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The Revolver

The Colt Single Action Army, one of the most popular revolvers of all time. A revolver is a multishot firearm, usually a handgun, in which the rounds are held in a revolving cylinder that rotates to fire them through a single barrel.

Overview
Revolver-type weapons are part of the long development of making better multi-shot weapons. They were partly an attempt to improve on pepper-box type weapons, which used a revolving cylinder with one set of firing mechanisms, but which had multiple barrels as well. Firing through a single barrel saved the expense and weight of having the multiple barrels of the Pepper-box. While many revolving chamber designs were tried, the first widely successful revolvers were based on mechanisms patented by Samuel Colt. It is believed that Samuel Colt came up with the idea for the revolver while at sea, inspired by the ship's wheel. Revolvers have remained popular to the present day in many areas, although they have largely been supplanted by magazine-fed semi-automatic pistols such as the Colt 1911, especially in circumstances where reload time and higher cartridge capacity is deemed important. A revolver works by having several firing chambers arranged in a circle in a cylindrical block that are brought into alignment with the firing mechanism and barrel one at a time. A single action revolver requires the hammer to be pulled back by hand before each shot. In contrast, in a double action revolver, squeezing the trigger can pull back the hammer to cock the gun as well as serving to release the hammer. Most modern double action revolvers can also be fired in single action mode as well, which serves to improve the shooting accuracy by reducing the force required to pull the trigger. Because of the effort required to cock the hammer is part of the firing action in a double action revolver, they can generally be fired faster than a single action, but at the cost of reduced accuracy in the hands of most shooters. Most commonly, such guns have a five- or six-shot capacity (hence the other name Six Shooter); however, some revolvers have up to a 10-shot capacity (this often depends on the caliber, though different companies produce revolvers in the same calibers with different capacities, due to other design differences), and each chamber has to be reloaded manually. This makes the procedure of reloading such a weapon slow (even with the help of such devices as speedloaders). The alternatives are a replaceable cylinder, a speedloader which can reload all chambers at once, or a moon clip that holds a full load (Or even half of one in the case of a half-moon clip) of ammunition and that is inserted along with the ammunition.

should a semiautomatic pistol fail to fire.357 Magnum. known for police use.500 S&W round. and the . famous from Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" films. Some of these have proved more durable during periods of standardization and some have entered general public awareness.Photo of different types of modern revolvers. this is not necessary as none of the energy for cycling the revolver comes from the firing of the cartridge. but is supplied by the user either through cocking the hammer or. a popular target shooting caliber. an unusual 9-shot revolver from the Civil War era with 8 revolving chambers firing bullets and a center barrel firing shot. as cycling the action normally depends on the energy of a cartridge firing.38 Special and . Over the long period of development of the revolver. where their capability to fire powerful ammunition with great accuracy has maintained their popularity. using the . Due to the simplicity of design.45 Long Colt. For example. many calibers have been used. by just squeezing the trigger. Introduced in 2003.22 rimfire. . the . clearing the chamber requires manually cycling the action to remove the errant round. With a revolver. in a double action design. Among these are the . used in the Colt revolver of the "Wild West".44 Magnum. . For these reasons. The LeMat Revolver. such guns are the most commonly-owned weapons for personal self-defence and hunting applications. the Smith & Wesson Model 500 is the most powerful production revolver ever created. a revolver is easier to make and has higher reliability than other multishot firearms in extreme environments.

