Striker-fired auto-pistols currently dominate both law enforcement and civilian concealed carry. These point-and-shoot firearms typically feature light, short trigger pulls, and it seems that every major manufacturer offers striker-fired models. However, there are still many in the carry community who opt for double-action carry guns. These are most commonly compact, five-shot snubbies with 2- or 3-inch barrels or larger, six- or seven-shot revolvers (most often with 2.5- or 3-inch barrels).
Some civilians (and certain government agents) carry what are generally termed “double-action/single-action” auto-pistols. SIG Sauer’s outstanding P226 is a good example. Another would be the Beretta 92, a civilian version of the military’s M9.
Such firearms tend to feature a long, relatively heavy double-action trigger pull on the first shot. Subsequent shots are lighter, shorter and single-action since the first shot automatically recocks the hammer.
Note also that SIG, Beretta and others offer versions of their guns with double-action-only trigger configurations. On such guns, the longer and heavier trigger pull is the same from first shot to last. Double-action carry guns are considered inherently safer, especially on that critical first shot, since they require a much more deliberate trigger press.
Double-Action Carry Gun Training
Whether your carry gun is a double-action-only revolver such as a Smith & Wesson 642 or a typical DA/SA with an exposed hammer, training should focus on shooting only double-action. The same principle applies to double-action auto-pistols. You need to spend time practicing that first double-action shot.
Fortunately, there is a simple, effective way to develop a smooth, steady and consistent double-action trigger stroke. Even better, it’s free!
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…
After clearing and unloading your pistol or revolver, stand in front of any mirror big enough to see yourself from at least the waist up. Then raise your gun to sight height, pointing it directly at your nose in the reflection. Then practice, slowly at first, pressing the trigger double-action while you keep your attention on the barrel of the gun in the mirror.
You will be amazed at how clearly even the slightest movement of the muzzle is visible. Most people are shocked at how much they are moving their guns. But this is precisely why this technique is effective: You instantly see what your gun is doing.
With regular practice, you will improve rapidly (until your gun barely moves at all through the entire trigger stroke). But you have to commit to taking the time to do it.
At the Gun Range…
In live-fire practices, revolvers have an advantage; you just press the trigger, double-action, over and over. With double-action/single-action pistols, you will likely have to de-cock or drop the hammer after each double-action shot since the recoil will have cocked the gun.
What I usually do is practice strings of three shots: first shot double-action and second and third shots single-action. Then I manually de-cock the pistol and repeat. With enough practice, the first and subsequent shots will grow closer together until you won’t be able to tell which shot in the group was that first double-action one.
Cocking the hammer prior to firing may be fine for slow-fire target work, but it’s no way to practice for the speed and chaos of a gunfight. Be smart. Train for reality.
Find a range to practice your double-action shooting with the USCCA’s brand-new tool!
About John Caile
John Caile, contributing writer for USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine, has more than 35 years of experience in concealed carry training and practical handgun shooting skills. As communications director for the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee, John was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark concealed carry permit law. Certified through the NRA as an instructor of Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun, Home Firearm Safety and Personal Protection in the Home, John continues his lifelong activism for gun owners and their rights in Palm Coast, Florida. He has appeared on national talk radio and network and public television and is frequently published in the press.