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Single- and double-action revolvers

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!

100 thoughts on “Single- and double-action revolvers

  1. For pity's sake do you not know what trigger discipline is? Until you learn the BASIC safety procedures with firearms DO NOT TOUCH A WEAPON IDIOT!

  2. You have to let off the trigger to operate the hammer in a way that will index the cylinder. I'd love to sit down and talk guns with you though.

  3. He looks like the guy who gambles to much while needing to support his family with dry shooting himself in the head thinking about why he started in the first place.

  4. Leave it to the British to design a revolver that made tea. If us Americans were to make anything like that, it would probably be by jury-rigging parts of a coffee machine to the gun while connecting it to e generator stored on the back.

  5. I sure love the commentors who declare that they play RDR2 and that's the only reason why they're watching, oh boy. 🙄🙄🙄🙄

  6. This whole video made me shudder and cringe. From the "cocking lever" to the constant finger on the trigger

  7. Single Action Army… Revolver Ocelot's favourite weapon. You should practice his little gun juggling routine and make a little video. That's be fun.

  8. In America in most states it’s legal for anyone to carry a pistol loaded at there side, not concealed, just out there to see in McDonalds or Walmart as long as your 18 and you Bought the gun legally. Crazy right

  9. Fanning will quickly break the trigger sear…probably one of the most common gunsmithing jobs is replacing these in unmodified single actions. Hollywood guns have a special spring-like sear that allows fanning without breaking your gun. When I was a beginner, I learned this the hard way(the dumb way) & had to have my gun repaired twice. Old west shooters would never have fanned their guns.

  10. Of significance is that while double action revolvers CAN be fired much more rapidly, accuracy suffers quite a bit. An additional advantage is that they can be fired single action when that is more fitting to the situation.

  11. “Cowboys” carried on an empty chamber. So only five rounds were expendable in a single action revolver. They carried on an empty round so that if the gun was dropped and landed on the hammer it wouldn’t have fired.

  12. Come on man, you can't say pistol when it's a revolver even if it British hahaha. I'm sure you are aware of the difference, love the view man!!!

  13. Wait a minute. Clint Eastwood, the famous western historian, documented in his presentation "A Fistful of Dollars", that you could fan a single action revolver very rapidly AND accurately killing four people with four shots.
    Moreover, he also shows that you could fire a single action revolver, very quickly without first pulling back the hammer. He showed this in another gunfight.
    Now, who is correct? Lindybeige? Or, Clint Eastwood???? Hmmmm???

  14. The first thing we did, when we got rid of you Brits, was to make having a gun a requirement to call yourself American. We make pacifiers in the shape of gun barrels, and toy guns that are exact replicas of real guns.
    Of course, children get killed every year by police who think the toy guns are real guns. But, hey, that is the joy of being American. You Brits get to enjoy your cricket, your pubs, and live long lives enjoying the British countryside. We Americans get to have our lives cut short by some nut with a gun in a mall.
    BUT!!! We are free, and you are not.

  15. I said, "We are free, and you are not." let me explain. You might feel free. But, in fact you are not.
    To be free, you have to be an American. Our movies and TV shows prove this.
    Therefore, if you are not American, you are not free. See???
    Its all logic.
    Now, don't you want to move here and become an American citizen???
    Too bad, Trump won't let you. We don't like migrants.

  16. Lindybeige, I can tell your British and not American by how you handle guns.
    You should handle guns in the NRA approved manner.
    First, take no lessons and listen to no body about "gun safety". "Gun safety" is just a liberal idea to take our guns away.
    Second, never unload your gun. Guns must be loaded at all times, be with you at all times, especially by your bed, so you can get up shooting anytime you hear a train whistle or something.
    Third, point it wherever you like, and pull the trigger whenever you get the urge.
    If you shoot someone — well, then, that will teach them not to have a gun so they can shoot back at you.
    LIndybeige, you are a bright person, for a Brit, so I am sure you will change your behavior accordingly.

  17. I like the Schofield the best. It's a break-open, single action revolver. The only downside is the cost of .45 Schofield

  18. Hang on. So technically the single action is single, as in you squeeze the trigger to drop the hammer which fires.
    But the others are triple action, no?
    Trigger to cock, revolve, and fire.

