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THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH A HAMMER-FIRED GUN
LEGALLY ARMED CITIZEN | IT’S JUST THE LAW BALLISTIC BASICS RETURN FIRE | CITY LIMITS
GIVE ME THAT OLD-TIME IGNITION
Hammer-fired actions are older than percussion caps, though modern hammerfired guns are a far cry from the old flintlocks and cap-and-balls like this Remington 1858.
A trend has spread among certain writers, trainers and random posters in the corners of the social media gunternet: using “striker-fired pistol” as shorthand for “modern handgun” — as though hammers on pistols are in some way bad or retrograde.
When asked why, the users tend to get a little hand-wavey, but the answers boil down into a few basic types.
There are those who insist that a striker-type ignition system is somehow newer or more advanced.
This is false. John Moses Browning’s very first commercially successful handgun, the M1899 from Fabrique Nationale, was striker-fired.
Others will insist that the single trigger pull of a striker-fired gun is easier to master. But plenty of Canik and Walther P99 shooters can tell you that just being striker-fired is not synonymous with having only one trigger pull, while shooters of 1911-pattern pistols or DAO autos only need to master the characteristics of a single trigger press.
The last group of striker acolytes exclaims, “But the 1911 has a safety!” ... to which one can point out that plenty of striker-fired autos have safeties, while numerous hammer guns do not.
The pros and cons of the two ignition systems are at once simpler and more nuanced than these replies. In the most basic terms, a striker ignition system is less complicated and less expensive to make. A hammer-fired system is more expensive but will generally have greater ignition reliability in exchange for the increased parts count. This is partially due to the fact that the combined inertia of a hammer and firing pin is more massive than the typical striker. Additionally, the hammer can be powered by a big spring in the pistol’s grip rather than a bitty little one in the pistol’s striker channel.
There is one other place that the hammer offers an advantage, however, and it has made possible two of the most popular types of concealed carry pistols on the market right now. Basically, the hammer itself serves as an additional brake on the rearward motion of the slide.
With a striker-fired pistol, such as a Glock or P365, the only elements retarding the rearward motion of the slide are the mass of the slide itself, the tension of the recoil spring and the mechanical disadvantage of “unlocking,” or decoupling the tilting barrel from the slide.
Lost in all of this is the effort taken to cock the striker spring, which is not a whole lot more substantial than the one
in a good ballpoint pen.
Traditional pocket pistols in the 20th century, chambered in calibers such as .25 ACP and .32 ACP, were usually blowback-operated and mostly striker-fired, meaning they didn’t even have the mechanical disadvantage of unlocking the barrels to slow the slides. As a result, chambering anything larger than .25 in such a gun required either a fairly massive slide or a heavy recoil spring to keep the slide from opening before the bullet left the barrel and chamber pressures had dropped to a safe level.
It was KelTec that combined numerous existing techniques that allowed serious miniaturization of the pocket auto.
The resulting string of .32 and then .380 pistols basically drove the old .25 ACP “mouse gun” out of existence.
None of these technologies were revolutionary (which is why none of these features were patented and copycats quickly appeared). KelTec simply combined tilting-barrel, short-recoil operation, which added a mechanical disadvantage that the slide had to overcome before moving rearward, with a hammer-fired ignition system. This meant that the slide also had to override the hammer and mainspring before it could be completely freed to move to the rear. To get an idea of how much braking force is added by the presence of a hammer, simply compare how much less force is required to run the slide on a hammer-fired gun when the gun is cocked versus when it isn’t.
If there was any innovation on the part of KelTec, it was in using a system where the hammer itself was always cocked while the mainspring was partially at rest. This way, administrative manipulation of the pistol didn’t always require fighting the hammer. (This is why, for example, the original P3AT doesn’t have re-strike capability on a recalcitrant primer and why the true DAO Smith &
Wesson Bodyguard 380 has a heavier trigger pull.) The presence of a hammer is also crucial to the currently popular pistols marketed with easy-to-manipulate slides, epitomized by the EZ series from Smith & Wesson.
While they may resemble their striker-fired stablemates in external shape, under the hood, they are very different, featuring a single-action, hammer-fired action. The cocked hammers hidden inside these pistols mean that a much lighter recoil spring can be used, allowing people with physical challenges to more easily operate the slides. Additionally, these sorts of pistols tend to have grip safeties and thumb safeties because there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.
