Double Action Pistols Series

In most violent encounters when a handgun is used in self-defense, the choice of handgun is not a significant factor in the outcome. Yep, you read that right. For all of the time and effort we spend on carefully selecting our tools for self-defense, the decision is not nearly as important in these scenarios as we’d like to think.

But that’s not to say it isn’t important at all. The gun we choose for self-defense has a huge impact on how we train, the techniques we learn, and the amount of enjoyment we get out of shooting (which, in turn tends to influence how often we practice). Our chosen firearm also plays a role in our vulnerability to accidents and other potential negative outcomes. After giving a lot of thought to these issues, I’ve recently decided to retire my much beloved striker-fired M&P pistols for serious self-defense use in favor of “old fashioned” hammer-fired double action pistols. I’ll be sharing more about the details of the specific guns I’m using in future videos. For now, here’s some more background on why I made the switch.

Why I Switched to Double Action Semi-Autos

Full video transcript below:

Last week, I gave a quick background on traditional double action single action pistols and why they aren’t as popular as they used to be. Today I’m going to talk about why none of that matters because they are still awesome.

A lot of the younger shooters of Gun Culture 2.0  have been raised on Glocks, but I actually started out shooting double actions. I grew up in the 80s and 90s with Martin Riggs and John McClane and the Beretta 92 was the trademark of the modern action hero. The first handgun I ever fired was a Beretta 92FS. So when I went to buy my first gun, I bought a double action Beretta.

Beretta 92FS

And I couldn’t shoot it at all. Like a lot of other people, I had a hard time with that double action trigger. So of course I sold it and bought… a different double action Beretta. And the next couple of pistols I bought after that were also double actions. I was kind of stubborn about it. All of this time I was gradually improving as a shooter, but I was still having a tough time with trigger control. So I went to a shooting class with a local instructor and asked him if he had any specific advice for shooting that double action trigger better. And his advice was to buy a 1911. I think he was only half serious, but he didn’t offer any other advice and he was pretty adamant that if you wanted to shoot to your full potential, you had to get a single action pistol.

Unfortunately, that experience is not unique. One of the biggest problems with mastering double action pistols is not so much that it’s really all that difficult, but there are just so many instructors out there who don’t know how to run these guns well and they give really bad advice.

Well, at the time, I couldn’t afford to start shooting .45 instead of 9mm, so I didn’t switch over to the 1911, but I did buy a striker fired pistol and I started practicing more regularly, and that’s when I started to see a lot of progress in my ability as a shooter.

So now several years down the road, it might seem strange that I have recently switched back to primarily shooting and carrying double action pistols. There’s a reason for it, and it goes back to the reason double action pistols were invented to begin with, and that is balancing shootability with safety. Traditional double action handguns offer more layers of safety compared to striker fired or single action pistols. I can’t really explain it any better than the late Todd Green, so I’m just going to quote a forum post of his from a few years back:

“[With] a trigger pull that is both longer and heavier than most other actions, there is far more tactile feedback that the trigger is being pulled in between the start of inadvertent unintentional movement and the Big Loud Noise. We’ve lost sight of this as a community with the prevalence of ever lighter and shorter striker fired action triggers and candidly I doubt we’ll see the pendulum swing back any time soon… The shooting community always blames the operator for every accident and never considers the role that equipment plays in making some guns more or less likely to facilitate those accidents.”

What that means is that if you mess up and get on the trigger too early — which happens a lot to people under stress — or if you think you need to shoot someone and then realize you don’t, the length of travel of the double action trigger gives you an extra split second to correct your course of action before you put a bullet somewhere it doesn’t belong.

Double action pistols are also safer when it comes to holstering the gun. This is probably the most dangerous thing we do with our handguns, and it’s when a lot of accidents happen. With a double action pistol, you can put your thumb on the hammer after you de-cock, and that way, it’s impossible for the gun to discharge if you accidentally leave your finger on the trigger or you get a strap or a piece of shirt caught in the trigger guard. And if you don’t remember to de-cock the gun or thumb the hammer, then you’re really just a pound or two of pressure away from where you’d be with a striker fired gun anyway.

