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Download FBI Training Video: Fundamentals of Double-Action Revolver Shooting (1961) video on savevid.com
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FBI Training Video: Fundamentals of Double-Action Revolver Shooting (1961)
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A revolver is a repeating firearm that has a cylinder containing multiple chambers and at least one barrel for firing, with the modern revolver being invented by Samuel Colt. As the user cocks the hammer, the cylinder revolves to align the next chamber and round with the hammer and barrel, which gives this type of firearm its name. The hammer-cocking happens either directly (via the shooter pulling it back) or indirectly (via the first portion of the trigger pull in double-action revolvers.) In modern revolvers, the revolving cylinder typically chambers five or six rounds, but some models hold 10 rounds or more. Revolvers are most often handguns, but other weapons may also have the design of a revolver. These include some models of grenade launchers, shotguns, and some rifles.
In double-action (DA), the stroke of the trigger pull generates two actions: (1) the hammer is pulled back to the cocked position while the cylinder is being indexed to the next round, and then (2) the hammer is released to strike the firing pin. Thus DA means that a cocking action separate from the trigger pull is unnecessary; and every trigger pull will result in a complete cycle. This allows uncocked carry while also allowing draw-and-fire using only the trigger. A longer and harder trigger stroke is the trade-off, but this drawback can also be viewed as a safety feature, as the gun is safer against accidental discharges from being dropped.
Most double-action revolvers may be fired in two ways.
The first way is single-action, that is, exactly the same as a single-action revolver; the hammer is cocked with the thumb, which indexes the cylinder, and when the trigger is pulled, the hammer is tripped.
The second way is double action, that is, from a hammer-down position. In this case, the trigger first cocks the hammer and revolves the cylinder, and then trips the hammer at the rear of the trigger stroke, firing the round in the chamber.
Certain revolvers, called double action only (DAO) or, more correctly but less commonly self cocking, lack the latch that enables the hammer to be locked to the rear, and thus can only be fired in the double action mode. With no way to lock the hammer back, DAO designs tend to have bobbed or spurless hammers, and may even have the hammer completely covered by the revolver's frame (i.e., shrouded or hooded). These are generally intended for concealed carrying, where a hammer spur could snag when the revolver is drawn. The potential reduction in accuracy in aimed fire is offset by the increased capability for concealment.
DA and DAO revolvers were the standard-issue sidearm of countless police departments for many decades. Only in the 1990s did the semiautomatic pistol begin to make serious inroads, after the advent of safe actions such as Glock's. The reasons for these choices are the modes of carry and use. Double action is good for high-stress situations because it allows a mode of carry in which "draw and pull the trigger" is the only requirement—no safety catch release or separate cocking stroke required. Although those seem simple to a person in calm circumstances, it is considered that less can go wrong with a simpler action when the user is highly stressed. This is a school of thought, not an immutable rule; some users would not make the same choice (preferring, e.g., cocked-and-locked carry), although they understand the logic.
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