Pistol with a revolving cylinder that provides multishot action. Some early versions, known as pepperboxes, had several barrels, but as early as the 17th century pistols were being made with a revolving chamber to load cartridges into a single barrel. The first practical revolver was not designed until 1835, when Samuel Colt patented his version. He established the standard of a cylinder with multiple chambers, each of which successively locked in position behind the barrel and was discharged by pressure on the trigger. In Colt's early single-action revolvers, the cylinder revolved as the hammer was cocked manually. Double-action revolvers, in which the hammer is cocked and the cylinder revolves as the trigger is pulled, were developed soon afterward, along with metal cartridges.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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