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half cock

the position of the hammer of a firearm when held halfway between the firing and retracted positions by a mechanism so that it will not operate.
Origin of half cock


[haf-kok, hahf-] /ˈhæfˈkɒk, ˈhɑf-/
verb (used with object)
to set the hammer of (a firearm) at half cock.
1825-35 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for half cock
Historical Examples
  • Next, it has a hammer which can be put to full and half cock, just like that of an ordinary pistol or revolver.

  • Then he lowered the hammer to half cock and made sure the safety was on.

    The Pirates of Shan Harold Leland Goodwin
  • Women don't understand such things; they go off at half cock, and think themselves skeptics.

    John Ward, Preacher Margaret Deland
  • "There is no use going off at half cock, Craig," he snarled.

    Gordon Craig Randall Parrish
  • Rick snapped the safety on and lowered the hammer to half cock, then tucked the pistol securely in his belt.

    The Pirates of Shan Harold Leland Goodwin
  • Both had the same design, that of a knight in full armor on a prancing horse, and a long lance at half cock, as it were.

    Frontier Boys in Frisco Wyn Roosevelt
  • He did so now, then put the hammer on half cock so it couldn't fire accidentally, and started off.

    The Caves of Fear John Blaine
  • I want half and half—that is to say, half cock eggs, and half hen eggs.

    The History of The Hen Fever George P. Burnham
  • The gun can be placed on half cock, so that the strikers do not act; and for further security the lever can be locked.

  • The breech-block is side-hinged, and it is opened and the shell is thrown out by simply bringing the gun to half cock.

British Dictionary definitions for half cock


on a single-action firearm, a halfway position in which the hammer can be set for safety; in this position the trigger is cocked by the hammer which cannot reach the primer to fire the weapon
go off at half-cock, go off half-cocked
  1. to fail as a result of inadequate preparation or premature starting
  2. to act or function prematurely
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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