More on single action v double action

This is in response to Uncle‘s response to this article.

First, we don’t need the new term “TDA” (Traditional Double Action). That’s the same as DA, which we’ve been using for a long time, as opposed to DAO. So we now have DA, DAO, and TDA. See the problem– So what does DA mean anymore? Do we now have to go back and revise all the old texts, adding the “T” in front of “DA”?

Anyway; I’ve never really understood the debate. If you have a DA and want to operate it as a SA, to avoid the “transition” then nothing is stopping you. Load it, put it on safe, and holster it cocked and locked, or ease the hammer down and then cock it before you shoot, just like your trusty, rusty old 1911. You need never encounter a DA pull unless you want to.

And for some reason this subject only comes up in a discussion of auto pistols. With revolvers, I don’t hear anyone complaining about all the double actions out there (and they’re always carried hammer down and have no safety switch). Does the “transition” no longer matter after you’ve thumbed the hammer back as opposed to having it cocked automatically? And you want to talk about light trigger pulls– you won’t find a lighter SA trigger than the one on a good factory-stock DA revolver.

I’ve never understood why SA v DA is this huge f’ng issue when we’re talking pistols, but it never comes up with regard to long guns. The most popular sporting and defense rifle in America is SA, with no de-cock, and no one blinks or ever thinks to consider thinking about it. Same with the Mini-14, 30 Carbine, M-14, M1 Garand, AK, et al, ad infinitum– The hammer’s out of sight, so it’s out of mind, just like the Ruger Mark II/III which we also never discuss as being a SA with no de-cock.

So REALLY this is more of a public perception issue than anything else— If you can SEE the hammer AND it’s on an auto, we’ll argue about it, but if not, “derp”. I guess that’s why Daewoo came up with their goofy action such as on the DP51– It’s cocked and locked, just like your AR-15, but it LOOKS like the hammer’s down. The old Lever action rifles are of course single action, with no de-cock and no safety per se. It’s also a training issue, so make sure you practice with what you have.

One of the coolest designs I’ve owned was the Beretta TomCat. It’s DA and has a de-cocker, but with its tip-up barrel you can load or unload it without cocking the hammer, so I always carried it like a revolver (hammer down, off safe) and to un-load it you just tip the barrel up and drop the cartridge out. The little 32 ACP scared me though, so I traded it away.

At one time I thought it would be cool to have a DA AK or AR. You wouldn’t operate it or carry it any different from the SA versions, but the only difference would be that it would give you a second strike capability. Then I realized that cartridges that actually do fire on a second strike are a sub set of those that fail to fire on the first, and so in many cases you’d be wasting time on the second, or third, or fourth strike compared to chambering a fresh round. On several occasions I’ve hit primers so many times that they were mashed WAY into the primer pocket, or rotated rimfire rounds to hit another part of the rim, and they never did fire.


8 thoughts on “More on single action v double action

  1. Pingback: SayUncle » More double action

  2. On a whim, I bought the Tomcat’s kitten, the .22LR version. It was a jam-o-matic for the first several hundred rounds, but now can be relied upon to make loud noises and keyhole a target 10 yards out pretty reliably.

    I still wonder why I bought it, when I see it sitting in my gun safe.

  3. I agree, DA, DAO and SA covers the essentials, the rest are complex products of some ones anxiety. I am curious though, what scared you about the Beretta TomCat? Mine causes me the least worry about keeping one in the chamber because of the combination of double action, manual safety and tip-up barrel. I wish Beretta still made a .380 ACP version.

  4. The TomCat was said in magazine reviews to jam a few times on the first day, and then be practically 100% after that, and that is exactly what I experienced. It shot very well and I consider it to be an extremely well-designed and well-built pistol.

    What scared me, as I said, was the cartridge. That has nothing to do with the pistol design or execution. I fired that thing quite a lot before I decided to put a hard-ball round into a weathered 2 x 4 at the range as a non-scientific penetration test.. The bullet stuck in the relatively soft wood, such that I could see the bullet in there after it hit. A 9 mm or a 40 would have blasted right through that board, and probably a 380 would also, but the little Browning round didn’t have the heart. Since I carried that pistol fr defense, I decided to get something that I’d feel OK hunting deer with, if you know what I mean– I think that’s a good benchmark. So I traded it for a pocket DAO 45 ACP, which turned out to be less than reliable, and far more difficult to shoot accurately, so I eventually sold it and took to carrying the Glock 20 I’d had all along.

    So there was a progression; I bought the Glock, then wanted to carry and got a pocket 32, decided it was way under-powered and got a pocket 45, decided it wasn’t great so started carrying the Glock. I’ve now been carrying the 10 mm for years, and there are times when I have to feel for it before leaving in the morning to make sure it’s there, because otherwise I rarely notice it.

    • Thanks for the reply. I understand worrying about the effectiveness of .32 ACP but I view it as a last ditch effort, two in the head from close-up. The TomCat is one of a few pistols I find truly practical to carry in a pocket. How do you carry your Glock 20, if I may ask?

      • In a cheapo, injection-molded Glock factory hip holster I got for around fifteen bucks. It does everything a holster needs to do, and it’s lasted for years and years. Depending on the belt-loop location on the pants, I usually run the belt through one holster slot, then through a pants loop, then through the other holster slot. I cover it with a “gun burka” in the form of a long shirt, or a sport coat, and generally I don’t care if it “prints”. If the holster ever wears out I’ll probably get another one just like it. The Glock holsters are ambidextrous too, if it matters to anyone, so if your strong hand is broken or otherwise temporarily unsuitable for the gun, you can swap sides using the same holster.

        One thing I might like to add is a gun light, but that would require up-dating to a newer Glock frame and getting a holster that would accommodate the light. Until then I carry a light in a separate belt holster, on the off side, along with a spare mag. So in total I have, going around from the left side front: a light, a mag, a cell phone, a Leatherman tool, and the pistol on the right side just behind the point of the right hip. My daughter calls it a “Bat Man Belt”. The belt is a plain old, Amish-made leather belt I got from Lehman’s. I’ve so far never seen a need for a purpose built “gun belt”. Leather stretches over time, and so I have to cinch it up and use the next hole in the belt now and then. After a few of those (takes several years) the leather starts to weaken and so I replace it.

        The one draw-back to my system is that I feel I have to un-holster when I sit on the toilet, otherwise the holster could slip off the belt onto the floor. Bathrooms tend to have mirrors though, and I am very careful and deliberate about pulling the shirt up out of the way, looking in the mirror to see that no cloth is going to snag on the gun as I re-holster. I suppose I could remove the gun and holster together as a unit from the belt. Maybe, now that you bring it up, I’ll be trying that for a while. The one “advantage” to the way I’ve been doping it is I get regular “drawing practice”.

        • Again, thanks for your response. It’s always interesting (to me, anyway) to get other peoples thoughts on what and how to carry.

    • Lyle —

      The ineffectiveness of the .32ACP is why my next handgun purchase will be a Ruger LCP .380 — basically the same size as a small .32 pistol, and a MUCH better (albeit still on teh weak side) performing round.

      Since I carry a significantly larger pistol as a pocket pistol (Polish P-64; think PPK in 9x18mm Mak with a Magilla Gorilla DA pull), and can pull it off in tight jeans with shallow pockets (girlfriend wanted to “update” my usual choice of Levis 505s) or khakis, I know I can easily carry an LCP in a pocket holster. Plus they shoot great for the size (even with a DAO trigger and rudimentary sights).

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