The handgun market for everyday-carry duty and self-defense is dominated by striker-fired polymer pistols. The reason is obvious, they are simpler to shoot. Striker-fired handguns have one type of trigger pull and most rely only on passive safeties, so if a user can draw the pistol and pull the trigger it will predictably go bang.
Striker-fired triggers occupy a limbo between single-action and double-action. On the one hand, they’re shorter and most break more predictably than double-action triggers. On the other hand, they are long and heavy compared to just about any single-action trigger.
Trigger control is important even in high-stress situations, and because of this, gun manufacturers are transitioning to lighter, crisper triggers, especially with the new crop of striker-fired guns including the FN FNS, Heckler & Koch VP, SIG P320 and Walther PPQ.
Newer striker-fired guns feel a lot more like they have single-action triggers (and some are, technically speaking) but with an added amount of takeup to help prevent accidental or negligent discharges by increasing the length of the trigger pull. These combine the better features of both double-action and single-action triggers. They have a long pull for safety then hit a predictable, short wall before they break and fire.
The new crop of strikers is a huge improvement over older-generation pistols that, realistically, functioned more like shorter, lighter double-action-only triggers. But they’re still no match for a good single-action trigger.
Because a safety of some sort must be overcome–whether it’s a double-action trigger or manual safety–single-action triggers only have practical constraints on pull weight, pretravel, overtravel and reset. That is to say, they’re better.
See Also: Everyday-Carry and the Get Home Gun
Thanks to a renewed interest in good factory triggers, a lot of shooters are coming around–or back around–to double-action/single-action pistols. Not only does the single-action trigger reset lock in place, these guns are capable of restrike or second strike in cases of stubborn primers.
For striker-fired pistols, if a user pulls the trigger and encounters a failure to fire, the remedial action is a malfunction drill–tap, rack, target. Bash the magazine in place, cycle the slide manually and aim and fire again. This doctrine is valid for all semi-automatic pistols, but with double-action-capable handguns, a quick pull of the trigger in DA mode can resolve the problem in a fraction of a second.
With all of this in consideration it’s no surprise that double-action/single-action pistols are regaining relevance, even while company after company puts out another striker-fired model. The effect good trigger control has downrange, for some shooters, is worth the extra effort required to master a double-action/single-action handgun.
The one advantage that striker-fired guns have over DA/SA pistols is weight. Strikers are almost universally polymer-framed, where hammer-fired pistols, given the older designs, are usually metal-framed. There’s no way around it, polymer-framed guns are lighter and easier to carry all day, every day.
That doesn’t mean you’re out of options. Here are six polymer-framed DA/SA pistols that should be on your shortlist if you’re looking for a solid everyday-carry handgun that will go toe-to-toe with just about any striker-fired on the market.
Based on its low price and high value alone, the SP2022 should be on everyone’s list for every kind of handgun. It’s a true do-all pistol that is at home on the hip or in a drawer, and it has a lot of support when it comes to accessories like holsters and sights. Night sights are also available on factory models, further increasing the gun’s cost benefit.
The SP2022 has excellent ergonomics including interchangeable grip shells to fit different hand sizes. At first blush, the controls are for righties, but any experienced SIG shooter will tell you they are very lefty-friendly, particularly the slide stop and magazine release, and with some practice, the decocker lever.
With a standard capacity of 15+1 in 9mm Luger, it’s also offered not just in .40 S&W but also in .357 SIG, both 12+1, so it brings a decent spread of cartridge options to the table, too.
The SP2022 is a SIG you can feel not only fine with but great about using and abusing. While all SIG pistols are duty guns, with a street price of between $450 and $500 the SP2022 is a real bargain.
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The Heckler and Koch P30, and by extension the HK45, represent some of the most advanced polymer-frame DA/SA guns on the market. With several different trigger options including optional traditional safeties and/or decockers, these guns have been available for long enough to promote a solid aftermarket for accessories.
The P30 is a small-frame pistol offered in 9mm and .40 S&W, with a 15+1- and 12+1-round capacity, standard. The HK45 is the large-frame version, offered in .45 ACP with a standard 10+1-round capacity.
The P30 is available in fully-ambidextrous configurations and not only sports interchangeable backstraps, it also has interchangeable grip panels for a fully-customizable grip. The HK45 has similar controls and interchangeable backstraps, too.
These are some of the more expensive options on the market with the P30 models running between $600 and $700 and the HK45 often closer to $900. The P30 is available in subcompact for concealed carry as well as extended models for home defense and competition, where the HK45 has both compact options and extended, threaded models available for shooting suppressed.
One thing to keep in mind is that Heckler & Koch offers some models with the LEM trigger system. A preset hammer, the LEM trigger functions more like a striker-fired trigger than a traditional DA/SA trigger, which negates the advantages DA/SA shooters are looking for.
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The FNX is another all-purpose handgun. A little bigger than the SP2022, the FNX is slender and makes good use of its size and weight as one of the most compact full-size service pistols on the market.
