Where I disagree with a dude smarter than me

In Thursday’s Tactical Wire (03/06/2014) Tiger McKee is talking about mastering the revolver trigger. It’s a very good article, so I’ve linked it. However, there’s one thing Tiger says that I just don’t get, and I want someone to explain this to me:

You should not be walking ’round inside your home in the middle of the night with the hammer cocked. However, having said that, there have been and will be situations when the solution is to fire in single-action so it is something that should be practiced. (emphasis added)

WHEN? Seriously, this is something that drives me nuts, because every person who says that I shouldn’t bob the hammers on my guns brings this up. But no one has ever presented a situation where using the SA function on a defensive revolver is a better idea than practicing with the DA function.

caleb and chris shooting the j-frame

So, let’s see when you’d want to use the SA function: you have to make a tight, precision shot on a partial target? Okay, so why not practice tough shots in DA mode so when the time comes you don’t have to cock the gun? Or learn to stage the trigger for those really tough shots? I seriously don’t get it.

Am I just out to lunch here? I mean, in matches (which I know aren’t the real dynamic operations of the streets) I make tough shots all the time in DA mode. So does every other serious revolver shooter. If I had to take a shot “for realsies” with a revolver, I’d take it DA. So maybe someone can explain to me what these super-secret situations are where you’d be better off shooting single action? Practicing DA mode so you don’t need to use SA for tough shots seems like a much better solution.

But then again, I’m just a competition shooter, so I don’t know anything about real fighting as done by warriors. Also, please don’t take anything in this article as disparaging Tiger McKee, I think he’s a rad bro and would totally take a class from him. I just don’t understand the whole “you might need SA so you should practice it” comment.


  1. “Practicing DA mode so you don’t need to use SA for tough shots seems like a much better solution.”

    Those PPC guys sure could shoot revolvers, and I don’t see any hammer spurs on their guns.

  2. Don’t know what McKee was thinking about but I can imagine one some what far fetched scenario.

    You are behind cover and are being fired on by a rifleman 200 yards away. All you have is a 4″ GP-100. You want to return fire in hope of hitting or at least rattling your assailant. You’d probably want to cock that hammer.

      1. If you can hit as well at 200 yards with DA as you could with SA there’s no need to change. I can’t, maybe you can, but there’s got to be a reason AR-10 heavy barrels and Barretts don’t come with DAO triggers.

  3. You said it yesterday Caleb: “people are different” there needs to be no other explanation for our choices. I personally would rather do double action in a home invasion scenario. With adrenalin rush taking place, middle of the night rude awakening, the DA mode might prevent a false or unwanted firing.

  4. I think being 200 yards away from a rifleman, as a civilian I would just run in a zigzag. I do have a question though, With your interest in revolvers, why the distaste for a DAO semi auto like the DAK SIG or LEM HK’s? I suspect you’d be able to shoot them fairly well having that familiarity with the trigger type.

    1. The DAK trigger is just awful. The HK LEM is actually pretty good, and comparable to a decent revo trigger.

    2. “I think being 200 yards away from a rifleman, as a civilian I would just run in a zigzag.”

      That may or may not work. I’d rather try shooting them first. Most people think of handguns as fast and furious within twenty or thirty feet. They have no idea what is possible with a good magnum revolver and trigger at long range because they’ve never tried.

  5. Michael Bane was talking about this recently on his podcast in reference to the LCRx. I’m not a revo shooter, so I’m not sure where I stand on the issue.

    I guess I’ve never seen anyone at a match wince about taking a tough first shot with a DA/SA auto, or a revolver.

  6. I guess the real question is if there is an exsisting function on a firearm you do not use. Ever. Period. Then why would you buy that firearm? “I hate SA/DA semi autos!” “They actually have an SA mode!” Umm then dont use or buy one, simple.

  7. If the assailant kept popping up from cover prairie dog style, SA might be a benefit. Beyond that I don’t know. I tried my hand at Bullseye this winter and tried shooting the slow fire in SA. I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. Switched back to DA and things went better.

  8. Tiger is a good dude, but I can’t hang with him here either. I am as mystified as you on this one Caleb. With training (ah yes, that is always needed) double action can be used effectively for fine shots. Going to a single stage trigger that you are not familiar with seems to be a bad idea for any situation. How often does anyone actually practice in single action with a double action revolver? I sure don’t.

  9. Just to quibble — I don’t advocate leaving some hammer spur in place so you can thumb cock and go SA — I advocate leaving enough spur in place to ensure good retention of a thumb break (since ALL of the concealed carry holsters I’ve used for 3″ K-frames that don’t have a thumb break end up not holdingthe gun very securely).

    So, not “…every person who says that I shouldn’t bob the hammers on my guns…” thinks that way because we want to retain SA functionality for use defensively. 😉

    I agree with you on the ability to do really good precision work with a revolver in DA by staging the trigger, good enough that I think the additional stress of a life threatening situation will easily wash out any remaining advantage an actual SA trigger pull would have.

