7 Reasons the Hammer-Fired Handgun is Still King
Hammer-fired guns have been around for 400 years in some fashion and were the first impact type action used in firearms. They’ve gotten way better in the last 2 centuries.
Hammer-Fired Guns Have Short, Crisp Trigger Pulls
The one thing that all hammer-fired guns are known for is a really nice trigger. Shucks, my $120 Heritage revolver has an incredible trigger. Whether revolver, single-shot, or semi-auto, a hammer-fired gun just wants to be made with a good trigger.
Now, I’m talking single-action here. In single-action mode, the pistol is already cocked. All the trigger has to do is release the hammer. That’s a nice, squared-up fit between two surfaces. It only takes a little movement, then the hammer is cleanly released.
With a striker-fired pistol, you are cocking the gun while pulling the trigger. You could consider it a DAO or double action only type firearm. My Glock for example sits with some spring tension on the striker, but I have to pull the trigger for it to finish pulling the spring back.
That’s why the Glock has a long, spongy trigger pull. You’re pulling against a spring. With a hammer, when it’s pulled back, the spring is already tensioned and all you have to do is release the trigger. That’s why competition shooters prefer hammer-fired guns for bullseye shooting.
In shooting, we have a thing called target disruption. Basically, when you pull the trigger, the target picture moves around a bit. It’s due to the movement of your muscles as you squeeze the trigger. A short trigger pull gives less time for you to make an unintentional movement.
Also, a short trigger pull with a clear and identifiable wall before it fires lets us memorize exactly when in the trigger pull the gun will fire. That helps greatly with learning the proper timing of the shot process.
You Can Choose Between Double or Single-Action
Hammer-fired guns can be fired in two modes, double-action, and single-action. Choose whichever you like. This offers a lot more utility to its function. Single-action simply means the hammer is cocked first. that’s how you get the really nice, crisp trigger pull.
Double action means the hammer is cocked by pulling the trigger. If you don’t cock it first, pulling the trigger will cock it, but the trigger pull will be long and very firm. The trigger pull is lousy, but you can just pick it up and fire, without an extra step.
With semi-autos, the hammer is recocked after each shot, so if you start with the double-action trigger pull, it will be a single action pull, short and crisp, after that. Some do have the option of double-action-only mode. I really don’t get that though. Sounds silly to me.
Options, they’re nice right? hammer-fired pistols give you more options to choose from. Do you want slow to complete a slow-fire course with sharp accuracy? Okay then. Do you want to be able to just pick it up and shoot it without extra steps? You can do that.
Hammer-Fired Guns Offer More Trigger Customization
The awesome point about hammer guns is that you can do a lot with the hammer and sear. There are lots of simple trigger adjustments from polishing to squaring and replacing parts.
I’m no gunsmith, but I’ve done trigger work on many guns and the hammer guns are by far the easiest to tackle and give the most improvement.
The easiest DIY trigger job is buying a new trigger setup. There are tons of upgrade trigger kits available for hammer-fired guns. The simple mechanics of a hammer and sear make it really simple for someone to tweak the design and make a potentially better version as an upgrade.
The honest truth is, most hammer-fired pistols don’t need a trigger upgrade because they are pretty good from the start. That sort of design is just easy to get right from the beginning.
Basically, there is a lot that can be done with the fit and finish of the hammer and sear. Differences in: groove depth, angle, hammer weight, squareness, and sprigs all have a profound effect on the resulting trigger pull. There’s a lot that can be done.
You Can Easily Decock a Hammer-Fired Gun
Hammer-fired pistols can be decocked by holding the hammer, pulling the trigger, and slowly letting the hammer down. They can be decocked while loaded and with a round in the chamber.
My Glock can’t do that. To decock it, I have to drop the magazine, empty the chamber, and pull the trigger. That’s a point for the hammer-fired guns. So, if you’re at the range and don’t want to shoot a full magazine, just lower the hammer and it won’t shoot.
Funny story, My grandma once called my uncle in the middle of the night. Apparently, she thought she heard something and grabbed her revolver. Now she was asking my uncle how to uncock it.
As he was finished explaining to her how to lower the hammer, he heard the pistol go off. So, he’s in a panic thinking Grandma got hurt and is trying to get an audible response over the phone. After a moment of silence she responds “well, the darn thing went off”.
Now seriously, as simple as it is to decock a loaded gun, you really should only do that while the gun is pointed at a safe backstop. If you have the option, just unload it first. That way there will be no butterfinger accidents. And always always always be careful. accidents happen when we get lax.
