Over the years there’s been a lot of speculation as to whether Colt Single Action revolvers were made to be shot with the left hand. There is in fact some evidence to back this up. For cavalrymen, the saber was their primary weapon. It was carried on the left side for easy draw by the right hand. Revolvers were carried on the right side, but with the grip or butt forward for easy access with the left hand.
In practice, however, the pistol – fired with the right hand – became the primary weapon. Apparently, sword fighting is less appealing than gunfighting to most humans. At any rate, the “cavalry draw” – where the right wrist was rotated to grip the weapon, which was holstered butt forward on the right side – became popular.
None of this really mattered then or anymore. Single action revolvers have the loading gate on the right side and most shooters shoot them with their right hand, because they’re right handed. However, the standard practice for loading has been to switch the revolver to the left hand and conduct installation or removal of ammo with the right hand.
I don’t like this method, mostly because I don’t like to place my handgun in my support hand for any reason. I think it should remain in the shooting hand in case you have to shoot it, holster it, or bash some bad guy over the head with it.
When I load a single action revolver, I keep it in my right hand. I place it on half cock with my right thumb. (This is only necessary with Colt revolver clones.) I open the loading gate with my right thumb. And I rotate the cylinder with my right index finger. I use my left hand to load the cylinder and then I close the loading gate with my right index finger, and fully cock and lower the hammer with my right thumb.
Yes, it takes practice if you’re used to the old switch-hand method. Unloading is very similar. You just rotate the cylinder with the right index finger and work the ejection rod with the left hand.
The beauty of this system is that you keep the pistol in your shooting hand at all times. If you’re only half loaded and need to shoot, rotate the cylinder to the proper location with your left hand and close the loading gate with your right thumb. Now all you have to do is cock the piece and pull the trigger.
If you apply logic to the concept, original Colt revolvers were probably intended to be shot with the left hand and loaded with the right. You can shoot and load yours any way you like, but I’ve explained my method and I’m sticking to it.
Images by Richard Mann