Double Action or Single?


July 14, 2008, 04:39 PM
I'm beginning to shop for my first revolver. (I've always owned autos until now.) Got a 30-30 hog rifle, so now I'd like a backup gun on my hip --either .357 or .44 mag. Is a single action suitable for this purpose. I assume DA's were developed because they're faster and can be carried with the hammer down. Does that mean I'd be fumbling around with a SA? Thanks, guys.

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July 14, 2008, 04:46 PM
Fumbling around? No, not at all.

Hammer down?
You carry any revolver with the hammer down.
New Model Rugers are perfectly safe with all six rounds. Older Colt SAA's and clones should only be loaded with 5 and the hammer resting on an empty chamber.

Some consider the Ruger SA Blackhawk & Bisley the best hunting handguns made, because they handle heavy hunting loads as well or better then anything else. And it is impossible to wear one out.

As far as speed, there is no gun any faster from a holster for the first shot then a SA.

And learning to shoot DA with any degree of accuracy is a long process for most folks.


July 14, 2008, 04:48 PM
For defensive purposes, the SA will likely require that you practice with it more. You certainly won't carry it cocked, so practice in thumb cocking on the fly will be key (not that DA is exactly point-and-shoot mind you).

Honestly, unless you have a taste for the cowboy/history thing, I'd just go DA.


July 14, 2008, 04:50 PM
Something else to think about, a DA can be shot in both SA and DA, where as a SA can only be shot SA.

For hunting hogs I would get a DA.

dagger dog
July 14, 2008, 05:33 PM
If you really think about it , using the gun for hunting you'll most likley try to take a single action timed shot at what ever your hunting. In most hog hunting scenarios you'll be stalking the hog having seen him first, so that will be the single action thing with the hammer pulled back and wanting the accuracy of that SA shot. BUT if that hog decides to turn and give you a rush, you just might want the peace of mind that quick back up shot the DA can give.

So I'd say the DA is the way to go,especially if you want to use it for defence, against wild hogs or other vermin!

July 14, 2008, 06:09 PM
I have both and prefer SA guns for the most part. I so rarely shoot double action anyway that I'm almost 100% sure that under stress I'm still going to cock the hammer because that what my thumb is trained to do. Muscle memory is a powerful thing. I usually cock the hammer without even thinking about it, as I'm lining up the next shot.

Whenever I shoot my CCW gun (Taurus 85UL) I force myself to shoot it DA only, just so that it will feel natural at least for that particular gun.

.38 Special
July 14, 2008, 06:40 PM
It doesn't really matter.

Random thoughts on the matter, FWIW... Tyros are probably faster with the first shot from holstered with DA. More experienced users will post about the same times with either. Subsequent shots are usually faster with DA, but that time difference becomes smaller and smaller when caliber starts going up. When we get to heavy recoiling calibers like the .44, most folks are about as fast SA as DA.

A lot of folks find certain single action grips more comfortable than DA grips with heavy recoil. A lot of folks claim that the Ruger Bisley grip has no peer for controlling guns of .44 Magnum and up. I am one of them.

For defense against two legged critters the DA is the way to go, IMO, especially with the .357 Magnum. The faster follow up shots make sense, as does speed in reloading. For hunting all your shots are liable to be from single action, so DA capability becomes kind of moot, and the "load one at a time" routine is no big deal, unless you are attacked by hoards of irate ground squirrels.

Single actions have a reputation for being tougher and more reliable in the field, but Ruger DAs put lie to the notion. You'd be hard-pressed to break or wear out a Ruger regardless of action type. Smith & Wesson DAs are tougher than they are given credit for, though. Unless you are shooting many thousands of .44s through your M29 -- or using the ultra heavy loads from Buffalo Bore et al. -- the Smith will do a fine job. Colts and Colt copies are the weakest of the bunch, Freedom Arms revolvers excepted, of course -- but are still adequate for small boar and deer, in .45 Colt and .44 Special. If you really want horsepower, then a Ruger in .44, .480, or -- if you handload -- .45 Colt is the ticket.

Short version: don't worry about it. Head down to the gunshop and handle a bunch of guns in DA and SA. Pick the one that feels best to you. If you want a super tough gun buy a Ruger. If you want pretty and functional get a Smith. If you want a classic, buy a Colt or Colt clone, and if you're made of money, get a Freedom Arms.


July 14, 2008, 08:07 PM
"Faster DA follow-up shots" only count if you are able to hit anything with fast DA follow-up shots.

Most beginning handgunners, operating DA, under pressure, simply cannot!


