Consider the Double Action Auto

We’re adherents of the DA auto (by which we mean the DA/SA pistol), although we gave striker-fired (Glock) a shot. Over the last nearly 40 (wow) years, we’ve daily-carried Walther P.38, Beretta M9 and M92, and the CZ-75 (pre B) and CZ P-01, with some use of small-caliber Walther, Browning and CZ pistols for summer wear.

Ernest Langdon, a former Marine Scout Sniper instructor, is an adherent of DA/SA and particularly Beretta as well, at least partly because Beretta employs him! He can shoot better than most of us, and he makes a good case for the DA autopistol, in an interesting article at Recoil (which has come a long way from its antigun gun magazine days).

He also has a lot of advice about how to shoot it well. 

One of the first things to learn is trigger finger placement. The double action trigger pull often requires the shooter to put more trigger finger on or past the trigger than you would with a 1911-type single action. When learning to pull a double action trigger, try sticking more trigger finger in and past the trigger, providing more leverage for you to pull the trigger straight to the rear. Test this in dry fire, with the goal of the hammer falling with no movement of your sight picture at all.

The key is to pull through the double action trigger at a constant speed. It can be very fast, but it needs to be consistent. The trap that many DA Auto shooters fall into is trying to finish the DA pull by speeding up at the end. We start to pull the trigger smoothly and consistently, and then try to accelerate at the end of the pull to finish and get to the shot. For proper double-action trigger control, you want to focus on stroking the trigger. Keep a constant, consistent speed.

Real success with a DA gun comes from combining the presentation of the pistol, aiming the gun, and pulling the trigger at the same time.

It’s our own observation that, when you don’t have time to prepare your sidearm and must engage from the draw, you’re most often at contact range, and the DA trigger pull is the least of your problems. When you do have time it’s nice to be able to cock the hammer. We have pistols that allow that and some pistols that don’t because they’re DAO. But there are some pistols on the market that do, technically, allow you to cock the hammer by hand, but make it awkward to do. If you have time to set up for a shot, go ahead and set up for the shot.

That said, Langdon is right about DA trigger pull. Yes, it is longer and heavier, and it can make you miss — especially if you get frustrated that it’s not like the SA pull and jerk on it. But a well-designed DA trigger can be fast, steady and smooth and not disrupt your sight picture. And the SA pull on most DA/SA guns is better than the trigger on most striker-fireds, ceteris paribus.

This next consideration is one we hadn’t thought of.

One of the key features in a DA Auto is where the trigger pull breaks. The point at which the trigger breaks in double action mode and single action mode should be as close as possible. This allows you to train your trigger finger to go back to the same spot to release the trigger and cause the gun to fire, whether in double action or single action. Some DA autos release the hammer in double action mode at a much earlier point in the trigger pull than in single action mode. This causes an excessive amount of overtravel in double action and makes the shooter hunt for the trigger prep point in single action. I believe this makes it much harder to learn to shoot well with such a handgun.

Or as one of his photo captions tells it:

One reason Langdon favors the Beretta 92 is that the positions at which the trigger breaks in double action and single action modes are very close.

Hmmm. That makes us want to dig out the trigger gage and look at where the trigger breaks DA and SA on a cross-section of DA pistols.

One of the reasons I’ve chosen to run the Beretta 92 platform is that I feel it has the best double action pull and the closest release points for both double action and single action trigger pulls.

Well, yeah, and they pay him. There is that (grin).

In his new book, Gun Guy, Bill Wilson, president and owner of Wilson Combat says, “If you look where the trigger is when the hammer falls on a Beretta, the trigger is in basically the same place double- and single-action. When you come back to the trigger for the second shot, the trigger is in the same place. You don’t have to search for it. That’s why you can transition from double to single so easily with a Beretta.” There are also many other great DA Autos out there in many different sizes, shapes, and calibers.

Thought-provoking stuff — go Read The Whole Thing™.

Now, with both Wilson and Langdon praising the Beretta, we definitely have to A/B the 92/M9 and the CZs and whatever other odds and ends we have laying about.

63 thoughts on “Consider the Double Action Auto

  1. Al T.

    Interesting about the trigger breaking point. I have a couple of Bersa .380s and Ruger P95s lounging around in the gunsafe. When I get in tonight, I’ll check that out.

  2. Brad

    I’m very curious about your judgement of the Walther P99, how does it rank among the DA pistols?

  3. Eric S

    My first handgun was a DA/SA. It was a Browning BDM which most people have never heard of. It wasn’t a very successful design for them. Its DA pull was awful and as a new shooter I could never do well with it. A friend who was a diehard wheelgun guy had me shoot his S&W Model 10 and I learned what a good DA was like. I later traded the BDM in on a Ruger Single Six and didn’t look at another DA/SA pistol for a while.

    Now a more experienced pistolero, I have a Glock 19 with a Ghost 3.5 Edge connector & the NY1 trigger spring in it which gives it a 7 lb smooth DA-like pull out a which I shoot quite well. I recently acquired a Rex Zero 1 and shoot its 13 lb DA slightly better than its 4.7 lb SA. I think DA/SA guns are more appropriate for those willing to train more often. It’s often said that the 1911 is an “expert’s gun” but that seems to have more to do with maintaining it. DA/SA is more for those who are willing to become experts at trigger control.

    1. DSM

      I had a BDM for a while and it had the smallest grip for a double stack 9mm I’d ever seen. For a full size pistol it wasn’t hard to carry concealed. It was a good pistol, nothing real special to it but during the Dark Ages of the AWB it was hard to find standard capacity mags and Browning had even dropped it not long after that I recall. If it weren’t for Numrich mine would’ve been hard broke when I snapped the firing pin (an oddly flat, stamped arrangement) in dry fire.

    2. Dienekes

      Most of what Langdon says about DA triggers was said by Ed McGivern in his book, “Fast And Fancy Revolver Shooting” in the 1930s. Similarly, Bob Nichols, in his “Secrets Of Double Action Shooting” of 1950. The K frame S&W was the way to go. Needless to say, the DA on those was (and is) a helluva lot better than what Jeff Cooper called the SA/DA crunchentickers.

