Double action!

No, it’s not a porn video, though some moms may demand it.

Recently I read Col. Cooper on the subject of double action. His thesis is that DA means the gun has two action modes; Single action, wherein you thumb-cock the piece, and trigger cocking, wherein the trigger does the cocking and the releasing. Two modes of fire (thumb cocking and trigger cocking) hence the term double action. Therefore he said that the term “double action only” is nonsensical.

I had never thought of it like that.

I was under the assumption that double action means the trigger is doing two things; cocking and releasing the hammer, while a single action trigger is capable only of releasing the hammer (one thing). Thus a “conventional” double action works in either DA or SA mode, while a DAO works only in the one mode. That makes perfect sense to me, but the Colonel disagreed.

He did not say what an action that is capable of only trigger cocking should be called. “Trigger cocking only” (TCO) maybe?

Anyway, he seemed to have no use for any pistol “that cannot be cocked”, which I take to mean “cannot be cocked with the thumb”. He also expressed great fondness for the M1 Garand rifle, which cannot “be cocked”. The Garand shares this feature with the Ruger Mark I, II, III pistol, for example, and practically all self loading rifles– If there’s a live round in the chamber, the hammer is cocked. You can’t let the hammer down unless you fire the piece, or unload it first, but then we usually can’t see the hammer in those actions and so we rarely talk about it. Maybe there should be another action term; “concealed hammer, single action” (CHSA) (but you can kinda see the Garand hammer through the receiver slot).

I don’t know of a concealed hammer, double action, but the Stryker shotgun, along with some revolvers, is concealed hammer, DAO. Now maybe I’m confused and don’t know it.

If the Garand and other self loading, fighting rifles had an exposed hammer, they “could be cocked” by which, if I understand it right, we mean they could, like a 1911 pistol, be de-cocked and then cocked again. Would that be a good thing? You could run them like a 1911 pistol, and we all know that the 1911 is the ultimate in hand-held fighting firearm technology.

So should your pistol work like your rifle, or should your rifle work like your 1911? Why? My Glock doesn’t work like anything, so maybe I’m screwed, but then it’s been my assumption that if you could put lead on target in a reasonable amount of time you were doing OK, and having a minimum of required manipulations along the way would seem to be an advantage.

There are some things I do not understand at the moment, but then I’ve only been to two or three gun schools and I’ve never shot anything that was trying to shoot me back (unless we can count snowball or dirt clod fights, of which I’ve been in many).

Now why did I chose an AR in CHSA when my pistol is a Glock “safe action”? Maybe I should carry the Mark II, but then I’d need it to have a rotary safety like the AR. Maybe in the end it’s a good idea to know how to work with what you have.


12 thoughts on “Double action!

  1. The Garand can be cocked.

    Lower the trigger guard like you were going to take it apart, it cocks the hammer.

    It’s in the WW2 training film even.

      • And that’s why I like hanging out here. Learn something new all the time. Didn’t know the trigger guard was also the cocking lever. Cool.
        Excellent training film.

        • Continuing with this side bar; the M-14 works the same way, but I always took it to be a disassembly/reassembly facilitation feature, rather than one you’d use in operation. I tried it as a cocking option and it works well enough, but somehow “undo your takedown latch in the event of a misfire” doesn’t seem like the best advice. Besides, I’ve learned from experience that cartridges which fire on a second strike are a subset of cartridges that fail to fire on the first strike. I cycle the action to recharge.

          Anyway; that’s not what Cooper had in mind. He’d call the M1 Garand “unable to cock” so far as I understand his definition.

          Of course all striker or hammer fired guns are cocked one way or the other. If second strike capability were paramount, any of the self-loading battle rifles could be equpiied with a trigger-cocking feature (offer me enough and I’ll equip your AR or your AK, et al, with that feature – it isn’t complicated). Practically none of the rifles have it, and furthermore, as I said, almost no one talks about it when discussing long guns. I’ve brought it upm before with little response, but it seems I did hear of a company offering that in an AR trigger, but I’d have to search for it to see if I remember correctly. I’m OK with my “Concealed Hammer, Single Action” rifles.

