Old habits never seem to die. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it isn’t. When it comes to firearms, it’s usually not. Firearms, while they still look essentially the same as they did 50 to 100 years ago, have changed with the advancement of technology and materials.
I’ve seen it a lot through my short lifetime. When compound bows started hitting the market, all the guys shooting longbow and recurves complained they would give hunters an unfair advantage. Then when crossbows started gaining in popularity, all the compound bow guys started whining the same thing.
The firearms world is no different. It wasn’t too long ago that most people who own one of today’s polymer-framed CCW handguns were complaining they would never buy one of those flimsy toy guns. All metal, all the time! But new technology has a way of creeping into our lives, doesn’t it?
One of the old habits that modern firearms tech has made outdated is carrying a revolver on an empty cylinder chamber. It’s not really a big deal compared to carrying a semi-auto with an empty chamber, because as soon as you pull the trigger or thumb the hammer back, the cylinder will rotate a live round up to the ready (although it does reduce your already-low six shots down to five).
Even so, it was a really good idea simply because it was generally unsafe to carry a revolver on a loaded chamber. If you banged the hammer hard enough, that pistol would fire. Not the desired effect if you dropped it or accidentally banged it against the nightstand.
Most of those revolvers either had the firing pin on the hammer or the hammer struck the firing pin in the chassis of the gun. In a bump situation, there was nothing stopping the hammer from contacting the firing pin or the firing pin contacting the primer of the round in the loaded cylinder.
Now enter technology.
Today’s revolvers are much safer. There are now firing pin safeties and hammer blocks that prevent this from happening. It is completely safe to carry a modern revolver on a loaded cylinder chamber. You won’t shoot yourself or someone else if it’s dropped or banged into something.
And another thing that these modern safeties do is make manually dropping the hammer much safer if done correctly. It used to be that if you thumbed the hammer back and your attacker surrendered or that deer walked out of range, you had to manually ride the hammer back down. It’s not an easy task with the rush of adrenaline. And if it slipped out of your thumb that revolver would fire unintentionally.
The gotcha is that most people don’t realize how modern revolvers work. Most people will still pull the trigger while holding the hammer back and then manually ride that hammer down with their finger on the trigger, because that’s the way we’ve done it for decades. But the internal safeties on modern revolvers are disengaged when the trigger is being pulled. Thumb slips, gun goes bang.
What you should be do instead: Place your thumb on the hammer, hold it back, pull the trigger. As you are starting to drop the hammer, release the trigger and then thumb the hammer down. Taking your finger off the trigger engages all the internal safeties. If the hammer slips out from under your thumb, the gun won’t fire.
So remember, finger off the trigger while dropping the hammer manually. It’s the proper and safest way. And don’t be one of those old guys who automatically hates new stuff just because it’s new. Some of it is pretty darn awesome.
Capt. Cayle Wills is a USCCA-certified firearms instructor and gunsmith at Higher Power Outfitters (1826 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda). Contact him at 941-916-4538 or Cayle@HigherPowerOutfitters.com.