Greg's First Generation .45 Colt Single Action Army Peacemaker with Elephant Ivory grips.
A Closer Look at Revolvers
In an earlier article we looked briefly at revolvers and mentioned a couple of prominent examples, the Colt Peacemaker M1873 or SAA (Single Action Army) and the Smith and Wesson Model 10. The former, a single-action handgun associated with the old west and the latter, a double-action, often called the S&W .38 Special. Both these handguns are “six shooters” and, in updated models, manufactured today.
Let’s take a look at some variations on the theme of revolvers.
The revolver’s cylinder is firmly attached, front and rear to the frame of the handgun. The weapon is loaded when the “loading gate” is swung aside and the spent round ejected manually by a spring-loaded rod set under the barrel. This is the standard method of loading a single-action revolver.
This 1931 Colt SAA Peacemaker is a prime example of the fixed cylinder.
The revolver’s cylinder is mounted on a pivot that, when unlatched, allows the cylinder to swing out and down. All spent rounds are ejected in one motion as the shooter presses a rod projecting from the front of the cylinder mechanism. The operator can then load the cylinder with one round at a time or use a speedloader to load several cartridges or the entire cylinder. The majority of today’s revolvers have swing out cylinders.
Greg's 1962 Colt Python with swing-out cylinder.
The handgun is hinged at the front of the cylinder. When the shooter releases a lock and presses the barrel down, the weapon opens at the rear of the cylinder, usually automatically ejecting spent rounds. The operator then reloads singly or with a speedloader.
Although top-break revolvers have fallen out of favor, primarily because they cannot handle modern high-pressure magnum rounds, there are historical examples of fully-functional, efficient top-break revolvers. The British Army relied on the Webley top-break revolver until 1963. It was chambered for the .455 Webley, a rimmed cartridge that fired a .45 caliber bullet at a relatively low velocity, but produced excellent knockdown power.
It is also interesting that one of American History’s most famous lawmen, Wyatt Earp, was said to have been armed with a S&W Model 3 break-top revolver during the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Definition: A speedloader is most often a device that holds cartridges firmly in a circular pattern for reloading a revolver. When the handgun’s cylinder is empty, the operator slides the rounds into the open chambers and releases them simultaneously.