Education|Beginner’s Guide To Firearms

Welcome back to another entry to The Beginner’s Guide To Firearms. Previously, we covered Firearm Basics and the 4 Weapon Safety Rules. The next entry will cover Revolver Basics and Nomenclature. This entry is here to give you a solid foundation of understanding of a revolver and its function.

The revolver basics I will be covering are: revolvers and their nomenclature, the actions of a revolver, the strength and weakness of revolvers, and ammunition used in both type of handguns.

This entry is here to provide new shooters the foundational understanding of the parts of a revolver and the ammunition that is best tailored for either training or defense.

Revolver Basics

What Is A Revolver?

We are going to start with the bare bone basics and answer the question, “What is a revolver?” A revolver (also known as wheel gun) is a repeating handgun that has a revolving cylinder containing multiple chambers (5 to 6) and at least one barrel for firing.

Nomenclature Of A Revolver

Front End Of A Revolver

• Barrel- A tube, usually metal, through which a controlled explosion or rapid expansion of gases are released to propel a projectile out of the end at high velocity.

• Crane (Yoke)- The crane is the pivoting part that supports the cylinder when pushing it out to remove brass or to load fresh ammunition.

• Ejector Rod- A rod that activates the ejector assembly of a mold when it is opened.

• Front Sight- is the aiming sight of the firearm located on the front of the muzzle.

• Muzzle- The part of a firearm at the end of the barrel from which the projectile exits.

Cylinder/Body Of A Revolver

• Back Strap- The rear facing part of firearm’s grip strap, located between the two grip panels.

•Cylinder- In firearms, the cylinder is the cylindrical, rotating part of a revolver containing multiple chambers, each of which is capable of holding a single cartridge.

• Cylinder Release- The cylinder release allows for user to push the cylinder out and remove expended casings or to add new ammunition.

• Hammer- The function of the hammer is to strike the firing pin in a firearm, which in turn detonates the impact-sensitive cartridge primer.

• Front Strap- The forward facing part of the firearm’s two grip straps, located between the grip panels, and usually connects to the trigger guard.

• Rear Sight- The sight nearest to the the stock of a firearm.

• Top Strap- Is a strap that goes over the top of the cylinder

• Trigger- A mechanism that actuates the firing sequence of a firearm. Triggers almost universally consist of levers or buttons actuated by the index finger.

• Trigger Guard- A trigger guard is a loop surrounding the trigger of a firearm and protecting it from accidental discharge.

• Stocks(Grip Panels)- these panels go on either side of the frame between the front and the back strap.

Revolver Actions
Doc Holliday in Tombstone using single action revolver

Single Action (SA)– in a single-action revolver, the hammer is manually cocked, usually with the thumb of the firing or supporting hand. This action advances the cylinder to the next round and locks the cylinder in place with the chamber aligned with the barrel. The trigger, when pulled, releases the hammer, which fires the round in the chamber. To fire again, the hammer must be manually cocked again.

Double Action (DA)– In double-action (DA), the pull of the trigger pull generates two actions:

Double action on a revolver
  1. The hammer is pulled back to the cocked position which also indexes the cylinder to the next round.
  2. The hammer is released to strike the firing pin.

Single Action/Double Action (SA/DA)– single action/double action revolvers allow the shooter to choose which action he or she prefers. Single action having a lighter pull and double action with a heavier pull.

Single Action Only (SAO)– single action only means the weapon can only be fired from the single action mode. (i.e. hammer locked to the rear)

Double Action (DAO)– double action revolvers lack the latch that allows for the hammer to be locked to the rear. Only allowing for the revolver to be fired from double-action mode only.

Cycle of Operations for a Revolver

The cycle of operations is going to differ from a semiautomatic pistol. You will be dealing with a rotating cylinder versus a magazine fed semiautomatic pistol.

Below is the cycle of operations for a revolver.

• As you pull the trigger the trigger pushes the hammer to the rear

• As, the hammer is moving to the rear it compresses a metal spring located in the stock.

• At the same time a pawl attached to the trigger pushes on the ratchet to rotate the cylinder. The rotation of the cylinder places the next chamber in front of the barrel.

• Another pawl lodges in a small depression on the cylinder. This causes the cylinder to stop to allow for the chamber to be perfectly aligned.

• When the trigger is all the rearward the hammer will fall.

• The compressed spring drives the hammer forward causing it to strike the firing pin. The firing pin hits the primer causing it to explode and igniting the propellant. Which sends the round down the barrel of the chamber.

Strength and Weakness of a Revolver

Just like any firearm revolvers will have their strength and weakness when it comes down to its potential role and usage for a shooter. You must define the roll of our revolver to see if it will fulfill the purpose you need it too.


• Ease of operation- most modern actions revolvers are double/single action. In double action allowing the user to pull the trigger and aim. Not worrying about the need to cock the hammer for single action. Or if a shooter wants to take a more accurate shot single action is available to them.

• Plenty of Ammo Choices- ammo choices are a plentiful for revolvers. You have anything from .22LR to S&W 500

• Easy to Troubleshoot- solving a malfunction with a revolver is a lot easier than with a semi-automatic. It is as simple as pulling the trigger and rotating to the next chamber could be a quick fix in an ideal scenario.


•Reduce round capacity- most revolvers are either 5 or 6 round cylinders. Yet, their are modern revolvers with 7-8 round cylinders. In the end you are still dwarfed by semiautomatic pistol that can hold 15+plus rounds at a time of 9mm.

•Weight- revolvers have a tendency to be heavier than modern pistols because of their all metal build. Making them heavier to shoot for long durations of time.

• Slower to reload- to reload a revolver is a multi step process. Reloading can shave precious time away from you engaging that target quickly and effectively due to longer reload times.

• Width- many revolvers have a larger footprint compared to pistols due to the revolvers cylinders. Making them potentially harder to conceal versus a normal pistol.

• Trigger Pull- for some shooters the main drawback to revolvers are the long heavy trigger pull of double action. The average DA for a revolver is anywhere between 10-12 lbs of force for someone with small or weak hands would find trigger manipulation difficult.

Ammunition Types

When it comes to ammunition types their are a wide variety of ammo you can use for a revolver. You can use anywhere from the small .22LR to the behemoth S&W 500. Most common revolver ammo types are .380 Auto, .40, .45 ACP, .38 Special, and .357 Magnum to name a few. You want to pick a ammunition type that is easy to find and that you can manage recoil wise. It makes no sense to have a gun that is unwieldy and dangerous for the user.

Below is a chart of common ammunition types for handguns.


In part three of this Beginner’s guide we covered the basics of revolvers. Becoming more familiar with design, nomenclature, actions, operation, strength and weakness, and ammunition used in revolvers. Hopefully, this introduction into revolvers gives you a better understanding into them.

If you have any questions drop them in the comments below.

Thanks For Reading

If you enjoyed this post, hit that like button, share it a friend, and subscribe. If you have any suggestions, ideas, or comments. Please feel free to drop a comment. Be Humble. Train until only savagery remains and stay deadly ladies and gents.

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