In the Old West, did men carrying six-shooters leave one chamber empty as a safety measure?

In the Old West, did men carrying six-shooters leave one chamber empty as a safety measure?

Bob Wood

Hugo, Minnesota

It’s likely that at least some men did leave the pistol’s hammer on an empty chamber as a safety measure, since plenty of guys accidentally shot themselves or somebody else when they dropped their gun. Even Wyatt Earp’s gun went off when he was a Wichita policeman in 1876 (nobody was hurt).

I’ve been around pistols and rifles all my life and am a former Marine, but I dang near shot myself with a fully loaded .44 a few years ago. Early one morning, I laid my pistol on a stump while I squatted down to put on my spurs. The gun slipped off the stump and landed on the hammer, and she fired. That bullet went between my legs and hit the ground just behind me. Well, that could just as easily have taken place in 1880. Needless to say, I learned the same lesson that some Old West types did—load five, not six.

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