I’ve been carrying a striker-fired 9mm for about 8 years now, and I think I’m ready to move on. First, a little background:
There are four kinds of semiauto pistols: Striker fired, Double Action Only, Double/Single Action, and Single Action Only. Only the striker fired option isn’t hammer fired. Striker is by far the most common pistol type, though. I’m also not currently entertaining the idea of a revolver as my main EDC (Sorry Justin). So, what am I looking at? Well, I’m trying to get into either a single action or a double/single action.
Why am I going away from what is undoubtedly the most popular style of pistol for even experienced CCW? Because I carry appendix, and appendix carry is very unforgiving of mistakes. Striker fired guns are also very unforgiving. Combining the two is stacking the odds against me, and I’m not sure the cost-benefit analysis works in my favor anymore.
What I’m Not Considering
These are by far the most common and what I currently carry. They are a good option for most serious gun carriers. Glock is the archetypal striker-fired carry gun. Obviously one gun does not adequately represent all the guns in this category, but it will do for the most part.
Striker-Fired (SF) guns are usually double stack, polymer frame/grip, and no manual safety (although some can be had with one). Since most SF guns feature no manual external safety (the trigger blade doesn’t count), the guns are designed to compress the striker spring 5-10% more with the trigger pull (most market this as making them ‘double action’, but in reality it just makes the trigger pull worse. They don’t have the actual weight, length, or double-strike capability of a double action pull, nor the ever-present manual safety of a single action. In usage, a striker fired gun is like a single action with a terrible trigger and no manual safety. Not a fan.
Double Action Only
Next on the list is Double Action Only (DAO). This is probably the safest type of pistol for a newer or less experienced gun carrier. Every trigger pull cocks the hammer and releases it. Every trigger pull is 1/2-3/4″ in travel and 6-8 lb in weight. There is no ‘accidently’ setting off the trigger, no dropping and it accidently going off. Every single trigger pull is deliberate.
Now, this isn’t the death sentence it’s often made out to be. A decent DAO has a good double action pull. That means the pull is smooth, no hint of crunchy-ness. The pull shouldn’t get progressively heavier as the trigger is pulled, it should be a consistent pull weight the whole time. My first carry gun was a Sig P250, which is a DAO, and I didn’t end up killed in the streets. That being said, it definitely had drawbacks inherent to the design, most concerning was the fact that I could not get my shot-to-shot split times down much without throwing rounds completely off target. It simply takes a ton of practice to do well, and other types of pistol don’t have such a hard time in this regard. Also, your trigger finger literally gets tired!
What I Am Considering
The Single Action Only (SAO) type of pistol is the oldest type of semiauto pistol. The trigger does not cock a hammer, but only releases it. This means that the trigger can be made very short, light, and crisp. The downside of an SAO gun is that, since the trigger does not cock the hammer but only release it, the gun must be carried with the hammer cocked. The only non-suicidal way to carry a cocked SAO is with some sort of manual safety, and it engaged all the time. The things that make an SAO trigger good to shoot make them inherently unsafe to carry unless they are guarded by a safety of some sort.
The manual safety is the thing that scares most people off. Some dedicated training needs to be given to make sure that you can unconsciously manipulate the safety, but I think that problem has been blown out of proportion. SAO trigger characteristics are what experienced shooters seek out in a gun, hence why SAO pistols are what most people use in competition when allowed to get what they want. People who carry SAO tend to be experienced and skilled, or completely uninformed. Very little in between.
Double Action/Single Action
The DA/SA, or Traditional Double Action, pistol is probably the most complicated pistol type. The trigger can cock the hammer like a DAO, but the hammer can stay cocked like an SAO. It gives you the safety of a DAO without the concerns that come along with a manual safety. The trade-off is that you have two different trigger pulls to learn, the first double action pull and the following single action pulls. You also have to train to de-cock after each string of fire, since carrying a hammer fired gun with a cocked hammer w/o a safety on is a recipe for disaster. These can be trained through and overcome of course, and gives you a very robust and versatile weapon with a competent user.