          • By the way; I hadn’t seen that (quaint) video either. Thank you. It does an excellent job of explaining the design, though I cringed when the guy jammed a clip in without holding back the charging handle. Any of the Garands I’ve used would leave you with an injured thumb if you’d tried a stunt like that. So far as I understand it (but maybe someone can correct me here) the only thing that saved that guy’s thumb was an FTF on that first round. He had to perform a “forward assist” to get it to load. I still do not understand the feature that drops the bolt as you snap in a clip. There is a company that sells a “thumb saver” device, which disables that feature, so you load a clip, then pull and release the charging handle, similar to operating an M-14.

          • I’ll have to check when I get home, but I *think* you might be able to uncock a Garand by riding the trigger while slowly closing the trigger guard, just like you can uncock a Mauser 98 by holding the trigger while slowly closing the bolt.

            Hammer down on a live round was considered safe at one point, remember.

  2. With all respect to the late Jeff Cooper, his definition of the terms “single action” and “double action” are a bit flawed, thus his flawed reasoning.

    A flaw that becomes apparant whenever he referred to firing an already cocked double action (whether a revolver or a semiauto) as firing it in “single action”. If the numerator referes to how many firing modes the trigger group carries out, it would be wholly inappropriate to refer to firing ANY double action weapon in “single action”.

    A single action trigger carries out only a SINGLE action when pulled — it releases the hammer/striker. When you cock a traditional double action, you are using it in single action mode – the trigger only does a single thing: releases the already cocked firing mechanism.

    A double action trigger has a DOUBLE function in action — it both cocks, and then releases the hammer/striker.

    Thus, firing a DA pistol that has no single action notch on the hammer is properly referred to as a “Double Action Only” trigger group (just as technically, you could refer to the 1911 as a “Single Action Only” trigger. . . but that is redundantly silly, unlike DAO to distinguish from a DA/SA semi or DA revolver).

    • That’s what I’d always thought, as I say, but Cooper I suppose would have to refer to what we call a DAO as a “single action” (but having a single mode of operation that’s different from what we call a single action). So he’d have to refer to “single action, trigger cocking only” as opposed to “single action, thumb cocking or slide cocking only.” In his commentary, he didn’t say what term he’d use instead of DAO, but I suppose it would have to be “single action trigger-cocker” which we would see as a contradiction in terms. Oy.

      Words do in fact mean things, but what do they mean?

      Fiddling around with your Garand trigger guard as a de-cocker, sooner or later someone’s going to put an eye out…

    • WHAT?! Correcting Saint Cooper? Heretic!
      Using proper language leads to correct, or at least clear, thinking.

      • To be fair; I am fascinated by his commentaries, and I’ve been gobbling them up hungrily. It turns out that several of the people I’ve been doing business with for years are “family members” (graduates of Orange Gunsite).

        I’ve seen many of his references to the shooting sling, which he recommended highly, yet I never knew exactly what he was talking about. When Ry loaned me his book, “The Art of the Rifle” I figured I finally had **The Answer**. Unfortunately the answer relied on illustrations, which the publisher had so botched that I was unable to get anything useful out of them. So I’m still clueless. I’ve seen that since in other publications. Too bad Cooper couldn’t have used Oleg as a photographer, and published on-line…

  3. I am gong to say in this case Cooper is off the mark, though I can see is line of reasoning.

    I think of action in the sens of “what kind of action is it?” The answer to this could be: bolt, lever action falling block, open-bolt semi-auto, roller locking full auto, etc. You could be as vague or details as you like when describing the action, but the words you use should describe the action itself, not how many ways the action can function. If you have a firearm that can work off an open or closed bolt, that is not a “double action,” that is a gun with two modes of operation, and you would need to describe both of them if you felt the need to differentiate. Using this line of reasoning a “double action” rightfully describes a specific action type in which a trigger cocks a hammer back as well as releases it to fire. It is a specific name for a specific type of action, just like “lever” and “pump.” We naturally understand that most double action guns can be manipulated to fire in single action mode, hence the need for the DAO differentiation in guns that do not allow this second mode of operation.

    With coopers definition almost all guns become SA guns, with a few becoming DA or even Tipple Action. It removes the meaning of those terms from the lexicon as useful descriptors. Most rifles today would be considered “single action” weather they are rotating bolt semi autos, roller locking full autos, lever action repeaters, or break action single shots. they all have one mode of operation, and therefor are SA by Coopers definition. Anything with a selector switch that has two modes other than safe (say semi and full, or burst and full) is automatically a DA weapon. If you can choose between full, burst and semi that is a triple action. You can see how this would only serve to cloud the waters and makes the terms SA and DA virtually meaningless?

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