      I spent quite a bit of time later on trying to make it all come together with a SIG P-220 without much success. On the other hand a friend of mine got an E ticket at Gunsite with one, so there you go.

  4. staghounds

    I found that an overtravel stop greatly improved my shooting with Smith and Wesson third generation pistols.

  5. SPEMack

    My first center-fire handgun was a Ruger P-95DC. Had a lot of things going for it. Sixth grade me thought it looked really cool. But the trigger was atrocious. It was promptly relegated to the back of the gun safe when Pop got me a Colt M-1991A1 for making all As one year. And then I hit my Glock phase. And then I hit my revolver phase. And then I started reading Colonel Cooper in depth. And then I carried a Beretta in the Army. And my issue M-9 was a piece of junk. So I swore off the DA/SA pistol.

    And then I saw a used S&W 910 trade in at Gander Mountain and bought it on a whim. Oh my. Coming back around to SA/DA again.

  6. Ken

    Off topic.

    I seem to recall an entry here some time back about the BAR in movies. The new gangster movie “Live by Night” shows one in the trailer.

  7. Hillbilly

    If you go off my times or scores on drills like Dot Torture, the FAST Drill and Bill Drill I shoot the 92 marginally better then I shoot a CZ P09.
    I had always attributed it to being more familiar with the 92, but never thought to look at where the trigger broke in SA vs DA.

  8. TRX

    > Recoil (which has come a long way from its antigun gun magazine days).

    Anything touched by Recoil Magazine is too tainted to waste time reading.

  9. Keith

    Several times last year I went to the range with 150 rounds of 124 gr 9mm to shoot with my 92FS. I did this because the qualifying for armed security in NC involves shooting that many rounds. I would do 50 as fast and as accurate as I could working on training to drop the empty magazine and load without looking. I would do 50 in the 3-2-1 sequence we trained in. The final 50 was 10 left and 10 right hand. The last 30 was a sequence of fire, decock, fire working on that long SA pull through. I had read about that finger placement before.

  10. Raoul Duke

    I’ve shot (and taught) revolver, DA/SA auto, striker-fired, and hammer-fired single action auto for a number of years, now.

    If you, as an intelligent, informed student-at-arms, choose a system you have an affinity for, and become very good at it, then good for you. Big smiley face. :)

    All other things being equal, however, when it comes to teaching mass groups of people to shoot a pistol well, I’ll take striker-fired any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

    In that context, I would further choose Glock as the specific system, due to the simplicity of the mechanism, the low rate of malfunctions, and the simple lubrication needs.

    Simply put, the lack of distractions caused by differing trigger presses, extra safeties and control levers, and low rate of malfunctions seems to make it much easier for students to concentrate on the fundamentals.

    Once again, this obviously doesn’t apply to a motivated individual who is willing to put in the effort to master their favorite system.

  11. robroysimmons

    Just checked my early 90s manufactured 92FS and yep the DA and SA trigger break are close

  12. revjen45

    Raoul – May I suggest you have your students try the Steyr M & S series also?
    For some reason I find the M92 very difficult to shoot well, which is not the case with the CZ75. Maybe I need to make a sacrifice to the Autoloader Gods.
    Ya don’t find too many people who advocate for Krunchentickers any more with the tsunami of striker fired pistols hitting the market.

    1. Pete

      Ditto on the Steyr. I have a lot of friends with a lot of very tricked-out Glocks, but I can’t bring myself to buy one when I have a perfectly stock (other than night sights) but (very) well-broken-in Steyr M9A1 that just shoots better for me than the most tricked out Glocks out there… but holsters are not available at Gander Mountain or what not, so there is that.

  13. Pericles

    I knew there had to be a good reason I was a Walther fanboy many years ago, and this post articulated why. If not carrying a 1911, I am carrying a Walther P-5.

      1. Loren

        If only Walther made a PP/PPK in something with more bang than 380. Tough to do in a blow back action.

  14. Kirk

    Not a fan of the DA/SA pistol, especially one with a surfeit of miscellaneous controls baked in along with that horrid trigger that seems mandatory from the factory.

    The argument that the DA trigger serves as a secondary safety feature to prevent unintentional firing of the first shot has always seemed specious to me; if the shooter is unsure whether the gun should be fired or not, why has it been introduced into equation? As a civilian, the dynamic should be to only introduce deadly force once it is justified, and then it should be applied until it is no longer necessary. The dynamic of a police officer holding someone at gunpoint, a case often used to argue for the DA/SA automatic, is a situation a private citizen should never allow themselves into, particularly when alone. You are not a cop; you do not have restraining tools, a radio, or backup, and if you intend to be holding someone at gunpoint when the police roll up, you have suffered a critical lapse in judgment. If you are justified in threatening deadly force as a private citizen, you should be using it. You are under no obligation to the person or persons who put you in that situation; kill them. The firearm should never be introduced into a situation you are trying to control by means of a threat display. Your apparent unwillingness to deploy deadly force in that situation will be read not as a part of some imaginary “force continuum” , but as a sign of weakness, and it likely will not have the effect you think it will, having watched all those movies and TV shows where it has. If you think you need to kill, use the gun. If not, keep the damn thing out of what is going on–Once it is out of the holster, things will take on a life of their own.

    1. staghounds

      “There were two robbers, one had a gun, one didn’t. The guy shot the one who had a gun, the other one put his hands up. Then the guy said “I do not have restraining tools, a radio, or backup, and I do not intend to be holding someone at gunpoint when the police roll up”, and killed the robber who had his hands up.

      1. Kirk

        Works for me.

        If the asshole was ok with his buddy using a gun, what makes him any less culpable? Is he less of a threat, because you couldn’t spot a weapon? You act as a part of an armed gang, don’t be real surprised when you’re treated as one.

        Such situations are vanishingly rare, in the first place. Generally, such idiots flee the scene, and you would be wise to let them. Holding them for the police is an exercise in madness.

