Last month we looked at the old adage “Vee Grow Too Soon Oldt Und Too Late Schmardt.” And I pointed out when I went through my life-saving operation more than 2 years ago my doctor cautioned me afterwards to do everything I could to avoid stress and went from there to point out some things that definitely reduce stress. We continue with that thought and some more things I have learned to make everything we do just a little easier.
For positive extraction of empty cases from a double-action revolver, point the muzzle skyward, open the cylinder and push the extractor rod with authority. This will also prevent empty cases from working their way under the star of the extractor. It is very easy to get into a “bad habit” of carefully removing spent cartridges to save them for reloading. However, it is a proven fact that how we train is how we will react. If a double-action revolver is used for concealed carry and self-defense, it is a good idea to always unload spent cartridges this way when practicing or plinking so it will be ingrained and followed naturally if we are ever in a serious situation. A spent cartridge stuck under the extractor star will cause real problems in a bad situation.
When firing a revolver, the gases emitted from the barrel-cylinder gap will rip open sandbags. A piece of lightweight leather placed over the bags will prevent this and prevent being unwelcome at the local shooting range. I shoot a lot of single-action sixguns and over the years have learned some things about handling them. To load a traditional single action, load the first chamber, rotate the cylinder skipping the next chamber, load four more, pull the hammer all the way back to the full cock and allow it to go forward gently on the empty chamber which is now in the proper position. Practice with dummy rounds.
When loading the SAA (above), load one, skip one, and load four more. Lower the hammer over the empty chamber. Unloading the double-action sixgun by holding it vertically (below) will prevent case heads from catching under the ejector rod star.
Using Single Actions
Single-action sixguns with the traditional half-cock notch will often lock up if the hammer is allowed to go forward from the half cock. This can also cause cylinder “ringing” which is the inscribed line around a cylinder through the bolt notches. Instead, pull the hammer back all the way to full-cock notch, and then allow it to go forward. I see all kinds of contortions gone through by those trying to unload the traditional single action. I can’t tell you the best way, but I can relay what works best for me. The loading gate is opened, the hammer is brought back to the half-cock notch, the revolver is then placed in my left hand, which cradles the tip of the hammer and the backstrap. With my right-hand I work the ejector rod with the barrel pointed downrange and slightly upwards. This drops all of the empties into my cradled left hand.
The above works fine in a normal, enjoyable shooting session. However, if the .45 single action is used as a self-defense sixgun, things change. The cylinder should never be allowed to run dry but rather should be “topped off.” Instead of holding the sixgun in front of me at waist level I want it higher so I can see what is going on as I am unloading and reloading. After firing one or two rounds, hold the sixgun just below eye level as an empty is ejected and immediately replaced with a loaded round. Tuff Strips hold loaded cartridges in a rubber strip and allow easy loading of one cartridge at a time. If the .45 single action happens to be chambered for the .45 ACP, a 1911 magazine can be used not only to carry extra rounds but also as a speed loader of sorts. Cartridges can be pushed out of the magazine through the open loading gate of the single action directly into the cylinder chamber.
Handgun hunting big game with a revolver and a belt full of cartridge loops may look cool. When I was younger, I always had to have a belt full of cartridges—cartridges I rarely ever used. In fact I can’t remember any hunting situation where I used all of cartridges in the cylinder, let alone on the belt. All those cartridges on the belt can become very uncomfortable in the course of the day and simply are not needed. A simple cartridge slide with five or six extra cartridges packs much easier. Varmint hunting is a different situation and sometimes a belt full of .32 Magnum or .327 Federal Magnum or even the grand old .32-20 may actually come in handy. They are not near as heavy as a belt full of .44 or .45 cartridges.
We are blessed in so many ways when it comes to firearms today and especially sixguns and semi-automatics. No matter what you may have read about things that need to be done to new firearms to make them work or shoot better, don’t be in a hurry to make any changes until actually spending some time shooting. The old axiom, “Don’t fix what ain’t broke!” often applies. After firing several hundred rounds it can then be decided if anything actually needs to be done. I just dropped off a pair of .44 Specials to my local gunsmith, Tom, at Buckhorn. They are brand-new out-of-the-box, however one has a little hitch in the action that needs to be smoothed out. I left both guns with him with the instructions to make the one, which needs help to operate just like the other one. However, I did not decide this until I had shot them both for several days.
If that favored big-bore handgun is banging the knuckle on the middle finger of the shooting hand, place a piece of foam rubber over the knuckle area of a shooting glove—I actually prefer a batter’s glove when shooting most loads as it is much thinner without padding—and tape it in place just tight enough to allow the glove to be removed and put back on. I also find placing Velcro support bands on both wrists help tremendously when doing a lot of shooting. I rarely ever shoot without chronographing every load. To keep the three wires of a 3-screen chronographs such as the Oehler Model 35P separated, use three different colors of plastic, tape wrapped around the wires at each end; to prevent tangles, tape the wires together every foot or so. Even with other chronographs I use red and green tape to show which is the start and which is the stop; it prevents a lot of confusion on my part and also keeps me from plugging the wires into the wrong hole.
I am not the most organized person in the world; however, I have to make the effort to keep everything straight. I rarely ever fish as I leave that chore to Diamond Dot, however I do have three differently colored large tackle boxes with pullout drawers and a large storage area on top. One has all the tools I’m likely to need on a trip to the range; another has gun parts, screws, sights, etc. and the third has everything I need for shooting black powder. No matter whether I am going to shoot muzzleloaders or cartridge firing sixguns or rifles, all I have to do is grab that box and I have everything needed.
Shooting black-powder sixguns requires extra steps
for success, but the results can be impressive.
Enjoying Black Powder
When shooting black-powder cartridges, a Lyman 310 hand tool is used to remove primers from fired cases, which are then placed in a gallon jug of soapy water to slosh around on the trip home thus beginning the cleaning process. I always keep a supply of Q-Tips in the box as well as on my bench as they work very well for cleaning hard-to-reach areas on firearms or the primer pockets of fired and de-primed brass. After cleaning Colt-style black powder cap-and-ball sixguns, place heavy grease on the cylinder pin, wedge pin and two pins at the front of the frame. This will make take down much easier after the next shooting session. Ever notice how the old “B Western” movie heroes seem to raise their sixguns pointed to the sky and then throw forward as they shoot each shot? They were taught by old-timers who used this technique with cap-and-ball revolvers to prevent fired caps from jamming the action. It still works.
For placing grease over the ball in the chamber of the cylinder of a percussion revolver, a cake decorator filled with Crisco white is both efficient and inexpensive. White works fine, while yellow is prettier. A spray bottle of Windex is invaluable when shooting black-powder sixguns, be they cap-and-ball or cartridge-style. Running a cleaning patch soaked with Windex down the barrel after every cylinder full will minimize barrel fouling and spraying at the front and back of the cylinder will keep it rotating smoothly. When cleaning the barrel of a levergun used with black-powder cartridges after a shooting session, a fired case left in the chamber will prevent all that the dirty, black, fouling liquid from entering the action.
I haven’t quit growing old yet and I hope I’m still learning.
By John Taffin