Half cock or hammer down on cap?


April 7, 2011, 12:51 AM
Buddy of mine routinely carries his BP arms with hammer down on cap rather than at half-cock while hunting, says that's safer than at half cock, says cap will not go off with hammer on cap even if hammer is struck.

I carry at half cock. Hammer down on capped nipple makes me queasy.

What say you?

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April 7, 2011, 02:41 AM
A lot of folks wouldn't agree with hunting while the hammer is placed down on a capped nipple.
But some folks think that a thicker leather pad placed in between the hammer and cap might act as an effective enough cushion.

Carrying a cap rifle safely--half cock?


April 7, 2011, 03:12 AM
Interesting question...

Far as the Hammer Down mode, one could test this at the Range, safely, having the Revolver pointed down range, held steady, and hitting the already 'down' Hammer smartly with a Wooden or Rawhide Mallet, and, see...

About the only worry that comes to mind for me, would be if one dropped the darn thing, and, it somehow landed on the Hammer, so, any test which would safely replicate that sort of smart blow, ought to decide the question I think.

I have heard that a Half-Cock notch can be over come if a Revolver is dropped and lands on a hard surface landing on the Hammer.

So, indeed, maybe the small thick scrap of Leather then, between the 'down' Hammer and the Cap, while used for Rifle and Musket, might also be good for the Cap & Ball Revolver even.

Should just fall away as one Cocks the Hammer...

April 7, 2011, 03:51 AM
On my Remington model revolvers that I have, there are notches on the cylinders half way in-between each of the nipple notches on the cylinders. The Remington hammers have a very narrow tip under the nose, which seat down and lock into place in-between the nipple areas of the cylinders, down into those additional knotches.

I walk around with my Remingtons with the hammer resting down on the cylinders in one of those knotches. According to the documentation I have read, this is a design feature, and intended for that purpose.

I have often wondered why other manufacturers did not offer that on their cylinders as well. It seems like a very good idea to me.



ElvinWarrior... aka... David, "EW"

April 7, 2011, 06:09 AM
I've never had the displeasure of a C&B revolver or muzzleloading rifle discharge while either being dropped or other means but mainly because I never carry with a hammer over a fully loaded chamber, I have once had the displeasure of witnessing a Colt M1911A1 discharge when dropped because it struck the hammer & inturn fired the chambered round "thankfully no one was hurt cept a few messy draws."

When I go into the woods with my muzzleloader I keep the nipple covered with a rubber cover to prevent moisture getting into the nipple prior to capping it but when I do cap it I place the weapon to half cock & keep my hands securely on the weapon as though ready to fire, I never cap the rifle till I'm at my spot or I see game while I'm walking in.
My C&B revolvers are loaded with 5 rounds & the hammer is always on a empty chamber I just feel safer that way.

April 7, 2011, 06:51 AM
It depends on the gun and the situation. I carry charged and capped revolvers with the hammer down on an empty chamber; the only time I load all six is on the firing line at the range. I carry a charged flintlock rifle with the hammer at full cock and the frizzen down, and with a frizzen stall installed. The frizzen stall is a flat piece of leather folded in two and stitched up one side to make a pocket to slide over the frizzen.

A charged and capped percussion rifle presents a problem. I have tried to come up with a 'nipple stall' that would allow carry with the hammer at full or half cock but haven't had any really satisfactory results. As far as I'm concerned, there is no safe hammer position when a percussion rifle is charged and capped, and I don't see any of the three options as significantly safer than the others. You simply have to be very aware of the muzzle direction at all times, and very alert to hazards that might cause mishandling. With that said, I carried with the hammer down on a thick piece of leather over the cap; it was simply discarded when I went to full cock. Not fully satisfactory, but the best of the ideas I could come up with.

April 7, 2011, 07:56 AM
I think it is the same as the old days when the 5-beans in a wheel applied to the Colt Peacemaker. Or, put in the lingo of the mob boss from "CASINO", why take a chance?

If you have not hit your target with the first shot, why do you think a 6th will matter (9th for LeMat purists)? :rolleyes:

I'd rather be safe than sorry, and like Mykeal, only load six when I am at the range, and even there, put the hammer in the notch or on the pin until I am up on the shooting line.

The Doc is out now. :cool:

April 7, 2011, 08:19 AM
The ROA's also have the safety notches and I use them, but my Colt style pistols carry an empty chamber in the field.

April 7, 2011, 09:11 AM
I didn't even put the sixth nipple on my colt kit. So I've got a perfect place for the hammer to rest when it's loaded.

April 7, 2011, 09:17 AM

Every time I read one of these kinds of debates, I end up thinking...

"This is a new product idea here...."

