Pistol designs have come a long way from the classic steel offerings. The majority of modern handguns are polymer-frame, striker-fired pistols. Every handgun manufacturer worth its salt has a striker-fired option, but what makes them so popular? And why should you consider a striker-fired pistol over a more traditional option?
What Striker-Fired Means…
First off, let’s set a baseline for what we mean by “striker-fired.” Striker-fired refers to the firing mechanism of the firearm. Striker-fired pistols utilize a striker/firing pin combo that typically cocks as the slide is cycled. There is no hammer to pull back and release, pulling the trigger simply releases the striker. The result is a single, consistent trigger pull with a predictable break and reset. The trigger pull weight is usually much lighter than a traditional double-action and a bit heavier than a single-action-only.
Some of the most popular pistols use a striker-fired action, such as all Glocks, the SIG P320, Smith and Wesson M&P, and Springfield XD. They’re popular for military, law enforcement, and civilian use. If you’ve spent any time around firearms, you’ve likely handled — or at least seen — a striker-fired action, whether you knew it at the time or not.
There’s a reason striker-fired pistols are so popular, and they definitely have their advantages. One of the biggest reasons to own a striker-fired pistol is its simplicity. The striker action requires very few parts. This means there’s not a lot to go wrong or malfunction. It also allows the guns to be very cost-effective, as there’s not as much machining and parts fitting required.
This simplicity makes disassembly and maintenance easier, especially for those with less experience with firearms. Fieldstripping is completed in a few steps, and complete disassembly is typically not much harder.
Additionally, most striker-fired pistols have a completely sealed action. This prevents dirt and debris from entering the action and causing malfunctions. This makes striker-fired pistols incredibly reliable and durable, two requirements for a self-defense or duty firearm.
Even though striker-fired pistols are great, they do have some disadvantages. That same consistent striker-fired trigger pull that I praised above will also never be as great as a crisp single-action break. Some budget examples can be spongy and gritty, but most are decent. Even in the best examples, a striker-fired trigger break will never be as good as a crisp 1911.
Additionally, the striker-fired action is typically found on polymer pistols, which is great if you want a cost-effective firearm that simply does its job. However, if you’re looking for something more detailed and refined, you’ll likely need to turn to a hammer-fired option.
Another criticism often made of striker-fired pistols has to do with safety. The lighter trigger pull can be concerning to some shooters who feel light the gun may accidentally go off. Further, there’s often no manual thumb safety on striker-fired pistols, though there are many models with that option.
All I will say is that if you practice safe firearm handling, stay aware, and keep your finger off the trigger until you want to fire, you’ll likely have no issues. However, if you’re more comfortable with a pistol that has a heavier trigger pull and manual safety, then a striker-fire is probably not for you.
Striker-fired pistols certainly have their place in every gun collection. They’re great for concealed carry, duty, home defense, and even competition. They do have their drawbacks, but I believe they are outweighed by their benefits. The great thing is, you can always own more than one firearm.