It has an above-average 17+1 capacity in 9mm and holds a solid 14+1 rounds in .40 S&W. Most importantly, the FNX has true, fully-ambidextrous controls including the safety/decocker. Ambidexterity isn’t just nice for lefties; being able to shoot a pistol one-handed, even weak-sided, is a real pro for lefties and righties.
Then there’s the FNX-45. Although it’s realistically too big for most people for concealed-carry, the FNX-45 is still an impressively efficient design with an outstanding capacity of 15+1 rounds of .45 ACP.
The FNX-45 has a standard 4.5-inch barrel and at 33 ounces unloaded and with its good controls, ergonomics and capacity will give even the best 1911s a run for their money. The .45 is available in a Tactical model with an extended, threaded barrel, raised suppressor sights and a machined, red-dot-ready slide.
There is one like-it-or-leave it element that comes with the FNX design, and that’s the grip texture. These guns use an interchangeable backstrap system for different hand sizes but the texture is spiked and rough. While the grip texture provides unparalleled control, some people find it unpleasant, especially for concealed-carry.
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The P-07 has been on the market for a while as CZ’s budget pistol and it has pretty good market support, especially with the backing of companies like CZ-USA and Cajun Gun Works.
Recently CZ updated the design with interchangeable backstraps and introduced a new full-size model, the P-09. The P-07 is a compact, holding 15+1 in 9mm and 12+1 in .40 S&W, whereas the P-09 has a near-unapproachable 15+1-round capacity in .40 S&W and 19+1 in 9mm. Extended baseplates are available for even greater capacities for both models.
And while the P-09 is comically-large for concealed-carry it’s a top-flight pistol for home defense and open carry. The P-07 is more suited for concealed-carry and even though it’s wide on paper, CZ measures these guns across the safety levers. In a holster, the P-07 will conceal with the best of the double-stacks.
CZ’s polymer P-series uses their Omega trigger system, which gives users the choice of either a traditional manual safety for carrying cocked-and-locked or a simpler decocker lever that decocks to half-cocked for a shorter, lighter trigger even in double-action. Switching between controls is fast and the safety and decocker levers are ambidextrous where the magazine release is reversible.
CZ is working hard to offer these guns in compelling configurations including suppressor-ready versions, but the real appeal for all these guns is their value, with prices starting at around $400.
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The PX4 Storm is a very modern pistol design that is too often caught behind the Beretta 92’s long shadow. The Beretta 92, thanks its success as the military’s M9 and its other variants, is practically synonymous with the Beretta brand.
The 92 in all its forms has its drawbacks, in this case, it has a bulky, heavy frame (even for an alloy-framed pistol) and an open slide design. The uncommon barrel locking system makes it a low-recoil system, which is nice, but it’s not the strongest and is a known point of failure.
The PX4 Storm, on the other hand, has a light polymer frame, a closed slide and a beefier recoil-mitigating locking system. The PX4 series uses a rotating one-piece barrel and it’s no gimmick; the felt recoil is noticeably lower even when shooting snappy .40 S&W loads.
The PX4 is produced in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP and has average to above-average capacity across the board. The Compact model takes compactness seriously, and is small enough for concealed carry in almost any weather.
The Full Size is still small and light enough for everyday carry, holding 17+1 in 9mm and 14+1 in .40, two more rounds in each caliber compared to the Compact. The Full-size has a standard 4-inch barrel where the Compact is short at 3.3 inches. In .45 they hold 10+1 rounds.
A couple things to mention include that the Sub-Compact does not use a rotating barrel system; it uses a conventional tilting barrel. And there are a few different trigger systems to be aware of; even though these guns are mostly DA/SA there are double-action-only and preset hammer variants.
The DA/SA model is also produced with a decocker safety or a decocker-only lever. The decocker-only lever is probably the best option for concealed-carry, which is why it’s standard on the PX4 Carry model. PX4 pistols are all pretty affordable, too, with prices starting around $450.
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It’s not uncommon to see CZ show up in roundups as the sleeper brand but when it comes to DA/SA pistols the new company to watch out for is Grand Power. Imported under their own brand and sold as others Grand Power handguns are positioned to make a big impact in the polymer service pistol market on all fronts.
Grand Power makes pistols specialized for service and duty, competition, self-defense and concealed-carry. Because they have been available off and on in the U.S. there is a budding accessory market including holsters and night sights for home defense and everyday-carry.
Like the FNX they are fully-ambidextrous pistols out of the box, and they stand out for their factory-polished triggers. These guns are big in the European competition scene with good reason.
Not only do they have excellent controls and ergos including interchangeable grip shells, they also implement a rotating barrel system for greatly reduced felt recoil. This will be especially appreciated when they bring their 10mm Auto pistol to the States. In the meanwhile keep a lookout for Grand Power firearms; while so many other companies are focused on striker-fired designs, Grand Power is taking the DA/SA pistol to new heights.
Grand Power pistols are offered in full-size, compact and subcompact sizes in 9mm, .40 S&W, .380 and .45 ACP. These guns are starting to get noticed and prices have gone up by $100 or more across the board in just a year or so; still, starting in the $550 range they’re approachably-priced and packed with features.
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