Double action, double the difficulty

Earlier this year I had a student attend a class with a double action pistol. It was his first organized training class and he was fighting his equipment the whole time. The double action was very difficult for him to gain proficiency much less master.

I recommended he upgrade to a single action style weapon. Just for the record, if it has one type of trigger action then I call that single action, if it has two, then I call it double action. Sure there are all sorts of variants and different definitions, but to keep it simple if the weight/pull of the trigger changes, then it is a double action for the purposes of this article. Here is a piece with a bit more details for those who want to learn more or sharpshoot me.

I think most folks with a modest amount of training and experts will agree that to be a consistent marksman trigger management is probably the most difficult task to master. I have seen students who can quickly master all other core skills, but struggle to develop a modicum of consistency with their trigger management. By the way, trigger management is the collection of trigger finger placement, trigger location and trigger movement. The first two are easy enough to teach and there is no preset formula that will work for everyone. Because there are so many variables, type of firearm, gender, hand size & strength to name a few, it is best to individualize the student’s requirements. However, trigger movement is pretty much the same across the board. You have to move the trigger straight to rear, past the point of ignition disturbing the sights as minimally as possible.

You do that and assuming you have proper sight management for the shot required and you will hit the target. It really is that simple.

Once you have put in the hours, time and resources to master that one style of trigger action we compound the issue by giving you TWO. The traditional double action will start out with the hammer forward that must be moved smoothly straight to the rear, the movement is much longer than single action types. Then once they have fired that first round all subsequent rounds until restored to double action will be on the much lighter single action. One would think things would be easy from here…not so much.

The problem that a lot of folks overlook is that to develop the power to smoothly move the trigger to the rear on double action requires their finger be placed in a specific position for maximum leverage. That same position often times is a poor placement for your single action shots. This results in poor trigger finger placement, that leads to poor trigger movement that leads to an errant shot. It’s just logic.

As a novice shooter I recommend a single action type firearm so you don’t have to go through this learning curve. Given the realities most people interested in personal protection will not put in the same amount of range time as an elite operator to perfect their skill so make it easy on yourself. Life is already hard enough.


5 thoughts on “Double action, double the difficulty

  1. JoshuaHaderach says:

    Just so I understand, are you advocating SAO instead of SA/DA and remembering to always cock the hammer every time?


    • Jeff Gonzales says:

      Hello Josh, I’m not sure how you interpreted my comments to mean cocking the hammer for a DA. If you read the article again, think of a different platform and not using the same DA platform. Good luck.

      • JoshuaHaderach says:

        I realized I didn’t use very precise language in my first question, my apologies. I meant to ask if having a DA/SA handgun as outlined in Wikipedia and just cocking the hammer before pulling the trigger for the first time was a viable alternative since you would have to remember to do that anyway in a SA pistol. However, I do see that you very definitively suggest a SA style handgun as your preference for a novice shooter like myself. Sorry for any confusion again and thanks for a great blog and looking forward to training opportunities with your company when I can manage it.

        • Jeff Gonzales says:

          No problem Josh, I think we have some language issues. On a SA pistol you do not have to cock the hammer as it is already cocked and under spring tension. Practically, there is no way you will be able to draw and cock the pistol with any degree of reliability or speed. It is an effort in futility and to be avoided. Good luck.

          • JoshuaHaderach says:

            Oh, that makes a lot of sense. Thanks for taking the time to help me better understand the issue and which has helped me in narrowing my pistol selection criteria.

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