So don’t be so quick to dismiss hammers as anachronisms. They’re just another way of busting a cap, and they have advantages and disadvantages all their own.
STATE BY STATE
MAKING THE CASE FOR RECIPROCITY
LEGALLY ARMED CITIZEN | IT’S JUST THE LAW
| BALLISTIC BASICS RETURN FIRE CITY LIMITS
ILLUSTRATION BY: JASON BRAUN
Creating accidental felonies for the otherwise law-abiding does nothing to enforce order. However, individual state regulations on lawful carrying of concealed firearms create numerous opportunities for such lawful citizens to end up in legal trouble. While promising initiatives to establish national concealed carry reciprocity face an uphill battle, Second Amendment advocates are in an excellent position to advance reciprocity between individual states, which can build momentum for future initiatives. Let’s look at how to make a strong case for interstate reciprocity.
Law-abiding gun owners face an obstacle course of rules to purchase, possess, carry and use firearms. Owning a common item in one state might be a crime in the next state over.
This leads to a treacherous compliance path for concealed carry. Some states are exceptionally restrictive while others are exceptionally permissive, and many are somewhere in between. Even just finding the laws can be a challenge. One of the most useful tools in this area is brought to you by this very organization and can be found at
THE ACCIDENTAL CRIMINAL
Concealed carry reciprocity is a serious concern because Americans travel, and travel involves elevated risk of criminal encounters. As such, there are more reasons to carry while traveling — and that leads to a very real risk of accidentally becoming a criminal. All concealed carriers are responsible for compliance with the law wherever they are, but if a man or woman takes a wrong turn or misses an exit, it’s possible he or she will end up in a state he or she has no intention or desire to enter. Even intentional passage across a non-permissive state may require a traveler to stop, get out in a public place and handle a firearm in order to secure it, which poses its own risks.
This concern over inadvertent illegality is not an abstract phobia; many people have been arrested (particularly in New Jersey) for illegal concealed carry while holding valid outof-state permits. New Jersey police arrested Pennsylvania mother-of-two Shaneen Allen on an expressway, and after she lost her legal battle, Gov. Chris Christie ultimately pardoned her. In 2017, 59-year-old Donna Marie Gracey of Florida was arrested in Frenchtown, New Jersey, for carrying concealed and also for transporting hollow-point bullets. I myself have accidentally driven into New Jersey. It isn’t difficult to do.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
At first glance, this seems like a simple policy problem with a simple fix: If my Minnesota driver’s license is recognized in Virginia, and my Hawaii marriage license is recognized in North Carolina, shouldn’t my Texas License to Carry be recognized in California? The problem is that there is a longstanding precedent that individual states have the power to regulate concealed carry.
expressly acknowledged the constitutional legitimacy of prohibitions on concealed weapons. Even some gun-rights advocates are torn on this issue over the principles of federalism and state rights. But I would submit that there are ways we can achieve a national construct without violating state rights. A cluster of states with strong support for the Second Amendment could replicate the driver’s license compact: creating a data-sharing framework to ease reciprocity concerns and making it easier for more-hesitant states to sign on. Data sharing on us may rightly irk many gun-rights advocates, but it also disarms a critical (if unrealistic) argument from our opponents: A criminal in one state should not be able to lawfully carry in another state.
When we look at the political landscape, particularly in regards to gun-control policy, it can appear daunting to make any tangible impact on gun rights. Political parties spend a lot of time and money convincing us that one politician or another will either save or destroy the Second Amendment, but the reality is usually much more subtle. We may not have the momentum right now to achieve a national concealed carry construct, but what we can do is pressure individual state legislatures and state attorneys general to recognize concealed carry permits from more states. This is a line of effort where we are already making progress, and it can help us ultimately build national consensus.
ONE STEP AT A TIME
Every time a state loosens rules on lawful carry, our opponents cry “wolf” that there will be blood in the streets from all the gunfights. The alternate reality in which some of our opponents seem to reside sounds like a cheesy ‘80s action movie. We know that concealed carriers tend to be exceptionally upright and law-abiding when compared to other Americans. So when anti-gunners engage in hysterical predictions about this, capture their rhetoric and use it against them when experience proves them wrong.
As gun-rights advocates, we often find ourselves playing defense while reacting to headlines and gun-control blitzes. National concealed carry is an area ripe for us to turn the ratchet in our favor, but we have to pursue it delicately, starting at the bilateral, state-agreement level and working for a multi-state framework toward a national victory. And every step of the way, we must hold anti-gunners accountable for their ridiculous rhetoric about what these advances will mean for public safety.
