The Striker Fired Revolution

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.

Striker-Fired Handgun
Another advantage of the striker-fired handguns is a simpler mechanism.

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.

Ruger LC9s
The Ruger LC9s is a great pocket pistol that actually shoots well.

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.

SIG P320
The SIG P320 has given good results in firing test.

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.

The HK VP9 is among the friendliest 9mm handguns to fire.

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.

What do you think of hammer-fired vs. striker-fired systems? For or against? Share your opinion in the comment section.

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (19)

  1. Thor, My first duty semi-auto was a S&W Model 59. After I left the department, I purchased one for myself. I carried it for many years. Today, I have & love my S&W 5906.

  2. Bob, you might have inserted the word “But” as in “But doesn’t have a magazine disconnect” For some of us, having a mag disconnect is considered a positive. I think adding that feature was a request/requirement for police departments. As a LEO, I know I considered it a good thing. And if you remember, according to reports (which may or may not be accurate) Michael Brown had tried to grab Daren Wilson’s gun. Many officers have been killed with their own guns, so having the ability to release the mag to render the gun inoperable can save lives.

    1. Don, I was replying directly to Thor’s comment that: “…if you’re lucky you…disable the need for a magazine to be inserted to fire.”

      I know that many feel that a mag disconnect is a good feature and others feel just the opposite. Weapon retention is a very important thing. No question. Just because something is requested/required by one or more police departments does not make that thing a good one for everyone. NYPD required a heavier trigger from Glock. They had their reasons. That doesn’t make heavy triggers good for everyone.

  3. I like a combination of power, features, looks & complete SS. I have only found that in S&W Generation 3 semi-autos. Double action, a real hammer, 10mm, and after-market grips that give you a grip while absorbing recoil. If you are lucky you get adjustable rear sights and disable the necessity for a magazine to be inserted to fire.

    Glocks & Sigs don’t make it past the looks test. Plastic? Not a chance!
    S&W quit making the best pistol out there but the 10mm is coming back so maybe there’s hope!! Thor

    1. Thor — Have you looked at the EAA Witness pistols? They are all steel, have a traditional hammer, can be carried cocked and locked or not as you wish, are SA/DA, do not have a magazine disconnect, and have a great grip feel (to my hands). Oh yeah, they make them in 10mm.

  4. I like the option of thumbing back the hammer allowing for a single action trigger pull. As a kid, I learned to draw and shoot with a Colt SAA replica. So I’m used to drawing and thumbing back the trigger in one action. OK, so I’m a dinosaur. So be it. LOL Maybe that’s why I carry a 1911 or some other DA/SA pistol most of the time. But just to be fair, I just got a M&P Shield and I like the way it shoots. It is my back up gun. Easy to carry, easy to hide.

  5. I’m confused. I thought Glocks lacked a safety. Do you mean a thumb safety? Or are you referring to the trigger safety on the Glock? I don’t consider the trigger safety on a Glock, a real safety. But that’s just me.

  6. You mentioned the PPQ in your comments, I have a PPX and was wondering what your thoughts are on this weapon. I like it because it fits my ham size hands really well, a problem I’ve had in the past. I don’t shoot near as often as I would like and probably not as often as I should, but I found this to be pretty accurate and easy to shoot. I had a Glock 22 years ago and the PPX fits me and shoots for me about the same although I really wish I hadn’t gotten rid of it. The only problem I have is I never realized this had no manual safety, I know, it’s pretty amazing I missed that, but I got it online and never noticed.

  7. I have an S&W M&P 40c. I had tried a friends Glock 23 but it didn’t fit my hand and I couldn’t operate the front button on his CT laser grip. I took my CCW test with that gun, but I just used the iron sights. When I got the M&P, it fit me a lot better and I like my CT laser button on the back of the grip, but I didn’t like the trigger. I installed the various upgrades from Apex Tactical, and now the trigger feels like the Glock, but it costs like a Glock too, but at least it fits me well now. It’s very reliable, fast reset, and great trigger feel.

  8. I generally oppose striker fired guns as well. I prefer my older DA/SA S&W models. But I recently purchased a S&W Shield. The trigger isn’t bad (but not like a 1911 by any means) and the thumb safety works easily. It won’t be my primary EDC gun but my fill a need for a smaller gun for casual dress and/or as a BUG.

