Talking Tech - Hammer Fired Hangun Actions

41-07-21-Tech02There’s a good chance a lot of you know what I’m about to explain, but with 10 million first-time gun buyers in the past two years, there’s an equally good chance a lot of you don’t. 

So, today’s tech talk is on the action of hammer fired guns and everyone on the table is a hammer fired gun and each has been cleared before we start.


Colt Model P - Single Action

41-07-10-CowboyGunSo, let’s begin with the simplest, first issued in 1873, the Single Action Army, the Colt model P. This is a single-action hammer gun, meaning nothing happens until you cock the hammer. You can cock the hammer, line up a precision shot, and pull the trigger, but most of what you’ve seen with these guns involves pulling the trigger at the draw from the holster, then thumbing and releasing as fast as possible in Cowboy Fast Draw competition, or Cowboy Action Shooting. Thumb the hammer, but the trigger really isn’t involved. One other method is fanning, pulling the trigger at the draw, then sweeping the other hand across the hammer to pull it back and release it. That can be very fast. 

Colt Anaconda - Double Action

41-07-11-SWRevolverDouble Action Revolvers first became common at the start of the 20th century. Double Action means the trigger pull first rotates the cylinder to line up a fresh round, while cocking the hammer, until it’s released to strike the firing pin, that’s not part of the hammer, like the Model P. 



41-07-22-RevPointerThe trigger pull also raises a transfer bar between the hammer and the firing pin in the frame, the hammer hits the bar, the bar hits the firing pin, which is a form of safety if the gun is dropped on the hammer. Now that is a lot of work for the trigger to do, and only one name comes to mind as being really fast with a double action revolver, Jerry Miculek. 



1911 - Single Action

41-07-12-1911Now, about the same time double action revolvers were becoming popular, another single action appeared for the Military the 1911, feeding 45 ACP from a magazine. The 1911 is also hammer fired, but this hammer has to be cocked to be ready, so the 1911 got multiple safeties to prevent an accidental discharge. The thumb safety at the rear of the slide, and a grip safety that had to be depressed before the trigger could release the hammer. In the years of evolution and enhancements the grip safety grew a speed bump, to be sure it was depressed during the draw. But to be ready, the 1911 had to be chambered, with the hammer cocked behind the firing pin. Competition shooters loved it, and still do because the trigger could be very light and only had one job, releasing the hammer to fire. 

41-07-13-1911But in 1983 Colt introduced one more safety for the 1911 that gave the trigger a second job, raising the firing pin block, before the hammer could move the pin to fire. It’s a firing pin block that has to be moved up to release the pin. It’s a safety to prevent the firing pin from striking the chambered round if the gun is dropped. It’s only in the Series 80 Colt 1911s and most competitive shooters don’t like adding extra work for the trigger. So, Colt still makes the Series 70 1911s that don’t have the firing pin block. Like the custom gun makers who also leave out the firing pin block. Less work for the Trigger means you can have a better trigger with less resistance, and a crisp break to fire. 


Beretta Moodel 92 - Double - Single Action

41-07-14-BerettaBut now it’s 1976 and Beretta releases the model 92, and the US Army adopts it in 1985 as the M9. And the Beretta is a Double-Single Action. That means it’s carried hammer down and the first long pull of the trigger cocks the hammer and then releases it to fire. But the slide cycles and re-cocks the hammer as it loads the next round.  So, the second shot and each after that has a short, light trigger pull - Single Action. The question for the Beretta, with a 15-round magazine, is how do you stop firing? How do you lower the hammer to go back to safe carry mode? Back to double action. 

41-07-15-BerettaThumbThe answer is the de-cocker that safely drops the hammer without firing. With the Beretta, the de-cocker also applies the safety, disconnecting the trigger. Here’s one more safety in the Beretta, the firing pin block, somewhat like the Colt series 80 1911, but this one you can see operating with the trigger pull, lifting up to release the firing pin as the hammer falls. There have been a number of double-single action autoloaders with a de-cocker over the years.  H-K made several models. 


Colt Double Eagle - Double - Single Action

41-07-16-SilverColtAnd this is the Colt Double Eagle from the 1990s, with a de-cocker that does not apply the safety, just drops the hammer. So now you know single action, double action, and double-single action hammer fired handguns. 





S&W CSX - Single Action

41-07-17-CSXAnd the new Smith & Wesson CSX Single Acton, carried with the hammer cocked and locked by the thumb safety.






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