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DA vs SA - Another view

2K views 9 replies 2 participants last post by  larry 
#1 ·
Hello all,

Reading this forum (and others) from "old" Europe, I'm always surprised how the superiority of single action automatics - first of all 1911s and BHPs - is considered as obvious and iscelebrated by most of the members on your side of the water. My opinion, based on an other culture and experience, is that superiority is mainly a question of habits and training.

Out of some informal shooting with my grandfather's Luger (SA), my first serious contact and training with handguns happened at the army with our ordnance P 75 (SIG Sauer P220 in 9 mm) in 1981. For almost 25 years now, I have shot mostly DA pistols like P220, P226, P225, CZ 75, Walther P38 and P5. The designs that work best for me in defense drills (quick draw, double taps, Mozambique, multiple targets...) are P225 and P5. Neither the "long heavy" DA first pull nor the transition to the following "short light" SA pulls disturb me. For me, these two pistols shoot extremely well, even if I never pretend to be the ultimate mastershot or the terror of the streetcorner.

A few years ago, I (reluctantly) put my hands on Glocks and discovered how the design works well and lends to quick and fast shooting. Being a traditionnalist, I can't feel any proud of ownership for my G26, even if I do shoot it regularly with great pleasure. At least, I admit that Glocks can be shot very efficiently with a minimum of training (I don't say "handled", as they cry for stringent disciplin).

Single action designs are a another matter... after a decade of (not so zealous) training, I just can't draw a Gov, Commander or BHP, lift it, push out the safety and align as quickly as with a SIG Sauer, a Walther or a Glock. Their sights usually are not as clear for my eyes as the latter's (dot on square).

As I said on the beginning, it is probably a question of habit and training. But it's clear that what works for one won't for another.

To the jokers: my SA pistols are NOT for sale!


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#2 ·
It's indeed what yr used to shoot!
I started handgun shooting with my aurus PT99 DA.
Since a few months I own a HiP as well, and I must say I shoot my HiP much more and with greater pleasure than my DA Taurus!
I don't exactly know why, but the HiP just fits me like a gloove!
In the accuracy department there's no difference between the two and I seem to be faster with the HiP!
I'm from Europe as well (Netherlands)and here, handgunskills for protection are no where near as popular as in the US. While there is a IPSA department here, and many shoot pins for fun, most handguns never ever see a holster.
And be aware; the SA 1911 and the HiP were 'invented' by Browning, Europe!
#3 ·
I began shooting with m1911a1 singla action semiautos in .45 acp, and even I know that coked'n locked is THE WAY to cerry such guns I would rather a da revolver.

For semiautos I prefer SA tipe, for rrevolvers da or preferably dao, I shoot most of the times my da revolvers dao exclusively and do it right.

Tha da/sa transition has been very dificult for me, it's just me.

#4 ·
I'd say you're right about the training to a point; most competition shooters over here, looking for the sharpest advantage, favor s/a. Could be a fad, but I suspect there's a performance advantage involved.

Dropping down several (a lot actually) notches from that, I personally shoot a CZ p01 as accurately as a 1911. The sa/da CZ is ergonomically very friendly and has a bore axis that may even be lower than the 1911's, both of which factors offset the trigger action.

For me the 1911 is a superior ergonomic design. It feels natural in my hand. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that some of the preference for single action is really a prefernce for the physical design of the pistols as much as it is for the trigger. In fact, were one available, I bet I could shoot a DAO 1911 more accurately and quickly than I would a Sig.

Still, I'm sure I could learn to shoot a Sig well. But I don't think I'd ever truly be comfortable with one.