But the advantages of traditional double action pistols aren’t just safety related. It’s also possible to reach a very high level of performance with these guns if you master the double action trigger. Once you get past that first shot, you’ve got a very short trigger reset and usually a really nice single action trigger that’s superior to just about any striker fired gun.

Now, I don’t want to ignore the shortcomings of double actions that I talked about last week.  It’s going to take a little more effort and practice to learn how to run one of these guns really well compared to a pistol that has fewer controls and a trigger that’s consistent from one shot to the next. So it’s not for everybody, but I can give you four factors that led to my decision to switch to double actions.

First, I carry in the appendix inside the waistband position, so if I do make a mistake when I’m re-holstering, my femoral artery is right there, and… that could be really bad. I use a safe re-holstering technique that greatly mitigates that risk, but I like the extra layer of safety I get from being able to ride the hammer with my thumb while I’m re-holstering.

Second, I do a lot of shooting. I’m at the range at least once a week and that comes out to thousands of repetitions in and out of the holster and each one of those is an opportunity to make a potentially fatal mistake. Again, the most common accidents at the range are a lot less likely with a traditional double action pistol.

Third, watching other people shoot has relieved me of any delusion that anyone’s gun handling is always 100% safe. I’ve taken over 300 hours of firearms training from more than 30 different instructors. I know that even experienced and well-trained people can occasionally slip up because I’ve seen them do it. And if they’re capable of getting a little get sloppy on a shooting range, then I’m sure I can do it under the stress of a deadly force encounter. And really, I know I can get careless every now and then because I’ve seen myself do stuff on video I have no recollection of doing. Things like getting my finger on the trigger a just little too early when the gun comes out of the holster. Using a pistol with a double action trigger is not a substitute for trying to correct that behavior, but it’s a good redundancy to have, especially when you consider that we’re often not aware of the stuff we might be doing that is unsafe.

Finally, I have a really low tolerance for bad triggers. Most factory triggers in striker fired guns are pretty terrible. I can shoot these pistols, but not nearly as well as I would like and really, I don’t know many shooters who are performing at a high level who leave their striker fired pistols completely stock, either. It’s really common to try to improve these guns with different aftermarket parts or custom work to try to make them more shootable. But it’s really hard to do that without compromising the guns in some way that makes them more susceptible to an unintentional discharge.

With a DA/SA gun, even if I get a really nice custom trigger, I still have the safety of the long length of travel on that first double action shot. I spent most of last year shooting revolvers, so that DA trigger was a natural thing for me to transition to, and that’s a big part of why I chose double action guns rather than a single action or striker fired gun with a manual thumb safety.

So before you head to the comments section, I hope I’ve made it clear that I’m not saying that you have to carry a double action pistol in order to be safe. I will continue to recommend and test and review striker fired pistols and other types of handguns. I’m just saying that the average armed person probably has not given enough thought to just how easy it might be for their gun to go bang when they didn’t intend for it to. It would be pretty hypocritical for you to carry a gun for the unlikely event that you need it to save your life, but then turn around and refuse to give any critical thought to the safety of your chosen firearm because you believe that you can beat the odds and never make a mistake.

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  • t_reese

    I totally agree with your reasoning. After carrying for both duty and just plain self defense for over 46 years, I have for a long time advised folks to find the type of weapon they are both competent and comfortable with carrying, no matter what type of action it may have.

  • James Brown

    CZ75 baby. Carry locked and cocked like those 1911 dweebs, but i got 17 rounds of hate on tap with a sweet single action first shot.

    • Kevin Graham

      totally agree with you James Brown ! CZ75 best DA/SA on the market !

