In movies, television, or a video game, if a character has a revolver, at some point they're probably going to give the cylinder on it a spin. It may be after they just loaded it, or unloaded it to make it safe (either for themselves or the person they're giving the gun to) or because it looks cool, or they're bored. Count on the cylinder to spin like a roulette wheel, with an accompanying whirring noise and small clicks as it spins. Bonus points if the cylinder stops spinning at the exact moment the gun gets pointed at someone.
This is somewhat justified when it comes to single action revolvers, particularly where someone has to quickly load only a single bullet, as in the scene from A Fistful of Dollars listed below. With a revolver, the loading port is located to the right of the hammer, allowing a right-handed shooter to hold the gun in his left hand and use his right hand to load each chamber individually, close the port, quickly switch the gun back to his right hand, and keep shooting. When it comes to only loading one bullet, the problem is the cylinder rotates clockwise and the chamber you just loaded is to the right of the hammer, therefore that chamber must be advanced all the way around until it is under the hammer and can be fired. The character is justified in spinning the cylinder rapidly in order to make this happen. However, in single action revolvers the cylinder will not spin if the hammer is in the cocked position. After spinning the cylinder, the hammer must be cocked in order for the gun to fire. But cocking the hammer rotates the cylinder, so when the cylinder is spun, the loaded chamber cannot come to rest under the hammer, because then cocking the hammer would cause the cylinder to rotate and then bring an empty chamber underneath the hammer. Best not to think about it too much...
In Real Life, most revolvers can't actually do this. Even when the hammer is in a position to allow the cylinder to rotate freely, there is still enough friction between the cylinder and the frame of the gun to prevent it from spinning for even one full revolution, much less multiple turns. Plus, cylinders are heavy, particularly for the larger calibers, and there isn't that much room on the side of the cylinder to really get a good enough grip to give it a hard spin. The Rule of Cool definitely comes into play. (A cylinder may be spun before it is closed, but this isn't nearly as "cool.")
Please note that trying this violates the rules of gun safety. Do it too enthusiastically, and you could lose your grip on the gun, or end up with it pointing in an unsafe direction. In film and TV, all guns are of course props, and revolvers that do this are simply modified to allow the cylinder to spin for several seconds. The whirring noise and clicks are all added in post-production.
- In Gunsmith Cats, Rally Vincent demonstrates her incredible skill with guns in an early chapter by timing the spin of a revolver to do the typical "scare the bad guy by playing Russian Roulette with him so he will give information" gag. While the goon she's doing it to is Genre Savvy enough to know the gag, he unfortunately is unable to expect Rally being good enough to get the gun to click empty five times in a row, which she demonstrates rapid-fire. Rally then says her personal record doing this is twelve times and asks the goon if he wants to help her beat that record... the man provides the info on the second attempt.
- Trigun: When Vash goes to finally take down Gosef Nebaska in "Hard Puncher". He puts his last bullet in the cylinder and spins it before clicking it back into his gun and, of course, manages to fire it from the chamber on the first go.
- Back to the Future Part III: Marty impresses everyone with his shooting skills at the gun seller's shooting gallery. (He learned to shoot playing arcade games at 7-11.) After he's finished, he gives the cylinder of the revolver a spin before handing it back to the salesman.
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. During the gunfight between the title characters and the Bolivian police officers, Sundance spins his revolver's cylinder a couple of times after reloading, with the standard whirring/clicking noise. You can watch/listen to it here.
- The Dark Tower: Roland often gives the cylinders of his revolvers a spin when reloading. In addition, he's so fast and nimble that he can reload each chamber while the cylinder is still spinning.
- A Fistful of Dollars: During the climatic my-pistol-against-your-rifle showdown between The Man With No Name and Ramon, The Man With No Name gives the cylinder on his revolver a spin after loading it and getting the drop on Ramon. Of course, since he only loaded a single bullet, it was pure luck that the chamber with the bullet came to rest under the hammer...
- In Ghost Town (1988), Langley does this before handing the sheriff's gun to Grace. It is not possible to tell from the angle the scene is shot, but he may have been either checking if the gun was loaded or making sure the hammer was resting on an empty chamber (Langley is shown throughout the film as being particular about gun safety). However, the cylinder still spins too easily for the type of gun.
