Did Old Westerners generally load only five out of the six chambers?
-Dan Clutter of Denison, Iowa
Yes, letting the hammer rest on an empty chamber was safer, as any accidental blow might fire the charge. I once dropped a .45 revolver with all six bullets in the cylinder, and it went off when the hammer hit the deck. Fortunately, the barrel was pointing away from me. I knew better and nearly paid dearly for my mistake.
When a firefight was imminent, however, most gunmen fully loaded their piece. That extra bullet might be needed.
Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. . His latest book is Arizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen; History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org