A man holding a gun with his finger on the trigger

Double-Action vs Single-Action Handguns: What’s the Difference?


If you're unfamiliar with the gun world, it may be challenging to navigate all the various terminologies used there. Terms like "single-action" and "double-action" may confuse you, and you may question what they mean and how they differ from one another. In this post, we'll go over some of the distinctions between these two terms and suggest which one you should use.


What Is an "Action"?

 A man holding his gun with his finger on the trigger with some trees next to him

Credit: Envato Elements/ balls340


Before understanding what a single and double-action gun is, let's start by explaining what "action" means in the gun community.

"Action" is the term for what happens when you pull the trigger to fire a bullet. It involves a series of mechanical steps inside the gun: getting the bullet ready, ejecting the spent casing, and putting in a new bullet.

When it comes to handguns, there are two main types of actions: single action and double action.


What Are Single-Action (SA) Handguns?

 A man with his finger on the hammer of the gun at a gun shop

Credit: Envato Elements/ NomadSoul1


In single-action revolvers and handguns, pulling the trigger does just one thing: it releases the hammer to fire the bullet. This means that the shooter must manually cock the hammer in order for the gun to fire a cartridge.

Semi-automatic pistols work a bit differently. After the first shot, the gun's recoil automatically cocks the hammer for the subsequent shot.

Single-action firearms often have lighter, smoother trigger pulls since they only have one motion—dropping the hammer—with each shot. As a result, these handguns have greater accuracy since there is less possibility that the shooter may accidentally move the muzzle during a trigger pull.


What Are Double-Action (DA) Handguns?

 A double action handgun with ammunition next to it

Credit: Envato Elements/ jirkaejc


Double-action handguns carry out two actions when the trigger is pulled. The first action is when the hammer is cocked back and the second action is the release of the hammer, which causes the gunshot.

Trigger pulls for a double-action firearm are typically heavier and have a longer travel distance than a single-action firearm. Because a DA trigger requires a stronger pull, you might find yourself shifting the weapon slightly off-target to compensate, which will reduce accuracy. On the plus side, double-action weapons are less likely to get caught on things when you're taking them out of a pocket or holster because they have an exposed hammer.


The Difference

 infographic showing the difference between single action and double action handguns


1) The primary distinction between a single-action and double-action firearm is that the former requires only one step to start the firing sequence after squeezing the trigger. The double-action, on the other hand, carries out two tasks, namely cocking the hammer and then discharging the gun.


2) Single-action guns have a light trigger pull, whereas double-action guns have a stronger and longer trigger pull. This is another significant distinction between single-action and double-action guns. 


3) Compared to a single-action firearm, a double-action revolver or handgun reloads more swiftly and conveniently. Pulling the trigger on a single-action gun is easier since it only requires doing one thing.  A double-action trigger on the hand necessitates extra work since two actions must be performed.


Which One Should You Choose?

 A man holding a gun in his hand and looking at it in the shop

Credit: Envato Elements/ NomadSoul1


There isn't a clear winner when comparing double-action vs. single-action guns. It primarily depends on personal preference since everyone is built differently. Additionally, different action types will feel different in your hands. It is up to you to decide which action type feels the most natural to you in order to practice shooting your gun accurately and proficiently. You don't want to buy something that requires you to alter your habits or relearn them each time you visit the range.

To find the handgun that best suits your hands, style, and demands, it is generally a good idea to test out a variety of different designs. You must be able to practice with your firearm in order to become proficient with it, and in order to do so, you must both enjoy shooting it and feel at ease with it every time you pull it out.


Safety Measures for Both Double-Action and Single-Action Handguns


man aiming gun and getting ready to pull trigger
Credit: Envato Elements/ serhiibobyk


Regardless of the action type, firearm safety should always be paramount. Below are guidelines for ensuring safety while using and storing both types of handguns:


1) Use Proper Equipment



2) Safe Handling


  • Finger Placement: Always keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot. This is a basic rule but is often violated, leading to accidents.
  • Muzzle Direction: Always point the muzzle in a safe direction, which means away from anything you don't intend to shoot.
  • Understand the Action: With SA guns, be aware if the hammer is cocked; this typically indicates the gun is ready to fire with a light trigger pull. With DA guns, remember the first trigger pull will be heavy, but if the gun transitions to SA mode after firing, subsequent pulls will be lighter.


3) Safe Storage


  • Gun Safes: Store your handguns in a secured gun safe when not in use. This not only prevents unauthorized access but also protects your firearms from environmental factors. A great option to consider is the Movgul Gun Safe. Equipped with a biometric lock and an LCD display, this safe monitors the internal temperature and humidity levels, guaranteeing that your firearms are kept in an optimal environment.
  • Trigger Locks and Cable Locks: If a gun safe is not available, use a trigger lock or a cable lock like the CENXIGO Biometric Trigger Lock. These devices prevent the gun from being fired until they're removed.
  • Ammunition Storage: Store ammunition separately from your handguns. This reduces the risk of accidental discharges if someone unauthorized gains access to your firearm.


4) Regular Maintenance


Clean and maintain your handgun regularly. A well-maintained firearm functions properly and is less prone to malfunctions which can lead to safety issues. A good gun cleaning kit to consider is the the Romanideal Kit.




Now that you are aware of the differences between a double-action and a single-action gun, you can choose the type of gun that is best for you. When considering what sort of gun you should own or carry, keep in mind that there is no right or wrong answer. It all comes down to taste and what makes you feel comfortable and safe.

The most important stages in weapon safety are ongoing training and understanding the operation of your firearm. To improve your accuracy when using a double-action or single-action revolver, consider practicing on EasyShot Paper Targets. Shop with us today.

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