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly:
- When Tuco cobbles together a gun using parts from multiple revolvers, right before he robs the gun shop owner he asks for a single bullet, then gives the cylinder a spin after loading it.
- In the scene where Blondie is in his hotel room cleaning his gun, the men trying to ambush him are using the sound of an army regiment passing by outside to mask the sounds they make while stealthily walking down the hall towards his room. Blondie hears them anyway, and hastily reassembles and loads his gun. He gives the cylinder a spin right before gunning them down when they burst into his room.
- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: While interrogating a thug as to the whereabouts of Harmony, Harry does this after loading a single bullet into his revolver, using it to threaten him. Believing that the chances of the bullet being first in the cylinder are "only eight percent", he immediately pulls the trigger. It doesn't end well for the thug.
Perry: Eight percent? Eight? Who taught you math?!
- Lawless: After Howard beats the shit out of the sheriff and his deputy when they try to arrest Forrest, Forrest tells them it's not a good idea to come around when Howard's been drinking. He then picks up the sheriffs' revolver, empties it, and gives the cylinder a spin before handing it to the sheriff and telling him to leave.
- The Magnificent Seven: During the town shootout scene, Chisholm reloads his gun with an interesting take on this. He holds the gun vertical, opens the loading port and spins the chamber. Gravity causes all of the spent cartridges to simply fall out through the loading port to the ground, whereupon he proceeds with reloading.
- Once Upon a Time in the West: Doubles as a Badass Boast for Cheyenne, when Harmonica mockingly remarks that the outlaw could only count to two. Cheyenne just holds up his revolver and spins the gun's cylinder.
Cheyenne: All the way up to six if I have to, and maybe faster than you.
- In the Chinese mystery film The Phantom Bullet, the Big Bad (a Corrupt Corporate Executive weapons magnate) demonstrates how much of an asshole he is by forcing a woman working at his plant that he accused of stealing to play Russian Roulette with him and let the gods decide who deserves justice. His grand show of loading and spinning his revolver's cylinder allowed him to palm the bullet away when it was his turn (so he was never in danger) and put it back in when he handed it to her (result: Boom, Headshot!).
- The Quick and the Dead: When Herod takes Cort to The Kid's gun shop to get him a gun (forcing him to be an unwilling participant in the quick draw competition), he is shown several guns. The cylinders on a couple of them get a good spin while he's trying them out.
- In addition, during the close-up sequence of The Kid loading his revolver while the clock ticks down to high noon, after he loads the last chamber and closes the port he gives the cylinder a spin.
- Raw Deal (1986): When Mark is loading and packing up his weapons for the showdown with the Big Bad and his minions, he gives the cylinder of his revolver hand cannon a spin before snapping it into place by flicking his wrist.
- Tango & Cash: In his very first scene, Ray Tango establishes his ultra-badass Cowboy Cop status by reloading his .38 revolver in this fashion and then stopping an 18-wheeler that is charging at him by shooting at it.
- Taxi Driver: When Easy Andy is showing Travis the guns and expounding on each one's advantages and disadvantages, he gives the cylinders on a couple of the revolvers a spin.
- Ten Dead Men: When Franklin's gang lock-and-load on being told that Ryan is incoming, one of the members (seemingly the only one armed with a revolver) does this.
- Tombstone Rashomon: In Wyatt's account, Billy Clanton does this when Wyatt confronts the Cowboy gang as they are tooling up at the gunsmith's in preparation for the showdown.
- Logan's Run: Although there's no visual example like you'd get in film, television, or a video game, it's referenced with the weapons the Sandmen carry. Sandmen, whose job it is to track down and kill "runners" (people who refuse to accept mandatory death once they turn 21 and therefore go on the run), carry guns that look like single-action army Colt revolvers. When fighting, there are references to the Sandmen spinning the cylinder on their revolvers. This isn't for reloading, it's because each chamber carries a different type of ammunition, which they select based on the situation. The ammunition is: Nitro (explosive), Vapor (gas), Ripper (shotgun shell), Needler (a dart), Tangler (a net), and Homer (never misses and causes a painful death).
