Does a Striker-Fired Pistol Have Advantages Over a Hammer-Fired Pistol?

Does a Striker-Fired Pistol Have Advantages Over a Hammer-Fired Pistol?

In the last few years, there has been a giant wave of striker-fired mostly polymer pistols entering the handgun market. Why is this? What are the reasons? Does this striker-fired mechanism have clear advantages over the hammer-fired models? Some say the striker-fired mechanism is not a new mechanism phenomenon, since Iver Johnson had this type of trigger action in the 1890s and then Glock followed in 1982 in Austria with its 17th patent pistol, the Glock 17.

Striker-Fired vs Hammer-Fired pistols

What are their mechanisms and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Are there key features that differ among them? Does one have significant advantages over the other? Are all striker-fired guns really “Double Action Only?” What are the characteristics and pros and cons of a striker-fired pistol? Are they safe? Do I recommend a striker-fired pistol?

Most of us know that the “action” of a gun is about the relationship among the trigger, hammer, and cocking and firing the gun. About the mechanism and what makes it go bang. We know that a single-action (SA) trigger performs only one action of releasing the hammer when the trigger is pressed. On a double-action only (DA), when the trigger is pressed it both cocks and releases the hammer to fire the gun. A single-action/double-action semi-automatic allows you to cock the hammer manually or to press the trigger which cocks the hammer AND releases it to fire. Two different actions are involved. But what about a striker-fired pistol? How does its design mechanism work? Is it really an optimal mechanism to help defend your life and does it as an action design really contribute more to accuracy?

The Striker-Fired Design

A striker-fired gun does not have a hammer. Instead, it has an internal bar or long rod called a “Striker Bar”. Really it is a spring-loaded firing pin which looks like a pointed rod with a spring wrapped around it. Here is an example.

Glock's Titanium Striker Bar

Glock’s Titanium Striker Bar

The pointed end of the striker bar acts as a firing pin and contacts the casing’s primer, ignites it, and causes a round to fire. Then comes the somewhat unique part. There are two stages to cocking with the usual striker-fired design. When most striker-fired pistols are charged, the firing pin striker bar is in the half-cock or partially-cocked position and as the trigger is pressed, the firing pin striker bar is then fully cocked for firing. Then it returns to a pre-cocked position for the next firing. The trigger bar is tilted downward by the connector which releases the firing pin striker bar to discharge the gun (for some striker-fired’s.) Then the connector resets the trigger bar so the firing pin is captured in half-cock or a partially-cocked position after firing. Thus, a pre-set trigger mechanism which some say simplifies things and gives you much less to think about when firing it.

Some prefer their striker-fired gun WITH an external manual safety and some prefer it WITHOUT a manual safety. So some striker-fired handguns have external manual safeties and some do not. Some question the striker-fired mechanism and its safety, but remember to focus on following the safety rules and developing the muscle memory actions in your training and practice for your particular handgun. Trigger finger discipline is very important, so your brain is really the best safety on any handgun. Remember, the safety on a handgun is simply a mechanical device and it can malfunction. Know your gun and the type of safeties it has. There are many types of handgun safeties, so see my article on this website “Handgun Safeties” posted on 2/20/15.

Modern striker-fired handguns without an active external manual safety utilize internal safety mechanisms to prevent the gun from firing. So if you do not see an external safety on your striker-fired pistol, it probably has some sort of safety mechanism. For example, striker-fired Springfields XD/XDm/XDs have a grip safety. If it does have an external manual safety,TRAIN and PRACTICE with it until disengaging the safety becomes a second nature habit for an automatic muscle memory response. Today’s striker-fired pistols like Springfield XDs, Smith and Wesson M&Ps, Sig Sauers, Glocks, Kahrs, and others do have various “passive” (usually internal) safety features WITHOUT external manual safeties (except on some law enforcement models, etc.) The modern striker-fired “passive” safeties might include a trigger safety, a drop safety, a grip safety, and/or a firing pin block, rather than an external “active” manual safety. Again, some striker-fired handguns are available with or without an external manual safety, e.g. Smith & Wesson M&Ps. Just some striker-fired handguns available WITH a manual safety include Ruger SR9, 9C & LC9S; Smith & Wesson M&P Series like the Shield; Taurus G2; FNS-9 & 9C; and Springfield XD. Just some striker-fired handguns available with NO manual safety include: Glocks- 19; Sig Sauers- P320; Kahr- CM9; H&K -VP9.