  19. And even earlier before that (before percussion rounds/bullets where invented) you had paper bullets, that had to be jammed in through the front of the cylinder, which was then rammed in place with the revolvers on board leaver, and the you had to MANUALLY put on each percussion cap to each round via the back of the cylinder. All while under fire sometimes.

  20. Your knowledge of guns is terrible, pull the trigger and it goes bang?, no, generally some one dies, do a comparison with the L1A1 slr, british army issue and the belgian FN FAL, they are cousins, one semi automatic and the other full automatic capable.

  21. It goes bang?, really?, and stop calling a revolver a pistol, it is not a pistol, never has been and never will be, don't you know the difference between a gas operated weapon and a hammer action revolver, you clearly do not.

  22. If Lloyd had been from the U.S. he likely would have been a marksman by age 14 & well versed in a variety of firearms if he wanted.

  23. I can call things the wrong name like calling this revolver a pistol because my british arrogance tells me i can. spandau?

  24. You often make the point that you are so so British / English, but why then do you refer to films as ' movies ' – ?

  25. ooo yeah your lighting was pretty close. im guessing you didnt have like a softbox on your light at the time? but thanks for the video learned a lot

  26. I'll concede that the single action like a colt is slower to reload Remingtons single actions from the same time could be reloaded by removing the cylinder and replacing with a loaded 1. As for being slower go watch a video from Bob Munden He could draw, fire at 2 separate balloons so fast it took electronic equipment to separate the 2 shoots. To the human ear it sounds like only 1 shot.

  27. Unless you are a really well practiced shot, with a strong wrist and good trigger squeeze technique(and even if you do) , we all find out that it will pay to shoot a double action revolver as if it is a single action revolver in casual target practice. As you might anticipate, it lessens the amount of force needed to fire the revolver to that required merely to drop the hammer: consequently, less wobble.

    And what we find out for ourselves turns out to be what experts long before us, knew and published.

    Old FBI film …

  28. I'm really glad that you had someone else inspect the weapons and render them safe because frankly, the thought of you handling a firearm that may or may not be loaded is not quite terrifying but damn close……….

  29. And yes, you may see people pulling back the hammer of a double action revolver or even just a pistol. This is because when you pull the trigger, it spins the cylinder and pulls back the hammer to release it at the same time, but pulling back the hammer beforehand only requires the trigger pull to spin the cylinder and not pull back the hammer, so there's less resistance when pulling the trigger.

  30. You missed the major advantage of Single Action. That is that when cocked manually the trigger pressure is significantly reduced and accuracy can be improved accordingly. This is why most modern Double Action revolvers can be fired in Single Action mode ie: with a reduced trigger pressure.

  31. You usually actually load 5 rounds, and let the hammer rest on an empty chamber. Less chance of blowing your nuts off if you dropped the pistol and it landed on the hammer. "american thoughts"… LOL

  32. But .44 Magnum probably still won't blow your head clean off. That was a pernicious myth started by Clint Eastwood and scriptwriters. More realistically it would blast your brains out very messily.

  33. I had no problem as to whether the weapons were safe or not. If they weren't .. not much chance of this video being released.
    What made me 'cringe' was the 'dry firing' 😨. Sorry .. an ingrained aversion .. irrespective 😉.

  34. Very good thanks, I learned something today. Are you confusing bullets, with cartridges? The bullet is the projectile, but you load the pistol with cartridges, and eject the spent cartridge.
    Thanks for your usual entertaining , and this time, short, video.

  35. On the double actions, you were holding the trigger down, which is why the cylinder isn’t rotating when you cock the hammer .

  36. Reloading a Colt 45 single action army revolver isn't really that slow. I've owned one before, and reloading can be done pretty quickly with practice. And don't forget about the Schofield revolver.

  37. Single action, you got to do TWO things, cock the gun and pull the trigger.
    Double action, you do ONE thing, you just pull the trigger.

  38. Plus you'd have to do a cowboy load for the single action so load one round skip one then load the rest so the hammer sits on a empty chamber so you won't shoot yourself in the foot by accident

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