    • disqus_al2dK5yBeS

      17 Love Taps of Joy.

  • Bryan

    While obviously we all have to find our own balancing point but one of the things most people simply overlook when switching pistols is this:

    Is what we’re changing making our actual gunfight harder, in order to make what happens during training or after the gunfight safer?

    If that is a yes I like to first ask, is there something we can do to solve the problem without making the actual gunfight less effective.

    Or simply, why will I make things harder for me when my life is on the line when I can just change my training to keep me safer when my life is not on the line?

    The answer for most is that they simply never actually believe they are going to get in a gunfight. It is all about training. Strange but true.

    • Fred Funk

      Bryan, interesting comments. Firstly, I am a Brit, therefore by rights should have no comment about pistols, however I do live here, in Virginia, married to an American lady. Formerly a British Parachute Regiment soldier I have spent the last twelve years in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia. All the top holiday destinations. Typically the contracts that I have been involved in have been start ups so we have been able to dictate from the outset the weapons platforms we wish to run. In just about all the projects I have overseen the senior guys, typically what you refer to as Tier 1 over here, both UK and US have gone for the Sig P226. It shoots straight, it is easy to fix and it is DA/SA. It’s not going to go ‘bang’ when you don’t want it to!! Everyone forgets that once the adrenalin get running one tends to get very strong very quickly. Finally, if you are at the stage where you are using a ‘short’ you are in a world of hurt!!

      • Bryan

        I suppose it also depends on what one believes. I was taught about Negligent and accidental discharges, back in the day when I was shooting Sig 226 and HK USP. Science and experience has shown that it happened and happens with DA/SA and revolver pistols. Holstering while in single action is another. Again, good training is needed no matter the platform.

        As a trainer I don’t need to worry about a Tier 1 person. They have sorted themselves out quite nicely. I do need to worry about the new person or average person trying to get to Tier 1 or even just trying to make the easy gains. It has been my experience that a striker is easier for them to learn on and fight with. And the dreaded Glock death trigger was just a training issue and the flood of ND/AD’s just didn’t happen. A consistent shot to shot trigger also makes fighting easier in my opinion.

        FYI, I’ve heard many of the U.S. SOG folks are moving to Glock. Magnitudes easier to maintain compared to a Sig or HK.

  • Fiftycal

    Don’t put your finger on the trigger until your sights are on the target and you are READY TO SHOOT. Also, the first shot out of a DA auto is a tossaway. The first handgun I bought was a Stoeger 22 Luger that jammed about every 3rd round. Don’t want another one. I’ll stick with my Glocks or 1911s as carry gunz.

    • retfed

      In real life, you have to answer for every shot you fire. The first round out of a DA auto may be a “tossaway” on the range, but try explaining that theory to a jury after your “tossaway” shot parked itself inside an innocent bystander to your lawful shooting.

    • pblanc

      First shot is a tossaway? No, only if you don’t know how to shoot a double action trigger. If that were true, every shot out of a double action only pistol or revolver would be a tossaway. I practice the DA/SA transition all the time and I find that with my double taps, I am often more accurate with the first DA shot than the second SA shot. It is true that I might be a bit slower and deliberate with that first DA shot with a traditional double action pistol than I am with a striker-fired pistol, but if I am every in a position where I have to aim my pistol at someone and decide if I have to pull the trigger, I would hope that I am deliberate.

  • retfed

    As an Old Revolver Cop (ORC), I don’t mind the long heavy trigger pull; it’s like an old friend, and I agree with you about the tactile feedback. The DA-to-SA transition doesn’t bother me, either, and I started shooting DA/SA pistols in 1976, with the Smith Model 59 (and quite a few better pistols since then). What gives me pause is the decocker. It’s awkward and hard to reach, and I’ve seen quite a few people holster a cocked pistol because they forgot to decock on the range. That scares me enough; what really scares me is the thought of someone (not me, of course; I’m wonderful) holstering a cocked pistol into an appendix holster with shaking hands after a for-real shooting. Personally, I prefer DAO or DAK autos for that reason (and for the consistent revolver-like trigger).

