Single Action: shooting style or gun, is it still relevant and valuable?

For many, many years I had only one firearm. A single action “cowboy gun” in .357 magnum, with a 6" barrel.

It wasn’t because I didn’t shoot much, I did. It also was not because I was ignorant of self defense needs or because I didn’t hunt. It’s just that I could already do all those things with what I had. And I could do it with about the least objectionable, least offensive gun a person could own. Even the staunch anti-gun folks would have trouble finding an excuse to take it. And so, for a very long time, that was what I had. It was not the best at anything, but it was solid and competent for just about everything. sitting in the holster with the hammer down, it was also safe, and visibly so, there was no chance of an accidental discharge. you couldn’t fire it without meaning too, because you had to cock it first.

I did eventually move on, for all the obvious and important reasons. The reason for this topic however is two fold, and is born out of a question I was asked. That question was, did I “feel” like anything was missing from my selected set of arms. And curiously, I “felt” the lack of that simple, single action, 6" “cowboy gun”. But why? - I really had to think about that for a while.

The best way I know how to put the conclusion I came too, is that it’s like a pick-up truck. If what you need to do is haul things around from here to there, be it person, produce, or portland cement, a pick up can be counted on to do all of it, and do an acceptable, competent job of it. I realized that the sense of something important missing was coming from the same sort of place when it came to that single action revolver.

There is nothing fast or automatic about a single action revolver. Each step in the process is a very deliberate, distinct act. yet as to reliability, utility, power, and accuracy, they can be very hard to beat.

I wanted to put that “instinctive feeling” about the value of a single action revolver to the test of other thoughts and opinions , especially as pertains to relevance, and self defense, in the modern world.

I think the single action revolver has two very valuable virtues, 1. reliable utility ( with proper caliber choice ). and 2. Teaching the distinct steps of gun handling and accurate shooting.- But perhaps the liabilities as a defensive tool outweigh these perceived benefits. I’d be interested to hear the opinions of both skilled shooters, defensive trainers, and those of new, or novice shooters. Some people I have met are only comfortable with the single action.


Single action revolver is a great American symbol, big part of history…
But these days I personally would never use it in self defense, having a huge amount of other and better options.
The biggest problem with that type is one hand defensive shooting. How many rounds I would be able to put into assailant being confronted within 3 yards? Probably 1. :confused:

But as we always say: Use what you are comfortably with.
Good training always makes us better, even the tool may be a crappy one.


I have a .357 single action. It’s a bit bigger than the one you speak of. Like you say it’s accurate, safe and powerful enough to be used in a self defense situation. My concern, with mine, is the time I have both hands required to get a shot off. I’ve tried pulling the hammer with my thumb, and I can do it, but I for the most part loose control of the muzzle for a short time while I’m extending my thumb up there pulling the hammer back and regripping.


Without elaborating, Yes and Yes. :us:


Any defensive capability is better than no defensive capability, and a weak firearm choice is probably more effective than a weak empty hands skillset.

Be good with what you’ve got, and make considered choices about when and how to ramp it up.


Ruger Blackhawk. 357 magnum. 2 handed grip, left hand over right hand on grip (I’m right handed). Cock hammer with left thumb. Fire. Repeat, repeat repeat. It works well for me and doesn’t require modifying primary grip. By riding the recoil, the left thumb is in position to re-cock the hammer during recovery for follow-up shots upon re-acquiring the target.


If it’s not broken…don’t fix it.


I am a firm believer that if a gun works it doesn’t matter what type it is, is better than having no gun at all. Sure there are better options for self defense but use what you are comfortable with. I have shot plenty of single action revolvers which were taken into police custody and I have found some to be accurate. So go with what ever you are comfortable with but be open minded about other options.


There are much better options for just about every type of shooting. I do like the single action though, for teaching new shooters the basics, and, they make a great starting point for understanding the myriad gun types that are out there now for self defense. There is one other difference that sometimes matters when handling full power pistols. Grip type. A single action revolver usually has a grip quite different from other hand guns, one that allows the pistol to roll back in the palm during recoil. while that can get people in trouble if it gets out of hand ( pun unavoidable ) it can also take a lot of the abusive feel out of full power loads, at least for some.

I know folks who’s comfort level and ethics lead them to want nothing more than a single action .22. Very well, it’s still far better than no gun at all. And in the hands of a good shooter, it can be quite effective.


The only thing slow about a single action revolver, is the reload. Train with it, be proficient with it.