Burlesque dancer Sherry Britton c. 1940s
Billy the Kid vs. Joe Grant, 1880.
In a saloon in Fort Sumner a man named Joe Grant was playing cards with the infamous outlaw Billy the Kid. Grant did not know that he was playing with The Kid, as he was keeping his identity secret to avoid the law. In the midst of the game Joe Grant began talking about The Kid, making the boast that he would kill Billy the Kid if the two ever just crossed paths.
Billy the Kid noticed that Grant was carrying an expensive ivory handled revolver. He asked if he could see the pistol, and when Grant handed it to him The Kid pretended to admire the beautiful weapon. The pistol was most likely a Colt Single Action Army or other type of single action revolver. Back in the day single action revolvers had a hammer with a fixed pin. If the hammer was sitting on a loaded chamber, there was a chance that a bump of the pistol or any other disturbance could cause the firing pin to strike the primer of the cartridge, accidentally discharging the pistol. As a result, most people in the Old West carried their pistols with only five rounds loaded, leaving the hammer sitting on an empty chamber to prevent an accidental discharge.
While pretending to admire Grant’s pistol The Kid used slight of hand to rotate the cylinder so that when it was cocked, the firing pin would land on the empty chamber. He then handed it back to Grant. Later during the game, The Kid revealed his identity, and Grant immediately drew his pistol and fired. Click!!! Nothing happened.
Billy the Kid then drew his own pistol and blew Joe Grant away.