.38 Special
July 14, 2008, 08:18 PM
True enough. I always try to assume competence, or at least the potential thereof, when offering advice. If the OP is incompetent and plans on staying that way, I'd recommend a slingshot and adult supervision. ;)

July 14, 2008, 09:27 PM
At the range I have noticed that people that shoot .44 mags usually shoot SA, even if their revolver is DA. Even with .357, excluding short barreled versions, most shots are fired SA. It all comes down to personal preference, but SA is usually a little cheaper. DA costs a little more but gives you the option of either.

Harve Curry
July 14, 2008, 10:31 PM
DA & SA have entirely different grip/frame so you should shoot both and see what you like. An indoor range where you can rent and try different guns. SAA style have always had a large following partly because of the comfortable grip. 4" to 5" barrel would be my choice unless your tall.

July 14, 2008, 11:03 PM
I always try to assume competence, or at least the potential thereof, when offering advice.

Give that man a cigar!

July 14, 2008, 11:31 PM
Do you hunt hogs with dogs? I would be more comfortable with a SA such as a ruger blackhawk.

Most people around here hunt hogs with dogs, and that can be a frenzied situation - lots of running or riding through the brush, need to wait for the dogs to get out of the way before shooting... I would want to have a gun I'm more familiar with, and for me, that means SA.

July 15, 2008, 12:06 AM
As a backup gun in the woods, it is really a toss up as to which is better. I prefer double action revolver, but not because I shoot them faster than a single action, but because I find them safer. You can check very quickly if they are loaded and you can unload them just as quickly. They are also faster to load. Did I give you enough reasons?

As far as single actions go, I have a Ruger Blackhawk in 41 mag that I like. It's fairly light and would make/does make a good side arm for the woods. They are also cheaper than most double actions.

July 15, 2008, 09:34 AM
Ever been to a "Cowboy Action" Shoot?

Those folks running the old "Thumb-Buster" SA revolvers are pretty darn FAST and accurate, too.

July 15, 2008, 09:45 AM
I like DA for it's ease of re-loading,but for accuracy I always shoot it SA using the off-hand thumbing technique even during my competition days. You can become very fast that way.:)

July 15, 2008, 09:50 AM
If you get a .357, I would recommend getting a 6" barrel, as the velocity drop off between 4" and 6" affects the .357 as a hunting round.

July 15, 2008, 09:53 AM
For hog hunting and two legged goblin protection, you might also consider something like a Glock 21 in 10mm. That is a pretty effective combination of power, speed, accuracy and simplicity. I know this is the revolver section and I like revolvers more than most pistols.

If I was going to have only one revolver for hunting and defense, I would get a double action in .357 or better with a 4" barrel and made in stainless steel. You should learn to shoot double action. I also see people at the ranges thumb cocking DA revolvers and know they need to learn to shoot double action first. If you need it for more than just playing at the range or longer distance and deliberate hunting shots, you REALLY need how to take advantage of the DA revolver's major advantages over the SA...speed in getting off accurate shots, particularly at closer ranges with nasty creatures.

I do like my SA's but for serious use that may mean the difference between some stress and a trip to the ER or morgue, I would pick the DA and spend the time to learn to use it DA...Just my humble opinion...

July 15, 2008, 11:14 AM
both DA and SA revolvers are suitable for hunting (given that both are in an adequate caliber). I own both DA an SA revolvers and tend to shoot both single action "mode". I don't think you are giving up/gaining much with one over the other in a hunting situation. As stated above, muscle memory (for which ever you choose) will take over. In my humble opinion, the choice should come down to wich feels better to you. I will say that in my opinion the "plow handle" design of most SA tends to reduce felt recoil.

In most cases, you can get both DA and SA revolvers in the same calibers with similar length barrels. As far as weight (which i'd be concerned about for a carry/backup gun) DA and SA are pretty similar. example: In .44 mag a 4" ss redhawk-- ~47oz, 4 5/8" ss Super Blackhawk--- ~45oz. In .357 mag, a 4" GP100-- ~40oz, a 4 5/8" ss blackhawk 46oz (well i didn't realize this till putting these numbers together, but you'd save 1/2 of a lb with the DA).

From your post you already have a 30/30, i'm going to assume it's a lever action and probably with a relatively short barrel. that right there is probably one of the best rifles for follow up shots. most are relatively short and the lever action allows for quick follow up shots in case an animal charges you. and another one of MY opinions, is that for a first revolver, i'd go with the .357, maybe not the best in the world for hogs, but it's easier on the wallet for practice and even shooting mags you can shoot till you run out of ammo at the range. the .44 may wear on you a little during extended shooting and the 44 is more expensive to shoot, whether it be 44 special or 44 mag.


