Perfecting your Double Action trigger pull Part 1 Part 2
DA/SA and DAO airguns can help improve your shooting technique
By Dennis Adler
Double Action and DAO revolvers and semi-autos all share one thing in common, a heavy trigger pull. Before we move on to other topics this summer in Airgun Experience (like target shooting and target pistols), I want to spend a little more time on training with CO2 revolvers and semi-autos, as many have trigger pulls equivalent to centerfire DA/SA and DAO (double action only) models. There is no question that trigger pull can make or break your shooting accuracy. You can memorize every mechanical aspect of a handgun, know its operation inside and out, have mastered sight alignment, even compensating POA with fixed sights, but if you make a hash of pulling the trigger you are still going to miss. This is a lesson I learned the hard way because when I first started shooting in my teens I had a .22 LR Colt ACE (and how I wish I still had that pistol!), the trigger pull was light, about the same as a .45 ACP Model 1911, however, recoil was much lighter like most .22s. I never even picked up a double action revolver until more than a decade later and it was a 4-inch nickel plated Colt Diamondback (and how I wish I still had that pistol!). I was not very good with it firing double action, so I just cocked the hammer and shot it single action.
What I had learned over the period of time from the ACE to the Diamondback was how to shoot single action. And later on when I started shooting single action revolvers, that same proficiency paid off. A little over 30 years ago I bought an S&W Model 29, and like the Diamondback I discovered I wasn’t very good shooting double action. What my first professional arms instructor taught me back in the late 1970s was shooting a double action revolver double action requires a different set of skills. Yes, you can do everything right and still be less accurate because you are placing your finger on the trigger like it was a single action. I would venture to say a lot of very good shooters do this and have managed to make it work for them but the level of resistance your finger encounters with a DA or DAO trigger is significantly greater than the vast majority of SA triggers on revolvers or semi-autos. By the time I was through training he had me shooting Q-Tips at 50 feet with the Model 29 fired double action. (I still have the Model 29 but time has taken away a little of the edge I had back then and Q-Tips are pretty safe from me at 50 feet these days).
The mechanics and the practice
Mechanically, this is a simple explanation; with a single action pistol the hammer is already cocked and the only function the trigger performs is firing the gun. You then either re-cock the revolver’s hammer (single action revolver or DA/SA) or the slide on a semi-auto re-cocks the hammer or striker as part of its rearward motion. Shooting a double action revolver double action or firing a DAO revolver or semi-auto demands more from the trigger system and the trigger finger. The pull of the trigger must now re-cock the hammer or striker, and with a DA/SA or DAO revolver, must rotate the cylinder to the next chamber. Outside of finely tuned competition DA pistols, the average double action trigger pull is going to be from 10 pounds to 13 pounds, plus some ounces, (I have an older PPK/S that requires 14.5 pounds average to fire the first round double action).
In comparison, a good single action trigger will have a pull of 5 pounds; less then half that of a DAO. Simply, a trigger pull resistance of anywhere from 10 to 14 pounds is a lot to ask from the pad of your trigger finger. It is, of course, done all the time, but you may have a tendency to hit right of POA (less so using a double handed hold). A more reliable double action trigger pull should be tried using the middle joint of the trigger finger with the pad of the third joint protruding out of the triggerguard. A lot depends, too, on the length of your fingers, the size of your hand and the size of the gun and grips. Choking up on the trigger demands that the shooter pull through smoothly and consistently without jerking the trigger back (the results of which at best leads to pulling the shot low).
It is easier to explain this than it is to master. You don’t want your grip to over tighten either as you pull the trigger with the middle joint of your index finger (that is a natural tendency), so again practice will help to overcome this. Smooth, slow, and steady is the drill; with time speed will come on its own, but consistency is first and foremost when firing double action.
You can dry fire a cartridge revolver to practice but without a round going downrange you really have no idea how well you are doing. Dry fire practice will help improve skills, but using a CO2 powered DA/SA revolver or semi-auto that has a comparable trigger to its centerfire counterpart will not only achieve the same results but allow you to fire a live round (BB) and gauge your accuracy.
Will that be one hand or two?
I recommend starting with a two-handed hold as you begin to practice DA shooting techniques, it is easier in my opinion, helps build confidence, and with practice one can make the transition to firing with one hand in a target shooting stance. Some CO2 models are better choices for this training regimen, and hopefully you have one of these airguns in your collection. If not and you are serious about improving shooting skills, pick one, make the purchase and begin training. Most DA/SA CO2 revolvers have double action triggers that are much lighter than their centerfire counterparts. This makes them great to shoot, but not much help in this training exercise. One fine exception is the new ASG Dan Wesson Model 715 with a 4-inch barrel. This revolver has a superior DA/SA trigger to either the 2-1/2 inch or 6-inch models (at least as far as my test guns are concerned), so I have chosen it for the photos. DA trigger pull on the Dan Wesson is 10 pounds, 6.5 ounces.
Blowback action semi-auto DA/SA air pistols all re-cock the hammer after the first shot. One excellent exception is the non-blowback action Umarex Beretta 92FS pellet firing model which is a “functional” DAO unless you manually cock the hammer. For this exercise that will be the semi-auto used. Mine is factory equipped with optics and a laser, but the shooting technique with the DA trigger is otherwise the same. DA trigger pull on the Umarex Beretta 92FS pellet model is an average of 8 pounds, 9.5 ounces. Both DA trigger pulls are within the average for actual cartridge firing DA/SA and DAO revolvers and semiautomatic models.
In Part 2, I will show actual shooting results between firing double action using a SA-style shooting technique vs. the DA trigger technique and how airguns can help improve your skills for handling centerfire models at a fraction of the cost.