Are Double Action Triggers Obsolete?

Back in the days when I was growing up, watching Miami Vice and reruns of Starsky and Hutch, SWAT, Hawaii Five-O and other classic TV police shows, I was always amazed as to how the cops would win the majority of their gun fights. Of course, they were the good guys and if you’re the TV star of the show, your marksmanship was 100%, even with that long ass double action trigger pull. Fast forward to the 90s and all the big time action movies, like James Bond, Way of the Gun, Die hard, The Matrix, just to name a few, all glamorized the double action hammer style pistols (as well as some popular single action pistol).

But what did I know about guns really back then? What do I really know about guns now? Nothing really. I still don’t consider myself an expert on that topic. However, I did come across an article that was posted a few months ago, in which I felt that the author got it 100% completely wrong.

I wished I had saved that article, but it was from a “firearms school” that stated that the double action pistols, namely the triggers, are useless and they only prefer to teach their students on striker fired pistols. Considering the market nowadays with the influx of striker fired pistols, I can see why the trigger on double action pistols might seem useless or obsolete.

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All About The Trigger

Without getting into the complicated comparison of a striker fired pistol inner workings; for most people, in general, prefer the striker fired pistol because it provides a “consistent” trigger pull. They claim that’s the only real “advantage” for using a striker fired pistols. But then again, if it’s all about having that “consistent” trigger pull, then just get a double action only hammer pistol. Sure it’s heavier, but its the same concept to that consistent striker fired pistol right?

Another factor is that most striker fired pistols, like the Glock and M&P pistols have an advantage with their aftermarket trigger upgrades. So instead of that 6-8lbs trigger pull, you can get it even lighter.

So what does this all mean? Does it mean that having a lighter trigger is better than a heavier trigger?

I never once fired a gun where the trigger weight would change everyday or with every pull or be inconsistent to what it was designed to do. In fact, my 10lb trigger is always going to be a 10lb trigger. The whole statement of having a consistent trigger pull is really flawed. Rather those people just really need to learn how to develop their hand and wrist muscle.

Unmasking The Symptoms

First off, fundamentals are fundamentals. If you followed the standard seven fundamentals of marksmanship, then you know no where in those steps does it say having a lighter trigger is part of it. The issue I see here is that the shooter who is not hitting the target is very likely not following the fundamentals.

Sure, having a really nice and light trigger will help, but that’s only if you have a strong grasp of your fundamentals. If you don’t, then the only thing that light ass trigger will be doing is amplifying your poor marksmanship.

The problem that I see in both the competition world and in the tactical classes, is that lighter triggers are useless to new shooters, even for some of the experienced shooters. But yet I have to ask, why are you missing or why is your groupings spread out like 5 inches for a 7 yard distance?

How does having a lighter trigger any better than switching to a smaller caliber? You’re not really gaining anything other than more frustration from the shooter. Ideally, you are better off learning to shoot with a 22LR pistol that will let you focus more on the fundamentals than to start off with a 45 or a 9 and fight your way into learning your fundamentals using a lighter trigger. (Which by the way, will inevitably give you bigger problems should you ever have to use a stock service pistol. So fix your fundamentals first!)

What I really see from these people is that they are using the lighter trigger as a crutch to mask their deficiency and their inability to apply proper trigger control.

I’ve learned in my short time behind the trigger is that it’s not really about the gear. It’s really about you and your skills. Anyone can shoot fast with a lighter trigger, which doesn’t necessarily translate to easily putting hits on target. So why not train to a harder level so that you will never hope you can rise to the occasion during a crisis but instead you can ultimately rely on your solid training?

While other one-dimensional, one-trick pony “instructors” will say that the “learning curve is way too difficult to teach” or some other bullshit, all those negative statements really say is that these instructors themselves are probably people you want to stay away from. If anything, they more than likely do not have the mindset or the aptitude to teach you, me or any else how to be a better shooter. (Basically they are also saying they only want students with striker fired pistols. No to the revolvers. No to the hammer styled pistols. Good luck staying competitive in the already saturated market.)

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Double Your Action

Speaking from my experience, I started out using a double action pistol. I trained with it for at least two years before I started using striker fired pistols. Even now, I still find myself switching back to and from the hammer styled firearms as well. To be honest, I enjoyed both.

