'Loaded" Definition for Revolvers

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'Loaded" Definition for Revolvers

Postby tylosaurus » Thu 24 Mar 2016 8:10 am

I know that in Utah, for someone without a concealed carry permit, they can open carry, but it has to meet the legal definition of unloaded. That's easy for a semi-auto pistol, but I'm not sure how that applies to a revolver. More specifically I'd like help with both a single action, and double action revolver.

My understanding is it must take 2 actions to fire. That's easy enough. A single action revolver always takes 2 actions to fire, cock hammer and trigger pull. For the Double action, that would be 2 trigger pulls.

But, there also can't be a round in the firing position. But, what is the firing position for a revolver that is not cocked? Is it the round under the hammer, or is it the next round over, that will be under the hammer, after the hammer is cocked, and the cylinder has rotated?

So, can anyone tell me how these rules apply for both a Single Action and Double Action revolver?

thanks
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Re: 'Loaded" Definition for Revolvers

Postby Bill801 » Thu 24 Mar 2016 9:21 am

As far as I know, there is no distinction between SA and DA for this.

It's considered "Utah loaded" when the cylinder under the hammer AND the cylinder next in rotation are both empty.

(I had the same question, as I was thinking about carrying my 1851 Navy a while back...then I called the BCI for clarification.)
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Re: 'Loaded" Definition for Revolvers

Postby D-FIN » Thu 24 Mar 2016 11:22 am

I do believe (and someone will correct me I'm sure if I am wrong) that a single action only requires the chamber under the hammer to be empty. It's 2 actions are cocking the hammer which rotates the live round and pulling the trigger.
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Re: 'Loaded" Definition for Revolvers

Postby bagpiper » Thu 24 Mar 2016 5:03 pm

Let's start with the code, which is at 76-10-502. Ignoring black powder firearms, here is the relevant portion:


76-10-502. When weapon deemed loaded.

(1) For the purpose of this chapter, any pistol, revolver, shotgun, rifle, or other weapon described in this part shall be deemed to be loaded when there is an unexpended cartridge, shell, or projectile in the firing position.

(2) Pistols and revolvers shall also be deemed to be loaded when an unexpended cartridge, shell, or projectile is in a position whereby the manual operation of any mechanism once would cause the unexpended cartridge, shell, or projectile to be fired.

(3)...


Ok. Usual caveats. I'm not a lawyer, I don't go to jail if any of this is wrong and you act on it, etc. My best understanding and application of this code is as follows:

So, under (1) if a round is "in the firing position" the firearm is loaded. A round under the hammer is in firing position, even if that round cannot be fired via the normal means. Even though cocking the gun would rotate the cylinder and cause this round not to fire, at the moment, the round is in firing position. The gun is loaded.

Now, look at (2). Where does a round need to be to be fired through "the manual operation of any mechanism once"? Put another way, can ANY round be fired through the manual operation of any mechanism once?

DA Uncocked: If the gun is a DA and uncocked, then pulling the trigger will rotate the cylinder one chamber, cock the hammer, and then drop the hammer on the cylinder that just rotated into position. This will cause a round to fire if the round is in the next up chamber.
DA Cocked: If the gun is a DA and is cocked, then pulling the trigger will cause the hammer to fall onto the chamber under hammer. The next chamber will not fired by pulling the trigger once.

SA Uncocked: If the gun is an SA, but uncocked, then pulling the trigger has no effect. No round will be fired.
SA Cocked: If the gun is an SA and it is cocked, then pulling the trigger causes the hammer to fall on the chamber already under the hammer causing it to fire. But this case is covered by (1).

Simply put then, an SA revolver must have one chamber empty to be "Utah unloaded": The chamber under the hammer.
A DA needs either one or two chambers empty to be "Utah unloaded": If cocked, just the chamber under the hammer. If not cocked, both the chamber under the hammer and the next chamber up.

There is an exception. Some revolvers like the NAA mini-revolvers, have a notch between chambers into which the hammer can be parked. In this position, there is no round in firing position since the cylinder is halfway between two chambers. So we are covered under (1) for not being loaded. Assuming the revolving is a SA (as the NAA mini-revolvers are), pulling the trigger with the hammer down in this parked position has no effect. So there is no single mechanism that will cause any other round to fire and we are covered under (2) as well. Such a gun can be carried with all chambers loaded and still be considered "Utah Unloaded" as long as the hammer is resting in the safety slot between chambers.

