by Tiger McKee
Most custom revolvers have bobbed hammers and have been modified to double-action only firing.
A lot of people carry revolvers for self-defense. Students often show up for class with a semi-auto but admit that they normally carry a "J" frame revolver. If you carry a revolver that's what you should train/practice with, especially when it comes to manipulating the trigger.
The majority of revolvers can be fired double-action, pressing the trigger to cock and release the hammer for each shot, or single-action, cocking the hammer prior to the shot. Each technique has its place, but for the majority of defensive work it's double action only.
Firing double action is fairly easy, but takes time to learn how to do properly. You should start slowly, concentrating on pressing the trigger as smoothly as possible. Not fast, but carefully, holding your sight picture as you press. Once the shot has fired you want to reset the trigger by slowing relaxing your finger, at the same speed you pressed the trigger, letting the internal springs push the trigger all the way forward. The reset is critical because if you don't release the trigger fully, which often occurs when someone is shooting too fast, the internals won't reset to fire the next shot. As you practice and get the feel for what's happening you begin to speed up the press and reset cycle. Eventually you can rapidly place accurate hits on target.
Thumb cocking the hammer to fire in single-action greatly reduces the amount of pressure required for the trigger to drop the hammer. But this is also a dangerous mode for the pistol to be in. You should not be walking 'round inside your home in the middle of the night with the hammer cocked. However, having said that, there have been and will be situations when the solution is to fire in single-action so it is something that should be practiced. Think about single-action as a premeditated act, an exception to the rule, and only for specific applications, such as when you have more time and need surgical type accuracy.
Normally the support thumb cocks the hammer, which allows you to maintain your firing grip with the primary hand. Once the sights are on target, and only when the sights are on target, you place the finger on the trigger - lightly. The pressure to release the hammer in single-action is a lot less than the double-action press. Press smoothly to fire the shot, and reset the trigger. If you're going to fire in single-action mode again take your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard before cocking the hammer.
In addition to knowing how to fire the pistol in single action you need to know how to "decock" the pistol safely. You may have it cocked but end up not having to fire. Learn how to decock the revolver through dry practice in a safe environment before ever attempting it with a loaded revolver. Make sure the muzzle is always pointing in a safe direction. Make sure your trigger finger is off the trigger and out of the trigger guard. Bring your support thumb up, placing it between the hammer and frame. After the thumb is positioned place your finger on the trigger, pressing and releasing the hammer. Once the hammer is released take your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard. Use the primary thumb to hold the hammer spur, easing the hammer down as you remove the support thumb.
Revolvers are great firearms, but regardless of how simple they seem to be keep in mind if you have one time and practice are the only way to learn how to operate it properly and safely.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns," writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - http://shootrite.org/dvd/dvd.html Website: www.shootrite.org