I’ve had a couple of people ask why I get so passionate about the whole “shooting DA revolvers in single action mode” issue. And at times I’ve overstated my case a bit; but I’ve also written multiple posts on the issue, had an article published about it, and generally speaking I actually do care quite a bit about it. With that much brain sweat invested in an idea, the natural progression is for the idea to evolve and grow as I encounter new theories.
The central thesis of the “shoot it DA” line of reasoning is as follows: If you cannot effectively manage the double action trigger on a defensive revolver to the point where you need to shoot it single action, you should get a different gun. It actually ties neatly in with my theory that snub nosed guns are not ideal for new shooters, specifically because of the heavy trigger pulls and short sight radius.
The reason that you should be able to manage the DA trigger on a defensive revolver effectively is because it is the fastest and most efficient way to get the revolver in to action in a dynamic critical incident. This is where the proponents of the simplicity of the revolver are 100% correct – there is no easier weapon to learn the manual of arms and to administratively load and unload than a DA revolver. Similarly, it’s a very easy weapon to get in to action; with no manual safeties to disengage, it’s just a matter of pulling the DA trigger to the rear and watching the sight.
Using the SA mode on a DA revolver is slower, and if for no reason other than that it should be avoided. But as I said in my CCM article, it also creates a bad “training path” in your mind. If the balloon goes up and you’re armed with a snub nosed wheelie, odds are you’re going to shoot it double action. Since you’re responsible for every bullet that leaves your muzzle, you want to be as proficient a shooter with that DA trigger as possible. If you’re sitting there thinking “what if I have a tight shot or something, should I go single action then?” No, if you’re anticipating making tight shots under pressure, I’d suggest practicing DA on low probability targets, like a 3×5 index card at 15 yards.
Now, previously I’ve said you should never shoot any DA revolver single action. I retract that statement. It has been pointed out to me that a Smith & Wesson 617 (the K frame .22) is a phenomenal teaching tool for new shooters, and is really easy to manage in single action. That’s cool, shoot that SA because it’s not a defensive revolver. Same goes for hunting guns; most of which will be shot single action in the field. Although if you’re carrying a Ruger Alaskan as a bear deterrent, I’d suggest getting good at DA shooting while running away.
Of course, the final reason I say to shoot it DA is because if you can run a DA revolver trigger, you can run any trigger on earth. After a couple thousand rounds through a DA revolver, a Glock trigger won’t seem so bad any more.