Some say the only way to decock the typical striker-fired pistol is to press the trigger, but there are considerations and other striker-fired pistols with decockers. For example, the Walther P99C has a decocker and 2 drop safeties and a firing pin block safety. While it is true several striker-fired pistols do not have external manual safeties, some do.

So with a striker-fired handgun, the striker bar is partially cocked to some degree by the movement of the slide; in some brands/models the striker bar is more pre/partially-cocked than in others. Some systems partially or even fully pre-cock the striker bar to reduce press length and weight. The trigger’s press distance and weight are close to that of a single-action gun, while they still operate like a DAO revolver since all that is required to fire is to press the trigger. There really is no single universal striker-fired system. In fact there is considerable debate if the striker-fired system is a DAO or SA or DA/SA system or its own unique Hybrid. The striker-fired guns are all NOT designed the same way and there are differences among striker-fired guns. Really, I guess you could say a striker-fired gun is a hybrid, depending on how you define certain mechanisms and the way it is built. A Canik TP9 version, for example, is a striker-fired pistol in DA/SA with a second strike capability. The Walther P99 is a striker-fired DA/SA gun with a decocker.

Striker-Fired Mechanism Characteristics and Considerations

There are several advantages and disadvantages to a striker-fired system. In fact what are advantages to one shooter may even be disadvantages to another shooter. Remember, there are many different striker-fired designs and mechanisms and features vary a lot. This affects your evaluation and use. So, what are your thoughts about the following usual striker-fired characteristics? Are they advantages or disadvantages for YOU?

Striker-Fired Advantage or Disadvantage?

  1. No hammer to cock.
  2. Short and light initial trigger press.
  3. Same consistent trigger press each time.
  4. No manual safety to engage (usually.)
  5. Striker does not have to be fully cocked, so quick follow-up shots.
  6. No protruding hammer makes them easier to conceal without draw hamper from deep      concealment.
  7. Have trigger, firing pin, drop, and/or grip safeties for passive safety and peace of mind,     without having to actively engage external safety.
  8. Short reset due to pre-cocked and partial-cocked mechanisms.
  9. Polymer material construction makes gun lighter for concealed carry.
  10. New shooters can start shooting quicker & less time involved in learning to shoot it.

Well, given the many types and versions of striker-fired handguns and what one considers an advantage can be a disadvantage to another, what is the optimal striker-fired handgun?  You have probably guessed the answer: IT DEPENDS ON YOUR PREFERENCES. So understand the different models, features, and mechanisms and decide for yourself. Hopefully, this brief article has caused you to think about your preferences and whether or not a striker-fired handgun is best for yourself. I would really like your comments about what works for you.

Continued Success!

Photos by Author.

* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.

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  • Dr Silicon

    I don’t even agree with the list.

    Striker-Fired Advantage or Disadvantage?

    No hammer to cock.
    Don’t have to on most semi-auto’s with hammers either.

    Same consistent trigger press each time.
    If you do cock the first round it is.

    No manual safety to engage (usually.)
    Manual maybe but you absolutely need a safety on a striker and not on a hammer.

    Striker does not have to be fully cocked, so quick follow-up shots.
    Followup’s are the same on a hammer it’s just a question on the first shot, this makes no sense.

    No protruding hammer makes them easier to conceal without draw hamper from deep concealment.
    Have trigger, firing pin, drop, and/or grip safeties for passive safety and peace of mind, without having to actively engage external safety.
    That’s just gibberish.

    Polymer material construction makes gun lighter for concealed carry.
    And you don’t think there’s polymer guns with hammers?

    New shooters can start shooting quicker & less time involved in learning to shoot it.
    Yeah a lot quicker to shoot yourself without more detailed understanding.

    Lets also add, a many striker fire handguns also have hydrolock problems. Glocks don’t but many do.

    • Mikial

      I’ve read some tests that seem to indicate that M&Ps are more prone to hydrolock than Glocks, mainly because of the smaller drain holes in the channel on M&Ps compared to Glocks. But even then, it was after a complete submersion of the two pistols. In 99.9% of everyday usage, hydrolock is pretty unlikely, even in cases where you get soaked in the rain. Now, I admit that having said all that, I carry a Glock because the darn thing will still shoot no matter what I do to it or how dirty it gets.