Jim is a concerned citizen and gun rights advocate. His opinions are his alone and do not reflect the official position of his agency. References and links to other gun advocacy groups do not imply endorsement of those organizations. He can be reached at Jim@tacticaltangents.com.
PRIVATE GUN SALES
CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS
LEGALLY ARMED CITIZEN | IT’S JUST THE LAW | BALLISTIC BASICS | RETURN FIRE CITY LIMITS
Private gun sales are legal in many jurisdictions, but as with everything else in the world of self-defense, you need to know your local laws.
IF YOU, AS A PRIVATE CITIZEN, WANT TO SELL OR GIFT YOUR GUN TO, OR RECEIVE A GUN FROM, A CITIZEN IN ANOTHER STATE, THE BEST WAY TO DO THAT IS THROUGH THE ASSISTANCE OF AN FFL.
hat may appear to be a simple exchange could get you into a lot of trouble.
For the majority of gun owners, a firearm is nothing more than a tool.
When we buy or sell a tool, we don’t give it much more thought beyond whether we are getting the price we want. Firearms sales involve a bit more, but the good news is there are fewer federal laws on private sales than on commercial sales. However, if you happen to violate the bit of federal law that does govern private sales, you could lose not only your Second Amendment rights but also your freedom and liberty. You can utilize the USCCA Reciprocity & Gun Laws Map at
to stay up to date on federal and local laws.
If you commonly sell or buy guns, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives suggests you apply to become a Federal Firearms Licensee. This requires a background check, your promise to keep good records and a few other terms that are beyond the scope of this column. But under certain circumstances, becoming an FFL can be quite lucrative.
FFLs are able to receive firearms from manufacturers and wholesalers around the country. FFLs can transfer — as in deliver — firearms to private citizens in their home states or to other FFLs out of state utilizing Form 4473.
CROSSING STATE LINES
Depending on where you live, you may be legally allowed to transfer a firearm to another resident of your state without involving either state or federal government. Everything changes as soon as you’re going from a resident of one state to a resident of another. There is a lot of old information, new information and misinformation floating around with regard to transferring a firearm to someone who resides in a state other than yours. If you, as a private citizen, want to sell or gift your gun to, or receive a gun from, a citizen in another state, the best way to do that is through the assistance of an FFL. This is not only the safest way to legally transfer a firearm from one citizen to another but also the law.
Again, there are a lot of “Well, I know it used to be...” stories online and at local gun clubs, but if the transfer crosses state lines, you will have to bring FFLs and Form 4473s into the equation.
Speaking of which, a lot of people
think Form 4473 is firearms registration. It’s not. The 4473 is the mandated federal form for recording firearms transfers, and that 4473 doesn’t get sent to your local police, state police or even the ATF. Like your tax documents, Form 4473 is protected by the Privacy Act of 1974. There are very rare instances where anyone would ever see it. If a firearm were found at a crime scene, police would contact the manufacturer to identify to which distributor the serial number was transferred. Once the distributor identifies the retailer, law enforcement would contact that FFL to review who purchased the gun in question. The ATF requires that an FFL maintain 4473s for not less than 20 years.
IN-STATE PRIVATE TRANSFERS
Individual sellers living in California, Colorado, Nevada, New Jersey, Washington or Illinois (as of 2022) will need to sell through a dealer. In most instances, the dealer may collect a fee, and the FFL holder can decline to facilitate the transfer. Why might an FFL decline a transfer? Seasoned FFLs develop a certain sixth sense, and there are some key tells that someone may be attempting what’s known as a “straw purchase” — when someone who is eligible to buy a firearm attempts to purchase a firearm for someone who is not eligible.
Even if you live in a state that doesn’t require the use of an FFL for the transfer of a firearm, it’s your duty to be just as diligent as an FFL. Whenever you sell a firearm to an individual, it’s your responsibility to ensure the buyer isn’t prohibited from possessing it. Prohibited persons include felons, habitual drug users, minors, the mentally ill, those under certain court orders, and those that have been arrested for domestic violence.
Even if you’re not legally obligated, you’re morally obligated to make sure that you’re not placing a lethal weapon in a prohibited person’s hands. Laws regarding firearms sales, possession and reciprocity change often, so keep that USCCA Laws App handy. Because to be a truly responsibly armed American, you must take the time to review and understand the laws in your state.