July 15, 2008, 11:38 AM
There is NO PLACE IN THIS WORLD for DA in the field. NEVER EVER fire a gun DA at an animal. That's why God gave you SA, so you could PLACE the shot. DA is for self defense close up and personal, not for accuracy at range.

Some consider the Ruger SA Blackhawk & Bisley the best hunting handguns made, because they handle heavy hunting loads as well or better then anything else. And it is impossible to wear one out.

I'm one of those people and I'll add one more advantage, a lighter, more carryable POWERFUL package than a super-redhawk or X frame or Raging Bull type handgun. It's rugged, tough, reliable, and a compact, accurate package on the hip. You're talking back up for hogs, you don't want a 7" X frame hanging off your neck on a sling. You could go with an N frame like a 29 or Mountain Gun in a Smith or you could go with a 686 if in .357 and that'd be fine. But, you won't use DA in the field and the Blackhawk is a stronger, tougher gun. I carry a .45 Colt Blackhawk in 4 5/8" or a .357 with a 6.5" barrel when I wanna handgun things with iron sights and traditional revolver. That's my choice. I don't often carry a "back up" in the stand, but have used one to blood trail a wounded hog. It's not a bad idea to have one cause hogs go straight for the thickest stuff if wounded by a poor shot. You can't easily maneuver a rifle in some of that thick stuff. But, it ain't like I think there's such a NEED for a handgun unless I'm just handgun hunting. I used to ALWAYS carry a handgun when chasing hogs with dogs. Never used it, was for a just in case thing. Dogs held the hog down while you stuck 'em with a knife. Hog's are known to get loose from the dogs and cause problems doing this. That .45 Colt with heavy 300 grain loads is comforting in such a situation and, frankly, I can shoot just as fast if not faster with it than a DA shooting DA. And, that Blackhawk rides light on the hip when you're chasing dogs through rice fields at night. Of course, I use 'em a lot. The biggest advantage for HUNTING with a DA revolver is often they have better SA triggers than an SA gun. But, I've not found my Blackhawks to have even close to any bad trigger. They're crisp and light.

July 15, 2008, 11:40 AM
"For hog hunting and two legged goblin protection..."


July 15, 2008, 11:49 AM
Practice cocking a SA during the presentation. Keep your damn finger out of the trigger guard until ready to fire, as you should always do with all firearms.

Honestly, in general, Single Actions just feel...I dunno, right. I sadly sold my Blackhawk 4 5/8" recently. I can always use my 9x23mm should I need, and I haven't really been able to hunt since late '03. :o


July 15, 2008, 12:57 PM
There is NO PLACE IN THIS WORLD for DA in the field. NEVER EVER fire a gun DA at an animal. That's why God gave you SA, so you could PLACE the shot. DA is for self defense close up and personal, not for accuracy at range.

I agree with this. One or two well placed shots are better than a gun load of double action blasting away at an animal. The only time I shoot double action is at the range and that is either for fun or shooting targets at rather close distances.

As a backup while hunting, a 4" (ish) revolver such as a Smith or Colt is hard to beat in an appropriate caliber for handiness and easy of carry and draw. The short barreled Ruger Blackhawks are pretty handy.

I prefer a 6" (-ish) barrel for hunting. The 5.5" Ruger Redhawks are good and about as short as I would go unless the gun is strictly for shots of opportunity versus the primary gun.

July 15, 2008, 01:20 PM
There is NO PLACE IN THIS WORLD for DA in the field. NEVER EVER fire a gun DA at an animal.

I'll remember that if I'm ever attacked by a bear or big cat. Taking the time to get those accurate SA shots with a large animal in my face should make all the difference.

July 15, 2008, 01:31 PM
You let the animal get that close, he's gonna stuff that handgun where the sun don't shine. If a cat's on your back and you can plug it in his ear and pull one off DA, yeah. But, you could just as easily....well, I could....cock an SA gun and do the same thing. I'm actually faster with my first shot on the draw with a SA gun, just draws faster for me and the hammer seems to cock itself out of the holster. This comes with practice, but the gun also points better for me and comes to my eyes just as quickly as any of my DA guns.

