Most of us picture a safety as some sort of latch or device that keeps the trigger of a firearm from being pulled.
You may be used to a rifle or shotgun where the safety locks the trigger from functioning until you push or pull the safety switch to disengage it.
On a hammerless revolver there is no safety in the fashion that most people think. However, there are multiple safety features on hammerless revolvers to keep you from accidentally having the weapon go off.
Let’s dig into it a little deeper.
What are the “safety” features of a hammerless revolver?
The first is the trigger.
Hammerless revolvers have a long double-action trigger pull.
This means you have to pull the trigger through the action of cocking the gun and releasing the hammer.
The pull weight of these triggers are also significantly higher than many modern pistols.
Hammer block or transfer bar
The second safety feature is known as a hammer block or transfer bar.
This is a system where the hammer of the gun cannot come into contact with the firing pin unless the trigger has been pulled.
These devices make it nearly impossible for the firearm to go off when dropped or jarred.
So, although hammerless revolvers do not have an external safety which you can flip on and off, they do have safety features that make them trustworthy weapons.
Accidental discharge of revolvers?
When it comes to designing these firearms, modern manufacturers carefully build these weapons so that they will not discharge accidentally.
The fear associated with this topic likely stems from thinking back to more antiquated weapons like the Colt Peacemaker.
These old single-action revolvers that starred in a multitude of westerns did not have the same safety features present in these new revolvers.
The firing pins on these weapons were located directly on the hammer.
If the hammer dropped for any reason, the pistol was going off.
This lead to a practice where people would leave one chamber empty for the hammer and firing pin to sit on.
Modern revolver design and function
Modern revolvers remove this possibility by no longer locating the firing pin on the hammer and instead having it float behind the chamber in the receiver.
Manufacturers then use either a hammer block or transfer bar to keep the hammer from coming in contact with the pin until the trigger is pulled.
With the hammer block, there is a piece of metal physically holding the hammer away from the firing pin until the trigger is pulled and this piece is pulled out of the way.
With the transfer bar, the hammer doesn’t have the reach to contact the firing pin as it sits normally.
When the trigger is pulled, a piece of metal is slid into place to fill the gap between the hammer and firing pin.
This allows the hammer to strike this transfer bar which then transfers the energy into the firing pin.
The trigger on modern hammerless revolvers is also a key to understanding the safety of these weapons.
Since the hammer is cocked with the first part of the trigger pull, it gives the shooter a significant amount of time to think through their shot.
The trigger cannot just be bumped and set off because it has to be pulled through the double-action process of cocking the weapon and advancing the cylinder.
Likewise the weight of the trigger pull is notably heavier than a modern pistol.
While a common striker-fired pistol such as a Glock has a trigger pull of 5-6 lbs., many of the hammerless revolvers have a trigger pull double that at 10 lbs.
This makes for a very safe trigger action where the shooter has to deliver a significant amount of pressure over a long trigger pull to make the weapon fire.
For this reason, some shooters actually believe a hammerless revolver is a safer weapon than a modern striker-fired pistol.
What is the point of a hammerless revolver?
Hammerless revolvers are a bit of a misnomer. They aren’t hammerless as their name might imply.
They still contain a hammer that functions like any another double-action revolver, but the external portion of the hammer has been bobbed or shaved off.
The reason for this change is to make them more suitable for carrying as a self defense weapon.
With a standard revolver, there are pointy edges such as the back of the hammer that can get snagged on clothing when being drawn.
The hammerless design removes this snag point while at the same time simplifying the firing process to being double-action only and not allowing for someone to cock the hammer manually between shots.
What are hammerless revolvers like to shoot?
Hammerless revolvers aren’t meant for target practice.
On a revolver with an exposed hammer, you are able to cock the gun manually and then lightly squeeze the trigger to drop the hammer and fire the gun.
On a hammerless revolver, the only way to fire the weapon is a double-action trigger pull.
That means each time you pull the trigger you are going through the entire process of cocking and releasing the hammer (as well as advancing the cylinder).
This means many people find hammerless revolvers harder to keep pointed on target and create tight groups.
However, in a self defense situation these guns thrive.
Most law enforcement sources say that self defense shootings commonly happen in the 3 to 5 yard range.
These weapons are more than capable to consistently put rounds on target at that distance.
Do single-action revolvers have a safety?
Yes or no.
There are currently firearm manufacturers like Ruger making modern single-action weapons that incorporate safety features like hammer blocks and transfer bars.
However, original single-action revolvers or reproductions do not have any safety features to stop the hammer from contacting the primer of the cartridge.
Colt is still manufacturing an accurate reproduction of their iconic Colt 1973 Singe-Action Army revolver and they include large disclaimers outlining the danger associated with handling these firearms.
Do double-action revolvers have a safety?
Yes and no.
Most all modern double-action revolvers incorporate the safety features of hammer blocks or transfer bars to keep weapons from discharging when dropped.
However, they do not incorporate an external safety on the firearm.
This means the “safety” is the trigger.
Proper gun handling techniques become paramount and trigger discipline (never putting your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot) is a must.
Is a hammerless revolver single-action?
The terms single-action or double-action describes the function of the trigger on a revolver.
Single-action revolvers have a trigger that only releases the hammer after it has been manually cocked.
That cocking motion also advances the cylinder.
On a double-action revolver, the trigger being pulled both cocks the hammer (advancing the cylinder) and releases the hammer at the end of its travel.
Since a hammerless revolver cannot be cocked manually, all hammerless revolvers are double-action only.
Will a revolver fire if dropped?
Although it is hard to definitively say a revolver will not fire when dropped, it is highly unlikely.
The safety mechanisms in place on modern revolvers take away this fear.
However, if you are handling an original or reproduction single-action firearm, this could be a possibility and concern.
Hopefully this articles answers a few of the questions surrounding hammerless revolvers and the safety features you may expect.
Remember, no safety “feature” can replace you as the end-user and it is upon each and every gun-owner to take safety seriously.
Following the 4 Cardinal Rules of Firearm Safety is a surefire way to mitigate any risk associated with firearms.
Stay safe, be dangerous!