    If you prefer DA/SA, be my guest. It’s America, and you can do what you want, even if it’s wrong and stupid. (And it is. Ask any Glockophile or 1911-ite.)

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    I like DA/SA because I like having a SA trigger and I can do with a DA initial pull if I dont have time to cock the hammer first. Its not necessarily for the reasons listed in the above article; I just like hammer fired guns. That being said I prefer to carry cocked and locked if the option is available.

  • Rod De Leon

    When I was young and foolish, I sold off a nice West German Sig P226, including a 20-round factory magazine. That pistol was a tack driver. Running the trigger as fast as I could, I put 5 rounds into a poker-chip-sized hole from 5 yards any time I pleased, and that’s with the first DA shot. It was really pretty easy.

    I recently purchased a barely used Walther PPK/S in .22LR at a steep discount. I’ve always fancied the PP series, and at the price this gun was offered, I couldn’t walk away. As you know, the double action triggers on these guns are HEAVY (17.5+ lbs.), long, and as rough as 15 miles of bad road! While the following SA trigger is quite nice. This gun has become my favorite plinker, and I feel that if I can shoot this thing well, a Sig Sauer P229 Legion would be a piece of cake. That pistol might be a worthy replacement for my regrettably departed P226. Of course, for the price of the Legion, I could have 2 Glocks, 10 magazines, and a cup of coffee. But I still would rather have the Sig. I hate coffee…

  • Shanks

    I’m a fan of striker fired pistols, I own several Glocks and I’m a huge fan of the HK VP9. But my SHTF run into the woods gun is a Sig 226. You can’t beat that pistol in terms of accuracy, ruggedness and reliability. I also still have my 1984 vintage Beretta 92 and an old 1911. I can’t bear to part with them, and all have served me well in military, law enforcement and civilian applications. Maybe it’s my 1970’s/1980’s firearm upbringing, but those old slabs of steel still inspire confidence.

  • Gaston Garand

    I tend to agree, Chris. I’ve really come to love my S&W 6906 for the very reasons you mention, especially as a recent convert to appendix carry. Had the polymer striker-fired pistols not come along, I think the 3rd gen Smiths would be the dominant pistol. But maybe I’m biased.

  • RySNg

    I think a fantastic option for anyone that wants the advantages of both a DA/SA and a striker-fired system should consider trying out HK’s LEM/CDA trigger options. You can thumb the hammer while holstering, and you have a fairly long trigger travel (as long as a standard DA pull), while also having a nice, smooth 4.5 – 7.5 pound trigger pull, depending on the set of springs you’ve picked. Plus, there’s no safety or decocker to worry about. The only real weakness is that HK pistols tend to offer less capacity compared to the similarly sized guns.

  • Peter

    Adequate training and a cool head is the answer.
    If you always train and carry cocked and locked (or striker fired) you will have no problem if you always train and carry D/A you will learn it two. If you switch from one to the other every second day you will get into trouble. If you don’t train you will also get into trouble. That’s why the writer of this article makes himself sound fullish.

  • motoguzzi

    My complaint with DA/SA pistols is the safety/decocker manipulation is often awkward, although the newer decocker only pistols have addressed this.
    Also after shooting the pistol is left in the single action mode and re holstering after firing shots can be an issue, IIRC there were a few ND incidents with this type early on,
    Safety is important but there is a trade off, this is why “smart guns” face so much opposition.
    Training is the solution to nearly all issues.

