Not too long ago, the metal frame Double Action/Single Action (DA/SA) pistol was king in both the military and law enforcement. Beretta 92s, third-gen S&W’s, and the Sig P-series pistols were king of the hill. The military was carrying the Beretta 92FS with untold numbers in service. Many agencies, including Texas DPS, Air Marshals, and many others, used the P226/8/9 series of Sigs. Third gen S&W’s were everywhere, with the California Highway Patrol having more than 5,000 of them. Then, when the Glock started to gain traction and widespread acceptance, the reign of the metal frame DA/SA started to wane. And today, they are scarce. Is there still a place for a DA/SA pistol in 2023?
Safariland makes several different styles of duty holsters for the PX-4 series.
Ironically, I started my career in police work with a Glock 22 in .40 S&W. And I shot it just fine, probably due to my 20-something-year-old eyes and coordination more than anything else. Even back in 2000-2001, the DA/SA was still quite popular. I started with the Connecticut State Police in 2001, and we were issued P-229s in .40 S&W. I don’t recall any significant problems with them, and they were fairly easy to shoot well.
It was and is a great design for police. You have a longer and heavier first trigger pull to deal with, which may reduce the chances of a negligent discharge. Then you have a nice, short, usually crisp trigger pull for any follow-up shots you may have to take. We had no problem getting people to shoot them well and meet our standards back then, despite having two different trigger pulls.
The author carried the PX-4 on duty and the compact off duty for many years. They are reliable and soft shooting with a unique rotating barrel design.
Today, it seems as if the DA/SA has all but vanished from most holsters. Some people in the training industry believe that you are wrong if you don’t carry a polymer frame, striker-fired pistol. Certainly, more is going on with a DA/SA pistol – two different trigger pulls, having to de-cock after shooting and before moving. But are they really more complicated? Or are they similar? Press the trigger smoothly to the rear, regardless of whether it is a long trigger press or a short one.
The Beretta 92 series pistol has a well-established track record of reliability and accuracy.
Are they really that different and difficult to master? I don’t recall anyone having an issue meeting our standards with their P-229s. Even novice shooters were able to master the mechanics well. And the advantage of having the shorter and lighter pull for all subsequent shots must be noted. Smaller officers who struggle to reach the trigger on today’s double-stack polymer pistols may have an advantage in using a DA/SA since the trigger is much easier and shorter to reach after the first shot. And there are after-market short triggers available from several manufacturers. In comparison, the striker-fired guns are the same weight and reach every time.
In my time teaching, I have seen many people, especially those of smaller stature, struggle with reaching the trigger and having a good trigger press with a striker-fired pistol. I rarely see people struggle with a quality DA/SA pistol.
When re-holstering, place your thumb on the back of the hammer to monitor any movement of it that could result in an unintended discharge.
An advantage of pistols with an external hammer is that you can monitor any trigger movement while re-holstering. We were taught to touch the hammer with our thumb before returning to the holster. There were two reasons for this. First, to make sure we had de-cocked the pistol before re-holstering. Second, we could feel the hammer moving rearward if something made contact with the trigger while re-holstering.
There are numerous holsters available for the DA/SA pistols, like this from Don Hume.
With the surge in popularity of appendix carry, this is a great advantage. If you were holstering while carrying in the appendix position, you could simultaneously monitor and control the pistol’s firing mechanism.
Most DA/SA pistols can be disassembled without pressing the trigger. It is fairly easy and safe to clear a P-229 or Beretta 92 and field strip it without ever having to press the trigger.
What are your thoughts on the DA/SA pistol? Are they still relevant and viable in 2023?