Okay, so, on most models of BP revolvers, the ones without a reliable half-cock, or, the ones without the safety knotches in the cylinders, the safest way to walk around with your loaded revolver is to have the hammer resting on an empty cylinder.

Okay, I got that, makes sense, except it bugs the heck out of me to have a perfectly good six gun de-nuded into a 5 shot... Out in the field, when confronted with a pissed off charging (really BIG one) ground hog, or modestly sized, but pissed, other critter, that one extra shot can make a big differance in your safety... Right?


My product idea...

Have some oversized flexible, durable plastic nipple covers made up, RED ONES, with a TAB on them, so that they can be easily removed.... They snug down over the nipple, AND the Cap of the LOADED cylinder, but, are SOFT, and Spongy, and will NOT allow the chamber to fire even if struck by a fully cocked hammer strike...

They would be cheap enough so that I could just package them in packs of 6, maybee in a little sliding top type tin, ya know, make the product all cutesy and fun so it will sell.

Even though I would package and sell them in sets of six, in little metal tins that fit easily in your pocket or possible bags, you would only need ONE per revolver, or rifle...

I think I will call them... "Safety Caps", to be marketed by my private brand name of... the "Davey Crockett Brand", and made by my lil start-up outfit, "The D.L. ****** Arms Company"...

:) :) :) :)

Thanks for a TERRIFIC IDEA GUYS !!!


ElvinWarrior... aka... David, "EW"

April 7, 2011, 12:33 PM
The "safety caps" you describe could still fail if dropped hard enough and more importantly will never clear the recoil shield.

I feel better having only 5 shots, or 4 for my NAA Super Companion, when carrying than sitting there watching someone else or myself bleed out because I thought I was wasting my gun by only carrying 5.

If i want to shoot more BP I will take two guns :) or the 1858 and spare cylinders. If I feel I need even more shots, the 1911 and a few mags of even more... the Sig, plenty of capacity there.

Prairie Dawg
April 7, 2011, 12:35 PM
Many years ago, that question came up while I was at the Log Cabin Muzzleloading shop in Lodi, Ohio.
So we did an experiment with a Thompson Center Hawken.
We capped a nipple (no charge in barrel) and dropped the gun from a foot higher than the counter right down on the counter edge (right on the hammer cock-piece).
The hammer was either down on the cap (CCI #11) or at half-cock (safety) with the nip capped.

With the rifle on half-cock, every time half cock notch on the sear broke & the hammer fell, setting off the cap. We did it twice as the sear was ruined each time--two-for-two though.

When the hammer was down on the cap, it never went off.
If I remember it correctly, we did this 5 times.

From that time on, when carrying my rifle in the woods, the hammer is down on a cap.

April 7, 2011, 01:21 PM
The strength of the 1/2 cock notch is going to be different for every rifle.
If one were to have their hammer get snagged on a branch while busting through thick brush with their rifle on half cock, then the half cock may indeed prevent the hammer from falling down onto the cap and firing it off.

I can't say that same would be true if the hammer started down on the cap though. If the snag didn't bring the hammer back past half cock enough to engage it, then the hammer may drop back down onto the cap with enough force to fire it off.
And this potential scenario doesn't involve the strength of a rifle's half cock engagement at all, but only whether the hammer can set off a cap if brought back and released from just below the half cock position.
The strength of the spring is different for every lock.

April 7, 2011, 03:45 PM
That's why I never move from my shooting point with a capped rifle. I'll uncap the nipple if I have to move from my shooting point.

April 7, 2011, 04:25 PM
Colt's bp revolvers were made to be carried with all 6 chambers loaded. Look at the back of the cylinder, it has a bump in between each nipple and the hammer has a corespponding notch in it. The hammer should be lowered onto one of these bumps when the cylinder is loaded.

Jim K
April 7, 2011, 04:34 PM
Those are not "bumps". They are what is left of the safety pins after being pounded flat over the years. Originally, they stuck out far enough to enter the hole in the hammer and provide the same protection the cylinder notch did on the Remington. The only modern guns I know of with safety pins are the repros actually put out by Colt.

The other makers of repros apparently decided that the safety pins were not necessary on what were essentially toys and few went to the expense of installing them. Oddly enough, though, most included the slot in the hammer. Perhaps they didn't know what it was for.


April 7, 2011, 05:04 PM
Jim, all the Colt's repros I have owned since 1968 have had the "pins" and this includes a 3rd Model Dragoon made by Uberti I got just a few months ago.

April 7, 2011, 05:29 PM
i have 2 rugers,safety notches between the nipples for hammer to rest

April 7, 2011, 07:31 PM
The only modern guns I know of with safety pins are the repros actually put out by Colt.

The other makers of repros apparently decided that the safety pins were not necessary on what were essentially toys and few went to the expense of installing them. Oddly enough, though, most included the slot in the hammer. Perhaps they didn't know what it was for.

