Surprisingly, handguns were not part of the official arms issue to infantry officers. Sidearms carried by infantry officers and indeed the many infantrymen who began the war with a brace of pistols stuck into their belts, were privately purchased. The most common sidearm was the famous Colt six shot single action revolver. Each cylinder in the revolver was loaded using a paper or linen cartridge containing powder and ball rammed home with a rammer under the barrel. A percussion cap was then placed on the nipple at the other end of the chamber and each time the hammer was cocked, the cylinder was rotated and fired when the trigger was pulled and the hammer hit the cap.
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