- Legends of Tomorrow: In "The Magnificient Eight" episode that sees the team transported back to the old west, Rip has a showdown with Stillwater, the leader of the local outlaw gang. When Leonard hands Stillwater a pistol before the duel, Stillwater checks the gun to see if it's loaded, then slides the gun down his forearm to spin the cylinder.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation in the episode "Manhunt" during Picard's time in the holodeck he is given a revolver. He then proceeds to spin the cylinder and then snap it into place by twisting his wrist. Partially Justified as he is playing the part of a fictional detective at the time.
- Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger and Power Rangers Dino Charge have custom revolvers as the team sidearm and Transformation Trinket, with large cylinders specially built for spinning.
- The Colt Python's cylinder in Alliance of Valiant Arms gets a short but definite spin after you reload.
- Bioshock 1: Most types of enemy encountered throughout the game have their own distinctive sound cues, allowing the player to tell each type apart and prepare accordingly. Leadhead Splicers wielding revolvers, in this case, have a habit of audibly spinning the cylinder when patrolling the area.
- Blackshot Mercenary Warfare FPS: After reloading the revolver, it gets a spin before you snap the cylinder back in place.
- Fistful of Frags: The Walker Colt is painfully slow to reload, but does the cylinder does get a spin when you're done.
- Though Gordon never spun the cylinder of the Colt Python in the original Half-Life, when he gets his hands on it in Half-Life 2 and the first game's Fan Remake, Black Mesa, the cylinder gets a spin after flicking it back into place.
- Particularly overdone in Hunt: Showdown. You even spin the Nagant revolver's cylinder before reloading, and then spin it again afterwards.
- Your character in Fallout 4 takes a moment to do this practically every time they ready a .44 revolver (they also work the slide on self-loading pistols). Looks cool, but it becomes a liability when they insist on wasting precious seconds to do this even when suddenly ambushed by an enemy.
- Revolver Ocelot of the Metal Gear series does this a lot, particularly after reloading in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
- Modern Warfare 3's MP-412 has its cylinder spun at the end of a reload, though the .44 Magnum doesn't; the animation is very visually similar to the one from Bad Company, just with the cylinder spun in the other direction.
- Rainbow Six: Vegas has this as the empty-reload animation for the Raging Bull revolver. It's solely for gameplay purposes to drag out the reload, since - it being a revolver - there's no actual reason for it to take any longer to reload it from empty as it does with an automatic weapon.
- Mortal Kombat X sees Erron Black pull this off for one of his intro animations. Really lets you know what you're in for with him.
- Receiver and its sequel let you do this with their respective revolvers by spinning the mouse wheel while the hammer is uncocked, including whether the cylinder is open or closed. Of course, this has no practical purpose, and might even be detrimental if you attempt it while the gun is half-loaded, since spinning it is likely to place the cylinder out of position for the next round, but a game about controlling every aspect of a gun's operation would be a failure if it didn't let you spin the cylinder.
- The reloading sequence for the single-action Cattleman Revolver in Red Dead Redemption II includes giving the cylinder a nice little spin.
- After reloading the revolver and snapping the cylinder in place in Shadow Warrior (2013), you can snap it back out again and give the cylinder a spin. It's already loaded, so there's really no reason for this other than Rule of Cool.
- The reload sequence for Vietcong's M1895 revolver includes extracting the cylinder and spinning it, which causes all the spent casings to fall out. Then you reload it the normal way and push the cylinder back in place.
- In the Chip 'n Dale cartoon "The Lone Chipmunks", the pair is pitted against Pete as a Western outlaw. At one point Chip holds Pete at gunpoint with his own revolver. He spins the cylinder to intimidate him, but unfortunately, that causes the cylinder to fall off.
- Looney Tunes: In "Barbary Coast Bunny", Nasty Canasta decides to rob Bugs at gunpoint on the pretense of it being another game of chance, namely Russian Roulette. Bugs, still keeping in character, naively spins the revolver bullet cylinder like a slot machine and a mass of coins inexplicably pours out the gun's barrel. As Bugs departs with all the casino's funds and more, Canasta greedily tries to win money from his gun and spins the cylinder, only to shoot himself in the attempt and collapse.
- Rango: Rattlesnake Jake does this with Rango's gun when he's calling the chameleon out on his outlandish tales, loading the chamber with one bullet as a dare for Rango to prove himself. Made more impressive with the fact that Jake is a non-anthropomorphized snake and can only use his tail which itself is topped with a gun.