Leaving "one" chamber empty on a revolver cylinder?

When I EDC a revolver, I always have a “full” cylinder. Although I noticed a few presentations where the user instead, opts to keep one of six chambers empty, the one sitting on the position of the hammer – he claims, for safety reasons. Very well-loved presenter, but I never had the chance to ask questions as to why.

I figured, with today’s modern revolvers, it’s safe fully loaded, not to mention, there are only a few rounds to begin with, and my not wanting to go from 6 to only 5, or from 5 to only 4 rounds.

Are there some older revolvers whose hammer could strike without pulling the trigger or if dropped accidentally?

Of note: Sometimes I post just to have fun convo and learn more. Not saying one way is right or wrong, just what I’ve experienced. Who am I to judge. I’d rather you bring it as “you” like, than to leave it at home. :slight_smile:


I’ll just say I have an old model single action revolver that does not have a transfer bar that disengages when the trigger is pulled. On my gun if the hammer is down, if it is dropped and hits the hammer, the gun can discharge if on a loaded chamber. New models have a transfer bar that moves out of the way with an intensional pulling of the trigger. So leaving one chamber empty depends on the gun. On all my other revolvers I carry fully loaded as they cannot fire if dropped.


True for old guns, especially old Single Actions of 1800s design. Not necessary in new revolvers if modern design.




Back when they smear grease behind the cylinder to avoid chainfire of multiple rounds kind of old is IIRC when it was known to keep the under-hammer empty so you didn’t shoot yourself in the leg while riding your horse


Mr. Baldwin is on trial today in Cactus Junction
I’ll head up there and ask him his ‘feelings’ on
the matter…Should be Enlightening amirite?


:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: but, but, but, he didn’t pull the trigger, he swears it!!! He couldn’t have done anything wrong! He’s important and knows everything.

I saw on the news last night a picture of him going into court, with his little baby. What a jackass. Trying to get some jury sympathy, are we??


Yeah, He’s good at that…
But on the ‘set’ he’s an arrogant, manipulative, Big headed Tyrant
(and I only witnessed his A-game-A-holeness for a few hours)

Fry 'em!


FYI ; the empty chamber was also used to keep money in for the ‘‘undertaker’’ if you weren’t fast enough on the draw


Is this the Baldwin problem?

Prior to the installation of transfer bars, older Colt and, I believe, S & W revolvers had the firing pin mounted on the hammer which, if dropped with a fully loaded cylinder, could possibly cause the weapon to fire.


“Possibly” being the key word. Yet, HIGHLY unlikely. Unless you ride a saddle with an iron oxbow stirrup or expect a heavy blow to the hammer of your holstered weapon the chances of the gun going off are VERY small. Like JD Books (John Wayne) said in the Shootist, “You keep the hammer on an empty chamber for safety” Gillian asks, “What if you’re going out to save someone?”. John Wayne responds, “So load 6 if your inside tells you to.”

The biggest issue is making sure your hammer doesn’t slip out of your thumb while lowering it on a loaded round, which I have seen happen a few times with unexperienced folks usually handling SA’s for the first time.

Actually I won’t own a S&W with a lock or transfer bars and many of my Ruger SA guns are unmodified 3 screw guns. With S&W I consider them both (safety and transfer bar) solutions to a non-existing problem and refuse to give any more money to a company that won’t fix their F-ups. Remington got me buying new rifles when they QUIETLY dropped the insanely stupid J lock on their bolts. And I’m not alone, notice S&W wisely does not take pictures of the revolvers on the lock side. They know most folks reaction to that hole…


I believe you know I love S&W products (they flat out work for me)
But I go to other makers for my Revolvers for your very clear reasons
You stated my Brother. I don’t know who actually said it "If it’s broke fix it’’
until then it’s Diamondback or Ruger or other for me.

Mi dos Burrito’s

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For what it’s worth. I go out of my way NOT to repeat internet myths. There has been one going around for decades that S&W revolvers with the lock will lock up on their own without the key. It has been denied by S&W for years and they state they have done a multitude of tests and proven it wrong, AND there are THOUSANDS of happy S&W Revolver owners that have never had ignition problems with their latest generation guns.

Weeeeeelllllll… Years ago I helped a good friend of mine pick a SD weapon that she needed in a BIG hurry (that is a whole story for another day) and she landed on a Scandium J frame in .357mag, yes I know that is usually not usually considered a gun for new shooters but by the time I was done with her she could make that puppy sing, again a story for another day.

I took the gun home with me to clean and test and I was meeting her at the range later that day to start training. So as I usually do to function test I star with an empty gun out of the box just like it left the factory. I dried fired the gun about 7-8 times looking for any wonky works or timing issues and then… THE FREAKIN’ THING LOCKED UP ON ME!!!

To say that I was PISSED is the understatement of the year… Went and got the stupid key and worked the lock on and off about 12 times and tried again. Then the gun worked as advertised through another 50-60 dry fires. So refusing to take this for granted I then went and got 100 rounds of .38 and .357 ammo and rapid fired them all in my backyard range until I was satisfied that the issue was a one time deal. Then we took on training and for hundreds of rounds I watched that gun like a hawk, but it never malfunctioned again.

My theory is that the “gunsmiths” at S&W went through a period in which they lazily tested the lock mechanism as part of QC and a few guns left the factory with the lock not completely disengaged, as in the key had never been turned fully to the off position, and the recoil from firing made the locking mechanism bounce back on at unexpected times.

I can’t prove this, but it is the ONLY rational explanation I can come up with. Take this one for what it’s worth but this is a first hand experience…


tengo 2 cervezas cambio :beers: 1 por un burrito :burrito:


gota start the day out right


I have read that the lock failures seem to occur only on very light guns with heavy loads. I don’t know if it’s true or not. I have one aluminum J frame with a lock. I’ve never had an issue through probably a thousand rounds on the gun, but, truth be told, I don’t carry it as a daily gun, and I also don’t rely on it for heavy loads. Basically it’s a backup. Call it hesitation based on internet reading. I have a couple other J frames without the lock, and one of those is my go-to pocket gun.

Why they put it on the scandium 357 is beyond me. I wish they’d remove it from all their revolvers.


Same, going back forever, which makes sense as the super ridiculously light guns with heavy magnum loads would recoil the sharpest and logically seem to have the highest chance of moving parts around internally

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I have an old Model Ruger SA Blackhawk 3-screw (unconverted) myself that has a notch cut to lock the hammer slightly off of the firing pin. I’ve never had a ND or AD since I bought it. 'The Shootist" is one of my favorite movies.


Thanks brother. Got a new revolver last month. Not a Smith Wesson, but almost. I had some regrets that I didn’t get it, mostly because I read that their trigger was pretty good.

Ended up with a Kimber instead. I imagine a high quality product such as Smith Wesson is a most confident product indeed. After hearing your story, I feel better about my decision, though.

Saw a vid of a cool Dad who likes “that lock”, as he has small children. Good for him. He ain’t leaving that baby at home. LOL. :slight_smile:

I think below is a pic of that internal key “hole/lock”. If it’s correct. Sorry Smith Wesson guys and girls, my software was not working right and the photo is not accurate in proportions, I noticed the copy was stretched in the pic, but one can see that lock just above the cylinder latch/opener lever:



Thanks again man. A little more peace of mind for me.