    • I agree that safeties on DA guns are redundant and add unneeded complexity to their operation. Fortunately, they are the exception rather than the rule among modern DA pistols (with Beretta being the main holdout, and even they have increased the availability of their decocker only models). As for forgetting to decock, I don’t think the danger there is significantly greater than it is with most striker fired pistols. A revolver or DAO semi would provide the most safety, but even more training is needed in order to shoot those well, so either way it becomes a “training issue.” Other trigger systems like the HK LEM offer another alternative that some believe to be the best of both worlds, but that opens up a whole different debate…

  • Ranak

    After 10 years of carrying SA/Striker fired, moved to DAO for similar reasons. Fights are chaotic, and the point that changed my mind was how easy it is to Discharge an SA/Striker gun under stress. Civilian fights are generally escalated arguments or ambushes. I avoid the former by checking my ego in public. The latter is what I train for and seems to involve shooting from contact distances. The heavy pull is a little extra insurance if the gun gets dropped or grabbed and something snags the trigger. Basically, I want the trigger pull to be heavier than the gun, especially if it’s falling.

    Shot to shot accuracy/consistency can be mastered as with the other platforms. It is slightly slower, a trade off I’m willing to make.

  • I wouldn’t leave you hanging like that. Stay tuned…

  • Daniel O’Brien

    Yup. Pull bang. Each pull the same. My carry stable is S/W 940 9mm snub. Keltec PF9. And Sig P239 DAK.

  • BTLeek

    Another vote for the CZ compact series, if they weren’t so damn heavy. The half-cocked DA pull is not bad, and the SA is nice and crisp-usually.
    That said I prefer the 1911, or a DA revolver. I like the idea that each pull is the same. And with either of those two options, the chance of a ND is pretty low.

    • Robert Kollman

      the P-01 is the same dimesions as the 75compact but has an aluminum frame, there’s also the p07 and p-09 in polymer.

  • Mikial

    Interesting perspective. I’m old enough that my first handgun was a Ruger Security Six revolver in .357. So let’s talk about double action.

    My wife loves her Beretta 92 and i think it is a solid, reliable and safe gun for EDC. It’s a DA/SA. She uses the de-cocker to safe the weapon, then takes the safety off and carries it in DA. It’s a great gun and she is very good with it.

    As for me, i carry a G21 in condition red and that’s how I like it.

  • camdogify

    Nice argument for DAO. Generally, I prefer DA and SA revolvers over autos, but for home defense I have three .45 AUTOS and a .38 Spl. snub. A 1911 graces my shop, then a S&W 4586, M&P DAO, Sig P250 and a snubbie are stationed throughout my house.

    I’m used to shooting a variety of firearms and shooting a handgun with a consistently smooth DAO is my sweet spot. No fumbling for safeties or de-cockers, just point and squeeze.

    Local LEOs have had several NDs as of late. One shot himself in the leg at the range while drawing on target, a local sheriff shot himself in the hand while in the process of cleaning his pistol at home and another officer shot at a dog, slipped on the ice, then managed to shoot a woman through the heart as he fell. Common denominator? Combat Tupperware with staplegun triggers.

  • JohnH

    Great series, Chris! It covers exactly the reasons I prefer DA/SA. I started with DA/SA, switched to striker, and recently returned to DA/SA myself. One thing I think that needs to be addressed is the absence of single-stack DA/SA’s on the market. IMO, that is one of the biggest things hurting the popularity of DA/SA’s. While Shields, XDS’s, and G42/43’s are flying off the shelves, no new single-stack DA/SA’s have hit the market that I am aware of. The pickings are slim. So here I am still packing a Bersa Thunder 380 and wishing there was a pistol like it available in 9mm…

    • Yes, there is a significant gap in the market there. The closest you’re going to get for now is the Sig P239 or the discontinued S&W 3913 and 3914.

