Rangerexpert is audience-supported. When you buy through links on this site, we may earn an affiliate commission that we use for site maintenance. Learn more


How Does a Revolver Work: SA, DA, DAO Explained by Pro Gunsmiths

How Revolvers Work
Written by Robert Stevens

A revolver is a short small gun that works with the help of a cylinder which houses 8 -12 cartridges.  The cylinder rotates automatically by pulling the hammer or squeezing the trigger, and the gun gets fired as well. The revolver operates differently from a semi-automatic gun, which is generally called a pistol.

In this article, we will give detailed explanations of the main parts of a revolver i.e., the Barrel, the frame, and the action.

How Does a Revolver Work: Gun Safety Tips and How They Work

The Main Parts of a Revolver

The Main Parts of a Revolver

The Frame

This is listed as the major part of a revolver because all other parts share an attachment with it in one way or the other.

The Grip Panels

This part is important for holding and gripping your gun. Attached to the lower frame portion, the grip is most times made from wood, molded plastic, animal bone, or rubber, which are fixed using different sizes of screws.

The Trigger Guard

This is located directly underneath the frame, and it is designed to guard the trigger against discharging a bullet.

The Barrel

This is a metal tube that serves as a passage for bullets. The ridges that exist between the groves is known as “lands.” The combination of the groves and the lands explains the term “rifling.” Rifling makes the projectile or the bullet move with more stability. The front part of the Barrel is known as the muzzle.

The Action

This explains a group of external and internal parts attached to the revolver frame, which causes it to function correctly.

The Trigger

This is located underneath the frame very close to the hammer. Once the trigger is pulled, the hammer gets activated and strikes directly on the firing pin, which in turn strikes the cartridge and the gun fires.

Actions are grouped into two: double and single—the double-action occurs once you pull the trigger. The hammer is forced back, and the firing pin is forced to hit the cartridge. On the other hand, the single-action happens once you pull the trigger; this time, the hammer is forced to strike the gun firing pin. This demand you pull back the hammer on each shot, similar to what you get when using an old cowboy handgun.

The Cylinder

This is a cylindrical metal with holes of the same size; it is also known as the chamber that holds each cartridge in a regular pattern.  Every cock on the hammer, will force the cylinder to rotate to the next cartridge.  The cylinder has a latch which is located at the side of the frame; this helps it to move in and out for unloading and reloading purposes.

The Ejector Rod

This is yet another feature component found in modern revolvers.  It helps to remove spent cartridges away from the cylinder.

How Does a Revolver Work? – Depending on Action Types

Single-Action Revolver (SA)

Single-action revolvers are manually cocked; this is usually done with the thumb you use to support the gun. Once the gun is cocked, the cylinder is forced to rotate and move to the next round while it remains locked in the direction of the chamber. Immediately the trigger is pulled, the hammer is released to fire rounds. And if you intend to fire again, you will have to cock the hammer manually. This process is known as a single action because the action triggers only one performance.

Double-Action Revolver (DA)

The double-action revolver allows you to generate two actions. When the hammer is pulled or cocked, the cylinder is forced to rotate and get to the next round, followed by the next step when the hammer is released to strike the firing pin. When you pull the trigger, it hardly becomes a trade-off for double action. Although it has some other forms of drawbacks, this is considered as a safety feature against accidental discharge of bullets, which happens the most when the gun drops accidentally.  You can fire double-action revolvers either way; i.e., either as a double or single action.

Double-Action-Only (DAO)

The revolver doesn’t come with the latch; this means the hammer cannot be locked to the rear part of the gun. The double-action-only is created to have a spurless or bobbed hammer, and most times, the hammer is completely covered within the revolver’s frame. Since the gun hammer cannot be locked back, you can only use them to fire twice.


The double-action and the double-action-only are the main recommended revolvers to go for in terms of self-defense. The single action fires one round only, and this can take time and appears a bit difficult when you intend to shoot more than one round.

About the author

Robert Stevens

A Seasoned Hunter

It’s been several years that Robert, a retired teacher and a proud dad, has silently been piling up mature bucks down the South. This humble hunter began his hunting journey at quite an early age and since then, he spent countless hours in the woods and learned good lessons in terms of woodsmanship. Along the way, he also made money sharing his skill with his followers and well-wishers.

Leave a Comment