I endorse the practice of rendering defensive revolvers double action only (DAO.) Many people ask why, and I thought I’d give you my thoughts on the matter.
Let’s start with the usual argument for retaining single action capability, which I call the “Walter Mitty scenario”: the mythical need for making precise long range head shots. Let’s face it, folks – this just never happens in real life!
However, let’s say that you’re having a Jack Bauer kind of day and are now facing just this scenario. Mightn’t that be just a tad bit stressful? Wouldn’t that make you even more nervous, knowing that you’ll be trying the toughest possible handgun shot under the worst possible conditions? With all that adrenaline now flowing through your system, is this really the time that you want a light, short trigger pull that is very easy to accidentally release? Not me, bunky!
This is the reason for DAO: light single action triggers are great on the calm shooting range, but pose a liability risk for unintentional discharges under stress. As Massad Ayoob says, single action triggers are great shooting tools, but lousy threat management tools.
Now I I know what you’re thinking: “OK, but I promise I’ll never use it!” I’m sure you mean that sincerely, but it’s human nature to practice what we’re already good at, and to do that which is easiest for us. At the range, it’s not uncommon to watch someone shoot a revolver at, say 50 feet and become disenchanted with their groups. At that point, they usually switch to the easier pull of the single action and shoot that way. This imprints their subconscious to use single action when they are unsure of their abilities, and this may be what they revert to under stress.
Once that act of thumbing back the hammer has become habit, another problem crops up: the Hollywood-inspired (and reinforced) act of cocking the gun to show the bad guy that you “really mean it!” I’ll refer you back to the second paragraph, with emphasis.
(Yes, I know you’ll promise not to do that either. But if you’ve told your subconscious that cocking the hammer is accepted shooting technique, do you think it’ll ask your conscious mind for permission when the time comes – especially if decades of TV and movies has told it otherwise? Of course not! “Besides”, your subconscious thinks, “if Tyne Daly can do it, why can’t I?”)
Removing the SA capability eliminates the chances of any of this happening. (If you make the conscious decision to carry a gun with SA capability, I recommend that you attend Massad Ayoob’s “Armed Citizen’s Rules of Engagement” course, where you will learn how to defend that choice – and counter any false claims that may arise from it – in court.)
From a gunsmithing perspective, I found that eliminating the SA capability can, on some guns (Colt and Dan Wesson), give a bit more leeway in terms of honing the double action. Without the need to worry about the single action sear, the double action can be tuned far more radically than is otherwise possible. In S&W and Ruger guns, reducing the DA pull to the barest minimum (as some request) will result in an unconscionably light SA pull – often below 32 ounces. Eliminating the SA notches means that this ceases to be a worry.
Speaking for myself, I didn’t start to shoot DA well until I’d gotten rid of the SA capability completely. True story: one day (many years ago), shortly after transitioning to shooting only revolvers, I was participating in a match (Bianchi type.) I was having trouble with missing those little round steel plates they use for one stage, and it was making me madder and madder. At one point the buzzer sounded, and I drew the gun (a Python) and cocked it for each plate. I downed all of them, but my happiness was shattered by a taunting voice of a 1911 partisan that said “hey, Grant, I’ve got a gun that does all that for me!”
After that I removed the SA from my revolvers and started shooting DA exclusively. It wasn’t long before I was beating the guys (including the loudmouth in question) who were shooting 1911s with crisp single action triggers. It can be done!
If you have any doubt as to how accurately a double action can be shot, go watch your local PPC match – there’s one just about everywhere in the country. You’ll see lots of folks shooting DAO revolvers at up to 50 yards and producing groups that can be covered by your hand. That should be good enough for any defensive use, and you too can do it with just a bit of practice!
-=[ Grant ]=-
- Posted by Grant Cunningham
- On August 8, 2007