Pistol Action Guide

So you’re in the market for a new pistol or maybe even your very first pistol. Did you know that there are different types of pistols?  There are pistols that are single action, double action, some that are single action only, and also striker fire. Chances are most of you have heard of these, but do you know exactly what each one is?

Double and Single action pistols: these are pistols that have two different types of trigger pulls and stages. The most renowned guns that are double or single action would have to be Beretta, Sig Sauer and Revolvers (although, revolvers have their own category when it comes to trigger actions).

The key difference between double and single action is that, for double action, the trigger has a longer way to travel.  As you start to pull the trigger it moves the hammer to the rear and once you hit that break point and the hammer has traveled all the way back it will then go over the wall and the hammer will fall thus sending a round down range. What makes pistols single action is that when the cycle of operations is complete and the slide has sent a new round into the chamber, you will notice the hammer is already at that stop point to the rear. Then when you go to send another round down range, instead of there being a lot of tightened travel, you will have a little play until you hit the “wall” or stop point in the trigger travel and you will then continue the sequence over the wall and the hammer falls and the round is sent down range.

The biggest difference between pistols that are single and double action is the amount of travel in the trigger and the weight. The Beretta for example has a double action trigger weight of approx. 13lbs. and a single action trigger pull of approx. 5lbs. That’s a major difference and, for some, that is too high of a trigger pull for a double action shot or a shot in general. So then we take a look at the single action guns.

The absolute best gun to bring up when it comes to single action guns are 1911’s, the tried and true gun in our history that every gun owner has heard of. Much like the Beretta in the single action mode, single action 1911’s perform the same way. One thing to note is that the hammer has to be either cocked back or when you send the slide forward the hammer will stay back. That is why the safety is so important on these guns because your pistol is always ready to fire. The trigger pull on most 1911’s averages about 5-5.5lbs. The one down side to the 1911 (when chambered in .45) is that it only holds 8 rounds. For some people, they want more, yet others think this is plenty (i.e., 8 rounds of .45 will take ANYONE down).


Striker fire: when looking at striker fire pistols, a lot of companies have their models. You have your big companies such as Glock, S&W, Sig, and Springfield that all have their own twist. What makes a striker fire pistol so unique is that there is no hammer. This is a big plus for the everyday carry crowd as it is one less thing to get snagged on clothing or to fumble with. Most striker fired pistols have safeties within the pistol that allow them to not go off when dropped.  However, this can still happen (be careful!).  Most striker fire pistols don’t have external safeties, but for some models they have both for you to choose from. Most trigger pull weights hover around the 5.5lb mark, but with anything there are ways to trim that down.  I do want to cation you on this, as I said before there usually is no external safety so the more you mess with it the easier it could become for you to have a negligent discharge.


In closing, whether you are buying your first gun or your 100th gun, always go to the store and handle a couple and see what fits you best. You’d be surprised at how you may walk into a store with nothing but “X” brand of gun on your mind, but then find that you like the handle of another gun. Lastly, ALWAYS PRACTICE WEAPON SAFETY!

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Active Duty U.S. Marine who loves to shoot. Currently a Class B Production shooter in USPSA and I'm currently a beginner blogger. Looking forward to getting my name out there and I'm super stoked for the future!

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