What’s the Difference Between Single and Double Action

If you’re a fan of pistols, chances are you’ve run into the terms “single action” and “double action” before. Some pistols, for example certain SIG models, are DAO (double action only). Meanwhile, others like 1911s are single action pistols. In this we’ll take a look at how semi auto pistols work, including single vs double action systems – let’s do it!

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How do Semi Auto Pistols Work?

Pistols generally use one of two mechanisms when firing. On one hand, you have revolvers. These trusty and reliable handguns have been used for hundreds of years thanks to their simple and robust design. Everyone from cowboys to police officers have used revolvers, and they’re still popular among citizens today.

On the other hand, you have semi auto (semi automatic) pistols. Like semi auto rifles, these pistols use the weapon’s own recoil to eject an empty casing and load a new round into battery. Semi auto pistols have become hugely popular in recent decades thanks to their high ammo capacity.

They’re also significantly easier to reload than a revolver. All you need to do is pop out an empty magazine and reload a full one. That’s in stark contrast to a revolver, which requires much more time to refill, even with a speed loader.

There is one downside to semi auto pistols, though: they jam. No, we’re not talking about a Grateful Dead concert, here. Since they have so many different moving pieces involved with the reloading process, semi auto pistols can fail to fire or completely extract an empty casing. This is essentially impossible with revolvers. However, if you keep your semi auto pistol clean and use quality ammo and magazines, this should rarely happen.

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Single Action vs Double Action

When it comes to semi auto pistols, you generally have one of two options: single action vs double action. These both operate a little differently, and it’s important to understand those differences.

When it comes to semi auto pistols, single action came first. Pistols like the Luger and 1911 are both single action guns. In a single action firearm, pulling the trigger makes the hammer travel forward. Some other force (for example, the recoil in a 1911) pushes the hammer back. This makes the gun ready to fire once again. Single action pistols have an extremely light, crisp trigger pull.

Then, we have double action only (DAO) pistols. Some pistols, like some SIG models (looking at you, P226), are DAO guns. This means that a single trigger pull cocks the gun’s hammer back and also forces it forward, making the gun fire. DAO pistols have an extremely long trigger pull when compared to their single action brethren.

However, this can actually be useful for those who concealed carry these guns. It reduces the chance of the trigger getting caught on something and negligently discharging. That’s a good thing for people who don’t want to shoot themselves.

One way that you can completely prevent negligent discharges is with the right holster. Using a custom made holster for your gun will cover the trigger and minimize the chances of a negligent discharge. If you’re interested in learning more about a custom holster for your favorite firearm, complete this simple four-question survey.

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