concealed carry with a striker fire pistol

Striker Vs Hammer

The gun community is divided along a number of lines, among them striker-fired vs hammer-fired firing mechanisms for concealed carry guns. Each has strong points, but each also has drawbacks that one should be aware of if trying to decide which firing system to get.

Which is better? Neither is really better; it's really more that each has its fans due the characteristics of each firing mechanism and the pistols that employ them. Striker-fired pistols have certainly become more ubiquitous for a number of reasons we will get into. Hammer-fired pistols, however, should not be discounted.

Striker-Fired Pistols: Simple To Use, Cheap To Buy And They're Everywhere

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Let's face it: striker-fired pistols are the most popular pistols on the market right now. Go to your typical gun store for a bit of gun shopping and you'll see row upon row of S&W M&P pistols, Glocks, Sig P320s and so on.

That said, what makes striker-fired pistols popular is there's no hammer to cock and trigger pull is often light. Unlike double-action or double/single action pistols in double action mode, which usually require close to ten pounds of pressure to break, trigger pull in such pistols is closer to five pounds. Basically, you get a single-action pull on a quasi-double-action gun.

The reason is that striker guns - typically - place the firing pin in half-cock after the slide is actuated. The trigger pull fully cocks the pistol before discharge, making trigger pull very manageable. Double action only (or DAO) pistols (be they revolvers or autos) have heavier pulls. Thus, you get the light break of the single action but without the pesky hammer to deal with.

In truth, striker-fired pistols occupy a gray area between double-action and single-action. Some striker-fired designs are double-action only (with corresponding heavy trigger pull) and some are not; the lack of a hammer would seem to mean some striker-fired designs are double action pistols with a light trigger pull. Whether this merits a standalone classification or not is a discussion for another time and/or internet forums. Or the comments section.

Obviously, striker-fired pistol designs are associated with Glocks. However, Glock did not invent them, nor the passive integrated trigger safety or polymer frame. Iver Johnson beat them to the punch regarding the trigger in the 1890s and the polymer-framed, striker-fired DAO H&K VP70 was released in 1970.

However, the Glock 17 made the design wildly popular, as the ease of use (and fantastic reliability) of Austria's biggest export since fried cutlets and Mozart showed everyone there was an easier way of doing things. Thus, they became one of the most popular things to carry besides a good gun belt.

Modern striker-fired pistols, such as the Glock 17, have a polymer frame with metal slide. This makes them durable, requiring less-frequent coats with oil to prevent rust. The polymer frame also makes them cheap to make. The gun-buying public likes them because they hold up well, shoot accurately, carry easily and are easy to learn to use safely and well. The gun making industry loves them for those reasons as well, but also because they are very profitable to sell to the gun-buying public.

Those are the benefits of a striker-fired pistol. Easy to use, easy to maintain and easy to carry.

Hammer-Fired Pistols Still Have Their Fans

hammer fire pistol for concealed carry

Hammer-fired pistols work a little differently. In semi-auto pistols, a hammer strikes the firing pin, which ignites the primer and thus discharges a round. Revolvers differ by design; some employ a firing pin between the hammer and the top cylinder and others have a hammer with a firing pin on the end of it.

In the case of semi-autos, the cycling of the slide re-cocks the hammer for the next shot. Double-action pistols can be fired with a long first trigger pull or cocked before firing as the case may be. Single-action semi-autos - such as the 1911 or Browning Hi Power - must be cocked or carried with the hammer cocked and a manual safety engaged, aka "cocked and locked" or alternately called "Condition One."

What is good about these firing systems vs striker fired?

Revolvers, of course, are incredibly simple. You get five or six shots in most of them, and you aim and start squeezing or - in case of a single-action revolver - start cocking and squeezing. Hammer-fired semi-autos, on the other hand, are fairly diverse.

The double-action auto mechanism is best suited to carrying in double-action mode, with a round chambered and the hammer down. You have a longer, harder DA trigger pull (8 to 10 lbs) and light, short single action pulls (4 to 6 lbs) thereafter. This acts as a passive safety mechanism, though negligent discharges have certainly happened.

Hammer-fired DA pistols come with a variety of control mechanisms. Some with a decocking lever only (Sig Sauers, some CZs) some with a decocking safety (Beretta, the old S&W autos) and others with a manual safety, including many CZ pistols and CZ clones. It's a bit more to learn than a passive trigger safety to be sure, but hardly impossible.

What do people like about them? The firing system is more complex, to be sure and some command a premium in purchase price. Many of these guns are also bigger and heavier than a striker-fired 9mm of the same (or sometimes greater) carrying capacity.

First is the feel. The old Wonder Nines and old single-action designs are ergonomically excellent. They point a little more naturally. Some people find they feel more like an extension of the hand than a poly-frame striker pistol. Second is how they shoot. The heft of an aluminum or steel frame soaks up recoil better so they're easy to shoot.

Many shooters also appreciate the trigger of the classic guns more. Striker pistol triggers are complained about often, as they are numb and gritty in many instances. The 1911 has long been hailed as having one of the best trigger designs available, which many shooters appreciate.

That said, don't get the impression that a CCW pistol of single- or double-action operation requires a stout gun belt and a lot of layers to conceal. Compact models - indeed, some subcompacts - are available. Light-weight/high-strength alloys reduce weight; some companies have even released models with polymer frames for a modern take on the DA pistol, such as CZ's P-07 and P-09 pistols or the Beretta PX4 Storm platform.

So, the hammer-fired guns have a bit better feel - according to some folks - but require a little more in terms of learning, though not too much. What does living with them or with striker-fired pistols entail?

Living With A Striker Fired Vs Hammer Fired Handgun

concealed carry pistols comparison

Now, about striker-fired vs hammer-fired pistols...which is easier to live with? Neither is incredibly difficult, but each presents certain challenges which you may or may not notice with either.

Striker-fired pistols typically are lighter (though not always by as much as one might think) and you can find more examples of a compact or subcompact size. Some are also a bit slimmer and more streamlined though not necessarily all of them. Therefore, the person looking for the slimmest and sleekest of carry pistols may find more striker-fired pistols to their liking.

That said, plenty of slim, easy-toting hammer-fired single- or double-action pistols are out there. Walther PPK/Bersa Thunder pistols are very easy to carry. An Officer frame 1911 pistol is eminently packable as well.

The longer, harder trigger pull of a DA pistol gives some people fits, as do the additional controls such as manual safeties that have to be learned. Granted, neither are difficult to become competent with and far too much has been made about them. Arthritis is the only thing that will keep you from being able to use a DA trigger and a few hours of training will get you a good foundation with working with the controls. Neither are terribly complicated.

One aspect in favor of the striker-fired pistols in the striker vs hammer debate is carrying inside the waistband. Some people find the hammer pokes them while carrying, which isn't pleasant. This can be overcome with a holster sweat shield, but some people find carrying them in this fashion uncomfortable. Your mileage may vary.

Much has also been made of the "Glock ND," or the supposed greater potential of an accidental/negligent discharge with a striker-fired pistol. This leads some people to stick with hammer-fired pistols exclusively. It's true that a passive trigger safety can lead to a possibility of a discharge if the trigger is snagged, but it's also true that good practices of gun safety and a bit of mindfulness will keep them from happening. After all, negligent discharges have happened with hammer-fired pistols as well.

Ultimately, what's best between striker-fired vs hammer-fired guns is what you prefer. Both have some good points, but what matters is which you prefer and are best with.

Sam Hoober  

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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