In Defense of the Traditional Double Action

3-Mar-14 – 03:50 by ToddG


The mere title of this post makes me sad.

I have come to accept, begrudgingly, that we live in a world where the perception “one trigger pull is better than two” isn’t likely to change any time soon. It’s a perception that kept the 1911 dominant for decades among shooting cognoscenti. Then Glock came along and made the consistent “Safe Action” trigger a key part of its marketing campaign. We have generations of shooters who have never really worked with a traditional double action (aka “double/single” or “DA/SA”) pistol because they’ve simply been told it’s too hard.

But let’s look at some facts and compare some numbers.

A typical Glock, unless you modify the trigger or put what the company itself considers a competition only part in the gun, comes with a trigger pull of about seven pounds (it may be advertised as 5.5 pounds, but check out this report from Modern Service Weapons). Many, if not most, Glocks issued to law enforcement in the United States utilize the even heavier trigger return springs that add another 2-5 pounds to that number.

black220stYour typical TDA pistol is going to have a first shot double action trigger pull around 10-12 pounds. But after that, all the rest of the shots you fire will be with a trigger pull of about four pounds, maybe five pounds. In other words, after you deal with that first shot, everything is easier than even a stock Glock with standard connector and springs! Even most out of the box 1911’s from major manufacturers like Kimber and Colt have trigger pulls above a typical TDA pistol’s single action.

Of course, plenty of individuals spend their time and money to get a lighter trigger on Glocks and 1911s. I can’t tell you how many students I see walking around with sub-4# triggers on such guns. Why? Because it’s easier to shoot. And if the only thing you ever measure is ease of shooting, that makes a ton of sense. It’s only when you start to think about the broader situation of when you might need your pistol and how you might need and what what you’ll really need to do with it that you begin to realize the a super short, super light trigger on a carry gun might not be so smart. If you haven’t done so already, I suggest you take a look at Darryl Bolke’s outstanding The LEM As A Street Trigger reposted here last September.

I know I’ll never convert the hordes, of course, who learned “this is my safety” watching Blackhawk Down and feel empowered by the words of a fictional character on a movie set to behave in a manner contrary to what the actual men of the actual unit depicted in the film seem to teach when it comes to safety (see, e.g., Paul Howe and Pat McNamara). But as I’ve been ranting lately around here, the reality is that under stress it’s far too easy to trigger check and drive that short, light 3.5# DIY five cent Glock trigger job straight to the frame with resultant Unwanted Noise.

So what are the trade-offs? If TDA is so awesome why do so many people choose otherwise?

The number one issue, obviously, is that long, heavier first shot. What was once considered the norm when police officers carried DA revolvers is now a trigger that many find unmanageable. It’s not. It’s simply something you need to learn how to manage. But when so many instructors have little to no real experience with TDA guns, it can be very hard to find good technique.


I’ve taken classes from some very big names in the training world who absolutely had no idea how to run a TDA pistol properly. One famously told a group of us in a private class that he recommends just firing the first DA round into the dirt to get the gun cocked for “real shooting” … this to a closed group of students who were all running TDAs (Beretta and SIG) for the entire three day class! Don’t let an instructor hiding his own ineptitude dictate what works for youIf you expect the “everyone should carry a Glock and if you don’t your’e an idiot” guy to be the ideal instructor to help you learn how to shoot your Beretta 92FS, you have chosen poorly.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to get instruction from, as well as train and compete along side, some of the best TDA shooters like Ernest Langdon, Rob Haught, and “Super” Dave Harrington. Learning how to do it the right way from experts imparts a lot more skill and confidence than trying to learn from someone who’s more interested in telling you that your chosen pistol sucks because it’s not the same thing he carries on his hip every day.

vertec-grpI’m not suggesting that a long 12# trigger pull is as easy to score hits with as a 3# tuned 1911 trigger. But with some proper training neither is truly difficult.