Currently both Uberti and Pietta install safety pins on their Colt repros. I started BP shooting in about 1992-3. At that time, Armi San Marco did not have pins, though I have seen early ASM 1861s that had them. Pietta 1851s and the 1862 "Police" with the 6 shot semifluted cylinder did not have pins, but the 1860 Army did. Pietta apparantly started installing pins on the 1851 and the '62 a few years ago.
I have a Pietta 1860 that is nearly 20 years old now; while it does have the pins, the profile of the cylinder & the hammer face is such that the pins do not actually engage correctly, but I notice on modern Piettas, they do engage properly.

April 7, 2011, 08:21 PM
Indeed, far as my own few Cap & Ball Revolvers, the Remington New Model has the 'notches' between Nipples on the Cylinder for the Hammer Nose to rest in, and, my Colt 2nd Generation and the various Italian repros of Colt, .44s all, have their little stubby 'pins' for the Hammer Nose to index on to between Cylinder Bores/Nipples.

If 'carrying', I would never other than carry any of these with all 'Six' Loaded.

But, for those who's Revolvers do not have the amenity...so far, it sounds like carrying with the Hammer 'down' on a Cap, is maybe the best way to go then, or, using a small thick scrap of Leather between Hammer and Cap, if this brings a sense of comfort.

It never made any sense to me whatever, to hear of carriing any Single Action Revolver with one chamber empty and the Hammer down on that.

Nor would I ever do this if carrying any of the older Double Action Revolvers where the practice is recommended to prevent a mis-adventure should the Revolver be dropped and land hard enough on the down Hammer.

If I am carrying, and, should there ever be a Rhuebarb, I would really hate to be expecting "six" Rounds at my disposal, only to be embarassed to find I had only 'five'.

That prospect bothers me much more than the possibility of a mis-adventure from dropping the darned thing on the Hammer and having it go off however so.

April 7, 2011, 09:42 PM

It never ceases to amaze me the negative mindset that society programs into people that everything done by common men is dooomed to failure and disaster.

Here is your quote...

"The "safety caps" you describe could still fail if dropped hard enough and more importantly will never clear the recoil shield."

A) They are NOT INTENDENDED to be on ALL CYLDINDERS at the SAME TIME. Only the one the hammer rests on. So, BEING OVERSIZED, is NOT AN ISSUE, you fit it down, on the nipple, and FORCE it throuh with the next cock, INSURING, that the cylinder CANNOT FIRE, under any conceiveable naturally occuring force.

B) I have done some tests at home recently, with an old AMI crappo 44 I have, I think its probably worth about 20 bux in the beat up condition it is in, and maybee 50 bux if it were new in the box. I dropped it on concrete, (Cap only, no charge, I'm not suicidal), I set the hammer down on the cap, and I slammed it with a really hard force with my leather muzzle loading mallet. I cocked and fired the trigger 30 times.... No firings.... NONE...

But... I am not using a standard sponge type plastic at all, I keep a few secrets, being an entrepenurial type, I KNOW, wolves and theives are at every corner, alley, and doorway...

I will tell you this about my formula however, it is much more plastic, and much more pliable than a sponge, more like fluffy putty, than plastic....

Thats why it works, without jamming the mechanism...

Allow me to quote something from a very famous inventor... I will leave off his name for the moment, because I want people to think about whom may have said that...

"I have absolute faith, there is NO PROBLEM that cannot be solved, by the endless capacity of men, for GREED !!!"

Sometimes quoted as...

"I have absolute faith in the Greed of Men."


ElvinWarrior... aka... David, "EW"

April 7, 2011, 11:36 PM
Why are most of you jumping over to a revolver discussion? I assumed from the op he meant a single shot muzzle loader.:confused:

April 8, 2011, 07:17 AM
An easy way to test would be to cap the piece, lower the hammer, and tap the hammer with a mallet. When I do it, the cap fires.

A stiff piece of leather between cap and hammer can work. If you tilt the rifle a little when you cock it, the leather falls away. (A bit of string attached to the triggerguard keeps you from having to look to hard to find it.)

Originally, the pins between the chambers on Colt C&B revolers were requested by the military. Some of the reproductions have them, some don't. I have Ubertis with and without them.

