If you are shooting a Double Action pistol and you are under the impression it is inherently safer, you are either ignorant or a fool. Either case we need to take a closer look at safety.
Recently the LA Times published an article entitled “Why Police Shouldn’t Use Glocks“. The author makes some strong assertions about “safety” and how Glock pistols are more prone to negligent discharges due to their “short trigger”. While each example cited is a tragedy they also have a common theme, it appears based off the description in the article the shooters were “startled”. If their trigger finger is on the trigger then it is highly probably they will place enough force to discharge the firearm. Walking around with your finger on the trigger without a positive identification of your target and making a conscious decision to fire is a tragedy waiting to happen.
Your nervous system
There really isn’t a way to control a startle reflex. I am willing to bet the type of trigger, whether short, long, soft or hard during this type of event will be irrelevant. The pressure you apply will be more than sufficient to move right past a Double Action or DA trigger just as easily as a “short trigger” or any other type of trigger. I think it is reasonable to say this is more a software issue rather than a hardware issue. For many, it is easier to blame the inanimate object rather than take a closer look at the shooter behind the firearm.
Don’t do the double action
Another point of contention for me is a claim regarding a DA pistol being easy to fire deliberately. Most modern pistols are easy to fire period, but much harder to fire accurately. DA triggers are significantly heavier than their “shorter” trigger family members. This heavy trigger makes it more challenging for shooters to become proficient with their first round fired. In my experience it takes thousands of repetitions to become proficient and the more complex the task, the longer the period to be proficient as well as sustain proficiency. There are several other factors that affect proficiency, but generally it is accepted the more correct repetitions you perform the better skilled you will be under pressure. It is difficult to specify what that number is, but for arguments sake let’s say 1,000. Due to the dual triggers of a DA pistol the shooter will then have to develop proficiency with the lighter Single Action or SA trigger weight. Unless of course you plan on being in a “one shot” type gunfight.
The “easier” trigger pull
There is enough difference from the two trigger pulls that I don’t think anyone would say you are good to go and don’t need to waste time on the SA. You have to put in the same effort to achieve proficiency with the SA as you do the DA. I don’t think it is accurate to say twice the effort, but easily you have to put more effort. This is on top of just trying to be good enough with the DA, which in my experience is pretty tough. Instead of a mere 1,000 repetitions we are now looking at 2,000 in our make believe world. I believe that is wishful thinking at best, dangerous at worse.
Officer and Public Safety
How does all this relate to safety? It should seem obvious, but officer safety in a gunfight has a lot to do with their ability to hit their intended target. The quicker they eliminate the lethal threat the less exposure to risk of injury or death they will face. If they have not put in the effort to achieve proficiency with both trigger pulls then marksmanship will be suspect. On top of that there is the worry about if you are not sufficiently accurate what is to become of the rounds that miss their target and how does that affect public safety?
There are a lot of variables that go into officer safety, but more often than not it is a software and not a hardware problem.
2 thoughts on “Double Action Distress”
I was in law enforcement for a few years. The agency I worked for issued various Sig pistols in .40 S&W. I chose a 226, and had the armory install a SRT trigger set in it. But it was hard to get that first round exactly where I wanted it (8″ pie plate, easy. 2″ brain box, very hard.) shooting DA.
I got into the habit of thumb cocking the hammer, as it was easier than attempting difficult shots in DA.
I’ve shot Beretta pistols in the military, and other DA/SA pistols through the years with the same issue. While I can do it, I much prefer a single action or striker fired pistol. I shoot them better, and that makes me, and everyone around me, safer.
Just my $.02.
Great points and we totally agree with you. Sometimes things are multidimensional.