If a bear or cat (not likely) is gonna pounce on you at close range and you've practiced SA, you're going to revert to your practice and you'll be faster with it. I've had to put down a charging, wounded hog, but I have never been pounced on by cat OR bear. I'm not sure what the odd are of that ever happening, probably 1/1000th that of being struck by lightening, maybe? If it ever happened, I'd be just as efficient with my .45 Colt blackhawk, I'm quite sure, probably quicker because I will have a shorter trigger pull to work with and my blackhawk points more naturally. That hog, subject of the OP, started at me from about 20 yards and dropped dead at about 10 which is where I put the SA fired shot from my DA .357 magnum through his scull. I don't know that I could have got that shot placement in that short of time shooting DA and I'm a good DA shooter. The shakes started later when the adrenalin started wearing off.

BTW, we don't have a lot of mountain lions around here and no bears, so I don't spend a lot of time worrying about that sort of thing. I do hog hunt, though.

July 15, 2008, 09:34 PM
I'd vote for a DA revolver for two reasons:

First, the shape of the SA butts are, to me, painful to shoot. My first pistol was a .357 Blackhawk and that was the most painful gun I've ever had the misfortune to fire. I put about 100 rounds through it and sold it. The curve of the Blackhawks grip hits the web of my hand at the wrong spot and a lot of the recoil goes into the hand. On a DA revolver you can change the shape; type of grip (smooth,sticky or hard); and size. You can have grips for shooting light loads or heavy loads. I don't recall seeing grips for SA's that can do that.

Second, is the DA capability for fast reloads using moon clips or speedloaders. Usually, with an animal, it's all over in 6 rounds or less. Once in a while though, you might miss and cripple the animal. Then, you've got a pissed off animal that has slowed down but not stopped and you need to reload. Fine motor control disappears during stress shooting, and you're going to have a tough time shucking shells one at a time in through a SA loading gate.

I had to shoot a wild dog one time that was a pit bull cross weighing around 60 lbs. I'd been out target shooting and had kept back 6 rounds in a Colt 38 special. This dog surprised me, charging out of some dense brush from about 25 yards away. I put five rounds, SA, into the dog with the last round breaking his shoulder. He stumbled just before he reached me, allowing me to jump out of the way. As he went past, I tried to put the last round into his eye but wound up putting the round just behind his ear and he went down. He didn't get up again, but he did breath on for a few minutes and made me regret not having any more ammo on me. If I had more ammo, and he had gotten up, I would have needed a quick reload which a DA gives you.

And yes, having shot a handful of animals intent on doing me harm, I highly recommend SA and accurate placement of shots!

July 15, 2008, 09:51 PM
My choice for that would be a DA....

.38 Special
July 16, 2008, 12:40 AM
There is NO PLACE IN THIS WORLD for DA in the field. NEVER EVER fire a gun DA at an animal. That's why God gave you SA, so you could PLACE the shot. DA is for self defense close up and personal, not for accuracy at range.
The problem with that kind of absolute is that you can just about guarantee someone will be along to provide the exception. After firing approximately one zillion double action rounds in competition and practice at ranges to 50 yards, I shoot DA nearly as well as SA.

I certainly expect to shoot SA at game, but on one occasion I shanked my first SA shot and hit the boar somewhere in the middle. A fast DA follow-up through the boiler room saved my bacon, so to speak.

This is not meant to be an ad for DA, as I spend most of my time in the field with a single action, but to say NEVER NEVER NEVER regarding DA shots in the field is a mistake, as far as I am concerned.

July 16, 2008, 10:08 AM
Unless you're a PPC champion, then, you are not going to be accurate at any range in DA. I'm decent in DA and I have to take my time and stage the trigger at 25 yards on 6" plates. I can shoot 'em SA actually faster. I'm no PPC shooter, though.

A .357 blackhawk was PAINFUL? :rolleyes: I can't see THAT one! I've shot .44 mag TC Contenders back to back with a Superblackhawk and I can tell ya, the Ruger was fun, the TC was not. I have a TC I hunt with and I've fired .45-70 out of a TC, ain't that I can't shoot it, but the web of the hand suffers. The Single action, properly held, rolls in the hand and absorbs the punishment. I have a .45 Colt barrel for my TC. Hot loads in it hurt, in the Ruger are fun! I loop my little finger under the grip frame and on recoil, I can roll the gun back down with the little finger as I cock the gun. It's fast and comfortable for me.

