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.

The cavalry draw was adapted for pistols worn on the right side like this one, but with the butt forward.
The cavalry draw was adapted for pistols worn on the right side like this one, but with the butt forward.

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.

With minimal practice you can easily load a single action revolver and never take it out of your right hand. With Colt revolvers, start the process by retracting the hammer to half cock.
With minimal practice you can easily load a single action revolver and never take it out of your right hand. With Colt revolvers, start the process by retracting the hammer to half cock.

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.

After placing the hammer in the half-cock position – this step is not necessary with a Ruger single action – open the loading gate with your thumb.
After placing the hammer in the half-cock position – this step is not necessary with a Ruger single action – open the loading gate with your thumb.

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.

With practice, loading a single action while keeping it in your shooting hand is easy; rotate the cylinder with your trigger finger and insert the cartridges with your support hand.
With practice, loading a single action while keeping it in your shooting hand is easy; rotate the cylinder with your trigger finger and insert the cartridges with your support hand.

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

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  • MA Deuce

    I`ve owned a `62 edition of Ruger`s Super Black Hawk for 45 years, as well as a newer one, holding in the weak hand, left, for reloads has always seemed natural. It`s good to do some practice shooting with the weak hand, ya never know.

  • David

    Wow, a firearm that was made for lefties and I did not even realize it. No wonder it felt “right” when it came time to load and unload my Ruger.