Striker-Fired vs. DA/SA Handguns, and the Everyman Shooter vs. the Concealed Carry Wizard

    The author's beloved 1990 manufacture SIG P220 DA/SA handgun. I carry a Glock, though.

    Back in May, Chris Baker released these three videos on DA/SA handguns for the LuckyGunner YouTube channel. They are all of the same high standard of quality I’ve come to expect from Chris, so I recommend my readers watch all three of them before continuing:

    Chris makes some interesting points for discussion, although most of what I’m about to discuss in tow will be about culture rather than equipment. First, I think Chris is 100% right about choosing DA/SA pistols… IF you are the kind of shooter he is. That is, someone who shoots pistols a lot, who always is practicing from concealment, who is always trying to get better scores and times, and who is (probably as a consequence of the last thing) picky about their triggers.

    In that case, DA/SA stands a good chance of being “for you”. But, while I recognize that there are many people who fit that description (and you can usually identify them by their reaction when you say “Todd Green”), I wonder about how their approach compares with my life, and the lives of many other gun owners. Are they professional competitive shooters who also carry concealed for self defense? Some are, but many others aren’t, yet they too still train aggressively. I’ve met many people who are quasi-competitive about their shooting, but aren’t exactly racing open guns in IPSC championships, either. These sorts of people are very likely to treat competition as more of a skills-honing exercise than a sport, and they are very likely to be extremely thorough in every aspect of carrying a firearm concealed.

    They have, in other words, gone way beyond “maintaining proficiency” and have turned their choice to carry concealed into a hobby, which I should say is far from a bad thing! It’s these folks I am most likely to turn to for advice on concealed carry, and a great many of them have made successful and lucrative careers in the industry this way. In fact, it’s a great thing that people pursue this avenue, and I’m not at all writing this to denigrate or belittle people who choose to participate in the shooting hobby in this way.

    What this approach isn’t, though, is reflective of most people’s use of a handgun, myself included. Even though I am by the dictionary definition a professional (of some odd variety) in the shooting sports world, handguns take a decided back seat to everything else I do there. Since they interest me less, I shoot with them often enough to maintain proficiency, and that’s about it. Accordingly, my focus when I carry a handgun centers around what I consider to be the most likely scenarios that I could encounter, rather than improving my skills with a pistol to the highest possible level. Don’t get me wrong, if there’s going to be a firefight and all my buddies and I get to have are concealed pistols, I want the concealed carry wizards to be on my team! Likewise, if a highly trained shooter goes nuts and decides to massacre a room of people, “maintaining proficiency” is not going to cut it. Even so, here’s what I actually care about when I carry a gun:

    1. Do I have a gun?
    2. Am I behaving safely with said gun?
    3. If I am concealing my gun, is it adequately concealed?
    4. Whether/when/how do I present the gun? (Every single “incident” I have actually experienced involved me presenting the firearm first, to show I was armed. Not every one will, but this is a major consideration for me.)
    5. If I need to, how quickly and accurately can I fire off the first shot? And,
    6. Do I have subsequent shots available as well as a reload in the event of a malfunction?

    That is about it for me. I am not really worried about split times, beyond being able to create a reasonable group at 15 yards quickly, and my emphasis is on the first round fired. If I have to fire my gun, the ONLY shot that is guaranteed (gun reliability permitting) to be discharged is my first shot, so I A.) want it to hit my target, and B.) want it to not hit anything else. Now, if I have taken 300 hours of training and I am hitting the range to practice my pistol shooting from a holster 1.5 times a week, then I might be totally confident I can satisfy 4A and 4B with a DA/SA handgun that has an 11lb trigger pull when decocked, but I am not that person. I don’t “live a concealed carry lifestyle”, I just carry a gun to protect myself, the difference being the number of priorities that either require my time, or that I’d rather devote it to besides handgun practice.

    This is the big reason why, when folks tell me I should get new sights for my Glock, I think in the back of my head “why? The current sights work just fine.” It’s true, I probably would shoot better with a $100 set of Trijicons, but I also shoot pretty satisfactorily with the $0 stock sights. It’s also true that at my level of proficiency, if Rob Pincus challenged me to a gunfight, I’d be pretty screwed, but it’s not roving Mike Pannones or Rob Leathams I’m worried about, it’s 2Cent the local crack dealer. Factory Glock sights and pistol practice twice a month are probably good enough for 2Cent, I think.

    So my priority then is to achieve and maintain a good level of proficiency with my handgun without spending too much time practicing. That’s good enough for me, at least until I catch that pistol shooting bug that’s going around.

    Finally, bringing it back around to DA/SA handguns, I actually started out shooting a DA/SA CZ-75 (which I mostly carried cocked and locked), and I would recommend DA/SA handguns to those who prefer their particular strengths. For me, though, the simplicity, durability, and ubiquity of the Glock family are the kind of pragmatic advantages that appeal to me personally.

    However, what is “pragmatic” depends on who you are!

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]