Also, you can go for a bigger grip on SA guns. You aren't stuck with the grip given you by Ruger. Here's one I put on my 6.5" .357 for hunting. It ain't very western looking, but it fills the hand. I bought it for cheap at a gun show, have no idea who made it. I don't NEED it to shoot the gun comfortably. .357 is mild in a blackhawk, try a 12 ounce Scandium Smith with full house loads sometime. I mean, the gun is 40 ounces! No .357 is going to recoil all that much in such a big gun. But, if I ever had a problem with a blackhawk's recoil, maybe a Linebaugh conversion or something, this grip would surely help. The .357 has such a light recoil, though, I don't really need the grip on this gun for that. It just sorta fits me well, like the finger grooves. Link posted, large pic.

Second, is the DA capability for fast reloads using moon clips or speedloaders. Usually, with an animal, it's all over in 6 rounds or less.

No, there's no spray and pray in the field. Either you hit the animal with the first shot or he's gone. I've been hunting since the age of six and I'm now 55. I've never been able to get off more than 3 rounds on ANY animal I've ever fired at. On a charging bear or something, you'll be lucky to get off a back up shot. You'd better make one count. Reloading speed is simply NOT an issue for me in the field. If it were, I'd go with a 10mm Glock because I ain't worth a toot with speed loaders. In the case of bears, I'd think the caliber would be far more important than firepower. I'd be packin' a Freedom Arms in a big caliber if I lived in brownie country, I mean, if it couldn't be a rifle. The .45 Colt would work fine on anything in the lower 48. I've never had the chance to reload a weapon on an animal. The only exception might be when the doves are flying in thick. I've had occasion on a double gun to wish for ejectors rather than extractors. :D

July 16, 2008, 02:01 PM
MCgunner is dead on...

BTW, for all of you that think "cocking" a SA is the end of the world, it takes 0 time to do it and frankly is natural.

Again, if the OP is going to get a .357, please seriously consider getting it in a 6" barrel. It will make a difference in the performance.

I have never understood the idea of carrying a SD type weapon when hunting. I do understand carrying a backup for hogs / bear and just to tool around (two legged predators which are increasingly coming into contact with hunters) but carrying a cocked in locked 1911 is a bit much.

When Hog Hunting I carry a Win 94 trapper (16" barrel) in .357 and a Ruger GP100 or Ruger blackhawk in .357 with 6" barrel. I bought the DA first and am unwilling to part with it...

The combo works extremely well. Honestly though, I have only had to shuck the revolver 2 times.

July 17, 2008, 12:20 AM
There is a difference between a deliberate shot at a game animal being hunted for meat and dealing with an angry and nasty animal at close range. It seems to me that when hog hunting as the man said he was, the carbine would be the primary weapon and the handgun a back up. If you need a handgun for a hog charging you, I believe the ability to deliver several ACCURATE shots quickly would be helpful. It is certainly possible with sufficient practice and instruction to deliver rapid and accurate shots double action. Single or double action revolver doesn't matter on a deer at 30 yards because I would expect one would always shoot in single action mode. An angry hog at close range is different...I too have hunted since I was a kid and was a cop. An angry hog on the charge is more like shooting a dangerous man at close range charging at you with a knife except the hog can be faster and harder to stop...My friends in Alaska advise me that the most popular weapon for bear defense is a 12 gauge or better with a short barrel and loaded with 000 or 00 buckshot. It needs to be quick to use and put out a lot of lead in a hurry...Just my opinion. Thats it for me on this...Thanks

.38 Special
July 17, 2008, 01:15 AM
Maybe I haven't read carefully enough but I am still unsure what the OP intends to defend himself from. Certainly if he is more concerned with two legged predators than four the DA makes lots of sense -- and the books are full of reports of evil people doing evil things away from civilization. As for the claim that repeat shots from SA are just as fast as those from DA, well, let's just say I disagree. If any of you lightning fast SA folks are ever in my neck of the woods, we'll call this a standing offer to go shoot so that you can open my eyes for me. :)

Moreover, even if the OP is concerned with defending himself from mountain lions or wild boar or something equally unlikely, I believe he has the best chance of success with DA. Fast accurate DA shooting can be learned with a few months of conscientious practice. Perhaps not to a high master level, but to a "decent chance of saving his own hide" level. Fast accurate SA shooting is also a learnable skill, but I hold that learning it takes a great deal more practice. DA supplanted SA for policework in what, 1930? 1940? Perhaps that change took place for no real reason -- but I doubt it.

Overall, though, my opinion remains that either the SA or the DA will do anything the outdoorsman should reasonably expect to need doing, and so the matter still comes down to personal preference.


July 17, 2008, 01:22 AM
If it were me, Id get the DA because that gives you both options.
Taurus makes some awesome DA revolvers in a variety of sizes.

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