  10. I think it is a matter of physical abilities–older folks or those with some physical limitations–may find it easier to shoot SA than DA. Now, those folks should probably be looking at a semi-auto rather than a revolver for self-defense, but I’ve had students going through my CCW classes that didn’t have the hand strength to rack a semi-auto slide but could cock a revolver hammer and then fire in SA mode rather than DA mode. They didn’t have the strength to handle the long DA trigger pull. Having said that, I agree with you that if you can shoot a revolver in DA mode, you should do that as your primary means. Things change slightly if you are using the same revolver for hunting game and not just for self-defense. There, a SA mode is probably better since you have time on your side, ranges tend to be longer, and nobody is shooting at you. With regard to hammer bobbing, I seem to remember that became popular as a means of reducing the snagging potential when drawing a revolver from concealment. More recently it has become popular in revolver competition to reduce lock time. Staging the trigger is something that I do on my S&W Model 642, even though the owner’s manual says specifically that you shouldn’t do this. It probably has more to do with the product liability lawyers than anything else, but they did put it in print. I’ve also done this on other double-action revolvers that I’ve owned and it seems to work okay for me.

  11. I’ve heard of one incident ever where a guy would have wanted SA on a defensive revolver – that dude who saved a police office by making a 100 yard shot. I don’t care how awesome you are at practicing your DA trigger… I’d still really prefer SA for that.

    That said… that’s a pretty fricking rare incident.

    My biggest question is, though – how much do you gain on trigger pull by removing SA? What is the benefit of removing it? You can’t accidentally jam it into your side if you sit at a weird angle?

  12. Yeah, I did talk about this recently. I’ve been shooting DA and SA revolvers, often in competition, for a long time. Assuming you shoot both, an SA trigger pull is an advantage on a hard/long shot…as an earlier commenter noted, that’s why precision rifles (or the average hunting rifle or the average AR) isn’t DAO. The one thing me, Seek, Janich and Marty Hayes and our host of civilian and LEO consultants have learned from analyzing/simulating crimes for THE BEST DEFENSE is that you don’g get to pick the time, the place, the ground, the scenario, anything, so you must take any and all advantages you can find. If, god forbid, I have to take a hard revolver shot in the real world, if I can rest it SA, I’d do it in a heartbeat. To NOT take every advantage when a life is on the line is ego talking. OTOH, if you’re Jerry Miculek, hell, pull the trigger with your thumb if you want!

    And yes, I have the hammer spurs cut off my IRC revolvers.

    Michael B

  13. I don’t disagree with your opinion, but since you asked the question, here is recent example of a real world situation where a revolver shooter “cocked” his DA/SA revolver to engage an assailant armed with a rifle at extended ranges, and saved a Texas State Trooper’s life in the process.


    I am not saying it was the best course of action to take, but he did apparently do it.

  14. Thanks for that, Michael. You’ve explained it better than anyone else in this or previous related threads. I don’t see anyone bashing Caleb for wanting a DAO carry revolver. Most of us admit he’s unlikely to need SA capability. Some of us are explaining why we wish to retain SA capability on our revolvers and he seems not to want to hear it.

    I never though about handguns as anything but a close range proposition until I started reading old Elmer Keith stuff. Our range has a foot square swinging steel plate at 200 yards. From a solid rest and shooting single action with my Smith model 57 .41 mag, I can hit that thing a lot more often than I miss it. I can do the same at 100 yards with my Italian copy of the Remington New Army cap and ball.

    Most shooters have no idea what is possible with a good revolver and a good single action trigger.

  15. There is no SD rationale for SA mode in revolver. An aggressive DA might even argue this was not SD, but premeditated in an other-wise SD shooting. Kind of like a “warning shot”. “I’m serious, see, I cocked the hammer.” Bad idea.

    1. One minor point…I be willing to bet a lot that should Mr. Miculek be be required to fire a shot in defense of his (or Kay’s or Lena’s) life, he won’t be pulling the trigger with his pinkie.


      1. Pretty safe bet. And given the choice, he wouldn’t be using a J frame and he wouldn’t be holding it upside down either.

    2. That’s nice. But since you’re not Jerry Miculek and probably not the reincarnation of Ed McGivern, you might want to get off your ass, go out to the range, try it both ways at 200 yards,and see what works best for you.

  16. Mike March 7, 2014 at 11:33

    “how much do you gain on trigger pull by removing SA? What is the benefit of removing it?”

    What you GAIN from removing the SA notch on your hammer is a nice gunsmith bill. NO effect on trigger pull or the externals of the gun.

    Which is why I won’t bother doing it to my revolvers — why pay good money to “fix” something I’m not using?

    Now, bobbing the HAMMER (which you can do whether or not you have a DAO revolver or one that has teh traditional SA notch still intact) doesn;t affect the trigger pull either, and does make the gun less likely to snag on clothing. Plus, you will have a heck of a lot of trouble mindlessly cocking it when you shouldn’t.

    OTOH, bobbing it baby-smooth also means you’ll never get a thumb break to hold the gun securely. Since I’ve found thumb breaks critical to acceptable retention when I carry a revolver concealed, bobbing the back of teh hammer to a smooth curve as Caleb shows on his competition revolver is a non-starter to me. (I’d consider a partial bob, leaving only enough stub to keep a strap from slipping.)

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