    2. John M.

      Let me start by saying that I largely agree with your arguments against normal civilians holding people at gunpoint, with the caveat that everywhere you write “kill,” it should read “stop.” Non-soldiers should be using deadly force only as necessary to stop a threat, never with the express intent to kill. This difference is the difference between serving hard time and getting off as scot-free as our legal system allows.

      Now, IMHO there are lots of circumstances in which a long, heavy DA trigger is a safety mechanism. Routine weapons handling is just plain safer with a DA trigger of almost any kind versus the typical Glock-style striker trigger. Routine weapons handling includes loading, unloading, holstering and unholstering, actions that those of us who carry daily and train with our firearms do very frequently. I’m led to understand that police are often clearing their firearms as they go in and out of e.g. jails and such, sometimes multiple times per day. A DA trigger would be an advantage in those cases.

      -John M.

      1. William O. B'Livion

        > Non-soldiers should be using deadly force only as necessary to stop a threat, never
        > with the express intent to kill.

        Context matters.

        You are in a public place–mall, train (commuter rail in the US) station, anywhere. It’s summer. Four guys with AKs come out of a boarded up shop wearing bulky vests.

        I will agree that you should probably not kill the guy with his hands up *IN YOUR HOUSE, or at the local stop and rob.

        But “never with the express intent to kill”? No, if I see someone shooting up a public space I’m going with intent to kill–and if they’re wearing bulky clothing up top or around their waist it’s with multiple head shots if I can pull it off.

        1. Gray

          I think the issue is essentially one of semantics. Shooting to immediately stop the target’s (reasonably objective) ability to harm you or others is going with lethal force is “shooting to kill” even if your intent is to “stop”. Lethal force is called lethal because it often is.

          The civil (non-military) use-of-force in a lethal context is “shooting to stop” by using “lethal force”. As long as the context for using lethal force exists, it is mostly a semantic issue, but you should be able to articulate those semantics.

      2. Gray


        The “clearing their firearms” is not necessarily a common practice. In my experience in multiple states and regions, jails and custodial locations utilize sally ports and weapons lockers with no clearing required, and/or the trunks and locked weapons lockers in the vehicles.

        My personal professional handgun experience has included revolvers (Smith and Ruger), DA/SA (Sig 226, S&W 645/4506, Beretta 92 variants, H&K USP), SA (Model 1911 variants), and striker fired (Glock, beginning circa early/middle 80’s, S&W M&P). (Interestingly, I was able to utilize a DOJ Office of Technology document determination that Glock was “double action” to allow placement of the Glock on an agency “permitted firearms” list in the late 80’s.)

        I think that the salient point is training and disciplined adherence to specific principals until the reflexes are “permanentized”. Nonetheless, in any field of endeavor, there are some who get it, and also those who never will.

        I remember being in Jeff Cooper’s “gun safe”, which was actually his basement into which one entered through a bank vault door. (He got the door to his residence by adding axles and wheels to it for transport.) I remember something he said to us during that visit: “Any gun will do if you will”.

        1. John M.


          I’ll defer to your expertise on this. But I will say that it’s a rare gun-toter of any variety who isn’t holstering/unholstering and loading/unloading on some kind of semi-regular basis, and that part of my argument stands.

          Training and disciplined adherence to specific principles is fantastic. But it’s demonstrably lacking in a large portion of the populace. And there’s a reason why they call it “Glock leg” and not “revolver leg.”

          -John M.

      3. Kirk

        John, I appreciate what you say about “stop” as a preferred term in discussion. However, let us be honest here, and not mislead the innocent with weasel-wording the issue: There is only one way to ensure that the target ceases being a threat, and that is after you kill them. Shoot to “stop” them, and you are likely just leaving them another chance to kill you, when your attention inevitably wanders.

        By all means, tell the investigating officers and the DA that you only meant to stop the murderous bastards; just don’t think of it in those terms, yourself. By doing so, you are setting the stage for a comeuppance, as the guy you wounded makes another attack, or the guy you thought was unarmed goes for a dropped weapon or draws his own.

        In the kind of situation I’m talking about, the real ones a private citizen is likely to find themselves in, a lack of clear thinking or a sense of misguided “mercy” is going to get them killed, themselves. If you are justified in introducing deadly force, use it to the utmost limit against all involved parties.

        That said, anchor shots against the wounded should only be made if justified by further threat or resistance.

        1. John M.

          “That said, anchor shots against the wounded should only be made if justified by further threat or resistance.”

          I think our ideas on this aren’t very far apart. I’m under no illusions that the pistol I carry is sunshine or roses. I know it’s deadly force. But I also know that the law doesn’t allow me to shoot to kill, only to stop. As I said, the distinction can be the difference between hard time and scot-free.

          -John M.

          1. Kirk

            There are two phases to any citizen self-defense scenario; first being surviving the encounter, and then the second being surviving the encounter with the legal system that follows. What I’m getting at with what I’m saying is geared and addressed towards surviving the first phase, not the second. Seek a lawyer’s advice for that, not mine. I know what I’m going to articulate to the investigators and DA, and believe me, it isn’t going to be things that could be twisted to imply I committed an act of murder instead of self-defense.

            The thing I’m trying to get across is that the average person has not thought through the implications of bringing a firearm to bear in a defensive situation; all too many think of the gun as a magic wand, one that will bring sweet compliance and reason to a situation where they are dealing with someone who is fundamentally inimical to their further existence. A lot of people haven’t thought this through; you tell them “shoot to stop”, and the cheerfully oblivious part of their mind goes “Oh, I don’t have to kill the guy… Just stop him…”. Then, when displaying their magic want (gun), or putting a few rounds into the bastard, they discover that a.) he didn’t stop, and that b.) getting him to do so, surprisingly, leads to his death. Then, they tend to melt down, ‘cos they “…didn’t mean to kill anyone…”. Dumbass, what the blue blazing fuck do you think you were going to do, by bringing a gun into the situation, and using it, then?