Releasing the lock and pushing the barrel down brings the cylinder up . the pin on which the cylinder revolved was removed. and closed. the Colt Single Action Army and the Smith & Wesson 1917. the loading gate on the original Colt designs (copied by nearly all single action revolvers since) is on the right side. due to right-handed shooters being in the majority). Famous military revolvers include the Webley. Some autocannons and grenade launchers use mechanisms similar to revolvers. Fresh rounds are then placed into the cylinder. while a rod under the barrel could be pressed backwards to extract the fired case. and the revolver is ready to fire. which slightly favors left-handed users. the act of pivoting the barrel and cylinder operates an extractor that pushes the cartridges in the chambers back far enough that they will fall free. An extractor is fitted. The rotating part that supports the cylinder is called the crane. In a top break revolver. or can be removed easily. and the cylinder taken from the gun for loading. either one at a time or all at once with either a speedloader or a moon clip. The first practical revolvers were caplocks. Many police forces still use revolvers for backup weapons (usually . throwing the cylinder out of alignment with the barrel. which meant that each chamber in the cylinder was loaded from the front with loose powder and a bullet. Since the frame is in two parts. singly or again with a speedloader. the travel is designed to not completely extract longer. but they are still found in airguns. and the cylinder swings out and down (to the left in all cases. and cannot handle high pressure rounds. Since the cylinder is firmly attached at the front and rear of the frame. operated by a rod projecting from the front of the cylinder assembly. where it latches in place. the frame is hinged at the bottom front of the cylinder. Revolver technology does live on in other weapons used by the military. The first generation of cartridge revolvers were converted caplock designs. The last and now most common method of loading and unloading is the swing out cylinder. held together by a latch on the top rear of the cylinder. Using the method often portrayed in movies and television of flipping the cylinder open and closed with a flick of the wrist will in fact cause the crane to bend. In most top break revolvers. Usually. most large caliber hunting revolvers tend to be single action. Lack of alignment between chamber and .38 Special). Later models used a loading gate at the rear of the cylinder that allowed one cartridge at a time to be accessed for loading. The barrel and cylinder are then rotated back and locked in place. and since the frame is full thickness all the way around. The next method used for loading and unloading cartridge revolvers was the top break design.this exposes the rear of the cylinder for reloading. The cylinder may then be loaded. When pressed. because the caplock method of priming was the first to be compact enough to make a practical revolver feasible. Oddly. It was first used when firearm brand SMITH AND WESSON made the Schofield revolver. and some riot shotguns use spring loaded cylinders holding up to 12 rounds. top break revolvers are relatively weak. Loading and unloading The first revolvers were muzzle loading. there was a loading lever attached to the bottom of the barrel that gave the user leverage to force the oversized lead ball into the chamber. which sealed it and held the ball and powder securely in place. In many of these (especially those that were converted long after manufacture). unfired rounds).357 Magnum or .Revolvers have generally fallen out of favor with police and militaries because of their relatively low ammunition capacities and long reload times. The cylinder is mounted on a pivot that is coaxial with the chambers. who are in the minority among all pistol users. Top break designs are nearly extinct in the world of firearms. it will push all fired rounds free simultaneously (as in top break models. it is the weak point of swing-out cylinder designs. Most revolvers using this method of loading are single action revolvers.

of releasing the hammer. before the gun fires. Double action revolvers also can be fired from a hammer down position. The first way is exactly the same as a single action revolver. more powerful cartridges. which fires the round in the chamber. as in most designs the cylinder is only held closed at one point.impeding the bullet's transition from chamber to barrel. The potential reduction in accuracy in aimed fire is offset by the increased usability for concealed carry. the hammer is manually cocked. Double action Most double action revolvers may be fired in two ways. which is a distinct advantage over most semi-automatic pistols which often become effectively single-shot pistols when a silencer is attached. where a hammer spur could snag when the revolver is drawn. This is called "single action" because the trigger only performs a single action. and when the trigger is pulled. With its unusual mechanism. These are generally intended for concealed carry for defensive purposes. This latch provides a more secure bond between cylinder and frame. revolvers cannot be equipped with a silencer. Certain revolvers. by just pulling the trigger. Nagant M1895 revolvers have long been used successfully with silencers for applications where reliable multi-shot operation must be provided. the hammer must be manually cocked again. double action only designs tend to have bobbed or spurless hammers. and may even have the hammer completely covered by the revolver's frame. the rear of the cylinder. firing a revolver in this way allows most shooters to achieve greater accuracy. Because only a single action is performed and trigger pull is lightened. In this case. a silenced revolver design does exist in the Nagant M1895. the trigger first cocks the hammer (thus advancing the cylinder counterclockwise) and then releases the hammer at the rear of its travel.) As a result. reliable firing using a silencer is possible with this revolver. contrary to what is commonly believed to be possible with revolvers. This action advances the cylinder to the next round and locks the cylinder in place with the chamber aligned with the barrel. and thus can only be fired in the double action mode. (The added mass of the silencer often prevents the normal cycling on most semi-automatic pistols from working reliably. this releases the hammer. Use with silencers As a general rule. which advances the cylinder counter-clockwise when viewed from the rear. bullet damage. or at all. The shock of firing can also put a great deal of stress on the crane. Stronger designs.barrel is a dangerous condition. as there is usually a gap that exists between the revolving cylinder and the barrel over which a bullet must traverse or jump when fired. a rather loud report is produced even when a silencer is installed on the end of the barrel of most revolvers. called double action only. From this opening. and allows the use of larger. With no way to lock the hammer back. To fire again. when pulled. and the potential for an explosion if the bullet becomes stuck. firing the round in the chamber. usually with the thumb of the firing or supporting hand. Nonetheless. this design is thus especially effective when used with a silencer. Multi-shot. Single action In a single action revolver. releases the hammer. such as the Ruger Super Redhawk. Automatic revolvers . This gives rise to higher pressures in the chamber. the hammer is cocked. this Nagant revolver closes the gap between the cylinder and the barrel and seals this gap when the trigger is first pulled. The trigger. use a lock in the crane as well as the lock at the rear of the cylinder. lack the latch that enables the hammer to be locked to the rear.

