The Star Peacemaker - Non-Firing Cowboy Colt .45 Revolver
The Single Action Six-Shooter from Colt was one of the most famous revolvers in the history of revolvers. It wasn't the easiest gun in the world to reload, but at the time, it was probably the most powerful gun around. A favorite among gunslingers, outlaws, marshals and soldiers alike, the gun could make big holes in people and inanimate objects alike. The gun, released by Colt in 1873, was actually so popular that the U.S. Cavalry adopted it as the gun of choice (and a man in Wyoming tried to adopt one in lieu of a son, but the Wyoming Attorney general rules that guns could not be adopted (although they apparently can become your spouse. Ever heard of a shotgun wedding? Okay, so that's not entirely accurate. But then, neither are shotguns). Known as the Single Army Action Revolver after being adopted by the military, this gun has had a long and distinguished history.
Colt, knowing the gun was going to be used by cavalry as well as regular gun owners, put the loading gate and shell ejector on the right side of the gun. This, ostensibly, was to allow a man on horseback to be able to load the gun, using his left hand to hold the gun and reins and his right to load the actual shells into the gun (and using his left foot to scratch his horse behind the ear). The gun was usually not loaded with a full six rounds. One chamber was left empty and lined up with the hammer to keep the gun from accidentally firing a round when it was jolted or dropped.
The gun used a simple technique to fire. You would pull back the hammer to the cocked position (which, in my college days, meant laying back against the couch with mouth half open and an empty bottle of vodka in hand). When the trigger was squeezed, the hammer would lash downwards, striking the expose bullet in one of the chambers of the cylinder. Pulling the trigger creates a single action, the hammer coming down, thus the term single action. Squeezing the trigger on more modern pistols and revolvers causes the hammer to draw back and then snap forward again, making them double-action pistols.
Owners of the these single action six shooters varied, but a common theme among those who could afford it was engraving or other customization. There are tens of thousands of engraved Colt six-shooters in circulation, each customized to their owner's particular preference.
See Strongblade's The Star Peacemaker - Non-Firing Cowboy Colt .45 Revolver