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Old January 25, 2013, 02:19 AM   #1
Keepin_Jeepin
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External hammer vs non external hammer

So I dont even know what to call a hidden hammer, but I do know there are two types of handguns.

There are the exposed hammers and then those of like the glocks with the hammer not shown.

What are these called and what are the differences of the internal hammers?

I ask because I am buying a new handgun in a week or two. Going to get an FH gun. Not sure which. I really like how my Walther PPS and Springfield XD 40 work with the internal hammer, however, the trigger system on my Beretta 92FS is my favorite with the external hammer.

I was originally looking at the FNS gun with the glock like hammer system, but I might spring the extra money and go for the external hammer in the FNX.

I figure though, before I make this purchase I should understand them a little more. Thanks for the information
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Old January 25, 2013, 02:42 AM   #2
mete
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There are three types;
External hammer
Internal Hammer
Striker fired
The striker fired has no hammer.There aren't very many internal hammer guns. My 1911 is external hammer as i my BHP and my HK P7 is striker fired. If well designed all will work well
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Old January 25, 2013, 02:43 AM   #3
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The term you're looking for is "striker-fired", like a Glock. There's no internal hammer, just a spring-loaded rod instead of a spring-loaded hammer. Both have advantages but I also like hammers like the 92. Just a matter of preference.
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Old January 25, 2013, 03:18 AM   #4
Keepin_Jeepin
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Okay great thanks, that was the term I was looking for. Its hard to research it when you dont know what you call what you are asking about LOL

Thanks for the info
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Old January 25, 2013, 03:37 AM   #5
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You've made a good decision to ask about these different systems.

Whether the weapon uses a hammer or not, and whether the hammer is exposed or enclosed, may not be very important. I'm not aware of any handguns at all that use an internal hammer, although I don't doubt there may be many such designs during the 20th century.

Handguns with hammers generally have a relatively small, short firing pin loaded with a spring that holds the pin rearward, and keeps the back end of the firing pin exposed and 'proud'--meaning the back of the firing pin is held up higher than the surrounding surface so it can be struck by the hammer.

When the trigger is pressed and the hammer falls, the hammer strikes the pin, thrusting it forward against the restraining pressure of the firing pin spring so it strikes the primer of the cartridge.

Generally, there are a variety of safety mechanisms that have been used in a variety of combinations--blocks that prevent the hammer from falling, blocks that prevent the firing pin from moving forward unless the trigger is pressed, and blocks that prevent the trigger from being pressed at all.

Often, these mechanisms allow the gun to be carried with the hammer cocked (as in the case of the single-action M1911 design). To fire the gun, any safeties must be released, and pressing the trigger releases the hammer. In such guns, the trigger has just one function: releasing the hammer.

In other designs, the gun is carried with the hammer lowered using what is called a 'decocker'--a lever the operator uses to safely lower the hammer. These designs are generally used in what is called a 'double action, single action' (or DA/SA) pistol, where the gun is initially fired by a trigger pull that first cocks then releases the hammer. During this first trigger press, the trigger serves two distinct functions (hence, 'double action'). It cocks the weapon, AND then releases the hammer. After this initial firing, normal cycling of the slide in firing the gun then cocks the hammer, and the trigger then serves just one function, to release the hammer ('single action). Most Sig-Sauer pistols use this design, as do many other designs (e.g., CZ).

In the designs mentioned above, the firing pin is a cylindrical rod, held to the rear by a light spring that simply ensures the back of the pin is exposed and can be hit by the hammer, and that ensures the front of the pin is NOT exposed at the breech of the weapon to ensure smooth pick-up and feeding of the cartridges.

Where you see no hammer on a handgun, the firing pin is of a different design completely, and is referred to as a striker, as already mentioned. Now, the firing pin spring (or striker spring) serves a completely different function, and is used to thrust the strker forward into the cartridge primer. In these systems, the gun is cocked by the forward travel of the slide in which the striker rides. As the slide moves forward into battery (its final forward position), a fixed 'leg' on the striker is snagged on the sear, which is mounted to the frame. The sear prevents the striker from continuing forward with the slide, but the slide continues forward. This action compresses the striker spring and, depending on the particular design, either fully or partially cocks the weapon. Cocking is complete in some guns such as the Smith & Wesson M&P design, or only partially cocked as in the case of the Glock design.

Now, pressing the trigger either a) lowers the sear down, releasing the striker (in the case of a fully-cocked striker), or b) further compresses the striker spring to fully cock the striker--further trigger motion then releases the fully-cocked striker. In both cases then, the striker flies forward due the compressed striker spring.

Typical striker, striker spring and sleeve assembly. The arm that catches on (and that is released by) the sear happens to be pointed up in this photo. In the gun, this arm points down, since of the course the sear it engages is in the frame of the weapon:



Because there is no hammer to carefully lower to decock these guns and no hammer to cock manually, these designs are generally always cocked--either fully or partially. They can be decocked only by pressing the trigger and firing them on an empty chamber. But, they all rely on a variety of internal safeties, and some provide additional external (manual) safeties as well. These safeties, as in the case of many external hammer guns, physically block the travel of the striker with a steel block. This striker block is spring loaded so as to always block any possible forward motion of the striker.

