A pistol is a mechanical device that is designed to fire bullets. Engineers have devised 2 common firing mechanisms for pistols, the hammer fired and striker fired, which aim to achieve the same purpose of firing the gun.
Hammer fired pistols have an external hammer (usually) that falls onto the firing pin when the trigger is pulled. The firing pin strikes the primer on the back of the cartridge, firing the gun. The photos below are of the Beretta PX4.
Striker fired pistols have an internal firing mechanism (striker) which hits the back of the cartridge, firing the gun when the trigger is pulled. The photos below are of a Glock 26.
The mechanical difference is quite simple, so what is all the debate about?
People become advocates for the gun they have, and can be critical of other pistols, especially if they have a different firing mechanism.
Some people endlessly debate which gun or firing mechanism is best by seeing what police and military use. Guess what? You’re not a Seal, you have different needs and wants, go do some research and find a pistol that suits your purposes and preferences.
Free Market Capitalism!
There isn’t any data showing one as better than the other. This debate is all about subjective preferences.
Free market capitalism provides many great choices for people. Consumers want to get the pistol that best meets their personal preferences, at a price they want to pay.
There is a demand for both firing mechanisms and there are many choices in each camp.
People are usually in one camp or the other for various reasons. Let’s take a look at a small number of pistols that fall into each of these camps.
The Beretta PX4, H&K P30, Sig Sauer P226, and the 1911 are hammer fired pistols.
Pistols that fall into the striker fired camp are Glock, Springfield XD, HK VP, and Smith&Wesson M&P.
Difference Between Single and Double Action
Have you heard the terms single action and double action trigger?
A single action trigger is one that only fires the gun when pressed. It performs a single purpose. This trigger squeeze is short and light.
A double action trigger is one that can cock the gun and fire the gun. It performs 2 purposes. This trigger pull is long and heavy.
Some pistols are single action only (SAO), some are both single action and double action (SA/DA), and some are double action only (DAO).
Single Action Only
A single action only trigger has the same trigger pull every time. It moves and feels the same each shot form the first to the last. That consistency is why a lot of people like a SAO trigger of the striker fired guns and the 1911 (most).
Ironically, this is also a big criticism of striker fired guns. People who don’t like them will tell you that the trigger does not feel good to them. They may complain that it is a little too heavy and a bit gritty. It’s hard to describe in words, but easy to feel.
Double Action Only
A double action only trigger has a long and heavy trigger pull. The trigger is doing two jobs, the cocking and firing, which requires more input from the user.
This trigger is the most difficult to pull, leading some people to believe that it is the safest. The only way to be safe is to follow the rules of gun safety.
Target shooters abhor this kind of trigger because it detracts from accuracy. You have such a long and heavy pull, that it is difficult to hold a steady aim and not move off target.
Double Action/Single Action, Yes A Combination Of Both!
A double action/single action trigger gives you a DA first trigger pull, while successive follow up shots are SA.
When the hammer is in the forward position, the trigger pull will be long and heavy (DA). As the trigger begins it’s travel, the hammer will move backwards, when the trigger finally reaches it’s breaking point, the hammer will fall forward and the gun will fire.
When the hammer is in the rear position, the gun is cocked and ready to fire, the trigger pull will be short and light (SA).
While the DA/SA is versatile (you have both actions in one gun), some people don’t like this. The two pulls are completely different, which can be disconcerting to some shooters.
You owe it to yourself to experience striker fired SA and hammer fired SA/DA triggers to find the one you prefer.
I prefer the SAO of the striker fired Glock pistols. The trigger pull is the same every time and that makes me happy and training is a breeze.
If you decide you like a hammer fired SA/DA pistol, you have to train differently and practice shooting both SA and DA.
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