  • Bryan

    I’ve been for awhile been looking for what action of an autoloader I would want for myself. Having been a da revolver guy I’ve given da/sa a good long look; I’ve tried sigs and that initial trigger pull is just a tad long; it fits the wife’s longer fingers well though (shooting a friend’s Sig p226). I think with practice I could work this platform. Chris, for your da/sa ‘s, do you stage the trigger in double action mode or do you just try to pull it back in one smooth motion? I tend to stage my double action pull. I’ve also tried another buddies pf9 and just couldn’t get over the trigger (others complain of it’s kick but it’s true problem is that weird trigger – where does it break). Perhaps I didn’t shoot it enough.

  • Bob Friske

    I thought I was the only one that was thinking SA/DA Auto’s. Been carrying Glock’s since 1996, but have always added a NY-1 trigger spring to make it more secure. Actually many LE Agencies have done what I have done, even NYPD uses the NY-2 trigger spring. So, I went out today and bought a Beretta PX4 Storm Compact (F model) in 9mm — I know some have had issues with this particular pistol, but I thought I would give this Beretta a shot.

  • Vinny

    If you’re looking for a sub-compact DA/SA consider a 9mm CZ 2075 RAMI BD at only 25.5 oz. with 10 and 14 round mags is 4
    oz. lighter than the Sig P239. Similar length and height as an M&P
    Shield. Sure, it’s 6.5 oz heavier (unloaded) than Shield but it’s all
    alloy and steel and can carry almost twice the rounds. CZ reliability
    and accuracy. Comes with Tritium night sights, two mags 10 and 14 (or 2 10’s), nice sculpted rubber grips and it’s slim 1.25″
    overall feels just slightly wider than a single stack. Easy to thumb the decock lever for DA/SA without changing your grip. At just over
    $600 NIB -IMHO, it’s a deal….if you can find one. Just say’in.

    • Fritz609

      Or maybe a P99c? Even lighter and as reliable as the rami.

      • Vinny

        Good suggestion Fritz. Another good compact DA/SA option. I’ve never run a Walther P99, but it seems like a good reliable platform available DA/SA or DAO. The Walther also has more customization available. However, I do prefer the Tritium night sights that come stock on the RAMI, but I assume tritium sights are available for the P99 aftermarket.

        • Fritz609

          Definitely Aftermarket only unfortunately. I barely see the gun itself In stores.

    • Robert Kollman

      the 9mm rami’s are ok I have a .40 Rami that I do not like at all. I’ve always been a fan of Cz’s but the Rami is not for me. you should try a CZ P-01 300% better.

      • Vinny

        Robert, the P-01 is a great choice for a compact lightweight DA/SA. I also recently acquired a P-01 and I’m fitting it now with night sights. CZ’s RAMI, P-01, PCR all function similarly with the easily thumbed decocker. It becomes a matter of personal choice.The RAMI being a slightly smaller sub-compact may not suit you especially in 40 S&W, and because of the shorter barrel will go through recoil springs every + or – 1,000 rounds. I think I’ll also be very happy with the P-01, and unlike the RAMI and PCR it has the mounting rail underneath. Thanks

  • steve5656546346

    A good presentation! I’ve always had a problem with the transition, and have preferred SAO, but the points are well taken!

  • Joel

    Chris, great video. Really.

    One question. You mention the added level of safety with a longer trigger pull. I agree with one caveat, namely: All other things being equal.

    Now, about those other things…

    Don’t you think that due to the long DA trigger pull, many DA enthusiasts begin their trigger manipulation earlier in the draw stroke or do it more aggressively? I have seen still from videos in which DA/SA enthusiasts are doing press outs and are engaging their triggers before their sights are on target. This method seems more “needed” when a very long DA pull is part of the system. In other words, an SA or even striker guy can begin working the trigger a little later in his stroke. Later means when the pistol is in a safer position.

  • scoutriflethebestdog

    While I understand the ‘heavier trigger gives a bigger safety margin, and poop happens’ argument, there is a large part of me that believes if all that stands between you and an ND is an extra 3# of trigger, the problem isn’t really solved by going to a DA. Pedantic? I don’t know, but if your finger is on the trigger when you don’t want to shoot, I’d argue you’re not really safe with a firearm at all.