            Instructors need to be blunt with this crap, and ensure that the person they are training intrinsically grasps this shit from the get-go: If you’re not willing to kill in defense of your own life, or that of your loved ones, you have no business owning or carrying a gun for self-defense. All you are going to do is make trouble for yourself, and likely, get badly hurt in the encounter or in court.

            I’m of the opinion that we owe ourselves and anyone we teach the honest to admit what we are doing, and call a spade a spade: Use a gun in self-defense, and what you are doing is intentionally trying to kill the person assaulting you. Period. You are not trying to “Stop him”; you are trying to kill his stupid ass, in order to do that. Fuzzy thinking on this issue is what leads people into the path of PTSD and legal troubles; do not pick up a damn gun if you are even slightly ambivalent about killing another human being in self-defense, and be damn sure you can a.) ascertain whether or not such a thing is appropriate, and b.) be able to articulate the reasoning that brought you to that state.

            You shoot someone, you’re not trying to “stop them”, like you have some dial-a-yield option on the handgun, and it was set to “stun”. You put a bullet into someone, even in the leg, and the chances are, you may well have killed them, if only “accidentally”. Once you bring that gun into play, and pull the trigger, there is no “accident”, only intent.

            As well, if it’s serious enough to use deadly force, then it’s serious enough to kill the SOB. There is no “nuance” in these situations; it’s binary as all hell. If you think there is nuance, you’re either mistaken, or there is no justification for you to be introducing deadly force in the first damn place.

            On the other hand, if you’re a sworn officer of the law, that’s a whole other kettle of fish, and why you’re being paid the big bucks, and get conditional immunity.

          2. Hognose Post author

            Andrew Branca has several real-world stories in which a defender went one step too far and lost any presumption of justification.

          3. John M.


            Deadly force can be deadly. I get that. And I’m perfectly willing to wield deadly force against someone threatening death or GBH to me or mine. If he dies? Well, he picked the fight, not me.

            But the reality is that the law recognizes a distinction between wielding deadly force with an intent to kill and wielding deadly force with an intent to stop a threat.

            And the justice system’s determination of your intent is the difference between hard time and scot-free.

            -John M.

          4. Kirk

            Hognose, I’m not trying to imply that one should run with the mindset that “…there is no kill like overkill…”, and do things past the point of good sense and reason.

            What I’m trying to get at is that it is a fundamental error to think in terms that say that bringing a gun into play means anything other than an intent to kill your opponent, which is where I part ways with this whole “shoot to stop” framing.

            You introduce a firearm into a situation, you’d better be sure that a.) you’re justified in doing so, and b.) you’re completely OK with a set of outcomes that include the party you’re shooting at will be dead at the end of it all. To start from a point where you think “Oh, I carry a gun so that I don’t have to kill someone, I’m just going to threaten them with it, and then they’ll stop what they are doing…” is fundamentally both erroneous and immoral. Are you justified in killing someone for stealing your car? Should you point a gun at them, or shoot, if you catch them doing so, and they ignore your presence, driving off in your property?

            One of the things that actually militates against these threat displays being effective is that the criminal often correctly assumes that the citizen pointing a gun at them won’t actually use it–And, because most people haven’t thought things through beforehand, and made the decision beforehand over what they are willing to kill for, those crooks are generally correct. What I advocate for is a clarity of thought; you bring a gun to bear and there are no half-measures; you are bringing deadly force into play, and someone is probably going to die. If you’re not OK with that, don’t carry a gun. If you do carry a gun, be damn sure of what you are doing, and that you properly understand the situation you are bringing a gun to. Do not make the error of thinking that there are halfway points, where you can change your mind; shoot a guy in the leg, and he may actually die more quickly from a femoral artery bleed than if you put five into his center-of-mass. Once you pull that trigger, you cannot recall those rounds; be damn sure that you are justified in killing someone, before you do.

            What I’m advocating for here is not the sort of thing that would flip you over the edge from justifiable homicide into murder; what I’m advocating for is the understanding and realization of the gravity of what you are doing, when you bring a gun into play. We’re not “shooting to stop”, we’re actually intending to kill the SOB, and had better be damn sure that that was justifiable and intentional–And, something we’re OK with doing. If you haven’t worked through these issues before taking up the gun, you’d better start considering them, and deciding if you really want that power of life-over-death you’re taking upon yourself.

          5. Kirk


            I’m not meaning to address the law with this, at all. What I’m getting at is the idea that there is some nebulous “intent to be nice” once you introduce a gun into a self-defense situation, which is what I think framing this whole thing as “shoot to stop” creates.

            I’m not advocating that you articulate to the cops or the DA that you intended to kill the guy; what I’m advocating for is the recognition that what you’re doing with that gun you’re carrying intrinsically implies that you are, factually, trying to kill him. Weasel-wording around that issue is an error, and one I see a lot of people making when they make the decision to carry a gun, or get instruction from others for doing so. I’m not advocating for murder; I’m advocating that one should recognize what the hell one is doing by introducing a gun and shooting at someone. There aren’t little dials on the sides of these things, where you can range from “scare” to “hurt a little” to “hurt a lot” to “kill”. There is just “kill”, period.

            Too many people don’t get that, especially the neophyte or the casual person who is just worried about personal security. I’ve actually talked more people out of buying a gun than I have encouraged to do so, because of this, and I’m rather proud of that fact, because I know they’re actually a hell of a lot safer without something they’re really fundamentally unwilling to use. And, I honestly believe that all this “shoot to stop” crap we hear in training and discussion is a real problem, because it masks the true effect and likely outcome from the person who hasn’t thought all this shit through, beforehand. There isn’t a “stop” setting on the side of a gun; truth-in-labeling would require that it said one thing, and one thing only: “Kill”.

            I got to talking with a woman, once, who it turned out had actually had to shoot a former lover of hers. Very interesting perspective, and what she had to say about the experience formed a lot of my opinions on the matter. She told me that before the event, she’d acquired the pistol from her father as more of a magical talisman to ward off evil than something that she thought she’d use. He’d pressed it on her, and she’d taken it without a hell of a lot of thought. Time came, her nutso ex-boyfriend was busting through her door, and she shot him to death there in front of her kiddos, one of which was his.