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    • JohnnyCuredents

      I read this waiting for the other half of the discussion, the part about the advantages/disadvantages of hammer-fired weapons; never happened. I continue to believe hammer-fired weapons are inherently safer. Both my regular carry weapons, the Sig P-250 and the S&W 642 are hammer fired, one with a bobbed hammer and the other with a shrouded hammer. The only thing one has to get used to is the DAO trigger, something that can and should be done with practice, lots of it. Other than that, the thought “Hey, this thing has a partially cocked striker aimed right at that primer!” never crosses my mind. Neither of them has this “feature” and I’m damned glad they don’t.

  • ReallyOldOne

    My daily carry is a Ruger LC9s Pro. Striker, no safety except between my ears, which is always the final safety anyway. I was tentative with it at first, but now comfortable but alert knowing the easy trigger pull and no on gun safety.
    It works well for me.

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    • Col Ben

      Hi ROO & thanks for your comments. Yes, I really like my LC9S, among others for CC. Without any doubt… Your BRAIN is the BEST SAFETY for any use of a firearm! Proper training and practice are key. Be safe!

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  • Mikial

    A decent article on striker fire mechanisms, but hardly conclusive. We own several of both striker fired and hammer pistols around our house. I carry a Glock, and own an XD and my wife has a Ruger American 9mm, but I’ll never say that the trigger pull is as smooth as a 1911, Beretta or Jericho (all hammer fired pistols). It’s really a matter of choice.

    I carry my Glock in condition red with no concern, but a great deal of attention to detail in how I holster and draw it. On the other hand, my wife carries her Model 92 with one in the chamber and the hammer down through use of the decocker. She feels safer that way and can get the gun into action very quickly, either by thumbing the hammer back or just taking the first shot double action.

    • burns

      I had 3 guns at the range today. A 1911 Commander, a Glock 19, and my EDC a Kahr PM9. 2 ,firing the same federal 115 grain FMJ . The 1911 by far has the best trigger, although that was firing 230 grain 45 cal FMJ. The Glock has the worse trigger, and the Kahr has a long but smooth pull with a predictable break. I shot the 1911 at 25 yards as well as at 25 feet, the Glock not as well at long distance, but faster all around, and I was wondering why my shots were going left, “I am dong this for 60 of the 69 years on earth”, and thought it might be me, but when I got home, the front night sight I put on last year, fell off when I took off the slide.
      But long story shorter, the Kahr @ 25 feet, is fast as the 1911, if you know how to control a firearm. If not it doesn’t really matter. The 1911 is by far the most accurate trigger thus, gun, with it’s series 70 trigger. The glock is great at getting rounds down range fast, but after 30 years of Glocks, the trigger still sucks, and now I must try alternate trigger setups on all 4 of my Glocks. It was just dissapointing because the guns are so reliable, but the triggeris just terrible when compared to a really good 4 lb single action job. A stryker fired gun, including the PPQ, is never going to beat a 1911 for a real shooter. To someone who is new, or never really shot every type of gun, it may be all they know. But having started out carrying a Revolver in 1972, believ me when I tell you it really doesn’t matter unless you are competing, in a shoot out, the last thing you will notice is the trigger, unless it doesn’t work, lol.

  • 2ThinkN_Do2

    It only has advantages if you like them more than the other; I don’t. I prefer steel or alloy hammer fired pistols. The only striker firearms I ever carry are: LCP and Kahr MK40. However the LCP may be losing out to the Remington RM380 and the Kahr MK40 may have found it’s match in the Kimber Micro 9 CSE version. If I want high capacity carry, then it’s a CZ75 D PCR. Hammer down good buddy 🙂

  • BKeePr

    Good article. I have been engaged in that same conversation with novice and advanced firearms enthusiasts, and have almost felt I was “hedging” with my answer. You reinforce my own opinion, and you articulated the position very concisely. Well done, Sir.

  • gotwww

    To each his own, but since you asked…

    Striker-Fired is an advantage — specifically for a carry gun — but I would say it this way:

    Same consistent medium trigger press each time.
    Safeties are passive, so no extra steps or fine motor skills needed.
    Quicker follow-up shots due to the lower bore access needed with the simple design.
    Easier to conceal and less to go wrong.
    All shooters shoot better in a critical defensive situation.

    A simple design without external manual safeties removes many points of failure when it comes to how well you can shoot a gun in a critical situation. Some people believe that you can train yourself to be able to do this, but the truth is, in a stressful situation, you will lose the fine motor skills that are usually needed to flip a safety lever and most people can not possibly train to overcome that.

    • Mikial

      Good analysis, and agree completely.

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