I’m Paul DeClark. I’m the Chief Instructor with Command Performance Firearms and Training in Venice FL….
We talked about revolvers in another video, so let’s talk about the other major type of self-defense handgun. Some people call them pistols. They are SEMI- automatic, not FULLY automatic, sometimes called machine guns. This means that, just like a revolver, when you pull the trigger once, you get one shot fired.
There is a lot of variety, and the offerings are expanding almost every day, but let’s break it down.
First, let’s talk about traditional (hammer-fired) double-action semi’s. “Action” refers to the number of things the trigger does to the hammer. Of course in this case, it’s two.
When the trigger is pulled, a shot is fired. The pressure from the ignition pushes the slide back, which pulls out and ejects the empty case, cocks the hammer, and peels a new round off the magazine (please, it’s not a clip!) It loads it into the chamber as the slide closes and the gun is ready to fire again. Though the first shot was a long, uncocked trigger pull, the second and subsequent shots will have been cocked by the slide action so the gun now will fire single-action.
In a traditional single-action semi, the trigger can only release the hammer, so it must be manually cocked the first time. It is imperative that this type of gun be carried with a round in the chamber, the hammer cocked and the manual safety on. Typically, these are not a good choice for beginners as they requires substantial training for it’s very light trigger pull, the confidence to carry a round chambered and the trigger finger discipline to know that this is as safe a gun as the shooter.
Today, there are many semi’s that have a striker, which is a spring-loaded pin, instead of a hammer. Many of these manufacturers try to adapt the language of the traditional doubles and singles by using the same terms, but they are not really the same, as they do not have hammers. Their trigger pulls can mimic the double/single pull sequence or every shot may have the same pull.
One of the main reasons for the popularity of striker-fired guns is that most of them are poly frames, and therefore much lighter than steel. The triggers tend to be easier for most people to shoot well, though this varies by make and model.
The other main reason is that the ammo capacity is greater, and sometimes much greater, than a revolver. Even the smallest semi’s typically have at least a six-round magazine, plus the one you keep in the chamber.
They are also slimmer in profile so concealed carry is a bit easier.
On the downside, it is necessary to be able to manually “rack” (pull and lock the slide back) to function the gun safely and empty it, or to clear jambs, which they are much more prone to having. Since there is only one chamber, a jamb shuts your gun down until you can manually clear it, if you are still alive. Racking the slide is difficult for some and impossible for a few. There are many options and most can find one they can handle, but it may take some tries.
Also, semi’s can be fussy about ammo. For that reason it is imperative that you test your hollow-points with each magazine prior to dedicating the gun for self-defense.
We recommend a thorough cleaning after every shooting session, as semi’s can be fussy about functioning when dirty.
Is a semi-automatic right for you? We would need to get with you and show you the proper way to handle it, including making it safe, loading and unloading, racking and locking the slide, loading removing the magazine, and grip. There are several different ways to grip the semi.
In fact, in all of our classes, handling a semi-auto is standard procedure for all students. Only with that and after shooting can you decide if a semi is the right choice for you.
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