Some revolvers are single action and some are double action, what exactly is the difference between the two types?

  • 2
    Lets move this discussion to meta: outdoors.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1113/…
    – imsodin
    Feb 6, 2018 at 18:38
  • I think this question is not on-topic for TGO, but that it could be made to be on-topic, so I am not going to VTC now. If the Q stated the difference, and then asked what difference the difference would make in a, or several, TGO situation(s), then it would be on-topic. For example, what kind would you want as defense against a large aggressive animal? Probably you'd want a rifle or shotgun, but adding this aspect would provide a fig leaf to make it a TGO question.
    – ab2
    Feb 13, 2018 at 21:29
  • @ab2 Under that logic, we would close this question outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/10767/… and in fact it was closed for that reason, but as you will notice, it was just reopened Feb 13, 2018 at 21:42
  • 1
    I think this stack is the most appropriate seeing as there is not a gun/shooting specific stack, also most gun enthusiasts are also outdoorsy type people generally speaking.
    – Nate W
    Feb 14, 2018 at 18:18

2 Answers 2


TDLR : Single actions only fire the revolver, double actions both cock the hammer and fire.

The way that revolvers work is that each time it is fired, the cylinder must be rotated and the hammer cocked so that it can be dropped onto the primer to fire the bullet.

To do this with a single action revolver the user has to manually cock the hammer back before pulling the trigger while pulling the trigger on a double action revolver cocks the hammer and then fires the revolver by dropping the hammer onto the primer.

The downside of not having to manually cock the hammer with a double action is that the the trigger pull is much heavier and that leads one to be less accurate.

Most double action revolvers however do have the ability to manually cock the hammer for extra accuracy.

Double action revolvers that lack the ability to manually cock the hammer are called double action only.

In addition there are a few double action revolvers such as the Webley–Fosbery Automatic Revolver where the recoil is used to rotate the cylinder and cock the hammer to avoid the heavy trigger pull.


Striker-fired pistols too, can be either "double action" or "single action." Usually the first shot in a magazine will require you to manually chamber the round, after which a pistol is then "single action." In cases where you don't manually chamber the round, the trigger pull is a longer, heavier, double action pull.

  • 1
    The question is limited to revolvers, so this doesn't answer the question Feb 5, 2018 at 19:08
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    I think the answer is related enough that we can still appreciate and upvote it. Feb 6, 2018 at 16:09
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    This answer is unclear. A double action handgun won't chamber a round, you have to rack the slide. The answer could be interpreted to think that it would. Feb 7, 2018 at 6:39
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    @whatshisname Not just "could be interpreted to think", rather, this answer expressly states that is the case. Notice the "In cases where you don't manually chamber the round, the trigger pull is a longer, heavier, double action pull." That is, it states that the trigger pull will indeed chamber a round, similar to the revolvers in question. I was not aware that there were any such pistols with this capability, but it is certainly possible. Perhaps Gear Lobo can provide an example such a model.
    – Loduwijk
    Feb 7, 2018 at 17:57
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    Vote to close: Neither "magazine" NOR 'manually chamber the round' apply to revolvers. Feb 13, 2018 at 15:23

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