            Processing this situation took her and the kids years, per what she described. She’d had no real intent to kill him; she’d just wanted to stop him from coming through the door. Six shots from a .38 special did a pretty good job of stopping him, permanently, but that wasn’t something she’d either thought through beforehand or expected to have happen. Years after the fact, she still wasn’t at peace with it, and still wasn’t sure about whether or not she’d done the right thing. And, she was still pissed off at her Dad, for “having put her into that situation”, which I thought was just a tad… Unhinged? In any event, even though I thought it was justified, not her fault at all, and so forth… She didn’t. From the way it warped her life, I sorta suspect she’d have been better off not having had a gun, and dealt with what happened when her idiot ex-boyfriend finished breaking down the door.

            What I’m trying to get across is that we need to frame these issues in realistic terms; talking about “stopping someone” is a euphemism that sets the unthinking up for failure, in terms of them not considering the effect on themselves, and in not taking what they are doing with the gun seriously enough. We need to frame things as they are, when talking about the issues, and be honest: Deadly force is just that–Deadly force. Talking about “stopping someone” is inherently dishonest, when you’re talking about firing a gun at them to make them stop. If we had the “tangler guns” from the comics, and were encasing them in a sticky, shrinking web? Yeah, then maybe it would be fine to talk about “stopping” someone.

            Fire a gun at them? Dude, you’re trying to kill them; don’t sugar-coat it, or lie to yourself about what you’re doing.

          6. John M.


            ‘I’m not meaning to address the law with this, at all. What I’m getting at is the idea that there is some nebulous “intent to be nice” once you introduce a gun into a self-defense situation, which is what I think framing this whole thing as “shoot to stop” creates.’

            You aren’t meaning to address the law, but the law intends to address you. I think you’re conflating a few different things in your discussion.

            Thing 1: Mindset. What are you willing/not willing to do to stop a threat? Under what circumstances? Are you ready to have your kids watch you kill someone? Are you ready to hold a hot gun, watching someone’s lifeblood leak onto the floor? If not, don’t own/carry a gun for self-defense.

            Thing 2: Deadly force. Guns and knives are legally considered “deadly force” for a reason: they induce death quite regularly. If you’re not ready to kill someone to stop a threat, then don’t introduce a gun or a knife into the situation. If the person isn’t threatening you with death or grievous bodily harm (plus whatever list of crimes your state authorizes the use of deadly force for), then don’t respond with deadly force, including “just pulling a gun to scare him.” This ties to mindset but isn’t the same thing, since mindset applies to less-lethal and hand-to-hand self-defense also.

            Thing 3: The law. The law has specific rules around the use of lethal force and, to a lesser extent, less-lethal force and hand-to-hand fighting. If you don’t understand what those rules are and how they are likely to be enforced in your jurisdiction, then figure it out and get on board. The law permits the use of deadly force under certain circumstances, but never with the intent to kill except as an outcome of using deadly force to stop a threat. If you have used deadly force in a way to stop the threat and the threat is now over but the perpetrator still lives, then you must stop using deadly force. Immediately. If you shot your local aloha snackbar guy in the head because that was how you judged to be the best way to stop a threat by someone wielding a rifle while wearing a bulky vest, then so be it. But if the shot glanced off his head and he is out cold with the rifle knocked clear but is still breathing, then you cannot finish him off. The law calls that murder.

            These are different topics. All of them are important. It seems like you want to focus on mindset and deadly force, while ignoring the law. I submit that there’s a way to talk about mindset and deadly force without putting people on the bad side of their local DA.

            -John M.

          7. Kirk

            @ John,

            We’re in agreement, here, but talking past each other. I’m with you on the whole issue of the law, and that being a serious concern. I’m also with you on how that affects the dynamics of the situations we’re talking about.

            The thing I think you’re missing in what I’m saying is that I am in total opposition to this whole school of thought where we don’t discuss what we are doing in clear, accurate terms.

            Go to most training sessions, and observe: Do any of the instructors emphasize the fact that what they are teaching you to do is kill? Oh, hell no: It’s all “shoot to stop”; “end the encounter”; and on and on. Nobody ever wants to bring reality into the discussion. At. All.

            Hell, even in the military, they don’t want to talk about it. Everything is euphemism; the nature and the effect of what we do is glossed over, and as a result, the troops often don’t “get” what is going to happen once they pull the trigger or call for fire. Sure, they’ve been on ranges, but the reality of watching someone’s blood fly after a bullet impact, or walking through the village where people have had their intestines strung through branches? Nope; not gonna see that shit talked about by the trainers. Cue up the film where they say “…and, that’s where Bob’s PTSD stems from…”.

            You owe it to yourself and anyone you train to clearly discuss this crap, and in no uncertain terms. You’re not “shooting to stop”, you’re trying to kill the SOB. If you’re not, why are you using a gun?

            By all means, once you’ve gotten the situation under control, behave appropriately. As the Spanish soldiers used to say, “Are we here (in Spain), or in the Netherlands…?”. What is appropriate to a Mad Max movie scenario is not appropriate to a suburban existence that has been momentarily impinged upon by the ghettolands. Behave accordingly.

            But, never, ever lie to yourself or your students about the nature of what you’re doing; to say you will “shoot to stop” someone engaged in criminal action is bullshit of the highest order. By using a gun, you’re intentionally using lethal force; admit that, and behave accordingly. You talk about “stop”, you’re framing the whole issue as being far less significant than it really is, and inducing the kind of fuzzy thinking that leads to people crying in the interrogation room, and saying “I only meant to stop him, not kill him…”.

            It might be “stop” if we had the science fictional tools like real, working stun guns. We don’t–Guns are not dial-a-yield, and keyed to your barely thought-through intents. You use one, you’re trying to kill the guy you are shooting at, period.

