Difference between a Single-Action and Double-Action Revolver

Updated on February 14, 2018

Just like many other products, revolvers come in many shapes and sizes, configurations, and of course prices. If you just got your hands on a revolver, or are in search of one, you should know a few differences of the most common categories – single-action and double-action revolvers.


single-action revolver
Colt Bisley .38-40 caliber single-action revolver

A single-action revolver requires the user to cock the hammer of the revolver manually in order to make the first shot.

double-action revolver
Colt Anaconda .44 Magnum double-action revolver

With a double-action revolver, on the contrary, the user need not cock the hammer manually for the first shot as the initial pulling of the trigger is enough to cycle the hammer into position and release it for the shot.

Comparison Chart

Single-Action RevolverDouble-Action Revolver
User must cock the hammer manually to make the first shotUser just pulls the trigger to  make the first shot
User must also cock the hammer manually to make subsequent shotsAn extended pull of the trigger can be used to  make subsequent shots
Cannot be used as a double-action revolverCan be used as single-action revolver
Trigger pull is generally very light, short and crispTrigger pull is usually long and heavy
It is much slower than double-action revolver to loadFaster to load than single-action revolver

Single-Action vs Double-Action Revolver

What is the difference between a Single-Action and Double-Action Revolver? Basically, the type of action that is required in order to make the first shot is what differentiates them. The ease of use, i.e. loading and force required to pull the trigger, also differs in these two kinds of revolvers.

  • The mechanical relationship that exists between the hammer and the trigger classifies a revolver as single-action or double-action. For a single-action revolver, the user must manually cock the hammer to make the first shot whereas in the double-action revolver, the user just needs to pull the trigger. This pull is enough to set the hammer in position and also release it for the first shot.
  • For subsequent shots, a single-action revolver user must again cock the hammer manually. On the contrary, the double-action revolver requires only an extended pull to the trigger, similar to the first, and the hammer will be cycled into position for shooting the remaining shots. In addition, the double-action revolver can be used as a single-action revolver by cocking the hammer manually after each shot.
  • It is faster to load a double-action revolver than a single-action revolver. However, the trigger of a double-action revolver is heavier and longer to pull, when compared to that of a single-action revolver that is much easier as it requires a relatively small pull.
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