In Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, the main protagonist, Roland, carries a pair of ancient revolvers. Perhaps because King admittedly knows nothing about guns, the descriptions of the guns' behavior varies from one situation to the next.

For instance, sometimes the guns are cocked before firing; sometimes they are not. Sometimes Roland (or other members of his ka-tet) "fan the hammer" (although King calls this "fanning the trigger", for some reason). For those who aren't aware, "fanning the hammer" is when you hold the trigger down on a single-action revolver, then rapidly strike the hammer to fire as rapidly as possible.

Revolvers basically come in two flavors:

Single-action revolvers are simpler in design. When you want to shoot, you manually draw the hammer back, then pull the trigger. Drawing back the hammer rotates the cylinder, and pulling the trigger drops the hammer on the shell. You can fan a single-action revolver.

Double-action revolvers are more complex in design, but mostly easier to use. When you want to shoot, you simply pull the trigger (although you CAN cock the hammer like a single-action, you don't HAVE to). Pulling the trigger does all the work: the cylinder rotates; and the hammer draws back, then swings down onto the shell. You cannot fan a double-action revolver, and you don't really need to.

Is there any clear, compelling evidence that Roland's guns are one or the other - either single-action or double-action?

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    Is the hammer fanning not proof? Either way I've posted it to King on FB.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 7:50
  • @AncientSwordRage - King doesn't know the difference between a semi automatic rifle and a machine gun, so no. He even describes fanning the hammer as "fanning the trigger with the ridge of his palm". He's clueless about guns.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 21:11
  • 1
    I agree that the basic issue is King not knowing about firearms; but it seems like the guns are "on average" double action- Crab encounters aside, the guns were meant for dual-wielding, which would be close to impossible with single action revolvers... Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 3:29
  • 1
    @VapedCrusader - 1. lobsters, not crabs (actually, neither - lobstrosities). 2. I think you could dual wield single action pistols - if your offhand thumb is strong enough.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 3:52

2 Answers 2


King gets the trigger and hammer mixed up all the time. With that and your quote about Roland fanning the 'trigger', that sounds like it's a single action.

Furthermore I've not read any description of his revolvers that would make it obviously one of these over the other:

revolver comparison


I'm reading Marvel's The Dark Tower comics for the first time, and in the miniseries The Gunslinger Born, I found this tidbit, which clearly states that gunslingers carry single action revolvers:

enter image description here

Gunslinger's Guns:

Every pair of sandalwood-handled six-shooters strapped to the hips of an experienced gunslinger is an heirloom that has been passed from father to son for almost thirty generations. These single-action pistols are cast from burnished steel and fit into lined holsters of hand-stitched, tooled leather. The throat of each holster is carefully shaped and rolled to allow for easy holstering and a fast draw. The two gunbelts to which a gunslinger's holsters are attached are worn crisscrossed over the hips so that the holsters sit low, at the perfect angle for drawing.

True to their names, each gun's cylinder contains six chambers and fires a hand-thrown shell similar in size and weight to that shot by a Winchester .452. Once the gun has been fired, the hammer must be cocked to make the cylinder revolve. Although they are extremely powerful, these guns are perfectly balanced. They sit easily in the hand and their action is smooth and reliable. But although every one of these sandalwood-handled pistols is invaluable, there is one pair that is legendary. Passed down through the line of Eld for almost 700 years, they are known as the guns of Deschain. - The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born, Robin Furth

Although this image comes from a section describing the different guns of gunslingers (practice guns, apprentice guns, gunslingers' guns, and the guns of Deschain - aka Roland's guns), and Roland's guns are listed separately, it is made clear that all gunslinger guns work the same way and have the same mechanical design. Roland's guns are simply more ornate and made from higher quality metal.


1Ancient Sword Rage's answer was posted before this one, and it is correct, so I accepted his, but posted mine so that all the information is available. I offered him this picture, but he thought it would be improper to use information I provided, and told me to post it as a self-answer. Please consider upvoting his answer.

2I think this shows us another example of King's lack of knowledge of guns. The assertion that gunslingers use Winchester .45 ammo ignores the facts (as I understand them) that in the 19th century, when guns like this were made, Winchester .45 cartridges were ammo for rifles, not pistols, and although Winchester now makes .45 ammo for handguns, it is designed for semi automatic handguns, and can't be used in revolvers without special adapters called "half-moon clips". The descriptions in the books make it clear that Roland isn't using these clips.

  • 3
    "I made this answer Community Wiki, so I won't get rep from it." - That's not really what Community Wiki is for, though. Its sole purpose is allowing for collaborative editing, not for eschewing from the concept of reputation for good contributions, which would go entirely against SE in its very philosophy. Have a great answer to a question? Answer it and get reputation for it. Doesn't matter the slightest who asked it.
    – TARS
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 22:59
  • @TARS - That's not what it was meant for, but it is what I used it for. If I didn't have a way to keep myself from getting rep for this answer, I wouldn't have posted it. I might not be using the feature for what it was intended for, but I also don't think anyone will fault me for using it to deny myself rep.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 23:05
  • "If I didn't have a way to keep myself from getting rep for this answer, I wouldn't have posted it." - Well, that's what you have to make up with yourself. Still CW misuse, wrong precent and all that. What'd you say if I posted a crap answer and made it CW in order to not get negative rep from all the downvotes? Exact same principle. CW is not for eschewing the concept of reputation.
    – TARS
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 23:09
  • 2
    Self-answering is explicitly encouraged, so there's no reason to (a) feel dirty, or (b) try to get rid of the rep. CW ain't meant as a way to get round the normal limits of the system :)
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 23:21
  • 2
    After consulting with other mods, I have not de-CW-ified this post, but have removed your comment about why you CW-ified it, which technically sets a bad example for use of the CW feature. Just say you wanted it CW in order that low-rep users could edit it, and you'll be fine ;-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 23:30

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