Thursday, October 15, 2015

First Gun: Gun "Action" Speaks Louder Than Words

I was in a gun store the other day waiting for the owner to check a shipment to see if some of my parts came in. I was standing there looking at the pretty Kimbers that were in the counter in front of me and I overheard a young couple at the other end of the counter clearly buying their first gun. As I listened as the clerk was trying to explain the difference between a hammer fired and striker fired and then jump into single action, double action, and then even the double action/single action guns that are available I could see he lost them at “hammer fired”. The owner came back, gave me my parts and then I watched him professionally take this couple through the actions in laymen’s terms. I thought that maybe it would be advantageous to review these actions and their triggers.
Hammer fired
The hammer is the thing that is pulled back and cocked on an autoloader or a revolver. The trigger releases the hammer that strikes the firing pin, igniting the cartridge sending the bullet downrange. For instance a 1911 or the old Colt .45 is a hammer fired weapon.

Striker fired
Striker fired guns have no hammer and really no firing pin. They do have a striker that is under spring tension. The advantage is there is nothing externally to impeded drawing or firing the weapon. Most striker fired guns have no safety which makes some uneasy. To be honest safeties can be more of a problem than they are safe. Striker guns have internal safeties that prevent the striker from moving until the trigger is fully depressed. These guns are very safe in spite of having no external safety. Many people love the consistent manageable trigger pull.
I’ve heard some salesman say “You can chamber a round, throw the gun down and play hockey with it, and it will not go off until the trigger is pulled.”
Revolvers (single action/double action)
The terms “double-action” and “single-action” refer to the job performed by the trigger. An SA trigger performs a single task: It releases the hammer (which, in a traditional revolver, is cocked by your thumb). A DA trigger performs two tasks: It cocks and releases the hammer. Typically, a DA trigger is harder to pull because it has more work to do. Shooters with small or weak hands can struggle with the heavier trigger pull. Because of this, it is wise to test the pull before you buy.
There are striker fired revolvers too.
Single action auto loaders
John Browning’s still-wildly-popular 1911 has a comfortable SA trigger pull, but the backward/forward motion of the slide automatically re-cocks the hammer after you shoot. Thus, once you chamber your first round, you simply pull the trigger until the magazine is empty. Many people—especially new shooters—like the idea of a manual safety because it appears to offer better protection against unintentional discharges. Likewise, in a high-stress situation, you need relatively little strength to depress an SA trigger.
Double action only
A double-action-only (DAO) semi-automatic—not to be confused with double-action/single-action (DA/SA)—is similar to its DA revolver cousin. The trigger both cocks and releases the hammer or striker, but there is no SA option if you don’t like the heavy pull. Fans of DAO guns say they value the consistent trigger pull, not unlike the SA models, albeit heavier. Internet chat rooms are rife with shooters who prefer DAO to DA/SA because they believe accuracy is harmed when you switch from heavy to light trigger pulls.
You will find someone who likes any one of these type weapons or select types. I think there are advantages to all but prefer a particular combination. I’m not here to talk about what I like but to allow you to see what is available out the in gun world. I love guns. If you were to give me a gun with my least favorite features I would not gripe if I got to shoot it.
All Capable
Is this all a little confusing? It can be. The best way for you to understand is to go to the range with these guns and shoot them.
So now that you’ve heard “a little action,” you can decide what to do with this knowledge. Whether you opt for an SA, DA, DAO, DA/SA or striker-fired handgun, take time before you buy to shoot the gun you will trust your life to. With all these options, you should be able to find one that suits your needs perfectly, and that you are comfortable operating. You will unknowingly make many life-and-death decisions during your stay on earth. This is one you can actually have some control over. Choose wisely my friend.
Semper Paratus
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