  • Tin Man

    I have to agree with Chris. Shooting involves many repetitive motions over long periods of time, and we are not machines. Small personal protection handguns like the Ruger LCP even forego a mechanical safety entirely for the security provided by that loooong first trigger pull, and the reaction-time benefit of carrying the weapon ready to fire with no safety to disengage; and while SA trigger pulls are certainly more accurate, at the close range of most self-defense encounters, a DA pull to get the ball rolling doesn’t seem too much of a compromise.

  • Goodguy

    Thank you for this review as it serves to help educate the civilian owner/operator of modern handguns. Information such as this is extremely relevant to the current state of handgun education and pistol combatives in the USA. You are correct in your assertion that the striker-fired pistol ‘mindset’ has taken over far too many schools, and in my opinion a few of these schools are teaching bad tactics, providing false confidence and promoting unsafe behavior. Try finding a school that will teach mature and responsible kids (yes they do exist), the very folks who need to learn to love and excel at shooting, and to shoot well under simulated stress. That’s what led me to ‘go back to school’ and search for a place for my son to learn, while I could both supervise and ‘refresh’ my skills. The first pistol I ever touched was my dad’s vet-bring-back Walther P38. Love at first pull. I was just a kid, but could not resist taking it apart and put it back together, every pin and screw – completely, in order to see how such an amazing thing worked, but I digress…

    The school we decided on was what I now refer to as an SFOP (striker-fired-only-preferred) group of folks. My son and I attended more than a dozen training courses at this school during a 2-plus year period, as it was touted as not a ‘square range,’ and also was the closest range to our home (more than an hour away) where we could learn and practice what we thought would be more ‘real world’ defensive gun use. The primary instructor was a former fill-in-the-blank military operator with a mile-long resume from a private security/gov. agency training group. Apparently there are a-lot of these schools now, with so many vets (some qualified and some NOT) looking to put up a shingle and start a shooting school for civilians.

    We were told we could bring any safe/reliable handgun that we wanted to the courses, but quickly came to realize that almost all of this school’s ‘former military’ range safety officers: 1. only used Glocks; 2. only shot 9mm and; 3. were not familiar with or accepting of DA/SA or DAO handguns. The first course we took I chose to use my Kimber 45, and lost track of the number of times an RSO felt compelled to tell me ‘Safety On!’ even though my safety had been placed on immediately every time prior to re-holstering or moving. I would frequently have to stop during a drill and show him my safety was on. It was irritating at first as I questioned, “Did I forget to place my safety on? Nope” and then quickly became frustratingly comical as I realized that the instructor was going to continue berating me in this needless manner for the rest of the day. I finally began saying aloud “Safety On” every time I would place the safety on, just to placate him.

    At the next course I brought my old Sig 229 (DA/SA with decocker). And, you guessed it, “Decock!” became the new rant, even though I was automatically decocking every time I reholstered, went to SUL or moved. I don’t think he had ever fired a Sig in his life, and when he witnessed how well I could shoot it, he circled everyone up and proceeded to tell all the students how the Glock was the best fighting handgun of all time because it was made from space-age polymer and had a ‘safe action.’

    For the third course I brought my FNX45 tactical, which of course is polymer/steel DA/SA with an external safety AND decocker which allows it to be carried cocked and locked. As I surmised, the RSO/instructors had no idea what to do with me or my handgun. For that course I had to both put the safety on AND decock all day long. However when I returned for the fourth course with the same FNX I was told that they had done some ‘research,’ and determined I could re-holster cocked and locked. Geniuses. They really did not know what to do later that day when they witnessed a hammer-fired, DA/SA pistol make 4 out of 5 ‘A’ zone hits at 100 yards…apparently that had never been done at the school.