. Zulacia Automatic Revolver.Union Automatic Revolver.

. It was recoil-operated. .454 Casull. chambered for .38 caliber versions held 8 shots. which uses the recoil energy to auto-rotate a normal revolver cylinder holding 6 or 7 cartridges. depending on the model. introduced in 1901. The company has made several versions of its Autorevolver. At the time.44 Magnum and . and half a turn as it moved forward. It uses a gas action to move the barrel forward (which unlocks it from the cylinder) and then . heavy pull that cocks the hammer makes the double action revolver much harder to shoot accurately than a single action revolver (although cocking the hammer of a double action reduces the length and weight of the trigger pull). The automatic revolver was popular when it first came out. There is a rare class of revolvers. but was quickly superseded by the creation of reliable. the few available automatic pistols were larger. It was distinctive in that cam grooves were milled on the outside of the cylinder to provide a means of advancing to the next chamber--half a turn as the cylinder moved back. the automatic revolver. and the cylinder and barrel recoiled backwards to cock the hammer and revolve the cylinder. thus negating the need to manually cock the hammer between shots. .455 caliber versions 6. less reliable. Another known example was the Spanish Zulacia Automatic Revolver.357 Magnum.Early concept of a Machine Revolver (Circa 2006). inexpensive semi-automatic pistols. and more expensive. giving the high speed of a double action with the trigger effort of a single action. Machine revolvers The Pancor Jackhammer is a combat shotgun based on a similar mechanism to an automatic revolver. In 1997. that attempts to overcome this restriction. The GatMalite device operates in a similar way. The Webley Fosbery Automatic Revolver was the first commercial example. The disadvantage of this is the long. including longer barelled and carbine variations. commercially named the Mateba Autorevolver. Double action revolvers use a long trigger pull to cock the hammer. the Mateba company developed a type of recoil-operated automatic revolver.

Another revolver patent was issued to Samuel Colt on August 29. But wheel-lock revolvers with manual rotating cylinder where already available in the XVI century. and by US patent 7629 on September 10.rotate the cylinder and cock the hammer. Famous Brands and Manufacturers                    Adams Tranter Remington Enfield Nagant Ghoda Colt Magnum Research Ruger Smith & Wesson Taurus Webley & Scott Armscor Charter Arms North American Arms Astra Freedom Arms Harrington and Richardson Iver Johnson . 1836 for a Revolving gun. The origination of this invention is in doubt. One of the oldest models was designed by Hans Stopler in 1597. 1848. This was followed by US patent 7613 on September 3. 1836 patent was then reissued as US patent RE124 entitled Revolving gun to Samuel Colt on October 24. 1850 for a Revolver. The February 25. Elisha Collier patented a flintlock revolver in Britain in 1818. as similar designs were patented in the same year by Artemus Wheeler in the United States and by Cornelius Coolidge in France. which would lack the effort of changing barrels on GPMGs during a heavy firefight in a battlefield environment. 1839. Samuel Colt received a British patent for his revolver in 1835 and an American patent (number 138) on February 25. automatic cylinder rotation. and significant numbers were being produced in London by 1822. now in the Tower of London armories. and made the first production model on March 5 of that year. is dated about 1680 and attributed to John Dafte of London. The earliest known specimen. and positive cylinder alignment—were made in the late 17th century. 1850 for a Revolver. Another derivative of the Automatic Revolver is the AR-15 compatable GatMalite rotary barrel upper receiver intended as an alternative to the water jackets found on early machine guns. Invention and early patents Snaphaunce revolvers with single fixed barrel.