            I’m not speaking to the legalities, here. At all. I’m talking about what people are actually doing with guns when they try to defend themselves. All too often, the average person introduces a firearm into a situation where it is not appropriate, and escalates it, usually to the detriment of all involved. One needs to be absolutely certain that the firearm is appropriate, that killing the object of your intent is both justified and appropriate. Failure to frame this issue as “I’m going to need to kill that guy…” is a cause of an awful lot of problems.

            That’s what I’m getting at–The use of the euphemism, like “stop”, is what contributes to people not taking what they are doing seriously enough. Frame it as “kill”, and they will hopefully pause to consider whether it is appropriate and morally correct to be doing that.

            A big part of the problem is that by using the euphemisms we do, we frame the gun not as a killing tool, but as a “tool of persuasion”. Let us call it what it is, and respect it.

          8. John M.


            I still think you are conflating the concept of “deadly force” with the concept of “when does the law allow for the use of deadly force, and to what extent?”

            I think your points about mindset and training are good ones. But it’s possible to emphasize “deadly force” to such an extent that it makes winning the inevitable legal battle much, much more difficult.

            -John M.

          9. Kirk


            What I’m trying to address is more the mindset issue. The legal one is secondary, in that if you don’t frame this question accurately and honestly, you are setting yourself up for failure when it reaches that stage.

            You get into an encounter with someone, for some reason, let us say: Scenario one, you have framed your reason for carrying a gun and heard all through your training that the gun is a tool for stopping behavior you don’t like and find threatening. This is the case with all too many people, I am afraid, and the follow-on that you are stopping the behavior by way of throwing little chunks of metal at them at high speed, and that this is very likely to kill them…? Not something an awful lot of people really go on to grasp in any intrinsic, visceral level.

            So, most of us being “surface-only thinkers”, we ideate the gun as a tool to “stop bad things”, which further leads to inappropriate use in situations where the deadly force option really isn’t justifiable.

            This leads to bad things, and sitting in the interrogation room going “I didn’t mean for that to happen… I just wanted them to stop…”, while waiting for your lawyer to show up.

            Frame the gun as a tool with which you kill? You are far more likely to treat it with the proper due respect, and use it only when you have no other choice. If the object of your intention stops their behavior short of you having to kill them? All to the good.

            Never, ever lie to yourself or your students about the nature of the gun: It is a killing tool, period. Use it only when you have no other choices available. By taking up the gun, or any other weapon, you are arrogating some of God’s power of life over death. Treat that with the respect it is due, and you should be fine in any just court, including the one in your own head.

        2. staghounds

          “You will default to your practice level” goes for words, too. Under interrogation, especially on a witness stand, trying to remember to say the right words is something you’ll forget, or will be perceived as deception.

          The law contains magic words that have actual effect and meaning. Use them, especially to yourself.

          And I can imagine multiple circumstances where holding someone at gunpoint would be the right thing to do. Telling yourself “I’ll never need this skill” means you won’t think of or have it when you do.

          1. Kirk

            Valid point, about the verbiage defaulting.

            In return to that, I have to point out that not using accurate language to discuss/think about what you are actually doing leads to incorrect action, in most cases.

            To quote a particularly apt paragraph from Confucius,

            “A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.

            — Confucius, Analects, Book XIII, Chapter 3, verses 4-7, translated by James Legge”

            Lie to yourself about what you are doing with a gun, and you’re going to experience a rather ugly sequence of events when you go to actually use it. The word “stop” is a euphemism; a desired end result of what you are doing, which is directing potentially lethal force at another human being. It is not what you are actually doing , which is directing lethal force at another human being, taken upon yourself some of the power over life and death that is God’s alone. Think of it in terms of the euphemism, and you’re going to be sitting there in court, trying to explain why it was you used lethal force in a situation where it was not justified: “Your honor, all I wanted to do was make him stop…”.

            No, dumbass, you deployed a tool which was inappropriate to the use; you tried to kill him with a gun, and succeeded. Do not think of what you are doing as “stopping someone”; you are trying to kill them as a proximate stage to actually stopping their actions. Is that actually necessary? Is it justified? Be sure–There will be a test given at the end of the exercise.

            What you say to the police in the aftermath? Talk to them through a lawyer; do not lie to the police, and if you’re concerned about correct verbiage, the thing to do is to tell them you’re too traumatized to think clearly, and you want to engage with legal representation before talking to them. Let the lawyer do his job; yours was finished when you survived your encounter with violence.

            Correct action flows from correct thought; correct thought flows from correct language, when thinking about what you will do, or discussing it. Euphemism is the enemy of correct language, as it fuzzes the edges of meaning, and hides the true effect of your actions from you before you take them.

            Introduction of a gun into any interpersonal situation is a serious step; be certain you are fully justified in doing it, and never, ever make the mistake of thinking you are doing anything less than proposing to kill another human being by doing so. Bullets don’t do nuance; there is only kill, not “stop”.

          2. Kirk

            RE: this bit:

            “And I can imagine multiple circumstances where holding someone at gunpoint would be the right thing to do. Telling yourself “I’ll never need this skill” means you won’t think of or have it when you do.”

            See, here’s the thing… What are the actual rates of occurrence, for these things, and how the hell do you propose to make this work, and not create a huge furball of legal troubles for yourself?

            I mean, have you really thought this through, and talked to a lawyer about it? How do you overcome the issues of potentially be charged with making threats, brandishing a firearm, false arrest (citizen’s type) and kidnapping?

            Further, what are you going to do with your prisoner, as you wait for the cops? Tie them up? Do you routinely carry handcuffs, and do you suppose that such a fact might figure in your local DA deciding to prosecute you? How do you propose to apply your improvised restraints, whilst holding the criminal at gunpoint?

            Hell, you’d be rather disturbed to find out just what your legal situation might become, were you to do like a buddy of mine did, and thoughtfully prepare some 550 cord Prusik cuffs like the Army trained him to use for POW handling. It’s amazing how easily “prudent preparation for potential eventualities” can morph into “…he routinely carries a rape kit with him…”.