  9. I think its foolish to try and argue that either strikers or hammers are inherently better or safer. Either can be had with a firing pin block, which is an effective means of precluding a discharge without the trigger being pressed. I’ve fired plenty of examples of both systems and found that either system can be executed well or executed poorly. I find the glock is still the best rendition of the striker out there, balancing a manageable 6lb pull, a fairly firm break and a short reset with several mechanical safeties. The xd, being essentially a single action provides a reasonable pull but compromises safety, requiring the addition of a grip safety which then compromises reliability. The m&p’s glaring failure is the horribly long reset. All lack restrike capability.
    In hammer fired systems, the 1911 provides outstanding trigger pull, but the sao nature requires a thumb safety which adds a step to release that safety should you need to use the pistol under stress. No restrike either. And, the prevalence of 3 lb triggers on 1911s gives me the chills when i consider the consequences of forgetting to engage that safety. The cz75 and sig systems offer the best of both worlds with the ability to carry hammer down for a da 1st shot without a safety to fumble with. You can decock before reholstering, and you can restrike a bad primer. Unfotunately the stock da pulls tend to suck. And it takes time to master the transition from da to sa after 1st shot.
    I personally trust my glocks completely for defensive work. I appreciate the 1911 for precision target work, and I choose highly tuned cz hammer guns to compete with. My point being that neither hammers or strikers are automatically better. It comes down to execution. The ruger used as an example was an atrocious execution of the hammer system. Maybe the striker version will be an improvement. Maybe not.

  10. My first striker fired handgun was a S&W bodyguard, if I had dry fired it at the store, I would never have purchased it. The heavy and long trigger pull made this weapon a “to whom it may concern gun.” The gun had a safety but it was useless, I had to pry it into the fire position with a knife. I hated this gun but could not return it. I now carry a Kimber SOLO 9mm and love it, it has a smooth pull and you can keep the holes in center mass. I will never buy another striker gun from S&W.

  11. I guess I’m a product of my training. As a kid (10-11 yrs old), I trained to draw and shoot with a Colt SAA. Back then (before arthritis set into my hands), I could hold a silver dollar at shoulder level, draw and hit a man sized target @ 20 ft before the silver dollar hit the ground. I have always preferred SA or DA/SA pistols. I carried revolvers for many years while in law enforcement but also sometimes carried a Browning Hi-Power. Later I went with a S&W Model 59 I tried a striker fired gun a couple years ago but just didn’t feel comfortable with it. So I only carry DA/SA these days. I usually don’t even try to shoot DA but just thumb back the hammer and fire SA. This solves the longer/stiffer trigger pull for the first shot.

  12. Para’s LDA was made with a hammer, but functions in the same manner. The only minus would be no second strike capability, but that can be argued as wasted time instead of racking to eject the faulty round.

  13. I feel striker fired pistols are far more likely to be “negligently discharged” or as might be said accidentally discharged. The Glock statistically is the prime example with more law suits and accidental discharges resulting in death or injury than any pistol ever sold. Among some police I have heard the term “Glock Leg” as so many cops have shoot themselves in the leg with their Glocks and show a “Glock Limp” Some of th newer striker fired do add more safety like grip safety on the 1911. Glocks are reliabale, have good ergonomics too but I feel they are to dangerous to carry chambered and when people bring them to my classes I shoot very well with them. But being an old fart I guess I want a DA external hammer auto..

    1. Sounds like everything relating to those problems can be solved by proper firearms handling like keeping your finger off ther trigger untill u intend to fire

  14. His comment about pulling a 12-lb. trigger on a 20 oz. handgun being difficult to do and maintain accuracy really struck home with me. I have a .40 Beretta PX4 double-action and it is a HEAVY trigger pull and it is difficult to shoot accurately. Have to get a good feel for that point when the hammer is about to go down but that heavy pull and subsequent firing pulls down hard on your aim.

  15. I’ve owned Glocks for decades and love their reliability. I do hate the fact that there is no thumb safety like my Colt Commander has. I feel perfectly safe carrying my Colt cocked and locked. However, my Glock always has an empty chamber. It’s something I have not been able to get past. Safety is of paramount importance to me, that said I’d love to see a thumb safety on the Glock.

  16. It seems that the author is disregarding single-action and “traditional” DA/SA pistols entirely. There is no way that the hammer spring matters in any significant way to the trigger pull of a pistol AFTER it has been cocked. That is the main reason why I dislike all DAO pistols. Sure, if you are looking only at DAO pistols the newer design striker-fired pistols that use the trigger only to finish the drawing back of the striker spring and then release the striker are preferable, but DAO pistols are NOT the only kind available.

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