    Towards the end of our second and last year taking courses my son (who exclusively trained with a striker fired pistol) and I witnessed several things that made us question patronizing the school further. One such incident was at an ‘advanced’ course where all of the students were told that the school had decided everyone would now have to carry ‘condition 3′ at all times (no events would begin in condition 4), and subsequently need to re-learn to chamber the first round as part of the draw. Previously we had usually been required to unload and show clear’ prior to reholstering, but had at times been instructed and allowed to both reholster and begin a timed event from the holster in condition 4. We found this new 100%-of-the-time requirement odd, and wondered if there had been some sort of ND on a prior course which caused the school to adopt the new policy. Watching students begin a timed tactical event, forget to chamber and go ‘CLICK,’ and then rack to engage became true entertainment that day, but this also became our final training with the school.

    Before leaving that day I decided to ask several other students if their EDC Glocks were always carried condition 3, because I could not believe that someone would choose to carry into the unkonwn this way, and yes I know that ‘Israeli secret agents’ do this, yada yada yada. This went against all of the prior training we had received at the school, and I personally had never, in over 30 years carrying a handgun for personal defense, purposefully carried anything in condition 3. I asked the first student and received a blank stare, as if he had taken a blood oath not to say. Another student overheard our brief conversation and decided to defend the school’s policy and criticize me for having so many different types of handguns that I, “would likely fail to be able to use them in a ‘real gunfight.'” I then slowly and carefully withdrew my ‘Recluse’ wallet holster from my back pocket and showed him the contents – a Covert Rohrbaugh 9S and one spare, loaded magazine. “And what is that little thing? he smurked” Well I call this ‘little thing’ the game ender. It is the smallest 9mm pistol ever made, in buttery-smooth, short-stroke DAO, with no safety, no slide release, no real sights, no sharp edges to snag on anything, and designed to be carried in condition 4. And I bet you that in a CQC stress encounter where I to choose to use lethal force to lawfully defend myself or others that I can magically produce it from nowhere, and fire it accurately and repeatedly faster than you can release the retention on your plastic holster, unholster your glock, chamber that ‘dangerous’ first round, acquire a good sight picture and, well, by then? …. That was our last course at the school.

  • Robert Kollman

    I pretty much share your sentiments but another reason a lot of people carry striker fired is the weight since most da/sa guns are all steel this is why personally I have come to love CZ pistols like the p-01 as they are da/sa but also pretty light since the have an aluminum frame. they also make good polymer da/sa’s as well.

  • larryjrmarlyn

    Excellent video. Beretta’s 92FS and Px4 Storm series are excellent pistols. They’re my choice among semi-autos and I come from a revolver background.

  • Jeff

    I completely agree with this article. I wish a quality manufacturer would see that there is a hole in the market for a slim polymer (or not) single stack sa/da 9mm.

  • Ro Gal

    Wonderful article/video on a topic that is so key when using a pistol for any reason but especially in stressful situations. Thanks for sharing such wise words. I currently use a S&W SD9 which despite being a striker fired pistol, has quite a bit of trigger travel compared to Glocks. The poor S&W clones took a lot of heat for their triggers, even the earlier versions of Sigma series , although they relly were gritty too. However, must say I really enjoyed the LG article on the 3rd Gen S&W pistols. Just love my model 915 and 6906, the best of both worlds with DA start and SA finish.

  • Craig

    Much has changed, over time. When I first started shooting competition, it was open sights only. With the influx of big money and poor talent, scopes have replaced open sights. Now any average shooter with the huge magazine race guns (and the courses slanted in favor of large magazines, punishing reloads) can manage a decent score.
    I shot at one of the last International three-gun world championships where no scopes were allowed. I placed third. I also noted that at several of the matches I participated in, over the last ten years, ammo was not drawn from your magazines to check for power factor. Money talks, talent walks.
    Like all things, competition shooting started out with honorable intentions. Money has pushed those intentions to the side.
    Race guns are in no way comparable to stock guns in competition and the current course makeup.