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Single Action vs. Double Action

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by mikemyers, May 29, 2014.

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  1. mikemyers

    mikemyers Well-Known Member

    The purpose of this thread is not to ask the difference between Single and Double Action (http://www.diffen.com/difference/Single_Action_vs_Double_Action). It's to ask which to use, given the choice, for target practice.

    On the one hand, I've always been told that single action allows more accurate target shooting, which I fully believe. On the other hand, I just watched this very interesting video:

    In the video, it is suggested that shooting single-action on a double action revolver isn't doing anything to help develop good trigger control.

    What I'm asking here, is while I enjoy SA targets more than what I can accomplish with DA, is it better to simply ignore that, and shoot DA all the time?

    (My own compromise might be to do both for dry firing, and SA at the range.)
  2. RON in PA

    RON in PA Well-Known Member

    In the days when people shot one-handed bullseye target with revolvers SA was the usual method. Nowadays most shooting is two-handed and DA is the way to go. Over time you will develop excellent accuracy, concentrate on the front sight and your trigger pull should be one continuous motion with no hesitation.
  3. SleazyRider

    SleazyRider Well-Known Member

    That is an interesting point you make, Ron, because I am from that day, and learned to shoot just as you described: single-action and one-handed. Although most of my target shooting now is done two-handed, on the two occasions when I've actually had to use a pistol defensively, it has been one-handed. (My other hand was restraining a dog.) It must be true what's been said about reverting back to one's training, because I instinctively thumb-cock my double-action revolver.

    Myself, I think that double-action shooting teaches one to pull the trigger straight back without side movement, and makes a person a better single-action shooter.
  4. Steve C

    Steve C Well-Known Member

    What do you mean "In the days..."? Bullseye is still a well participated in sport though few use a revolver any more.

    Frankly it really doesn't matter which you use for target shooting as the point of target shooting is to have some fun. Mostly it depends upon what you want to accomplish, small groups and long range or big targets with large scoring rings and fast shooting.

    The principals of handgun accuracy is really the same whether you are shooting SA or DA in that you have to align the sights on the target and hold them there while you squeeze the trigger for a short pull SA or a longer pull DA until the trigger surprises you when it releases and the gun fires. If you have a single action gun be it a 1911 or a SA revolver that pretty much dictates you are going to shoot SA.

    Some people only see a handgun as a means of self defense to be used for shooting other people. Others see their guns primarily as sport equipment that only coincidentally can be used for self defense if needed.

    If you are in the first category then practicing DA mostly shooting large human size targets at relatively close range is probably all the practice you need. If you are in the later category then practice shooting for score on targets set at the range they where designed for is the best way to see if you are really improving. If you are a handgun hunter single action shooting with a heavy magnum at long range is more in line with the skill needs for that activity. If you have a mixture of different handguns then mix it up.
  5. F-111 John

    F-111 John Well-Known Member

    It depends on what your ultimate goal is. If you wish to improve your defensive shooting accuracy, then normally you would practice double action.

    If you wish to make very small groups on paper, then normally you would shoot single action.

    So when you are at the range, what are you trying to accomplish? Practicing your defensive shooting, or have fun?
  6. StrawHat

    StrawHat Well-Known Member

    When I shot PPC, it was esay to spot the new guys, they were shooting SA. I know I did. It took a while but when I started to shoot DA (and practice with live fire and dry firing) my scores went up and I advanced through the stages. I still practice DA shooting.
  7. Lucky Derby

    Lucky Derby Well-Known Member

    What Steve C said.
  8. MrBorland

    MrBorland Moderator

    Theirs is a big oversimplification. It still takes plenty of trigger control to get a good SA shot off. Ask anyone who shoots bullseye with a 1911 or a precision rifle.

    IMO, it's more accurate to say that DA does require good trigger control that can only be attained by DA practice, so those shooting SA most or all of the time aren't developing their DA skills.

    One can be plenty accurate in DA. A good smooth action helps, as does shooting 2-handed. I shoot DA nearly exclusively, but if I were shooting formal bullseye competition (i.e. 1-handed) with a revolver, I'd likely shoot the 50 yard slow fire SA, and the rest DA.

    Bottom line, IMO, both SA and DA are useful, and the well-rounded wheelgunner will be proficient with both. I personally think it's easier to transition from good DA form to good SA form than the reverse, and the former takes more practice, so a good wheelgunner will likely spend most of their time shooting DA.
  9. ATLDave

    ATLDave Well-Known Member

    Decide whether you want to get better at DA shooting. If you do, make yourself do it exclusively until you're decent at it. Otherwise, the temptation to revert to SA during your range sessions (and the tidy little groups you'll be able to produce) will keep you from progressing. Just make learning to shoot DA a project.

