I have observed a number of revolutions in the handgun world. The Glock pistol and the popularity of polymer frame handguns was one. A vast improvement in quality in 1911 handguns, led by Kimber, was another.
Today, another change is coming.
This is the modification of existing hammer-fired handguns into new models with a striker-fired system. The Ruger LC9 became the LC9-S, the HK P30 is the VP9, the SIG P250 became the SIG P320 and the Walther PPQ has also been modified. It is pretty interesting and not without precedent.
When John Moses Browning developed the Colt 1903 pocket pistol, he included a concealed hammer in the design. With the Browning 1910 he used a striker. Today the most popular striker-fired handgun is the Glock, followed closely by the Smith and Wesson M&P. Earlier striker-fired single-action handguns were not nearly as safe. This is because the striker was fully cocked upon racking the slide.
Glock defines the modern double-action only striker-fired handgun. The slide is racked—or operated by recoil energy—and the striker is partly cocked or prepped. A press on the trigger moves the striker to the rear against spring pressure. At a point in travel the sear releases and the striker rushes forward to fire the cartridge. This is repeated with every shot.
The action has advantages.
As an example, I found the original Ruger LC9 a useful handgun. Many years of experience with the double-action revolver was an aid. However, I noticed in my training classes that not everyone enjoyed such good results with the LC9.
The new striker-fired version has a lighter trigger press and short reset. It is a downright crisp action.
Most shooters can use this handgun much better than the original. It is difficult to pull a hammer requiring 12 pounds of compression against a 20-ounce handgun and still provide accurate fire. The striker-fire handgun provides this accuracy.
With proper safety measures, such as a lever in the trigger to prevent lateral discharge, safety is retained. All true safety, however, is between the ears.
Considerable redesign is required between the original hammer-fired handguns and the new striker-fired handguns. Many resemble the original product although they are very different. In most cases the slide, barrel and magazine are the same. The lockwork is not.
The SIG P320 has turned out well and SIG hopes to sell quite a few. This handgun features a firing system many will feel is a single action, rather than a double-action only; the system is complex enough that the point is debatable.
Among the new and popular striker-fired Walther handguns is the PPQ. A handgun with a storied past beginning with the P99, the PPQ offers modern lines and good performance. The action is light, clean and crisp with excellent reset speed. I fired a good bit of the Federal American Eagle 115-grain FMJ load in this handgun; I find it responds well to a trained shooter. Practical accuracy is excellent.
I have also fired a good number of the Speer Gold Dot 124-grain loads in this firearm. Accuracy is good and overall the conversion to striker fire seems well conceived and executed.
Another first-rate new striker-fired handgun is the Heckler and Koch VP9. There was not anything wrong with P30; now you have a choice. The VP9 is an essentially excellent handgun with many good features. I have fired this handgun with Federal’s HST loads including the powerful +P versions and found it controllable and accurate.
What’s the Big Deal
Now, what is the big deal about striker-fired handguns? The hammer-fired handguns require a strong hammer spring to drive the hammer home and strike the firing pin, igniting the primer.
- The striker and spring are one in the striker-fired handgun.
- There is no hammer spring in the frame.
- Slide movement partially cocks the striker and the trigger cocks and releases it in the final movement—in most striker-fired firearms.
- The system allows good trigger control.
Moreover, what is trigger control? Pretty simple.
Trigger control is simply pressing the trigger without disturbing the aim. The striker-fired firearm excels in this type of fire.
Defensive firing at close range doesn’t demand great accuracy; it does demand great control, a rapid trigger reset and maintaining the sight picture. The striker-fired handguns give us that. Plus, most feature rapid trigger reset.
After looking over the present offerings, I am not likely to ditch my long serving hammer-fired handguns. However, if I was in the market today, and both models were available, I am certain that I would choose the striker-fired models.
I did so recently, choosing an LC9S as a backup and deep concealment handgun. The striker-fired revolution is a happy one.