Single Actions for Defense?

While the single-action revolver may not be the best choice for personal defense, we should remember that single actions took care of that chore for many years. It is also worth considering that there are a lot of folks out there who regularly carry a single action on their ranch, farm, or backwoods adventures. In addition, let’s not overlook the large number of people who regularly participate in cowboy action shooting. All of these folks spend a lot of time with their single-action sixguns and it is not beyond belief that they might actually have to fight with them.

When using full-house fighting ammo, the single action is really quite competitive with autos and DA revolvers, so long as we’re talking about shooting slow enough to get good center hits. The key to success is to use a good two-hand hold on the single action and use the thumb of your support hand to cock the hammer. In this manner, you maintain your shooting grip and can get center hits in rather impressive times.

There’s no doubt that the SA revolver is slow to reload, but there are ways to speed that up a bit. The gun should be held in the left hand, and that hand used to turn the cylinder and manipulate the ejector rod. As you dump an empty shell from a chamber, load that chamber with live ammo before moving on. And remember that the revolver should be held just below shoulder level while reloading. In this manner, the shooter can keep an eye on his surroundings and keep up with the location of any threats.

Texas Ranger Captain A.Y. Allee used to carry a single action a good bit and killed at least one man with one. I once asked him about the fact that the SA revolver was slow to load. He said, “Son, if you’ve put those five .45 Colt slugs where you should have, you have all the time in the world to reload.”

So, if single actions are a part of your life, give some thought to handling them efficiently in a defensive situation. A fight is going to be what it’s going to be and you will probably have to fight with whatever is at hand. If you know your single action, it can see you through to success.


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6 Responses to Single Actions for Defense?

  1. E. Coffey says:

    Some folks still live in a de ial stage. I’m prone to believe o e well placed shot is worth a whole lot more than 17 spray and pray projectiles. A Simply Rugged IWB or a Hi Ride Mernickle are a couple comforting carry options for a Ruger Flat Top 44Spl. Nope, weather a lil warm in Tx here for this a lot of the time, but sure do not feel “un-proctected” if carrying a 44Spl. Seem to remember a couple of guys by the name of Elmer & Skeeter that seemed comfortable with 44’s a few years back. Of course there’s always always some who just have to have the newest thing out there “to be safe”. Think I’ll spend some more money on plain ole practice. Thanks Sheriff for the reminder.

  2. Mark says:

    Captain Allee was correct and one must be attentive to each and every round fired regardless of how many are necessary; no “points” for misses and collateral damage!

  3. vishal says:

    what was the type of gun Sheriff Wilson used in the making of the video above where he demonstrated how to reload at shoulder level etc.

  4. William Bouley says:

    Thanks for another great article. Though I carried single actions most of my life when in the field or hunting, I never thought of them as a good choice for fighting. While attending a class at Gunsite for work several years back my S&W 629 had to go to the shop for the day. I was loaned a light weight Blackhawk .44 Mag, in a Mernickle Holster (I think). I was shown the techniques you describe in your article and asked “how fast can you get”. By the end of the day my middle finger was a swollen bruised mess, I wasn’t using reduced loads. In my amazement; though I was only able to fire 5 out of 6 rounds on turning targets my group size reduced by half. Only one co-worker could get off all 6 rounds and none could match the accuracy of that little single action. Only sad part was when Mario made me give his gun and holster back. As always this day proved to me that practice is more important then opinion.

  5. John Odum says:

    Great article. As a retired LEO I often carry a River Vaquero in 44 special as a general carry gun. I have always been a revolver guy and the Vaquero points and shoots better than all my others. I definately do not feel a out gunned while carrying a single action.

  6. Steve Wice says:

    Thank you for addressing this Sheriff Jim. I had been reluctant to carry one of my Ruger single actions for defense. I think I now will from time to time, and if I need more than six rounds I should have brought my AR!!!

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