The counterpoint is that if you’re willing to train a DA/SA enough to become competent with it, you should have just spent that time with an SAO and had an undeniably better trigger pull from the beginning. I literally had a guy tell me “..or just carry a single action like a real man.” I’m not entirely sure he’s wrong, either…
I’m heavily leaning towards an offering from CZ. When you consider the affordability, high quality triggers, frame-mounted safety/de-cocker levers, and track record, CZ makes a good option. I would go with the P07/09 line of guns for a double stack polymer framed option. The de-cocker is user-swappable for a manual safety, meaning that if I find the DA/SA lifestyle too hard, I can just go SAO and call it good. The only downside is that CZ doesn’t have a lot of optic mounting options outside of Cajun Gun Works or their custom shop, although I am not afraid of sending something out to get milled.
Beretta makes the only real competitor to CZ for me at the moment, and tough competition at that! The 92X-series of pistols is frankly quite an impressive factory offering. Everything good about the 92FS, but de-cock-only lever instead of the ‘accidently dead trigger’-safety the -FS was known for. The 92X series also comes with the slimmer and much more grippy grip panels, a front rail, 17-round magazines, and also has optics-ready models from the factory. The 92X is a lot to love! But, it has one thing to hate: the slide-mounted de-cocker. The slide is just not a good place to put that kind of lever. The 92X Performance and Performance Defensive both have frame-mounted safeties, but they are SAO competition guns that cost $1,500+.
Beretta also has the PX4 Storm series of guns. The PX4 is a poly-frame double stack DA/SA option, although they aren’t easily converted to de-cock only. One would need to purchase either the ‘Carry’ version, an LTT version, or a de-cock-only conversion kit and do the work to make it so. Adding a red dot requires either custom milling or a new LTT slide. Also, I just can’t make my brain like the PX4. I think it’s the aesthetics, its the only explanation that makes sense.
I love my P210 and the P210 Carry is… not what I’m looking for. Maybe when they release a version with a provision to mount a dot and a light, then I’ll be interested. As of now, I can’t justify the price, lack of dot & rail, and only 7 rounds of 9mm. Out.
Smith & Wesson
Big Blue’s newest offering, the CSX is the perf- sorry, sorry. I couldn’t even type that sentence out, much less actually convince someone that the CSX isn’t a giant piece of junk. The one thing that a SAO gun is supposed to have is a good trigger, and that’s the biggest downside to the CSX. I personally want it to have a provision for a red dot, but the market won’t support that gun with its current crappy trigger. Improve the trigger, remove the baffling Glock-style trigger blade safety, add a red dot mount, and chamber in .30 Super Carry and I’m on board. I know that’s a lot to ask, but that gun kinda sucks as of April 2022. Until they fix it, I’m out.
I’m considering the Hi Power, but not likely to go with it. I have yet to see one in person, and at an MSRP of ~$1200? And it doesn’t have a red dot option yet (though I speculate it will be announced before too long). The SA-35 Hi Power isn’t option, because the thought of supporting Springfield Armory leaves a bad taste in my mouth. [click here and here for more FN Hi-Power thoughts]
FN also has a DA/SA polymer framed offering, the FNX series. This could be a very serious third competitor against the P07 and the 92X, but I just have so little experience with them that I can’t put them on the list at this time. I have lots of first hand experience with Beretta and CZ and am comfortable choosing one of them. I’d like to get my hands on a FNX9, I just have never had the opportunity.
I’m not considering these guns primarily on price. A 1911 I’d feel comfortable carrying is going to start hundreds more above the 92X and CZ P07, and it’s half the capacity. A 2011 even more so. The most affordable 2011 is going to be a Rock Island, and I expect to put $200-$300 in gunsmithing into it, and then it still won’t be red dot ready.
TL;DR- I’m not there as a shooter to justify the expense.
A Striker-Fired Gun with a Manual Safety?
Sir, I’m going to ask you to leave.
I’m probably going to end up with a CZ P07. The frame-mounted safety, that I can switch to a de-cocker at home with included parts, lets me cross the line between DA/SA and SAO at will. The fact that Beretta’s 92X excludes SAO function gives me pause, and the slide mounted de-cocker really ruins it for me. In contrast, the FNX9 has a great 3-position de-cocker/safety but I just have no first hand experience with one.
Keep upgrading your skills, never settle. We’ll see you next Friday.
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