How do I make this revolver safe?

While cleaning out my grandfather’s house, I found a cocked (and loaded) .38 S & W revolver. How can I uncock the revolver without discharging the firearm? I really don’t want to shoot a hole through the floor attempting to make this gun safe.

One quick and dirty answer would be to ask the local police department for help. Just don’t call 911 for it.

Another source might be a local gun dealer.

Or…take it outside and shoot a hole into the ground.

Hold the gun like you’re going to fire it, pointed down, with your finger off the trigger for now.

Pull the hammer all the way back with your thumb. I know it looks like it’s already all the way back, but it isn’t. Once you have it all the way back and have it firmly held with your thumb, gently place your finger on the trigger and squeeze it the rest of the way. Now gently let your thumb ease the hammer into place. Once the hammer is all the way down, take your finger off the trigger, then your thumb off the hammer.

Now push the cylinder release catch forward, open the cylinder and unload the gun.

Do not do this.

Right. Be sure when you do this, the barrel is pointed someplace safe. Since you appear to have very little experience with firearms there is a tiny but real chance it will go off. Note there is a small but real chance that ammo is dead, too. Dispose of it safely, buy some new ammo, take an NRA gun safety course, practice.

“now kids, don’t try this at home”–that’s good advice, even on silly game shows, but this is no game. It’s more serious.

If you don’t know what you’re doing with a gun don’t touch it …please.
And don’t try to follow the instructions you may read here, no matter how easy it seems .

Get personal, hands-on help from somebody who knows how to handle this (antique?) revolver. Someone who can tell what kind of condition it is in, whether its parts seem to be in working order, etc.
Then let him unload it.

Stay safe.

Yeah, you know what, on second thought, listen to chap or Cub Mistress. Just don’t transport the gun in its present condition. Find someone who will come to it.

Why not? Obviously I don’t mean to point it straight down and shoot.
Might not be in good enough condition to fire? Chance of hitting a water/electric line that’s buried too close to the surface?

I am assuming the Op has no easy access to such a person. No sure, if the OP does have an “Uncle Bob who was in the army and lives just a few miles away and is willing to come over and help” then great!

If the barrel is pointed at soft empty ground then even if the OP slips up, there is no harm.

Might have rust or debris in the barrel that could cause the gun to explode in his hand. It is very old and hasn’t been used in probably decades.

Take KneadToKnow’s advice. That’s how to do it.

Can you empty a revolver’s cylinder when the hammer is cocked?

In addition to what’s given above, I’d just say “because there’s too much that could go wrong.” I don’t believe in encouraging anyone to fire a gun irresponsibly, and this situation smacks of “irresponsible.”

Before I wrote my first post, I tried on mine (also a S&W .38), and the answer was no.

I’ll buy that…just wanted to make sure there was nothing unsafe about shooting a gun at the ground ;).

I think you have only three sensible options. Call one of:

  • the police (not 911)
  • a gun shop
  • a very knowledgeable friend

and have them come over. Do not move it - it could be rusted and decayed.

I think your best option is the cops - a gun shop may charge you, and you don’t want to be responsible for your friend if something goes wrong. Sure you don’t want the cop to be hurt either, but it’s her job and she will hopefully know the right people to call.


I would not transport the weapon, there’s a possibility it could go off, plus you may be in violation of the local laws. KneadToKnow’s original suggestion of lowering the hammer slowly is the most logical, but only if you’re comfortable doing so. Otherwise, I would call the local police/sheriff on a non-emergency number and explain the problem. They will likely send an officer out to assist you. Failing that you’ll have to find someone that you trust who is familiar w/ handguns.

Depending on where the gun is located it may also be illegal to discharge it within city limits. I am not a firearms expert by a long shot (ho ho), only took the one handgun class, but if he isn’t pretty familiar with guns I think that giving the local PD a call makes the most sense.

No. And handling a cocked weapon is just asking for something to go wrong. (Who the hell leaves a cocked revolver sitting around?)

To the o.p.: ** chappachula** had it right; call someone who has some experience with firearms to safe and unload the weapon. While the instructions provided by [url=KneadToKnow] are correct, there always the chance of letting the hammer slip, and since you seem so uncomfortable or unfamiliar with firearms it’s generally a bad idea to be picking it up and doing anything with it. If it’s been sitting around untended for years, there’s also the chance that the barrel is obstructed, et cetera. Let someone knowledgable take care of it, and then show you how to safe and handle firearms for future reference.


Please make sure that they are extremely experienced and not just somewhat experienced and so therefore they THINK they know what they are doing instead of REALLY knowing what they are doing.

Little personal story here…
My brother came across someone he knew who had a gun and they were planning on committing suicide. My brother got the gun from him, emptied the bullets from the gun, got in his car and was looking at the gun and it went off with the bullet going through his nose and out the back of his head. There were observers who watched him empty the gun!!! Little did he know that a bullet had lodged in the chamber of the gun.

Please be careful!!

Where are you? We could maybe help you find someone knowledgeable in the area if you don’t know anyone. I’ve never tried calling the cops for something like this, but in some parts of the country it wouldn’t surprise me to hear they’d confiscate the thing.
If you’re near the Denver metro I’d be happy to help you out and maybe even hook you up with some S&W collectors if you don’t want to keep the thing around (or, better yet, take you out to a range after confirming the safety of the weapon and giving some instruction).