What is a single-action pistol and what is a double-action pistol? You may have come across these terms and been a bit confused by them. Uh well, I have here a single action pistol. It’s what I would call a ‘revolver’, but I would also call it a ‘pistol’ because I am British and anything like this is a pistol, be it a revolver or an automatic. Anyway, this is a single action Colt army It’s actually a replica. It’s the classic, if you like, cowboy gun, and it is, importantly, a single-action pistol, unlike these two other pistols. This one for instance is an Enfield No. 2 – the sort of standard-issue World War II British Army pistol that, uh, tank crewmen and officers might be given. It wasn’t actually the most commonly used in action, but it was the standard issue. And this, a more modern Smith & Wesson, which I can tell you straight away is quite a bit heavier then the other two. RIGHT! So! This is a single-action pistol, so if, uh, an enemy suddenly surprises me and I do a quick draw, in a cowboy fashion and I point it at him and I go “HA!” I pull the trigger and nothing happens It doesn’t go bang, it doesn’t go bang because I haven’t cocked it. You see, this is a single-action pistol. The trigger does one thing. It releases the hammer. So, if I haven’t cocked it already like… (clicks) this. Then nothing will happen. Now that it is cocked, if I pull the trigger… (Snap sound) It goes CLICK and had there been a bullet in it, it would have gone BANG. And don’t worry: all of these, uh, guns, though they are real, have been cleared by a third party. They are quite definitely not loaded. RIGHT! So, if I pull the trigger again now, again nothing happens So you’ve probably seen, in the movies, guys doing something like THIS. It’s sometimes called ‘fanning’. Um, what they’re doing is catching this lever on the back of the, uh, hammer And pulling it back (CLICK), like that. And if you have your finger down on the trigger all the time (CLICK) this will… (CLICK) (SNAP SOUND) Allow you (click) to do that (CLICK) Over, and over, and over, and over again and you can fire off all your, uh, cartridges pretty quickly and you’ll see that every time I pull back the lever (CLICK) It turns the cylinder in the middle Um, presenting a new bullet to the firing pin and (CLICK) BANG! So, that’s what they’re doing when they do that (CLICK) in the movies. They’re fanning, and that would enable you to fire, very inaccurately, very quickly. So: Would you ever see someone fan a double-action pistol? No, you wouldn’t. With a double-action pistol, the trigger does two things upon being pulled. It pulls the lever back, and then releases it, and as the hammer goes back, the cylinder in the centre turns as well. So. Now, if I draw, and I’ve got a loaded pistol, I just have to pull the trigger and it goes bang! (Click) And I can do it again again and again. There is no reason to fan this. But even if I did, because I’m such a show-off, want to fan a pistol like this… it wouldn’t work. I pull the trigger, and then I try to fan which is actually quite awkward because the sights a little bit tall and they’re above the back of the cocking lever um yes the lever goes back and forwards that’s great but the cylinder isn’t turning, so no new bullet is being presented to the firing pin so there’s no chance of this ever going bang. So, not only is it unnecessary, it doesn’t work. And the same can be said of this more modern Smith & Wesson and you can on the sight on this the sights are very much higher than the cocking lever at the back so its extremely difficult to fan this and again exactly the same thing, exactly the same problem. The cylinder doesn’t turn, so it’s completely pointless. So, there are double-action pistols and single-action pistols, and the old-fashioned ones are single-action and this became superseded once double-action had become popular, they never went back. This is a slower weapon to use not just because its single-action, but also the cylinder doesn’t come out whereas this one, the Enfield, this one break forwards like that and as the barrel breaks forwards there’s a star in the middle of the cylinder which ejects all of the cartridges at once so I can start reloading it straight away. And this swings out to the side but the same sort of thing applies there’s a rod here and I knock that a star pushes out all the bullets at once and I can start reloading. So, though I have to load one bullet at a time – – (there are speed loader clip things which make things faster, though actually in World War 2 the troops weren’t issued with them so they’d be reloading one bullet at a time) – With this, things are much slower. There is a gate at the side, and if this is half-cocked back to about there, then I can turn the cylinder freely and open this gate and then I can hope that the bullet – the one bullet that can drop through that gate – might fall out, but if it didn’t (they very often got fouled because of the black powder cartridges) I’d have to push that to knock it out. I’d have to turn. then I have to push again, turn. So you’d unload this one bullet at a time laboriously. And then you would get your bullet out, load, one bullet at a time. So once you’ve fired your six, its going to be a long time before you get to fire another six with these old-fashioned pistols. So, though this pistol and this pistol look extremely similar, this one is actually a much more practical, fast-firing design. Lindybeige!