    If you don't care about being able to shoot well DA, then just keep right on shooting SA.
  10. wlewisiii

    wlewisiii Well-Known Member

    One of the things that my DAO modified Model 10 has done is force me to only shoot double action and that's reviled all kinds of bad habits that I'm slowly weeding out and getting better as a result. Single action, for me, hides a multitude of sins.
  11. MrBorland

    MrBorland Moderator

    Both are good points. Rendering a revolver Double Action Only by removing the hammer spur and SA notch forces one to shoot DA. Combined with a commitment to master the DA trigger, you'll improve your overall revolver shooting tremendously. Below's a good read on the subject.

  12. RealGun

    RealGun Well-Known Member

    When I once used my Kahr 4" T40 to shoot a bullseye match, the director immediately suggested I use my 1911 instead. That was indoors at 20 yards max. That is a DAO versus SA issue, with both trigger actions outstanding examples. I purposely used that gun, only competing with my own prior scores, but it was interesting to hear what I thought was a common feeling about the two types of trigger actions.

    I shot DAO in my semi-auto carry guns for the first 8 years of carrying. Meanwhile, I owned a full sized steel 1911 that made me look like a better shot.
  13. RealGun

    RealGun Well-Known Member

    Aren't those who "stage" their DA trigger pull just doing a faux SA?
  14. Comrade Mike

    Comrade Mike Well-Known Member

    Why can't we shoot both?

  15. murf

    murf Well-Known Member


    holding a ten pound da trigger at the let-off point is a bit different than pressing a three pound sa trigger. one should learn, and be proficient with, both methods.

  16. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Well-Known Member

    Agree with F111, it depends on what the OP means by "target practice."
    MY "target practice" is mostly practice for target competition. These days that is IDPA, so I will be shooting double action except when testing ammunition for accuracy and velocity.
    I also learned to shoot PPC double action at all ranges and positions.

    And the defensive revolver should certainly be shot double action.
    I know of some cases like Sleazy's when the habit of single action shooting took over in a stressful situation. Two resulted in holes in rug and furniture when ladies who had been considerately provided by their husbands with double action revolvers suited to their dim little brains and dainty little hands found out for themselves that pulling the hammer back made the trigger way easier to pull. When they armed themselves against perceived threats, they cocked their revolvers much too soon. Attempting to ease the hammer down after the threat had passed by one led to a hole in the floor. A startle reaction put a hole in a water bed for the other, fortunately in the rail above the mattress.

    But if I were shooting NRA or IHMSA, it would be single action all the way.

    Yes, Realgun, there is, or was, a school of staged double action shooting. I think it was Paul Weston who advocated it in opposition to the Ed McGivern system of a smooth rolling pull and reset.
    You could even buy grips with a hump on the filler at the off side rear of the trigger guard to be contacted by the tip of the trigger finger and give you a stop point for the last stage.
    Some of those alleged DAO PPC shooters have rubber trigger stops. They can sweep the trigger back to the stop, refine the sight picture, and squeeze off the shot against the slight added resistance of the rubber.
  17. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

    Yes, they are and they aren't doing themselves any favors...I should know, I did it for quite a while when shooting PPC.

    DA trigger control practice...pressing the trigger smoothly to the rear without stopping or slowing down...will improve your SA trigger control; the reverse isn't true.

    SA and staging a DA trigger at the letoff point, caters to the mind's desire to press off the shot when the sights look perfect...and usually result in shots going low and left
  18. Skribs

    Skribs Well-Known Member

    You beat me to it, and probably worded it better. Personally, both are fun, but you will probably be more accurate single action, but it would be more practical to train in double action because that's what you're likely to use in self defense.
  19. Cooldill

    Cooldill Well-Known Member

    Well if it's a single action revolver, that's all you can practice with LOL.

    As for SA/DA revolvers... I usually shoot in double-action mode. That's mainly because I use revolvers for defense, not just target guns, and I wan't to practise as I play. Also I have a S&W 642 which is DAO, and I found that by learning it's trigger pull it helped me shoot my other revolver much better in DA. Now I practice that way most often.
  20. MrBorland

    MrBorland Moderator

    One gets good at what they practice. Practice DA shooting enough, and there's no reason your DA accuracy can't generally be the equal of your SA accuracy, all else being equal. Most, however, either don't shoot as much DA as they need to to achieve this kind of DA proficiency or they don't believe (or know) DA can be very accurate.

    FWIW, I agree with 9mmE, and I'm of the "no staging" school of thought. It largely amounts to timing the shot, which is a futile errand.

    When I've caught myself staging, it was because I wasn't mentally committed to a complete DA pull from the beginning of the pull. You can abort the shot if everything doesn't look right, but commit to a smooth, steady and complete DA pull when you begin the pull, not after you've stopped to stage. If the sights are aligned when you started the pull, and your DA pull is smooth, they should still be aligned when the shot breaks.
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