Choosing A Carry Pistol Part IV — The Single Action Only (SAO) Pistol
The single action only pistol is a classic and still very relevant carry option.
The single action only (SAO) pistol implies that the trigger performs one single action: releasing the hammer. Because the trigger is not required to both cock and release the hammer, SAO pistols are beloved for their short, light and crisp trigger pulls with an excellent reset. Every time I teach our concealed carry class, I bring my Ruger 1911 (the 1911 platform is one of the most popular SAO designs) along for students to try, and they always fall in love with it.
Benefits of SAO pistols include:
- Every pull of the trigger is the same
- The typically light and crisp trigger pull aids in accuracy and speed
- Short trigger reset aids in quick follow-up shots
Have you ever heard the term “cocked and locked”? That phrase came from the 1911 style pistol, implying how the gun was designed to be carried: A round in the chamber, hammer cocked, and “locked”, meaning the thumb safety is engaged. This applies to almost all SAO pistols.
So since the gun is single action, meaning the trigger only releases the hammer, does that mean you have to manually cock the hammer each shot? The answer is no. The act of chambering the first round will naturally cock the hammer, and the rearward motion of the slide when firing will re-cock the hammer for each subsequent shot. Put simply: Insert your magazine, chamber a round, engage the thumb safety, and holster your firearm until ready to fire.
A common misconception is that carrying an SAO pistol is dangerous because the hammer is cocked and ready to go. This is false as long as you practice good trigger finger discipline and keep the safety engaged until you are on target and ready to shoot.
SAO pistols aren’t for everyone. Despite the preaching from many about the safety of the design, some people will never be comfortable putting a chambered and cocked firearm on their waistband. Also, because the firearm has a thumb safety, it is imperative that you practice your holster draw and train to build the muscle memory of disengaging the thumb safety as you draw.
Try out an SAO pistol to see why they’re so popular. You might get hooked! As always, check out our Gun Genie to see their vast offering of single action firearms. They are available in a variety of sizes and calibers. Stay tuned for our next newsletter where we’ll feature a few of the more popular SAO pistols
Thanks for reading and stay safe!