During my time when I was learning with that double action pistol, I hated it. I hated it only because I was not capable of hitting my targets. I hated it because it made me afraid to carry it on a daily basis because I didn’t have confidence in my own ability. But as I gained more experience and applied more of the fundamentals over the time I was on that gun, I actually learned quite a lot. I learned all the nuisance of that pistol. That whole notion of getting the “surprise pop” when pulling the trigger is really silly.

If you have a double action pistol or any pistol, then it’s really about understanding it’s “break”. (I’m referring to the point of knowing when the hammer will be released from the spring tension to strike the firing pin.) It’s about knowing how to stage the hammer just before it goes “bang”. In essence, you are mastering the timing of your trigger. This where dry fire and practice comes in, as its a vital training tool that will teach you to better understand your own firearms. The best analogy for me to compare this to is learning to drive manual transmission cars then switching over automatic transmission.

Anyone who has driven stick, knows their own car very well. Or at least knows when it’s time to shift gears. When I started driving stick, I was always looking at the RPM gauge to see when I had to shift. But my old man told me to just feel it in the engine. The engine will tell you when its time to shift, otherwise you’ll stall out or severely damage your transmission.

And that’s kind of like the same thing about learning on a double action pistol. You have to learn to know when your trigger press will “break”.

Most double action has a long trigger pull or a heavy trigger or both. So whether you’re using a double action semi-auto pistol or a double action revolver, the trigger on those will be consistent each and every time. Its just a question of how strong is your puny nose picking butt scratching finger is to make that trigger break every time.

The payoff is that once you are applying proper fundamentals on the double action trigger, it will translate to your striker fired pistol. When I made the switch to the striker fired pistol, I saw that my marksmanship and speed improved quite a lot; to which I attribute that to my training time with the double action pistol.

On a side note, its also interesting to see some of these striker fired pistol only shooters go to a hammer fired double action gun, in which their marksmanship is greatly degraded. Of course, you can tell the shitty shooter from the good ones because they will blame the trigger as to being crappy.

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Operational Purpose

“Saying that they’re [striker fired pistol] easier to shoot and easier to master makes a case that the 1911 is the best pistol out there. It is the easiest and most forgiving pistol to shoot. Meaning you can make a lot of trigger mistakes and still get hits on target. It can be extremely accurate even in the hands of a less experienced shooter. It’s not that hard to remember to flip safety on before holstering. That’s a matter of training.” – Unknown

I found that quote somewhere online and to be fair, the 1911 is a single action pistol, so it’s not a good comparison, but it sure does have that “consistent” trigger pull. However, I’m not going to go into the specifics why the trigger on the 1911 is pretty damn awesome, but in all fairness, hammer styled guns are much more forgiving than the striker fired.

Over the course of several classes, I’ve witnessed a lot of striker fried pistols frequently getting jammed or experiencing some type of malfunctions. Barring from other factors, like bad ammo, or modified hardware, this mainly happened a lot in the beginner’s course where the shooter was “limp wristing” the pistol. I’ve tested this out on both types of pistol and my hammer pistol have yet experienced the same malfunctions when I “limp” it on the grip.

Another thing I’ve often saw were light primer strikes, in which the other students would tell me that the ammo is crap. That is, until I load that same ammo they just threw out into my heavy ass double action pistol and fired that bad ammo with ease. Good thing that fat ass heavy spring in my gun works out a lot!

Regardless of what equipment you are using, it’s always going to be dependent on your mindset and attitude to putting in the effort to correctly learning and mastering that particular life saving gear. If your instructor tells you otherwise, ask for a refund and leave; cause all he/she is doing is imparting you with bullshit advices that might get you hurt or killed. And I’m also pretty sure, most new shooters won’t know the difference between a good trigger or a bad trigger, unless someone mind fucks them into thinking they suck “because of their trigger”.

So let’s be honest here. I have yet met or spoke to someone in an OIS (officer involved shooting) that wasn’t more concern about taking down the bad guys, worrying if there are additional threats they needed to deal with and making sure their partner is still breathing.

I seriously doubt that last thing that goes through their mind was “damn I wish I had a lighter trigger.”