Again, I'm not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, and so on and so forth.

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Re: 'Loaded" Definition for Revolvers

Postby bagpiper » Thu 24 Mar 2016 5:12 pm

Also, if carrying sans permit, be aware of locations where you cannot (generally) legally possess a gun even if it is unloaded.

Under State law, this includes all schools and school grounds K-12, plus post secondary (ie college campuses). It also includes day care centers, including the room where the day care is located if situated in a private residence.

Under federal law, guns are (generally) banned in all K-12 schools, as well as on the grounds, and for a distance of 1000 feet out from the edge of the school grounds, as the crow flies, without regard to how far one would actually have to travel to get to the school grounds. While this law is rarely enforced in the absence of a "real" crime, it is on the books and you should be aware of it and make an informed opinion as to the risks.

In urban areas of Utah it can be difficult to map out a course where one can travel on foot without crossing the 1000 foot exclusion zone created by the federal gun free school zone law. In rural towns, the three schools (grammar, middle, high) might well make the entire city off limits to permit free carry.

Possession inside your private car is protected even in the 1000 foot exclusion zone, I think.

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Re: 'Loaded" Definition for Revolvers

Postby JoeSparky » Thu 24 Mar 2016 5:39 pm

Bagpiper---- after my read of your two posts you seem to have covered the material well and I have nothing to add OR detract from! :crown:
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Re: 'Loaded" Definition for Revolvers

Postby dewittdj » Thu 24 Mar 2016 10:15 pm

Charles, Excellent explanation!!! :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
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Re: 'Loaded" Definition for Revolvers

Postby tylosaurus » Fri 25 Mar 2016 7:25 am

Thanks guys, that helps a lot. Thanks also for the inclusion of the NAA minis. I was going to ask about that safety slot, and forgot.
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Re: 'Loaded

Postby gravedancer » Fri 25 Mar 2016 10:02 am

Bill801 wrote:As far as I know, there is no distinction between SA and DA for this.

It's considered "Utah loaded" when the cylinder under the hammer AND the cylinder next in rotation are both empty.

(I had the same question, as I was thinking about carrying my 1851 Navy a while back...then I called the BCI for clarification.)



^ this.

If I remember correctly, it actually spells that out somewhere in the code but I could be mistaken on that.
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Re: 'Loaded" Definition for Revolvers

Postby mljdeckard » Sun 08 May 2016 9:29 am

I have felt for a long time, this is poorly written law. The state doesn't seem to want to fix it, their solution seems to be; "Get a permit and don't worry about it."
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Re: 'Loaded" Definition for Revolvers

Postby quychang » Sun 08 May 2016 2:03 pm

I wouldn't dream of arguing with Charles on this, I think he did a very accurate assessment and I would agree 100%.

That said, the "common" explanation is an empty cylinder under the hammer, and the next cylinder to come up. Right or wrong, that's the best you can expect an OEO to accept, assuming he knows enough to know it's okay for you to carry it with any bullets in it at all. Or empty for that matter. If it came to a court of law, you got a good attorney and at least a neutral judge, you'd probably win. My next gun purchase will most likely be a revolver, while as a CC permit holder I'm not bound by it, that's still how I'd advise a non permit holder to carry.

Unless you can afford to be a test case, it's simply easier to go with the flow. IMHO, and as Charles also said IANAL.

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Re: 'Loaded" Definition for Revolvers

Postby JoeSparky » Sun 08 May 2016 7:31 pm

And, correct, the law as written doesn't specify SA or DA. It is just the 2 parts of the definition that make the difference.

First, must be More that one action to fire.

Second, No live round under the hammer or the next cylinder to rotate into firing position.

