Cap & Ball Revolvers - Why carry with empty chamber?


September 1, 2006, 06:29 AM
I just got my first cap & ball revolver (Pietta 1860 Colt Army clone). I'm really happy with it so far and looking forward to shooting it. In the materials that came with it, and various on-line sources, I've read that I should load only 5 of the 6 chambers and keep the hammer down on an empty one for safety (at least if I don't plan to shoot it immediately). But, I've also read that this revolver is designed to allow the hammer to rest on a small pin between chambers. Mine does this just fine, and appears to lock quite solidly (the cylinder doesn't rotate when the hammer is down this way). This seems to make a lot more sense to me than carrying with an empty chamber. I understand that other black powder revolvers (Remington 1858s at least) have similar systems.

So, why do so many people recommend carrying with an empty chamber? It seems to me that if you aren't careful enough to be sure you lower the hammer properly between chambers, you won't be careful enough to be sure you lower it on the empty chamber. Am I missing something? (I admit, I'm a complete rookie with the cap and ball handguns).



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September 1, 2006, 06:43 AM
Don`t want to chance shooting me self if`in i fall off me horse.

September 1, 2006, 06:57 AM
That colt IFIN its got good pins anna good slot inna hammer aint goin boom with all six loaded.

Nors a remmie or a ruger.

Jus pay attention ta yer gun fer wear with those pins an keep yer mind on it.

Old Fuff
September 1, 2006, 11:06 AM
So long as the hammer's down between the chambers of a cap & ball revolver you are O.K. But if for some reason the cylinder rotates so that the hammer is resting on a capped nipple, a blow on any kind to the hammer can cause a discharge. If the "rest the hammer on an empty chamber" is part of the manufacturer's instructions you can bet some lawyer put it there.

Those little pins at the back of the cylinder tend to wear or get pounded down. After a bit they aren't reliable as the cylinder can be rotated. In this respect the Remington and Ruger revolvers are much better.

In any case I usually rest the hammer of cap & ball revolvers on an empty chamber when I carry one (as opposed to shooting at a range) just as a bit of extra insurance. I don't really think I'm going to get into a gunfight or any other situation where that 6th shot is critical.

Single-action cartridge revolvers should always be carried with the hammer down on an empty chamber, unless they are one of the kind that have a transfer bar safety. I also rest the hammer on an "empty" when carrying some older double-action revolvers with a questionable (or no) hammer block. All of the guns mentioned are used in a non-weapon context, and as such I don't feel the need for that last shot.

September 1, 2006, 10:25 PM
I always load all chambers of my Ruger Old Army. It has the notch between nippels for the hammer to rest. It think it is very safe, just be carefull that the hammer does not slip when you try to rotate it to the middle position. Given how long it takes to load them, I make sure I load them all :)

September 3, 2006, 12:47 AM
Well I usually have one or two Rems in my holsters or next to the bed loaded with all six hammer down on the slots. But I also load six in my Colts, 1851 Navy, 1860 Army, 1848 Colt Dragoon. I have no fear of mishaps with the hammer down on a good pin of a Colt cylinder. In a holster, at home, or stuck in my belt.
Stay safe...

September 3, 2006, 09:47 AM
Common sense says that a hammer resting on an empty chamber is the safest bet if the gun is ever dropped.
That said I routinely carried an 1860 Navy Arms revolver fully loaded and with the hammer resting on a safety pin without incident back when I was shooting black powder guns and not much else.

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