammer. And then the hammer is fully lowered on to the empty chamber for carry.
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Old November 8, 2013, 07:11 AM   #10
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Depends on which SA revolver you're loading. Old Rugers/Colts, you 1/2 cock, load one, skip one, load 4, fully cock, and let the hammer down on the skipped chamber. Most newer Rugers, you just open the gate and load.
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Old November 8, 2013, 07:13 AM   #11
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"After the five chambers are loaded (leaving one empty chamber), the hammer is fully cocked to align the empty chamber at the top directly under the hammer. And then the hammer is fully lowered on to the empty chamber for carry. "
Guaranteed, you'll have a loaded round under the hammer.
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Old November 8, 2013, 07:53 AM   #12
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With a Colt style SA you don't want to lower the hammer from halfcock-you will score your cylinder.

Follow the load one-skip one-load four-cock and lower method and you will have an empty chamber under your hammer.

Follow the Four Rules throughout, of course.
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Old November 8, 2013, 10:54 AM   #13
g.willikers
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It appears the loading sequence is slightly different for the various designs.
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Old November 8, 2013, 11:34 AM   #14
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MrBorland,

Done at speed, the wiggle is simply part of the closing the cylinder process. It adds no time.

Done step-by-step as you are learning, it adds some time. But that is a function of how we learn.

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Old November 8, 2013, 11:45 AM   #15
Frank Ettin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mobuck
...Guaranteed, you'll have a loaded round under the hammer.
Nope. Having shot Cowboy Action for some years and done this with my Colts hundreds of times, or more, I can guarantee one will not not.
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Old November 8, 2013, 12:48 PM   #16
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Which is of more concern, maybe getting a drag line on the cylinder or having a negligent discharge? By advising a beginner to start out fully cocking the hammer you increase the chances of accidentally firing the gun if there are loaded cartridges in the cylinder. I always start by pulling the hammer back to half-cock, then opening the loading gate and rotating the cylinder to check it before loading (or before ejecting empty cases if the gun has been fired). If this mars the cylinder, and some collector a thousand years from now is unhappy, well, tough.

Jim
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Old November 8, 2013, 07:59 PM   #17
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What I posted was: "With a Colt style SA you don't want to lower the hammer from halfcock-you will score your cylinder."

I didn't recommend that you start by cocking the hammer fully. Instead, pull the hammer to halfcock. This frees the cylinder to rotate freely. At this point we have not cocked the hammer.

Open the loading gate. If you want to rotate the cylinder and check each chamber, fine.

I am assuming that the revolver is a six shooter for purposes of this discussion. Load the first chamber that is visible through the loading gate. Turn the cylinder clockwise to expose the next chamber but skip over it and go to the next chamber. Load that chamber and the next three successive chambers. As the fifth round goes in, STOP. Do NOT rotate the cylinder further. Close the loading gate.

At this point your revolver is still at halfcock. Unless you have an odd revolver with recessed chambers like an EAA Bounty Hunter you should be able to see the cartridge rims. At this point the first chamber you loaded is in the "twelve o'clock" position. In other words, it is under the hammer. NOT where you want it.

By pulling the hammer to full cock, you rotate the empty chamber to the top. The cylinder will lock into place and you can carefully lower the hammer to rest safely on the empty chamber. Every time.

Does this mean you point the revolver at your big toe as you lower the hammer? No, you keep it pointed in a safe direction the entire time (you are engaged in loading it, after all).

I am amazed at the number of shooters who have no experience with revolvers. Some of those have never handled any single action much less a Colt or Colt "clone". The fact that you have to cock these revolvers as part of the normal process of loading and unloading them seems to give some people the heebie-jeebies.
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Old November 9, 2013, 01:30 AM   #18
dakota.potts
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I am one of those people given the heebie jeebies by cocking and uncocking during loading. I like my loading and my action to be separate. It seems like loading a single action is nearly a science compared to the relatively simple "insert magazine and rack slide".

I had forgotten up until now that when I took my NRA first steps class, I got a handbook that explains this. The information here was definitely valuable, but I'll find that book and review the specifics they want before I find a class to take.

With buying a revolver, ammo, professional classes, etc. I'll probably need a "real" job to pay for all of it before I even take the class, let alone start assiting an instructor. But firearms is truly something I love so it's an investment I'm willing to make.

Thanks for the help everybody
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Old November 9, 2013, 01:50 AM   #19
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If you are going to take the NRA pistol instructor course shop around and pick your instructor carefully. I took the course because it was an acceptabl certificate for something else I was doing. I did not know more about instructing people new to pistols than I did before I went. I did know how to hand over a large check for the course and all about ordering forms and merchandise from the NRA web site. The way the course was taught was slanted more to the business end of CC permit instructing and not so much about teaching methods.
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Old November 9, 2013, 07:32 AM   #20
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Frank Ettin
Please qualify your questionable statement by telling all of us which single action you're working with.
My description is the commonly accepted(AND THE ONLY SAFE WAY) to load an older type Colt single action. In fact the only SA I can think of that can be loaded as you describe doesn't need to be carried with only 5 rounds loaded.
W/o a qualifier, your comments may mislead someone causing an accident.
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Old November 9, 2013, 09:48 AM   #21
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I have always used the method of loading sixguns as described by James K.
With often sweaty and especially greasy hands, the full cock and finger on the trigger method seems like an AD waiting to happen.
Another scratch on the gun just adds to the character.
But then I've never considered a shootin' iron as a work of art, just a tool.
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Old November 9, 2013, 10:19 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mobuck
Frank Ettin
Please qualify your questionable statement by telling all of us which single action you're working with....
It was my pair of Generation 2 Colt Single Action Army revolvers in .45 Colt.

In fact, I just got one out of the safe and loaded it as I described (with snap caps). And what do you know. The chamber under the hammer after I lowered it from full cock was empty -- just as I wanted it.
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Old November 9, 2013, 02:42 PM   #23
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Crunchy Frog explained the process quite well. It is not possible to do it any other way w/o rotating the cylinder backward.
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Old November 9, 2013, 03:04 PM   #24
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Loading and Unloading Single/Double Action Revolvers

When the last cartridge is loaded into the chamber the empty chamber is to the left of top-center. Cocking the hammer from half-cock rotates the cylinder one chamber to the right putting the empty chamber at top-center. Now lowering the hammer from full cock does not further rotate the cylinder so the hammer comes to rest on the empty chamber.
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Old November 9, 2013, 03:06 PM   #25
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Guys, may I make a suggestion? For those of us who do not have ready access to a single action revolver, it would be extremely helpful to see a video. Would one of you guys be willing to record a quick video of the loading procedure and put it up on YouTube? Thanks.

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