April 8, 2011, 08:46 AM
Carry my revolvers (always have) (Colts and Remington) loaded all the way around with the hammer resting on a cap. If one know's what they're doing and use's a reasonable amount of caution there is no problem. I've never had an accidental discharge but then again I don't make a habit of dropping my gun either. It's in the holster with a safety loop over the hammer until or unless I have (or feel I may need to from one moment to the next) to or am ready to draw and shoot. My rifles are inline so I certainly don't worry about them...Note this and take it to heart. Although the hammer resting on an empty chamber may serve as a safety, that is NOT the main reason it came into play in the beginning. Back then an 'empty' chamber stuffed with powder and some wadding to keep the powder in place and capped off was an instant and sure way of being able to start a fire under bad circumstances. I have (if I hadn't then I wouldn't be here today) used my Walker to start a couple of fires in Alaska. My hands were just too cold and stiff to use a match or lighter or firestarter or whatnot. Kick some twigs and light brush and grass or whatever together, maybe pour a little powder on it and fire into it. Heat, light, hot coffee and hot food, security, and life....

April 9, 2011, 08:05 PM
Why are most of you jumping over to a revolver discussion? I assumed from the op he meant a single shot muzzle loader.

Probably because there is a lot of discussion on this board about handgun hunting, but looking at it, you might be right.

The Doc is out now. :cool:

Dave Markowitz
April 10, 2011, 02:31 PM
This has been an interesting thread.

I wanted to see for myself how hard it would be to ignite cap when the piece has the hammer down on a capped nipple. My test piece was my Euroarms Rogers & Spencer. Test caps were CCI No.11s, which fit the nipples well without having to either force them on or pinch them so they stay secure.

My first test was to see if I could get the cap to go off by hitting the hammer with a rubber mallet. After carefully lowering the hammer onto the capped nipple, I hit the hammer spur about 20 times with the mallet. I wasn't gentle but I wasn't really pounding on it either. The cap did not go off although it was visibly deformed. I then snapped the gun's hammer on the cap and it went right off.

My second test was to cap a nipple, carefully lower the gun's hammer onto it, and then whack the hammer spur with the wooden handle of the mallet. The cap went off on the first whack. I gave it a solid whack but again, did not really pound on it.

My conclusions and your mileage may vary:

Carrying a percussion gun with the hammer down on a capped nipple presents a risk of negligent discharge, if the gun drops and falls on the hammer, or if the hammer is hit solidly with a hard object.

IMO, if a percussion rifle or single shot pistol is carried hammer down on a capped nipple, there should be a piece of leather or rubber between the hammer or cap. Doing so should greatly reduce the odds of the gun firing if dropped on the hammer or something hard hits the hammer.

If I carry a Colt, Remington, or Ruger percussion revolver with six capped chambers, I will lower the hammer onto a safety pin (Colt) or into a safety notch between chambers (Remington or Ruger). For a percussion revolver lacking safety pins or notches such as my Rogers & Spencer, either carry it hammer down on an empty chamber, with a piece of leather between the hammer and frame, or if hammer down directly on a capped nipple then secured in a flap holster. Alternately, IMO the R&S could be safely carried on half cock in a flap holster.

I wouldn't feel comfortable carrying a percussion revolver in an open holster with the hammer down on a capped nipple.


April 11, 2011, 10:33 PM
IMO the R&S could be safely carried on half cock in a flap holster.

How did you come to that conclusion?

Dave Markowitz
April 12, 2011, 09:07 AM
mykeal, the half cock notch on my R&S seems robust and in a flap holster the entire gun is covered. The hammer won't get snagged on anything and any blows to it will be cushioned by the flap.

For over a century, millions of lever action rifles have been carried on half cock when deer hunting, I don't see why this would be any less safe.

April 12, 2011, 10:32 PM
The hammer on my factory built Euroarms/ASP failed this past summer when the full cock notch broke. It happens.

If there is any generalization that's applicable in black powder firearms, it's that the half cock position is not a safety. It's simple material physics that thin, hardened metal pieces are brittle and break. The sear on the trigger and the lip of the half cock notch on black powder guns are both thin, hardened metal pieces.

April 13, 2011, 05:45 PM
mykeal ...If there is any generalization that's applicable in black powder firearms, it's that the half cock position is not a safety...

mykeal, if I could edit that quote for you, I would change it to "...If there is any generalization that's applicable in firearms, it's that the half cock position is not a safety... ". I have repaired many firearms that were carried on half cock and somehow managed to break. Sometimes with terrible results.

April 24, 2011, 10:00 PM
Way back when, before 1960 not to many people knew about the safety notches. The early repros did not have them. Most of the pistol shooters that I knew back then carried rifle or pistol fully loaded with the hammer down but not capped. All of the other cylenders were capped, then if you still needed the last shot, cap the last loaded cylender. They did this because on the old guns the pins were usually hammered flat. Flints were carried with the barrel loaded, pan not primed, frizzen open. In damp weather leather wrap was placed around the lock to help keep the H2o out. Prime when needed & go to half cock. My father used to hunt ducks 1930and40's at the river in the fog with flint locks. these were the methods he used.

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