And, finally, with a permit to conceal it doesn't apply to the permit holder in any manner per the law. So, I see it as a benefit of having a permit!
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Re: 'Loaded" Definition for Revolvers

Postby bagpiper » Tue 10 May 2016 9:26 am

JoeSparky wrote:And, correct, the law as written doesn't specify SA or DA. It is just the 2 parts of the definition that make the difference.
...
And, finally, with a permit to conceal it doesn't apply to the permit holder in any manner per the law. So, I see it as a benefit of having a permit!


To be clear, the two part test is:

1-No round in firing position. This is most logically taken as "no round in line with the barrel". This part of the definition (usually) requires at least one chamber to be empty on a revolver. (The exception would be guns like the NAA mini-revolver that have "safe slots" between rounds such that the cylinder can be parked with no round in firing position.)

2-No round can be fired by the actuation of a single mechanism once. It is this part that where SA vs DA, hammer up vs hammer down or even the presence of a manual safety (some small number of revolvers can be found with manual safeties) would all come into play.

It is good to periodically review the code itself. Too often someone's explanation of the code starts to replace the actual code in our mind. (Not unlike the way Jefferson's analogy of the "Wall of Separation" too often replaces the actual language of the 1st amendment in both laymen's and jurists' minds and rulings.)

Being able to carry fully loaded without worrying about criminal violations over minor technical errors or "loaded" vs not loaded in Utah statute is one of the great benefits of the carry permit. Not worrying about violating federal GFSZ's (including the 1000' exclusion range beyond actual school property) is another.

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Re: 'Loaded" Definition for Revolvers

Postby althor » Tue 10 May 2016 9:27 am

mljdeckard wrote:I have felt for a long time, this is poorly written law. The state doesn't seem to want to fix it, their solution seems to be; "Get a permit and don't worry about it."


I don't think it needs to be fixed at all. Seems easy enough to understand.
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Re: 'Loaded" Definition for Revolvers

Postby bagpiper » Tue 10 May 2016 9:35 am

quychang wrote:I wouldn't dream of arguing with Charles on this, I think he did a very accurate assessment and I would agree 100%.

That said, the "common" explanation is an empty cylinder under the hammer, and the next cylinder to come up. Right or wrong, that's the best you can expect an OEO to accept, assuming he knows enough to know it's okay for you to carry it with any bullets in it at all. Or empty for that matter. If it came to a court of law, you got a good attorney and at least a neutral judge, you'd probably win. My next gun purchase will most likely be a revolver, while as a CC permit holder I'm not bound by it, that's still how I'd advise a non permit holder to carry.

Unless you can afford to be a test case, it's simply easier to go with the flow. IMHO, and as Charles also said IANAL.


Mel raises a good point.

I would add only that if someone is able to avoid doing something stupid that would allow a cop to pile on additional, valid charges, when he says your "Utah unloaded" revolver really is loaded, I doubt it would have to go to court.

I've found that Duty Sergeants and Lieutenants tend to either know the law much better than patrol officers, or at least be willing to look at code when presented to them in a polite manner. Knowing where to find the code in a reasonable amount of time helps provide credibility. While I need to update it, I have long kept a 1/3 sheet of paper folded in my wallet with the most important code reproduced in small enough font to fit, but still readable. I'm considering changing that to include only code headings and a short summary so I can include more code: basically a personal index to Utah's gun laws.

And since prosecutors don't like to lose cases, I'd suspect that a pre-trial visit the city prosecutor or DA to go over the facts and code carefully would likely result in charges being dropped. I know of some great people in Utah who have spent a fair bit of donated time helping others at this stage as well as with convincing Forest Service, BLM, or Utah Department of Wildlife managers that their subordinates are mis-interpreting and mis-applying the law.

In anything we do, there is the risk of an unreasonable police officer, bad prosecutor, and bad judge all coming together to make life difficult and expensive. Folks need to assess their own situation and make their own decisions based on their personal risk tolerance. But I am also reminded of the motto over at OCDO, "A right unexercised is a right lost."

I can certainly find exceptions, I think, but in general there is something to that. Utah's definition of "loaded" is about as good for gun owners as we could hope for, short of eliminating all laws that make loaded more of a crime than unloaded, all else being equal. Our statutory definition of loaded gives gun owners the largest leeway possible, so long as we are going to draw a distinction between "loaded" and non loaded.

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