Striker fired pistols have become very popular in the last couple decades. Law Enforcement prefers them for the most part, as do those who carry guns for protection. But what makes them so special and how do they work? I feel like people do not always have a very accurate idea of how these types of pistols work. I have witnessed some salesmen pull out striker fired pistols for a customer, and tell them that it has an “internal hammer.” This is not the case, but these pistols don’t operate off of pixie dust and well wishes either. In fact, when you see how they actually work, you will probably be quite amazed at how simple striker fired pistols are.
The 2 important components in a striker fired pistol are simply the striker(left) and the sear(right). Of course there are other parts in the pistol, but for this topic, this is all we need to concern ourselves with since these are the two things that make a striker fired pistol what it is. The below pictures are from the Steyr M9, one of my favorite striker fired pistols.
The striker acts as the firing pin. The nose of the striker being what you see protruding above on the left, is what catches on the sear to the right. The spring pulling or pushing the striker towards the primer is strong, making sure to give a good strike to the primer. The springs are made strong like this to ensure a long and reliable service life as well. Modifying the strength of this spring to lower the friction between the sear and the striker nose, lowering the trigger weight ultimately, is not generally a good idea and is often not advised due to the risk of causing malfunctions (light primer strikes/failure to fire).
When the pistol is ready to fire, the nose of the striker will be caught on the sear. The sear at this point will either pull the striker back (cocking it) before releasing it, or will simply drop out of the striker nose’s way. This is of course dependent on the type of striker fired system being used. That being said, I am sure that you are picking up on the fact that not all striker fired trigger systems are the same. That is because they are not all the same, even though they are all based on the same general operating principle.
Striker fired triggers are broken into two categories based off of what is done with the striker. Therefore, I feel that we must understand what the differences are between the two, and how to spot them. Also I feel that we should evaluate some of the characteristics that each one has.
For the strikers that are pulled to the rear by the sear just before being released, they are considered double action only. Without pulling the striker to the rear before releasing it, the striker wouldn’t have the necessary inertia to set off the primer and fire the round. Popular pistols that use this type of system are Glock, Kahr, the Walther PPS, and many other designs. But here is where it gets tricky. Each one of the pistols that I listed use the same DAO(double action only) principle, but do it in different ways.
The Walther PPS, much like the Glock sear, goes back(cocking the striker) and then it begins to drop. This is seen as the standard type of system for a DAO striker fired pistol.
1.This is the position the sear is at when the striker nose has contact and has not yet been cocked
2. The sear is at its rearmost point. At this point, the striker is considered cocked. From here the sear will start dropping, which releases the striker nose. It is at this point that you feel the “wall” of the trigger pull.
3. At this point, the sear is out of the way of the striker nose, releasing the striker to strike the primer of the loaded round, firing the shot.
The Kahr sear simply rotates with the striker nose on it, causing that long trigger pull sensation. Though in reality, the trigger travel is not much longer than the Glock/Walther PPS(above).
For the striker fired triggers where the sear just moves out of the way of the striker nose, it is considered single action. With this setup, the striker is fully charged/cocked, but is usually held in place by a small sear, such as the ones on the H&K VP9, Steyr M9 shown earlier, and the S&W M&P. Some believe that this is the kind of system that offers the best trigger due to less surface area friction. In general, this is somewhat true, but as with the double action only triggers, not all the single action triggers are the same.
The S&W M&P sear as you can see below ,is a block of steel that cams in its’ center. The striker nose is just slightly thinner than the sear, giving it a respectable amount of contact with the sear. M&P pistols typically are known to have slightly heavier trigger pulls in general.
H&K VP9, Which is very similar to how the Walther PPQ works. Notice the very thin sear sticking up. The trigger on both pistols tend to be light and break very quick, most likely due to the tiny sear face. This in turn causes very little friction with the striker nose, giving the sensation of a lighter trigger pull, even is the trigger gauge says otherwise.
And here is a better picture of the Steyr M9 Sear and Striker(shown earlier). Notice the diagonal face of both the sear and the striker nose. This is unique, and the low friction the diagonal surfaces cause is very much a reason for the soft, light trigger pull.
All in all, striker fired pistols are pretty simple in function, and work very well. The striker fired pistols’ consistent trigger pull is something that anyone can come to respect. Though not all striker fired pistols are the same, or work the same, except in general principle. I feel that it is important to know the different types of striker fired systems and how they work so you can decide which one you’d rather have. When it comes to looking at a trigger system that offers the most versatility, simplicity, and ease of use, you will have a hard time finding a better trigger than a striker fired pistol.