Explain "transfer bar" please.


June 18, 2007, 06:33 PM
I am looking to get a Uberti Single Action Cattleman in .357 as a kicks-and-giggles/farm carry gun. I was told at a gun store that the Cattleman does not have a transfer bar and for this reason should not be carried with the hammer over a live round.

How does a transfer bar work?
How does it prevent a AD?
How succeptible is a fully loaded revolver without a transfer bar to an AD?

I'd appreciate the clarification of these questions... thanks.

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June 18, 2007, 06:42 PM
The transfer bar is a piece of steel that goes between the hammer and the firing pin after the trigger is pulled. The way the parts are designed, the hammer cannot hit the firing pin unless the transfer bar is there and if the trigger is at rest, the bar is withdrawn. This prevents contact between the hammer and FP.

June 18, 2007, 06:47 PM
A drinking establishment where one can legally buy and sell handguns.:D

Seriously, though, here's what it is. I have the gun in question, BTW, or similar.

This is a Uberti Cattleman in an exploded drawing:

Look at the hammer. It's got the firing pin right on it. The hammer falls, and the pin hits the primer. If you drop the gun with the hammer down, the force of the ground on the hammer spur could fire the gun. Yes, there's a 1/4 cock postion on the Colt SAA design that holds the hammer away from the primer, but the force of the hammer spur hitting concrete could break the sear and hence defeat this rudimentary safety feature.

The Uberti also has a manual safety, engaged by pushing the cylinder pin release and shoving the pin farther into the frame. However, disengaging this safety is slow and difficult under stress, so you wouldn't want to have do it fast when confronted on the trail by a rattlesnake or something.

Now take a look at this: http://www.okiegunsmithshop.com/rugernewmodbh.jpg

That's a Ruger New Model Blackhawk exploded view, but a bit big to put in the reply.

See how the hammer is flat? The pin is mounted to the frame, and there's a bar connected to the trigger (the transfer bar) that only comes up to meet the hammer when the gun is cocked. If you look at the drawing, you'll see a lot more parts than the Uberti (which is essentially the same as the original Colt 1873 Army).

When the gun with a transfer bar is carried uncocked, you can slam the hammer spur all you want and the gun won't go off, because there's no way the hammer will hit the pin, so nothing will touch the primer.

The upside of the old system is that, done right and with the right springs and machining, it's silky smooth. The downside is that you have a 5-shooter. You can load the 6th at the range, right before firing it, but if you're carrying it as a field gun, you should only have 5 loaded.

The new system involves a good number of additional moving parts, but a 6-shooter is really a 6-shooter.

IMO, get the Uberti. Put some Wolff springs in it. Carry 5. Enjoy it!

That's what I did.

Vern Humphrey
June 18, 2007, 08:14 PM
A gun with a transfer bar has a hammer face shaped like an upside-down L. It also has the firing pin mounted in the frame. When the hammer is down, the short leg of the L rests on the frame, and the rest of the hammer cannot touch the firing pin.

When the gun is fired, a little piece of steel (called a transfer bar) which is hooked to the trigger slides up to cover the rear of the firing pin just before the hammer falls. The hammer strikes this piece of steel and the blow is transferred to the firing pin.

With traditional Single Actions, with the firing pin mounted on the hammer, you can put the gun on half-cock, which holds the firing pin off the primer. But if you strike the hammer even a light blow, the gun will fire. In the old days, the classic accident was in saddling a horse -- as the rider tightened the girth, the horse might move a bit, and the near-side stirrup, thrown up on the saddle, would slide down and whack the hammer of his six-gun.

A six-gun with a transfer bar can be carried safely with six round in the cylinder. A more traditional gun, without the transfer bar, must be carried with the hammer all the way down on an empty chamber.

June 18, 2007, 08:22 PM

Excellent post, I don't think it could have been explained any better.

And though we would all agree that the Rugers are fine guns, and capable of withstanding some pretty stout loads that a Uberti couldn't take, they just aren't as authentic as the Ubertis. My father was thinking about a Cattleman for just that reason. He can't afford an original (or even a new) Colt 1873 Single Action Army, but he can afford the Uberti Replica that is a near dead ringer for the original. Close enough that I think it will accept Colt parts with handfitting and vice versa.

Enjoy the Uberti - just remember to load one, skip one, then load 4 more. That will put then empty chamber under the hammer every time with no guesswork.

BTW, which Uberti were you thinking about getting?

chris in va
June 19, 2007, 02:00 AM
How about a picture? :)

You can see the bar in front of the firing pin. When the trigger is pulled, the bar covers the pin and the hammer hits the bar, hence the name 'transfer bar'. If the sear is somehow tripped without the trigger being pulled, the bar drops down out of the way and a slot in the hammer 'cups' the firing pin, preventing it from hitting the primer.http://img152.imageshack.us/img152/8360/0619070151qk6.jpg

Jim March
June 19, 2007, 03:25 AM
First thing: the Ruger "New Vaquero" is the first Ruger (with transfer bar safety) that closely matches the feel, heft and strength of the Colt SAA. So for those wanting both "traditional feel" yet a modern safety, it's a very good choice. I own one in 357 and it's the best gun I've ever owned.

