Why an external hammer on a semi-auto pistol?

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Thread: Why an external hammer on a semi-auto pistol?

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    VIP Member Array Thanis's Avatar
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    Why an external hammer on a semi-auto pistol?

    Why an external hammer on a semi-auto pistol? What are the advantages and disadvantages? I imagine it comes down to the same reasons you make this choice with a revolver. I'm looking to learn.

    I am also hopeful to hear from the motto crowd. Either the, "I would never carry a firearm with an external hammer because..." or the, "I would only carry a firearm with an external hammer because..."

    Thanks for any thoughts.

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  3. #2
    VIP Member Array SIGguy229's Avatar
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    Doesn't matter to me...it's how the grip feels in my hand and how well it shoots.

    I own SIGs, a Beretta, and a Kahr...the external hammer doesn't bother me at all
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    Member Array spooter66's Avatar
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    Personally, I think it's a carryover from the old revolver days. The 1911 was developed to replace revolvers which meant it was going to be carried by guys who had used the old trusted wheelies all their lives. They were used to having a hammer. I'm sure Mr. Browning could have designed the 1911 without one and gone with a striker arrangement if he really wanted to. Given the era how do you think guys would have reacted if they were handed a gun without a hammer?

    As for advantages/disadvantages... the only thing I can think of is reliability. They were first developed for wartime use, which means they would get used in less then ideal conditions (dirt and mud). I'm not an expert on early semi's but wasn't the Luger the only other semi around at the time? If I recall they liked to be kept fairly clean and the early models were prone to all kinds of malfunctions when they got dirty.
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    Distinguished Member Array Rexster's Avatar
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    (1) Striker-fired pistols bulge more at the rear of the slide, because the striker and its mechanism are (normally) totally enclosed by the slide. The spur of a hammer-fired pistol, of course, protrudes, if it is present, but my SIG P229 DAK duty/carry pistols are examples of bobbed-hammer pistols.

    (2) Hammers can be felt during re-holstering; if something snags the trigger, or if the user has a brain fart and tries to re-holster with the finger on the trigger, the hammer, if covered by the thumb, as as an extra margin of safety.

    (3) Obviously, for a shooter who prefers single-action autoloaders, a hammer provides visual and tactile feedback that the weapon is cocked. Some older guys, in particular, still prefer to carry or store their pistols with the hammer down, chamber loaded.

    (4) For a shooter who prefers double-action for close-range defense, but single action for precision shooting, a hammer allows the user to select SA for the first shot, if desired. There is MUCH merit to using your carry pistol for hunting and other long-range recreational shooting, even if one does not believe in cocking the pistol for longer-range antipersonnel use. Some older shooters, in particular, have adopted DA autoloaders, but having grown up with SA weapons, prefer to cock the hammer for the first shot if there is time to do so.

    That is four reasons, just off the top of my fatigued head, as I try to wind down from a 10p-6a shift. I can add a particularly personal reason: I just like hammers on my weapons. There is something reassuring about seeing the hammer move before the shot breaks; this started with sixguns, but continues with autoloaders.

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    Different designs more than anything.
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    Quote Originally Posted by spooter66 View Post
    Personally, I think it's a carryover from the old revolver days. The 1911 was developed to replace revolvers which meant it was going to be carried by guys who had used the old trusted wheelies all their lives. They were used to having a hammer. I'm sure Mr. Browning could have designed the 1911 without one and gone with a striker arrangement if he really wanted to.
    I disagree. The hammer and striker-fired systems are two ways to do the same thing. It looks more like Mr. Browning just happened to design the pistol in question with a hammer than without one (remember, the 1911 didn't come out of nowhere; it was a final product of a couple different earlier versions).


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    Distinguished Member Array kazzaerexys's Avatar
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    +1 on everything Rexster said.

    I really like the ability to index my thumb on the hammer while holstering, as an extra precaution against an unexpected bang. I also think it would be very hard to design a semi-auto with a shrouded hammer, because the shroud would also have to move out of the way of the cycling slide. That sounds to me like it would be unnecessarily mechanically complex. If I didn't want an external hammer, I'd get a striker-fired pistol (with second-strike capability).

    Also note that some pistols, like the SIG P239 and P250, come with very minimalist hammers that are near flush to the back of the slide when down. That seems to be as close to a 'shrouded' type hammer that you could get without adding a lot of new complexity to the design. Here's some pics. Note that these are both DAO versions (the P239 is a DAK), so manual cocking of the hammer is never required.
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    Senior Member Array Zsnake's Avatar
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    I thought it was to be able to carry one in the pipe safely. Also, before decockers were invented you needed a hammer to ease down the action on that round.
    But what do I know?

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    Member Array BlackJack's Avatar
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    Personally, I really do not care whether it has an external hammer or not.

    The two things I care about are:

    1. Manual safety. I want a manual safety and am not real enthusiastic about relying on passive safeties only (this is a personal preference).
    2. Single Action available on the first shot. I want every shot to have the same trigger pull. I do not want to have one trigger pull for the first shot and a different trigger pull fro all subsequent shots. (this is also a personal preference).

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    The big difference is the trigger pull............

    A 1911 style (...or Hi-power, P-38....etc...) with an external hammer can give you a short, crisp trigger pull. The firearm is already cocked.

    A striker style has a longer, mushier pull since you are cocking the weapon as you pull the trigger.

    Just think about a double-action revolver....pretty much the same thing....If you cock the hammer it has an easy crisp pull. If you don't (hammer down)....you have longer more difficult pull.

    I prefer a crisp, clean trigger pull, but I don't always carry a 1911....sometimes I carry a striker style like a Glock or even a double-action like a Sig.
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    I like hammers.

    Hammers can be cocked when shooting targets. It is much more accurate than a double action shot. Hammers are better for precision shooting. I can hit things at distances with a cocked hammer that I wouldnt even try without one.
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    What kind of holster do you use for your hammer? IWB or OWB?

    Sorry, couldn't help myself.


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    Quote Originally Posted by SIGguy229 View Post
    Doesn't matter to me...it's how the grip feels in my hand and how well it shoots.

    I own SIGs, a Beretta, and a Kahr...the external hammer doesn't bother me at all
    Ditto.
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    Why A Hammer

    1. Can go single action on the first shot if I think I need to.
    2. Wife is only experienced with wheelguns, and would give her a frame of reference in an emergency. (After nearly 5 years, I still can not get her to go to the range for familiazation.)
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    VIP Member Array Eagleks's Avatar
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    As already said, it's an easier trigger pull and it's not cocking before shooting.
    Also , you can de-cock it.

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