            A cop has powers of arrest; as a practical matter, a citizen has very little to protect them from legal backblast, in similar situations. Legal representation has professionally advised me that in most cases, I’m better off shooting the son-of-a-bitch than playing wannabe cop. Feel like a civil suit for false imprisonment and kidnapping? Feel like losing your house to the asshole you found breaking into it? Yeah, go ahead–Hold that POS for the police. You’ll find out what it means to be legally raped.

            Most of these “I might need to hold someone for the police” scenarios are purest fantasy, and the result of people modelling their behavior on what Hollywood scriptwriters think is real life; before doing anything, talk to a lawyer, and find out what the actual case law on these things is, in your state. You might be in for a rather unpleasant surprise, if you do that whole “hold ’em for the cops” thing.

            All too many people rely on hearsay, and what they see in entertainment for an idea of what is actual law; “Citizen’s Arrest” is a thing, but the ins and outs of how it all works are not what the average person thinks they are, and by attempting to apprehend someone for criminal activity, you may be opening yourself up to severe legal repercussions.

          3. bloke_from_ohio

            If the attacker is not enough of a threat to warrant being stopped via being shot (with possibility/probability of being killed as a result) then you should not clear kydex. It really is that simple. This principal applies to all other weapons to include hands and feet.

            Unsworn folks don’t have qualified immunity and should not be holding bad guys. It is not our job to hanging out with your would be attacker waiting for the cops to arrive. It might happen or be required, but it is a very suboptimal scenario to wind up in.

            Our job is to end the threat that kicked off the need for defensive actions in the first place. That might involve fighting the bad guy. In the fight you might kill the bad guy. You might render the bad guy physically incapable of hurting you without killing him (incapacitation). You might cause the bad guy to surrender and stop fighting. Or, you might cause the bad guy to retreat/flee. All four options mean you won the fight since they stop the attacker from attacking and hurting you or others.

            Regardless of how you “win” the fight, it is unwise to remain in close proximity to the former attacker if they are not physically incapable of being a threat to you (dead or incapacitated). You could argue that a restrained person cannot hurt you, but there are plenty of men and women with badges that would disagree. It is not worth the risk. Let them or make them to leave. Distance works great to keep you safer from both radiation and bad guys. To that end, it is probably wise to vacate the area yourself in most non home invasion scenarios. Why hang out? You can always bring the cops back to the scene of the fight later.

            Your attacker might “get away” but that is not really your problem. Your problem is protecting yourself.

    3. John M.

      And +1 for “surfeit of miscellaneous controls.” DA/SA guns should have decockers only, never a manual safety. Sig has it right, Beretta has it about as wrong as it’s possible for it to be, at least in the case of the 92/96 series and the Px4 series.

      -John M.

      1. Hognose Post author

        The 92G has a decocker only. Wilson sets ’em up like that, and it’s what Langdon recommends. It can be retrofitted to other 92/96s. CZ also lets you choose lockwork: SA, DAO, DA/SA with non-decocking safety, DA/SA with decocker.

        SIG has both a safety and a decocker (separate levers) on its “classic” DA/SA guns.

        1. Cap'n Mike

          I don’t believe any P series DA/SA Sigs have safeties. Only ones with Safties I have seen were SAO models.

        2. John M.

          I’m aware that you can get Beretta 92s in a decocker-only configurations. But it’s hard to argue that decocker-only is the configuration Beretta prefers, given how many craptastic safety-decocker-on-the-slide models they have out there. You could blame .mil, but the Px4 has the same safety-decocker-on-the-slide configuration as the typical 92.

          You can also retrofit 3rd Gen S&Ws to decocker-only.

          Or you can just buy a SIG. :)

          -John M.

        3. Daniel

          I have to mirror what is written above. Sig put safeties only on SAO models. Even the DAK models do not have safeties.

    4. Sommerbiwak

      I like to think of a firearm in similar terms as legend has it about the Kukri. When it is unsheathed it has to draw blood. So better think before you do so.

      When I think about it, this is true of any weapon. Knife, sword, tazer, pistol, rocket launcher… Pull it out if you intend to use it or leave it in the pocket if you do not really want to hurt someone.

    5. Gray


      I agree with you re. “The dynamic of a police officer holding someone at gunpoint…” but with a caveat that also argues against the supposed safety of the DA.

      Even as a LEO (former with 30+), the premise of “…holding someone at gunpoint…” is invalid. Yes, the weapon is up and ready, and you are holding them with the direct display of lethal force, but not on target until the shot is being taken. Once the press has begun, the real difference in DA vs. SA is marginal even if it is quantifiable, which is doubtful. I will grant that there may be some LEO’s who can recite anecdotally that they were able to come off/stop the decision to shoot, but that is more than likely too rare of a circumstance to generate a doctrinal position.

      1. Kirk

        I didn’t mean to argue for the validity of it all, only meant to state that line of thought as being a part of the conventional wisdom.

        I come out along the same part of the continuum that says that if you force someone to draw a weapon because of your behavior, well… You should expect to be shot. And, killed.

        That being said, I’m also not a huge fan of how an awful lot of cops here in the US tend to use their weapons. Having been held at gunpoint by a tyro cop who mistook me for a fleeing felon, who was holding his Glock at my head with a finger on the trigger…? Not a fan of his FTO or his academy. I mean, seriously… Who the fuck commits armed robbery, and uses a Land Cruiser as a getaway vehicle? On top of which, the actual vehicle used was a cream Range Rover with gold bling, while I was driving a dark green Land Cruiser… Also, Officer Trigger Control, the suspect was reported as a “black male”, and I’m a pretty pale shade of off-white.

        My way of thinking is that the gun stays in the holster until it is clearly needed and justified–When Mr. Pistol is forced out of Mr. Holster by your actions, then you automatically get shot. Period.

        1. Gray

          “holding his Glock at my head with a finger on the trigger”

          If you, at that moment, were not displaying any behavior warranting immediate lethal force, that is something that I would consider to be egregious conduct requiring immediate remediation. (And just for the record, I am not adverse to force whatsoever.)

