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Striker-Fired Pistols Explained

Today’s consumers have an unprecedented variety of handguns from which to choose. Among semiautomatic pistols, striker-fired pistols are some of the most effective, simple designs on the market. They offer enhanced capabilities for shooters that appreciate pistols that are fast into action when seconds count in a defensive encounter.

What Are Striker-Fired Pistols?

At first glance, these pistols appear similar to their hammer-fired counterparts. It’s only when you take a striker-fired pistol apart and compare it to a traditional pistol with an exposed hammer that the real differences are revealed.

As the name implies, striker-fired pistols rely on a striker, instead of a hammer, to fire. A striker is a simple spring-loaded rod that impacts the primer causing a round to fire. With the striker housed totally within the pistol slide, it makes for a very sleek package.

These pistols are excellent for self-defense because they are both simple to use and easy to maintain. Since they have few controls, they are easier to use under the stress of a defensive encounter. To allow for efficient servicing by the owner, manufacturers use uncomplicated designs requiring few parts when constructing a striker-fired pistol.

Canik TP9SF Elite 9mm Striker-Fired Pistol.

How Do Striker-Fired Pistols Work?

When one inserts a fresh magazine into a striker-fired handgun and retracts the slide, it partially cocks the striker. At this point, the pistol is ready to fire or safe to carry. If one needs to fire, pulling the trigger completes the process of cocking the striker and releasing it to fire the round. 

Since retracting the slide cocks the striker partially, each trigger pull is the same. This is as opposed to a double-action pistol where the first trigger pull is long and heavy. When one presses the trigger on a striker-fired pistol, the pull is usually long; however, it is light, typically around five to six pounds. Striker-fired handguns serve as an alternative to double-action pistols. More information on double-action handguns can be found here. 

H&K VP9 9mm Striker Fired-Pistol

Are Striker-Fired Pistols Safe?

Striker-fired pistols are very safe because they rely on several automatic safety mechanisms. While most striker-fired pistols solely count on these automatic safeties, some also feature a manual safety catch. In striker-fired pistols with a manual safety catch, users have the option to use it or leave it switched it off. 

The automatic safeties deactivate as one pulls the trigger. In some designs, the rear of the striker also indicates the firing state of the pistol. When one chambers a round and the striker is partially cocked, the rear of the striker protrudes from the slide. When no round is chambered, the striker remains uncocked, providing an obvious clue as to the gun’s status.

Some folks believe that striker-fired handguns are inherently unsafe since most of them lack a manual safety catch. If one chambers a round then pulls the trigger, the pistol will indeed fire. Not having a manual safety catch can make some shooters uncomfortable. Before purchasing a striker-fired pistol, it’s important to decide if you are ok with the ability to fire a round without switching off a manual safety catch.

CZ P10 9mm Striker-Fired Pistol

What are the Advantages of a Striker-Fired Pistol?

Striker-fired pistols boast a simple design, an ideal quality for handguns designed for stressful defensive situations. One way a striker-fired pistol is simple is its minimal controls. Having fewer controls dramatically reduces the chances of the handgun snagging clothing when one draws their pistol. As mentioned earlier, few striker-fired pistols have manual safeties. This lack of safety helps in a defensive encounter as it's one less thing to remember to do. Of these limited controls, most striker-fired pistols feature a low-profile slide catch and a takedown lever. 

Perhaps the most significant advantage of striker-fired pistols is how fast one can bring them into action. With a round in the chamber, one can quickly draw their striker-fired pistol and fire by pulling the trigger. Also, as opposed to a double-action pistol where the first trigger pull is long and heavy, each trigger pull on a striker-fired pistol is the same. Because of this difference in trigger pull, striker-fired handguns offer a simpler alternative to double-action pistols. The speed in which one can bring a striker-fired pistol into action might seem trivial. However, many self-defense encounters end in seconds, and this speed could make the difference between life and death.  

Sig Sauer P365 9mm Striker-Fired Pistol. This striker-fired pistol also features a manual safety catch.


The large number of striker-fired pistols available provides a lot of options from which shooters can choose. Striker-fired handguns are simple, natural to use, and extremely fast into action. While there are countless types of pistols, with many bells and whistles, often a simple striker-fired handgun fits the bill perfectly. Shop our wide variety of semiautomatic handguns today. 


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