#5 ·
Of course one will be more proficient with a familiar weapon than with an unfamiliar weapon, but let's not pretend that's all there is to a preference for single action triggers. One needs only to glance at an exploded view of a double action/single action design to see that there are more parts in such a design. These extra parts are necessary to enable the cocking of the hammer by the trigger pull in double action mode, but they are still there, in total superfluity, contributing their mass and friction, even when the weapon is fired in single action mode. It takes more work to get a smooth double action/single action trigger than it does with an average single action only design, because there are more interdependent parts that need attention, and, but in exceptional cases, the double action will not equal a single action which has received similar attention. IMO, John Browning's M1911 trigger stands out among single action triggers as particularly superior, by virtue of its incomparable SIMPLICITY. While a typical double action trigger rotates in an arc, on the axis of a pin, with additional linked members also rotating on the axes of their pinned joints, the 1911 trigger is essentially one part. It simply moves straight in and out, the rails of its "bow" sliding smoothly in milled channels in the frame. Its function is to trip the sear, and that is all - it bears no action upon the hammer. Trigger control with a 1911 trigger is comparable in ease to pushing a button. Some people who are accustomed to wrestling with more convoluted triggers find the ease of the 1911 unnerving. In my opinion, safety advantages with a decocked double action, versus a cocked-and-locked single action in good repair, are imaginary. The only advantage to a double action pistol that I can see is the capability to make an immediate second strike on a primer that fails to ignite. I think even that dubious advantage is moot on a pistol with a proper ignition setup, as the primer's failure to ignite is fair evidence of a dud primer, and time spent pulling the trigger for a second strike is wasted when it should be spent clearing the dud round and chambering a live one. As for the hassle of disengaging a thumb safety - if one lacks the manual dexterity to actuate a single action pistol's thumb safety as part of his draw, then he likely also lacks the manual dexterity to hold his sight picture on target through that long double action first pull on a double action pistol.
#6 ·
Hi there Larry,

I guess the facination with SA vs. DA Automatics also happens to be a "generational" enamourment as well as something derived from growth of the shooting sports in the US.

For a lot of us post WW II babyboomers, we were also raised in a era where single action pistols filled the screens of TV and film. We also inherited a lot of war trophy pistols and saw the decline of the gunmakers art decline in the '70's and 80's and the beginning of evolution of the double stack/double action semi-auto pistols in the 1970's. As a group, American's tend to be very nostalgic about the 1911.

With the introduction IPSC, we also had the evolution of a lot of parts and accessory manufacturers coming into the market with new ways to "accurarize and accessorize" 1911 automatic pistols. Whole industries have been built on this development in the market. Our enamourment now is being bolstered by "commercialization" of the 1911.

As far as training and habits, I have come about in a 180 degree direction as newer products are offered in the market. I truly believe the newer generation of handguns is every bit as good if an individual devotes enough time to learning the manual of arms and dedicating enough time to practicing with a DA firearm as compared to a SA handgun.

While my Glock 23 does not inspire any pride in ownership, it is an outstanding tool and platform for a defensive handgun. After a decade of shooting this weapon, I find that I am just as proficient with it as my BHP.

#7 ·
Thanks for the answers...


I was speaking of what works best for me in defense scenarios. For me, it is much easier to draw a P225 or P5, lift, align and pull the "long heavy" DA trigger than draw a 1911 or HP, lift, align, drop the safety and pull the "short light" SA trigger. The operation of the safety more than annihilate the better trigger performance of the SA. Just me.

For long distance, aimed shooting, I tend also to fire SA - even if I feel that some long distance DA training is conductive to better trigger control. But I think that the quality of the trigger - weight and caracteristics - is often overemphasied. My best groups - up to 50 meters - has been accomplished SA with a P38. In this case, the sight picture and distance of aim were much more important than the average SA (and all its "superfluous" parts, levers and pivots that play another goal). I never did as well with my 1911, Commander, HP (without mag safety), P49 (army SIG P210) and Star B.

On a technical view - take care, I'm a technical freak! - I think the 1911 trigger system has plus and negatives. It is a smart design, with less parts, right. BUT it mandates for quality: steel (look at the problems with cast or MIM), machining and fitting. Use of one spring for trigger, disconnector and grip safety is tricky too. A straight moving trigger is not, per se, superior. Drag on rails tends to be more than on a pivot. I'm much more impressed by the way Star's engineers simplified the design in the Modelo B. Pivoting trigger, trigger bar and disconnector made of very crude steel, a safety acting directly on the hammer. Pull and caracteristics on mine are exceptionnal.