The only other real hurdle with a TDA pistol is the need to decock before holstering. Under stress this can become trouble because holstering a cocked TDA gun is like holstering a cocked 1911 without putting the safety on. Or like holstering a Glock that has been modified to have a light trigger. 😎 If you’re going to reap the benefit of that hammer-down condition you need to make decocking the pistol part of your ritual. Again this comes down to simple training. I had the great fortune to learn a lot of my shooting techniques from TDA experts and their range commands always included “decock/safe and holster.” That simple mantra is all it takes.

Even in the competition world, where the safety/street considerations are often completely ignored, the TDA pistol is seeing a resurgence. Having to deal with that one trickier first shot simply gets outweighed by the ease of a smoother, lighter, shorter trigger pull for the next twenty-plus rounds in a course of fire. The top two finishers (and half of the top ten) at the past two USPSA Production National were shooting TDA pistols. Clue.

Don’t think me hypocritical. I’m not saying you have to shoot a TDA pistol or you’re wrong. There are downsides to the TDA. Heck, some people due to injury or hand strength genuinely cannot manage a 10-12 pound trigger. For them obviously it’s a horrible choice! There are benefits to a 1911 or a striker-fired gun and DAO type guns just as their are benefits to the TDA. Make an informed decision. Choose what works best for you… but not simply what shoots best when you’re slaying cardboard & steel. Think about what really happens when it’s not on the range but in a dark parking lot late at night when your family is with you and a couple of shady looking characters start to ping your radar.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 53 Responses to “In Defense of the Traditional Double Action”

  2. Great discussion. I started with a Sig 226, but gravitated towards weapons with consistent triggers after I bought a HK P7. Then after following Todd’s torture test of the P30, bought one in LEM. I especially appreciated nyeti’s “why I like the LEM”. In that article he wrote that he used the P7 for a time. I’d love to hear his analysis of that system. I personally think it beats every other striker system out there. The only real disadvantage is cost and support. Yes, it’s different and weird for a lot of folks.

    By Woodpuppy on Mar 15, 2014

  3. It basically comes down to this… As long as hand/grip size, injury/strength, etc… doesn’t come into play it is a TRAINING ISSUE. The problem is, it’s easier to buy slick, cool parts and lighten triggers than it is to actually TRAIN and learn the FUNDAMENTALS.

    The problem is, most guys I see with all the aftermarket crap on their Glocks still can’t hit the side of a barn.

    I carry Glocks on and off duty most of the time for various reasons but I can shoot my DA/SA Sigs equally as well, if not a little better most of the time. Why? Because I TRAINED and PRACTICED the heavier first DA pull AND the transition to the lighter SA subsequent pulls.

    I tried an aftermarket 4# connector in one of my Glocks for the first time this year just to see what the hype was about. It didn’t “make it easier to shoot WELL. If anything, it made it easier to shoot FASTER. My splits went from .18-.20 to .16-.18. It came out IMMEDIATELY though after I squeezed off a round before I wanted to while resetting the trigger between shots.

    Yes, it was a training issue and I could have trained to the lighter, mushier trigger, but I chose not to. I’ve got tens of thousands of rounds of training and practice through stock Glocks and did not see any sort of benefit from the lighter trigger that would justify the effort.

    I don’t buy the “easier to shoot” or “one trigger pull is better than two” crap. My theory is training is better than not training regardless of the equipment. If you can’t put rounds where you want them with a 5-7# stock trigger, I guarantee that trigger pull weight isn’t the true issue… YOU are… and lightening the trigger pull to just ounces isn’t going to “fix” YOU.

    Quit being a student of the gun and start being a student of the fight (or game if competition is your thing)!!!


    By Chris in GA on Mar 22, 2014

  4. Excellent article. I recently had to transition my colleagues from SIG .40 S&W’s to Glock 23’s. Very few were happy with the transition as all had at least 14 years experience with the SIG platform. While I shoot the Glock well, and have as favorite gun the Walther PPQ, I prefer TDA guns, namely Berettas. The gun I have started to off-duty carry is an “old friend,” my 92FS Compact.

    By browcs on Mar 22, 2014

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