Freedom Arms uses a transfer bar on their "model 97" series. Theirs differs from Ruger's in that the FA bar is built into the face of the hammer. There's a very good picture of the FA variant on Gunblast:




Like all the transfer bar systems, the transfer bar will rise up when you cock it but fall out of position as the hammer falls UNLESS the trigger is fully pulled.

In the FA's case you can see that the upper end of the hammer has a curved internal channel. The hammer will fall "around" the firing pin instead of hitting it. It's the transfer bar that gets in the middle and pushes the firing pin.

The Ruger system is the same but their hammer is square-stepped and the transfer bar is more "free floating". As the Ruger transfer bar rises, it has to be pushed backwards so that it clears the firing pin's side on the way up. The Ruger's base pin has a small spring-loaded pin on the end that pushes the transfer bar backwards.

The alternative to the transfer bar is the hammer block. It's a piece of metal that stops the hammerfall short of ignition and drops away as you pull the trigger. This can be used with guns having a hammer-mounted firing pin. The only SA revolver that uses this that I'm aware of is the Freedom Arms 83 series. The most common place to find hammer-block systems are on DA Colts and S&Ws, with S&W transitioning to transfer bar over the last 15 years or so.

Some recent Ubertis have a very crude version of a hammer-block that is considered NOT safe enough for six-up carry. It's better than nothing but...the size of the hammer block piece is minuscule.

If a transfer bar breaks, the gun can't fire. If a hammer block breaks, the gun CAN fire and now lacks a safety.


My personal opinion is that a gun that will be street-carried or used for home defense should be a transfer bar or good hammer block gun. Zero-safety or other "five up safe only" guns should be limited to sport or outdoors use...and in my personal opinion, beginners should be wary of them. I don't exclude myself from these rules and the Ruger New Vaq is a damned fine gun.

June 19, 2007, 12:21 PM
Thanks for clearin that up yall. I had been looking into the Uberti SA Cattleman NM in .357, but now I may look into a Ruger New Vaquero. I have handled both and thought the Ruger was much better made but liked the Uberti's price better.

June 19, 2007, 01:59 PM
Just to add to the excellent explanations already given. Just because a revolver has the firing pin on the hammer does not necessarily mean it will fire a round if the gun is dropped and there is a live round in that cylinder. On most recent manufacture revolvers that have the firing pin on the hammer, there is a "transfer bar" like mechanism. Only in this case the metal bar comes up when the gun is at rest and the hammer is down to prevent the firing pin from reaching the bullet. The bar retracts when the trigger is pulled to allow contact.

I hope this doesn't confuse anyone - I'm not saying the above applies to specific pistol in question. Anyone who buys a revolver should know for certain, before loading, whether their gun utilizes the safety mechanisms described to prevent AD.

Vern Humphrey
June 19, 2007, 02:28 PM
Virtually all swing-out cylinder double action revolvers (and many older break-type revolvers) are safe to carry with a round under the hammer, even if they don't have a transfer bar. Many of these guns have an older type safety called a Rebounding Hammer. Originally patented by Iver Johnson, and sold under the motto, "Hammer the hammer," these safety devices move the hammer back and lock it when the trigger is released.

If you have an older revolver without a transfer bar, check to see that it is unloaded, then pull the trigger and hold it back. Turn the gun sideways and look through the gap between the cylinder face and recoil shield. You will see the tip of the firing pin peeking through. Release the trigger and you will see the firing pin (and hammer) retract into the locked position.

June 19, 2007, 04:37 PM
The Uberti is specifically made to be a replica of an old Colt. (Note that you can buy a Uberti with a transfer bar, with a Beretta badge on it. Beretta owns Uberti, and brands the more authentic replicas as Ubertis, and the more modern offshoots as Berettas.)


The Ruger is made to be a modern gun that looks and handles like an old Colt, but offers the features of the New Model Blackhawk, sans the modern sights, for CAS competition.

The Uberti is simpler, and more "authentic." With a little spring work, the action feels really good. Everyone who has handled mine comments on it. But all the downsides of the original are still there in the replica, too, along with the cool stuff.

The Ruger's action has a distinct feeling of a lot of metal moving around when you cock it. I'm not calling that good or bad; there HAS to be more metal moving around because it's a much more sophisticated design. (On the other hand, I have an old .22 caliber H&R solid frame revolver with a transfer bar, and it feels really smooth, too. Never been 'smithed. Never even been opened up.)

If you want to know what it was like to shoot a revolver in the late 1800s, and/or you want a very simple, durable, inexpensive revolver for outdoor use, and you don't need to carry 6, get the Millenium Finish replica. Works for me.

If you want the best modern multipurpose single-action revolver, get the Ruger. Or just get a Blackhawk if you don't need a SASS gun. The Blackhawk has much better sights, and it will handle hotter loads, if you want to hunt with it.:) The Blackhawk is still the excellent choice that has made it such a popular piece. Super Blackhawk if you want .44.

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