Traditional Double Action

Or as Jeff Cooper called it, “An answer in search of question.” That notwithstanding, I actually prefer traditional double-action pistols to their single-action counterparts. That’s right, I would rather have the trigger set up that you find on an M9 than I would on a 1911. I’m not sure what it is, but I just prefer that first shot come from the long rolling double action stroke. It might be the amount of time I’ve spent shooting revolvers, or the silly amount of trigger time I spent with an M9, but not matter which you slice it, I like DA/SA triggers.

I don’t have anything against a single action trigger, mind you. They’re great for competition, and I certainly wouldn’t want a DA/SA trigger on my target .22s. Despite my knowledge that they’re perfectly safe when carried properly, there is a small part of me that gets nervous around cocked and lock firearms. Additionally, I dislike safeties, which are essentially mandated by carrying cocked and locked with a single action. I would much rather have the hammer down on a live round with the safety off than single action cocked and locked. Again though, this could simply be a case of familiarity.

If you carry a traditional double action pistol, that first shot is important. It has got the longest trigger pull you’ll find, and of course from a tactical standpoint it is rather important that your first shot land where you’d like it to go. My favorite drill for this is to draw (or go from low-ready) and acquire the sight picture while pressing through the double action stroke. Fire one shot; decock the pistol to return to double action mode and go again. Back when I was 19 and shooting for the Coast Guard, I would occasionally shoot tighter groups during double-action practice than I would during regular fire.

With that and my love of revolvers in mind, you might expect that I’d like Double Action Only semi-auto pistols. Honestly, I don’t. Those really are an answer searching for a question. I can’t quite figure out why I’d have a gun with a worse trigger than any of my revolvers and the same magazine capacity as my DA/SA pistols. I will say that I exclude the Para-Ord Light Double Action from this group, because that trigger is so good it’s almost sickening.

My all time favorite DA/SA pistol, despite my deep and abiding love for the M9 Beretta, is actually the Walther P38 and P1, used as the primary sidearm of the German (and West German) Army until 1990, when the P1s were finally phased out in favor of (I believe) a Heckler & Koch sidearm. The best thing about the P1/P38 designs is that it’s a single stack, and the grip is just the perfect size for my hand.

The last thought I’ll leave with you on DA/SA pistols should be familiar to my four readers: practice practice practice. If your carry gun is DA/SA, shoot it often and learn to get that first shot out accurately.