One of my favorite times of year will be here soon – the annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas. This year, like every other, there will be firearm manufacturers releasing dozens of new guns and I’ll walk through their booths wishing I were a billionaire, just like I do every year.
Some of these guns will be double action only (AKA striker-fired, safe action), while others will be double/single action. I know that a lot of folks, especially new shooters, aren’t exactly sure what the difference is so I’d like to try and make it a little clearer today.
The two guns that I use often for concealed carry are a Glock 19 and Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm. Both of these guns are double action only. This means there’s no exposed hammer and that the trigger pull is the same every single time you pull the trigger. Double action only is rather simplistic, as you can see.
An example of a double/single action gun is the Beretta 92FS.
The first time you fire the gun, the hammer is down so you’ll be firing the gun in double action mode. This means you will have a longer trigger pull for the first shot. Once you fire this first shot, the gun cycles, which causes the hammer to remain in the cocked position instead of going down again. So, when you fire your second shot you will have a much lighter and shorter trigger pull because the hammer is already cocked the majority of the way.
The critical thing to remember with double/single action guns is that every time you’re done firing and are getting ready to put the gun back in the holster, you need to use the decocking lever. This decocker lowers the hammer back down into double action mode. In other words, for safety purposes, you don’t want to have the gun in your holster in single action mode.
When it comes to the two types of guns, the huge debate between shooters centers around the trigger pull. You see, some shooters want to have their trigger pull be exactly the same every time, while other shooters don’t care that their first shot is a longer trigger pull because then they get to single action mode and a shorter trigger pull.
There is, of course, no right or wrong answer when it comes to which type of action is best. It all comes down to personal preference. If you do decide to carry a double/single, remember to practice shooting the gun the way you carry it. I know a lot of shooters who “cheat” and only fire in single action mode when they’re practicing. But you need to practice coming out of the holster and firing the first shot double action and the rest in single action, just as it would be in a real gunfight.
And again, be safe if you carry a double/single action gun and don’t forget to lower your decocking lever before you holster or when you’re done firing a string of shots.
If all this talk has you totally confused don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it seems. Simply try both double and double/single action guns to see which one you prefer. You just might surprise yourself.