Choosing a Good Hammer-Fired Gun


When the first Glock 17 was sold in the U.S. in 1986, there was a mad rush in the firearms industry to develop and market striker-fired guns. Contrary to common belief, striker-fired guns are nothing new. The first recorded striker-fired handgun was the Borchardt C-93 pistol, developed in 1893. But the Glock design combination of the simple striker-fired action and the lightweight polymer frame started a revolution in the firearms industry, and these days, striker-fired handguns abound. For a time, hammer-fired guns were considered an old-fashioned design that was on its way out.

But that didn’t turn out to be the case at all. In fact, hammer-fired handguns are enjoying a bit of a Renaissance these days, and why not? There are some definite advantages to hammer-fired guns. Around our house, we have as many hammer-fired guns as striker-fired. My wife prefers a hammer-fired gun, and between her and I, we have three Beretta 92s alone. So, if you don’t like striker-fired handguns or are in the market for your first or fifteenth gun, hammer-fired handguns are a good option.

Advantages of a Hammer-Fired Gun

Striker-fired guns are simple to learn how to shoot because you just rack the slide and pull the trigger. There’s no hammer to worry about being cocked or not, and they are usually lighter and often less expensive than hammer-fired guns. On the other hand, hammer-fired guns also have their share of upsides.


Hammer-fired guns generally have better triggers than striker-fired guns. They are much cleaner, with a smoother pull and a crisp break. Glocks, one of the most popular guns in the world, are notorious for having a somewhat mushy trigger. If you are shooting a hammer-fired gun in single-action, the trigger pull is very light, usually on the lighter side of a 1 to 5-pound range. By contrast, most striker-fired guns have a trigger weight somewhere between 5 and 8 pounds.

However, if your pistol is a DA/SA action, and you are shooting your gun in double action, you will be looking at a pull weight of 8 pounds or more because the act of pulling the trigger also cocks the hammer. However, that heavy pull also has some advantages that I will discuss later. Only the first shot is double-action; subsequent shots will all be single-action.

Manual Safeties and Decockers

Pretty much all hammer-fired guns have a safety or a decocker, and sometimes both. The safety works just like it does with any other gun. You rack the slide and set the safety on; the gun will not fire. To shoot the gun, you must manually flick the safety off. This makes them more popular with people who are uncomfortable carrying a gun that has no manual safety with a round in the chamber. Single-action hammer-fired guns always have a safety because they have a very light trigger pull.

decocker is an option with many DA/SA guns. Once a round has been racked into the chamber, working the decocker lever will safely drop the hammer while blocking the firing pin. This allows you to carry with the chamber loaded, but because the gun must be fired in double-action, it is much less likely that the trigger can accidentally be pulledAgain, this is something that makes you feel comfortable carrying with the chamber loaded, and we all know you should always carry concealed with the chamber loaded.

Things to Consider

There are some things to consider when shopping for a hammer-fired gun.

Single Action (SA) vs Double-Action (DA/SA) 

The first thing to consider when choosing a hammer-fired gun is the type of action. Single-action guns have the same smooth, light trigger pull with every shot. The only drawback is that you must carry it cocked with the safety on if you want to be able to deploy it quickly. That is probably fine for many people, although personally do not like to carry my gun with the safety on.

DA/SA guns give you more carry condition options. You can carry with a round in the chamber and the hammer down with the safety off and feel safe. The caveat here is that the first DA trigger pull will be much stiffer and longer than any single-action pull. On the other hand, if you want to carry with the hammer cocked and the safety on, many models, such as the Jericho, allow you to do that. However, some, like the Beretta 92, use a decocker rather than a manual safety, so the only way to engage the safety is to decock the gun, making that first trigger pull double-action. This is the way my wife carries her 92 and the way I carry all my DA/SA guns. As long as you have practiced enough to manage that first DA trigger pull, it is not an issue.

Frame Materials

Frame material and weight are other factors to consider. Unlike striker-fired guns, which are almost universally polymer frames, many hammer-fired guns have metal frames of either steel or aluminum. This makes them heavier than polymer frame guns. That isn’t necessarily a problem as long as you don’t mind a few more ounces of weight, but it is something to keep in mind.

Double Action Only (DAO)

I will briefly touch on the third type of hammer-fired gun because, in many ways, it is more like a striker-fired gun, at least in how it feels and shoots. Double-action-only guns have internal hammers that cannot be seen or manipulated by the shooter. The action works by depressing the trigger whether the slide has been racked or not. Of course, pulling the trigger won’t do you much good if there is no round in the chamber. DAO guns generally have a trigger pull of 5 to 6 pounds. Most also have a manual safety, although the trigger pull is heavy enough that using it is optional.