One more word on "the less, the best" credo. I do not think that it leads always to the best solution. Take the HP. The first model included a internal extractor, similar to the 1911's. It also served as a block for a piece that acted as an axle for the pivoting trigger lever in the slide: 2 parts, a lot of machining, heat treatment, some fitting. In 1962, FN went to an external extractor (as some 1911 manufactures do now): 1 stamped extractor, 1 spring, 2 roll pins. They doubled the parts but the machining was minimized, the fitting eliminated and the extractor stronger and more reliable. The solution might not be as elegant for the eye. For FN and the users, it is clearly superior.

I don't blame the 1911. Like Caro, I think one of the most desirable feature is the modularity of the design: the ergonomy can be adjusted by changing the MSH, the grips, the grip safety, the trigger, the levers... with accessories readily available. No to forget the caliber and the fun factor...


#8 ·
Effectiveness in shooting lies almost entirely in the training and practice. After 25 years, you OUGHT to be proficient with the Sig-Sauers and I can understand why you are slower with a single action if you are having to think about the thumb safety. I have been shooting mostly 1911s for the past 30 years and the safety goes off somewhere between the time the muzzle clears the holster and the time the sights are on the target.

I do not think it fair to compare sight visibility and clarity based only on factory equipment. If you don't like the sights on a given pistol, there are plenty of others to be had.

I observe the Sig-Sauers to be the most reliable stock pistols on the market.

The 1911 design is cursed by a multitude of unlicensed copies and mutants made by people who think they know better than Mr Browning and who are more interested in cutting costs with ersatz materials than they are in full functionality. That, coupled with a willingness to let the paying customer and the warranty clerk do the final engineering, have left me reluctant to recommend a 1911 to anyone who inquires. One popular make is reportedly up to the fourth generation of substitute external extractor.

Glocks are serviceable durable bullet dispensing appliances, especially if you stick to the basic No 17 9mm P. My main objection to them is the Lugeresque grip angle. You can get used to anything, but I don't WANT to.
#9 ·
I understand your point of view very well, Larry. I used to carry a DA/SA pistol (M9) from time to time in the US Army, and then later carried one as a civilian. I currently have a DA/SA pistol in 9mm, my CZ 75B. I bought it because of its ergonomy, its ruggedness, and its reputation for reliability and accuracy. It has fully lived up to its reputation, and I would buy another, but this one will be converted to single action, admittedly to reduce the length of trigger takeup, in an attempt to make it more like a Hi-Power (though it will still have the superfluous DA bits). Why would I own such a pistol when I already own 1911's which I consider superior? Simply put, because I like guns, especially full size service type pistols, and I consider the CZ to be of good quality manufacture, with just a couple of rough spots that I will have smoothed out before long. Because of their reputation for quality, I will probably even buy a Sig eventually, likely a 226, just to have one in my collection (as well as familiarise myself with a highly prolific pistol), but it will have to have a milled steel frame and slide to satisfy me.

Your point about a 1911 needing to be finely made, from top quality materials, is well taken. In fact, even if I knew that a 1911 made of inferior materials would be completely functional as a tool, I would not buy it. Though sidearms are indeed tools, they are not merely tools, to me. That's one of the reasons I won't ever buy a Glock, in spite of it's reputation for reliability, and in spite of the fact that I shoot them very well, as I do with most any pistol I pick up. My 1911's are better in every regard, save corrosion resistance, and I compensate for that with fanatical maintenance. The Glock just does not appeal to my aesthetic sensibilities.

By the way, Larry, single action pistols are not nearly as popular here as you perceive them to be. We 1911 and Hi-Power lovers are often viewed as anachronistic oddballs, curmudgeons, or even reckless lunatics, by the far more populous DA/SA and "Safe Action" pistol enthusiasts. Also, the single action trigger itself is not the entirety of the appeal for us in our pistols of choice, but is almost unanymously considered as integral to the overall appeal.
#10 ·
Hi all,

I see with gratitude that we all accord on the essential: we love handguns, especially high quality ones. Like you, Jim, I would be very careful if I had to buy a new 1911 today - especially as customer's service is virtually non-existant here overseas even from the big manufacturers. By chance, I'm already well served with two Colt products made in the good years.

Maybe my first post was a little provocative as my proposition was purely based on personnal experience and training, both very subjective.

And I repeat it: I love and enjoy Browning designed guns as the 1911 and BHP, even if I'm not as proficient with them as with the DA/SA I trained most.


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