          If that man and/or his supervisors were working for me, (given those circs) there would be some direct “counseling” and in-depth training, both in the legal ramifications (such as loss of 1983 immunity) as well as hands-on scenario-based.

          1. Cap'n Mike

            My old department required an Officer to complete a use of force report, justifying the need, after the fact, when a service weapon was pointed at a suspect. Not a bad policy IMHO.

          2. Kirk

            That was precisely what I experienced; I thought it was a routine traffic stop, and when I looked out the window to my left, I got the muzzle-end view of a Glock 22 in the hands of a panic-stricken, twitching 22 year-old kid. Very disconcerting to see said kid had his trigger finger wrapped around the trigger inside the guard, too.

            It ain’t good when you’re the one who has to talk the officer down off the ledge, and he’s pointing the gun at you. I still don’t know why that idiot did what he did; I just know he did it, and I was probably about a twitch away from having my brains scattered over the interior of my car.

            I think I made his FTO cry, when it was over, though. She didn’t seem like she was that on the ball, anyway–When I called her out on her guy having his finger on the trigger, she just looked confused as hell as to why that might be a poor practice with a striker-fired pistol. They’d just re-equipped with the G22 back then, so… Who knows?

            Some of the officers I’ve been around, I have the utmost respect for. They’re doing a job I wouldn’t take, on a bet. Some of the others…? Yeah. Have no business being in law enforcement, or any position of authority or power over others. A few I’ve run into, I wouldn’t trust with my dog, let alone another human being.

  15. Sommerbiwak

    “Well, yeah, and they pay him. There is that (grin).”

    Well he could choose the APX or the Px4 Storm instead.


  16. Cap'n Mike

    I missed jumping on the striker fired band wagon, probably because I bought a my first pistol, a Sig P220 in 1989. After that, I have been issued DA/SA pistols since the early 90s, Beretta M9, S&W 4013TSW, Sig P226 and currently a Sig P220. Not surprising that I prefer them, to the point I don’t own any 1911s or Striker fired guns. I prefer DA/SA without safeties.
    One recommendation I have is to dry fire the hell out of them, with a laser cartridge if you have one, to the point that you are as good with the DA trigger as you are with the SA trigger.
    I also checked the P series Sigs that I have on hand and the triggers all break at the same point, double action or single action.

  17. Gray


    “Some of the others…? Yeah. Have no business being in law enforcement, or any position of authority or power over others.”

    Indeed. And its just as bad when they are co-workers, and worse when superiors. Their very presence at an “event” can turn it into a very bad thing. And when it splatters, it gets on them and everyone else even if you have a pure heart and the strength of ten. And if they have rank, they will be hastily rewriting the history to exclude their posteriors.

    And, lest anyone think my next is misogynistic, I have had the opportunity to work with a (infinitesimally small) number of female officers (including a boss) who were very good to go through the door with. The majority were worse than useless. Reprising Cooper again, he called them “copchicks”.

  18. obdo

    meh, chasing wild geese.

    after >50k dry fires on various s&w wheelguns in double action and a few live ones up to .500 sw plus successfully competing in bullseye and practical competitions with a p7m13 this sounds much like nitpicking, inflating a topic for publicity, or looking for suckers barnum style.

    still quite amusing, and i shall follow up the discussions between keyboard experts on this topic having the popcorn & dr pepper ready.

    lol, off to gymnasticate my yamaha recurve.

    1. obdo

      tl;dr maybe,
      but still bugging my aspie side.

      will go and check da vs sa triggers next friday w/ my gun club buddies’ toys.

      ooogh. what better not. but why not then.

  19. Steve M.

    Late to the party…

    As usual this has been a great read. Hognose has once again drawn out a bit of good information and started an interesting exchange.

    As for DA/SA guns, I have just started to seriously reconsider them. Last October, a rather nicely modified CZ P-01 came home with me and we have been growing closer with each range trip. Foolishly, I used to think only one type of gun would do, but I have since learned to focus less on the design of the pistol and more on my skill. Quoting Gray, who quoted Cooper, “Any gun will do, if you will”.

    Early on, I dismissed the Beretta as being too big for my hands. Due to this perceived size incompatibility I became susceptible to the DA/SA disinformation that trickled down to my guppy in a mud puddle level. For years, I was convinced that I needed a consistent trigger pull and that DA/SA was the worst. A lot of that has changed since I started shooting more. Suddenly a lot of guns become more shoot-able. Personal preference is still an issue, but the merits of certain designs have become clearer to me.

    As Kirk, Gray, and John M. pointed out the problem with most guns lies with the handler, shooter, etc. Too many people will abuse a heavy DA or striker fired trigger pull utilizing it as a safety. The problem with that, as noted by others, is it is inherently dangerous. Determining which guns are safer in this context tends to truly be a matter of semantics. Once your finger is on the trigger all bets are off.

    Now that I used the word semantics, the word games are real. Good folks have suffered because they had to kill someone when a jury, judge, lawyer, etc. decided they wanted to kill someone. The judicial system will destroy an honest man, strangle him with his words, and leave him without dignity. It truly is a modern day gauntlet. You will not pass through unscathed. Presentations before the courts and the actual assault have become all too similar for many people.

    That being said Kirk is right. People are morally and mentally bankrupt. Weapons are purchased and pursued with no thought of how to use them or what to do after they use them. Then again, virtually every other aspect of life is approached with the same insanity whether it is marriage, children or finances. Too many people are out of touch with the true purpose of communication. Instead, our words have become hollow and pliable.

    Bloke from Ohio’s definition of holding someone for police as being suboptimal is very true.

    In the end kudos to Langdon for what he does. I’m not military or police, so Langdon is the first guy I’ve seen doing good things with the Beretta.

    1. Gray


      You were only fashionably late.

      “People are morally and mentally bankrupt.”

      You are very noetic in your approach, and accurate.

      Very good post!

      1. Steve M.


        Thank you. To be honest, our Humble Blogger and the commenters, such as yourself, maintain a high quality of discourse making it a bit challenging to add anything of value to the exchange.

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