Some Great Hammer-Fired Guns

There are nowhere near the number of hammer-fired guns on the market as there are striker-fired. Still, there are some very nice options if a hammer-fired gun is what you are looking for.

Beretta 92 9mm

The Beretta 92 series needs no introduction. Most of the 92 models are full-size, although the 92X is an optic-ready compact. They use a DA/SA action and include a decocker so you can carry it with a round in the chamber and the hammer down for extra safety. The decocker lever also acts as safety if you leave it engaged, or you can flip it back off after lowering the hammer and it is ready to fire by pulling the trigger. The main drawback is the all-steel construction is a bit heavy for some folks.

SEE ALL Beretta 92 DEALS

Beretta 80X Cheetah .380ACP

Beretta 80X CheetahBeretta 80X Cheetah

If you want something smaller, the 80X Cheetah .380 offers everything the 92 series does but in a smaller package. It is a DA/SA that is optic-ready, has a 13+1 capacity, and has a frame-mounted safety rather than a decocker. 

SEE ALL Beretta 80X Cheetah DEALS

Jericho 941

Jericho 941Jericho 941

The Jericho is an Israeli handgun with a polymer frame to reduce weight. A full-sized handgun, it is available in 9mm, 41AE, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP and makes a great home defense gun. I keep mine next to my bed and put it in my truck whenever I go anywhere. 

SEE ALL Jericho 941 DEALS

CZ-75 Tactical/CZ-75 Compact

CZ-75 CompactCZ-75 Compact

CZ has been making legendary 9mm handguns for decades. The CZ-75 Tactical is a 9mm DA/SA steel-framed handgun with an ambidextrous decoking lever. It has a 19+1 capacity.

If you want something smaller, the 9mm CZ-75 Compact cuts an inch off the frame length but still provides 13+1 capacity. It also has a manual safety rather than a decocker.




CZs can be pricy, especially if you are on a budget. Fortunately, SAR USA Corp, based in Miami, FL, imports the high-quality Turkish Sarsilmaz line of handguns. They offer clones of both the 75 (SAR B6) and the 75 Compact (SAR B6c). They are similar to the basic CZ-75 and 75 Compact at a considerably lower price. I have one of each, and they are great guns.


CZ P-01

CZ P-01CZ P-01

If you want something lighter, the 9mm CZ P-01 has an aluminum frame to cut the weight. It is DA/SA with a 15+1 capacity and a decocker




No discussion of hammer-fired guns is complete without talking about the 1911. Unlike the guns I have talked about so far, 1911s are single-action handguns. That means the hammer must be back for it to fire when you pull the trigger. They were designed to be carried with a round in the chamber, the hammer cocked, and the safety on. That means you cannot carry them with the hammer down and the safety off and expect to put them into action quickly. They must be cocked, and with a sensitive single-action trigger, I would not carry it without the safety on. On the other hand, because the 1911 uses a straight pull trigger rather than a pivoting trigger like most other guns, it has the smoothest trigger of any production gun.  

Originally only available in .45ACP, more models of 1911s chambered for 9mm and .380 are hitting the market. They are available in every size from the full-size Government Model to the Kimber Micro .380. All 1911s have the same control configuration, so if you are used to one you will be comfortable with any of them. The main drawback with all 1911s is capacity7 or 8+1 is the norm, although some of the new double-stack 9mm 1911s have more.


EAA Girsan High Power MCP35PILW

EAA Girsan High Power MCP35PILWEAA Girsan High Power MCP35PILW

The FN Browning Hi-Power is almost as iconic as the 1911. The Girsan High Power MCP35PI Lightweight 9mm is a modernized HP with an aluminum frame and a 3.9” barrel. Features like an extended beavertail, no magazine disconnect, fiber optic front sight, and a capacity of 15+1 make it a great choice for anyone who wants an SA hammer-fired handgun.

SEE ALL EAA Girsan High Power DEALS

It’s a Matter of Choice

Are hammer-fired guns superior to striker-fired guns? No. Nor are striker-fired guns superior to hammer-fired guns. They are both tools and viable options for the gun owner, and either will make a great home defense or carry gun. It is a matter of choice, just as it should be. So, if you aren’t comfortable with a striker-fired gun or don’t want one for whatever reason, don’t let anyone talk you out of considering a hammer-fired gun.

Read the full article here

Subscribe to our newsletter

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy