single action and double action

Don't Discount Single-Action, Double-Action Pistols For CCW

If one looks at the pistols developed in recent years, one could get the impression that the single-action, double-action pistol is on it's way out. Why bother, some say, since the striker-fired (technically a striker gun is more of a hammerless SA, but whatever) design is so much easier to operate?

As it happens, there are a lot of devotees of the SA/DA trigger format, for a number of reasons. Not everyone is a fan of the Glock safety or rather the integrated trigger safety of the profusion, plenitude and plethora of striker-fired guns that only have an integrated trigger safety.

The Rise Of SA/DA

sa da revolver

Some of the terminology can be confusing as some people use the terms single-action/double-action (or SA/DA for short) and double-action interchangeably, though a double-action only (or DAO) pistol is something entirely different.

SA/DA pistols can be fired in either condition, as pulling the trigger when the hammer is lowered cocks the pistol by bringing the hammer to the rear and drops it, thereby discharging the firearm. Or, if the operator prefers, the hammer can be cocked manually and fired in single-action mode. Double-action trigger pulls are longer and require more pressure than single-action trigger pulls.

A double-action only gun, however, cannot be manually cocked; it's a long trigger pull or nothing. Granted, this design is more common among revolvers than autos, but there are a good number of semi-auto pistols in DAO configuration. Kahr, for instance, makes nothing else.

The first SA/DA pistols were revolvers, the first examples emerging in the 1850s during the cap and ball era but obviously flourishing from there. The first SA/DA semi-automatic pistols didn't emerge until the 1930s, but caught on because it's nearly perfect for auto-loading pistols. Unlike a revolver, which has to be cocked in order to be placed in single-action mode, an SA/DA pistol is placed in SA mode after a round is discharged or if manually cocked.

Thus, an SA/DA pistol can be carried with the hammer down and a round chambered. Single-action autos, such as the 1911, must be carried with the hammer back and the safety on or have to be cocked before firing.

Why Some People Prefer Single Action/Double-Action Pistols

is single action or double action better

Why do single-action/double-action pistols persist, these relics of firearm design? There are a number of reasons.

One of the biggest reasons is actually safety. Unlike a single action pistol or a striker-fired pistol, a single-action/double-action pistol can be carried loaded, with the hammer down, but uncocked. It's the Goldilocks of concealed carry conditions in this respect. There's double the trigger pull required to fire compared to most striker-fired guns (ie Glocks and clones) but without the need to cock the hammer as most single-action guns. That way, the pistol can be drawn and fired without needing any additional actions, but is less susceptible to accidental discharge.

The Gamut of SADA Handguns

sa da handgun

Whilst the plastic striker guns are certainly widespread, there are still a great many makers of SADA handguns, with a variety of different features and variations on the design.

Of course, the advantage of the design is its versatility. The operator can elect to engage the safety, if thusly equipped, or not as they see fit. Granted, not all SADA pistols actually HAVE a manual safety; some models come with a decocking lever instead of a safety lever, so the pistol can be decocked for carrying in double-action mode.

However, if one desires to carry "cocked and locked," that is possible with models equipped with a manual safety. In fact, manual safety levers on CZ pistols can only be engaged if the hammer is cocked. Beretta (and a few other makers) offer a hybrid safety that decocks AND engages the safety mechanism.

The long trigger pull is only an issue for one shot; after the first shot is fired, the slide cocks the hammer for every subsequent shot - making follow up shots a breeze due to the lighter pull of the single-action trigger.

While more complex than a striker-fired pistol, the SADA design is likely not going to disappear from the market anytime soon, largely due to the versatility of operation. That makes a good single-double action pistol a fine sidearm, which is why they have persisted and will continue to do so.


About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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