Hammer-Fired can Have a Loaded Chamber Without Being Cocked
A pistol with an exposed hammer can be decocked while loaded, allowing a practical way to carry with a loaded chamber. With the hammer down, there isn’t really a strong reason why you shouldn’t carry with a loaded chamber. With the hammer down, it’s considered safe.
Really, it gives peace of mind. carrying a pistol with a loaded chamber is becoming widely recommended by self-defense instructors and security professionals. Caring with the chamber loaded can give some people a bit of concern. Visibly knowing that the gun isn’t cocked is a potential plus.
I know that if I handed a loaded gun to one of my daughters, I’d probably appreciate a visible reminder that it’s not going to go off with an accidental finger on the trigger. Maybe that’s a bit worrisome, but that’s kind of part of parenting isn’t it?
Hammer-Fired Pistols Have More Ways to Clear Malfunctions.
Hammer-fired handguns have the ability to re-strike a dud round, usually firing it as normal. Dud rounds will usually fire as normal if they are simply struck again. You can just pull the hammer back and squeeze the trigger on the same cartridge a second time.
Dud rounds aren’t much of an issue with hammer-fired handguns, whether revolver or semi-auto. pulling the trigger as normal will rotate a revolver cylinder to a new cartridge, and with a semi-auto it will re-strike an unfired round, which almost always works.
Basically, you can just shoot your way through a lot of the malfunction issues that handguns have. If it’s not jammed or stuck, you can just keep pulling the trigger and shoot your way through it. Sure, you should still be mindful of smart training habits.
I’m a fan of tap-rack myself. whenever anything goes wrong with a pistol I’m shooting, I smack the bottom of the magazine and firmly rack the slide. That will basically clear up any malfunction regardless of the specific pistol used.
Weak Hands Can Cock a Hammer-Fired Pistol
My mother has a bad case of arthritis in her hands. Racking back a pistol can be tough for her. But, she can pull a hammer back. In that situation, a hammer gun may be a great option.
A revolver certainly doesn’t have the slide issue, so that’s one option. It doesn’t take much hand strength to drop bullets into the cylinder of a revolver, or to pull the hammer back.
You can do the same thing with a semi-auto. It just may require someone else to initially load the chamber. I could load my mother’s pistol and it’s good to carry about. When it’s time to fire, just cock the hammer and fire away.
Why Does the Military use Striker-Fired, not Hammer-Fired Pistols?
Question: if hammer-fired pistols are all that great, why did the US military replace theirs with striker-fired pistols a while back? Basically, because they found a cheap one that met all the required specifications and is very dependable.
Honestly, Price was the main factor in that decision. They were presented with several options to choose from and choose the cheapest best. Nothing wrong with that really. The US military used hammer-fired guns for a long time.
The M1911 was used for almost 75 years. The Beretta M9 was used for another 30-something years. Really, it comes down to price.
Hammers and sears require more machining to produce than the stamped-out trigger system of most striker-fired guns. The result is usually a slightly lower cost. Both action types are incredibly reliable and will do you well.
Drawbacks Of Hammer-Fired Firearms
The only real drawback of a hammer-fired gun is that they usually have an exposed hammer. That is something that can, on occasion, get in the way. It can get caught up in clothing while drawing the pistol.
It’s debated just how legitimate that concern is. Many professionals feel that it’s not really a valid concern. Another possible concern is how dust and dirt can get in the crevices on the sides of the hammer.
That’s my biggest issue with them. I work in the home construction industry. My pistol gets caked in dust regularly. The crevices around an exposed hammer would get completely full with gritty grime after a few days. That junk works its way into the trigger mechanisms.
That’s really why I carry a Glock. Well, that and the fact that it was the first pistol I bought, it worked, and I just stuck with it. But, it sure doesn’t have the trigger of any hammer-fired gun I’ve ever shot. Those things just have nice triggers.
Are Hammer Fired Guns Truly Better?
Hammer-fired guns are not better than striker-fired guns, but they do offer additional options in function. The best gun for you depends on your individual needs and on what you can afford. The best gun is the one you have loaded, in your hand.
I’m not going to harp on someone buying one kind over another. The way I see it, every gun bought is another citizen becoming well-regulated. Whether that’s a cheap, striker-fired Hi-Point or a fancy hammer-fired 1911, just learn how to use it well.