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single action and double action revolversRevolvers—like all handguns—have a much smaller barrel than shotguns or revolvers. Revolvers and pistols differ in the way they store their ammunition. Revolvers have a revolving cylinder that holds a specific number of bullets. The cylinder spins are the gun fires. Semi-automatic pistols use magazines.

There are two common types of revolvers, single-action and double-action. Single-action revolvers have to have their hammer cocked (pulled back) manually every time you need to chamber a round. This is the type of revolver often shown in Hollywood westerns. Double action revolvers do not need their hammer cocked. Every time you pull the trigger the next round is chambered.[1]

While there are many interesting differences between single and double action revolvers, cleaning them is very similar. Thus, today we group both types together in our cleaning discussion.

How to Field Strip Revolvers

field stripping a revolver

Revolvers are a fairly easy gun to field strip. Make sure to:

–        Always, always, always unload your gun before you begin the field stripping and cleaning process.

–        In order to field strip a revolver, you will need to remove the plate screws on the side of the gun. This will allow you to swing out and remove the cylinder.[2] Removing the cylinder will allow you full access to the barrel for cleaning.

–        For a more detailed description of field stripping your specific revolver look in your owner’s guide.

Cleaning tips

cleaning a revolverCleaning a revolver is not difficult, but it does present some considerations that differentiate it from other types of guns. Here are a couple of the most important to keep in mind as you clean your revolver.

–        Shotguns, rifles, and pistols only have a barrel to clean with your bore brush, jag, and patch. However, on revolvers, you need to use these tools to clean the barrel and all of the holes in the cylinder. This will create a little more work, but that time is important. If the cylinders are not cleaned, grime could cause the round not to be chambered correctly.

–        Make sure not to oil the wooden parts of your revolver—if you have wooden parts. Oil and wood do not mix and can cause unsightly build-up on your gun.

–        There are a lot of moving parts in a revolver, so make sure to lubricate any metal that is shiny—which indicates contact with another part—or moves.


As with all guns, keeping your single or double action revolver clean will guarantee accurate performance every time you shoot. Revolvers continue to be an important home and self-defense weapon—as well as just plain fun to shoot. While some people swear that they never clean their revolver and it still fires perfectly, you shouldn’t change your life on someone else’s anecdote. Taking a little time after each shoot—or at least after 300-500 rounds through the gun—to clean the revolver could save you from a lot of pain or heartache later.


[1] “What’s the Difference Between a Double Action & Single Action Revolver?” Gun Goddess, https://www.gungoddess.com/blogs/getting-started/whats-the-difference-between-a-double-action-single-action-revolver (accessed 3/23/18).


[2] Kat Ainsworth, “The Ultimate Guide to Revolver Disassembly and Cleaning,” Shooting Illustrated (August 18, 2017), https://www.shootingillustrated.com/articles/2017/8/18/the-ultimate-guide-to-revolver-disassembly-and-cleaning/ (accessed 3/23/18).