To allow firing the weapon, the striker block has to be moved up and out of the way of the striker, and the only way this is possible is through pressing the trigger--the trigger MUST be pressed to slide the striker block out from in front of the striker, and therefore in all striker-fired weapons I'm aware of, the guns cannot fire under any circumstances unless the trigger is pressed.
The addition of an external ('thumb') safety can be used to prevent the trigger from being moved at all.

Note that a 'striker' isn't different in any basic way than the firing pin in the bolt of a 'bolt action' rifle. It is nearly identical in design to that mechanism, used now for well over a century.

These are the high-level basics. More details would provide a more accurate and complete description, but I think you've got what you need now to understand that, whether or not you see a hammer on the gun can only tell you so much about how the gun functions and what that impacts as far as operation and safety.

You can now google topics such as 'striker vs hammer', 'SA/DA guns', 'handgun design safety' and so on. There are many, many articles on these topics. Do NOT buy a handgun based on whether it has a hammer or not--it simply doesn't tell you very much.
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Last edited by Bongo Boy; January 25, 2013 at 04:09 AM.
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Old January 25, 2013, 03:46 AM   #6
Keepin_Jeepin
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That was a fantastic post and told me exactly what I wanted to know. Thanks a ton! I have a much better understanding now.
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Old January 25, 2013, 03:50 AM   #7
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Bongo has given an excellent breakdown of striker vs. external hammer.

The only thing I have to add is that I do own an internal hammer auto pistol, and it's the only one that I've ever seen. It's a Walther Model 8, .25 ACP. It works just like a 1911 or other external hammer pistol except it cannot be decocked except by pulling the trigger on an empty chamber, the same as the striker fired pistols.
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Old January 25, 2013, 04:01 AM   #8
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I actually think I have an internal hammer gun. I have a smith and wesson escort model 61. I am not sure, I would need to look it up but shape would designate it as such.

I dont have a preference on which I like more. However I feel my striker fired guns are better carry guns, and the hammer firing guns are probably better for fun.

I am buying a nice handgun because I just sold a Mauser M2 and Glock 27 so I need something to take their place. Hammer fired FNX should do just fine

Thanks again for the fast helpful info everyone
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Old January 25, 2013, 04:21 AM   #9
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Just to bolster your opinion here. The FNX is a fantastic firearm and should serve you well. I too am contemplating either an FNX or FNS for a concealed carry gun. FN makes very nice products that I think anyone could be well off owning.

And I want to say thank you Bongo that post, though I knew the general differences, really gave me better knowledge to the intricacies of what's going on in my weapons.
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Old January 25, 2013, 04:31 AM   #10
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A couple of follow-up points, then.

Over the years many debates occur over the relative merits and, especially, relative safety of various handgun mechanisms. In all cases, it's fair to say that while different scenarios can be imagined that will defeat the different mechanisms, the fact is, there are no modern firearms designs where the gun can be discharged, by any means, without pressing the trigger. So, accidental discharges are in reality unintended trigger presses by an operator, or accidental engagement of the trigger by something.

This is true for all designs I'm familiar with due only to the striker (or firing pin) block I mentioned. The only mechanism accessible from the outside of the weapon to move that block out of the way of the firing pin (or striker) is the trigger. There is simply no way the cartridge primer can be struck without the trigger being pressed rearward.

That said, there is still a debate over the safety of the gun when there is no additional mechanism to prevent an unintentioned trigger press. This is where the external or 'thumb' safety comes into play. Here, assuming such a safety has been set (it has to be set intentionally by the operator), the trigger CAN'T be pressed rearward at all by any means, unless the safety is intentionally released, generally by flipping a level downward with the strong hand thumb.

Trained and/or informed shooters rely first and foremost and always on the fundamental rule that the trigger finger is NEVER on the trigger until you're ready to fire. 'Ready to fire' means your weapon is aimed at a target, or at least pointed at whatever it is you intend to shoot. EDIT: I should probably have said that 'ready to fire' means that all would be well if weapon discharged right now. So, if the finger is on the trigger then by definition all would be well if the gun discharged.

The external safety is an additional measure that can be taken, but it isn't as reliable as a deeply ingrained habit--the trigger ISN'T where your finger goes when you hold a gun, it's where it goes when you're shooting one.
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Old January 25, 2013, 05:31 AM   #11
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I won't buy a handgun without a hammer, just sayin.
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Old January 25, 2013, 05:45 AM   #12
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Internal hammers are pretty common on small frame revolvers, but less common in semi-autos.
Oddly enough though the SW BG380 has an internal hammer. It's DAO, so since you don't have to do anything with the hammer they just kept it under the slide.
Obviously that's not what you're looking for, but it at least shows that internal hammer semi-autos do exist.
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Old January 25, 2013, 06:13 AM   #13
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For CCW, striker fired semis don't have external hammers and have a smooth external profile so they won't gouge you.
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Old January 25, 2013, 06:16 AM   #14
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Nice post, Bongo. Thanks for taking the time to write that up. A definite technical sticky.
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Old January 25, 2013, 10:24 AM   #15
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One thing to add, which was said, but maybe not quite this clearly:

Striker-fired designs are almost only consistent trigger pulls. This means every time you fire the gun, whether it was the first or the last shot, will feel exactly the same. Hammer-fired guns are often DA/SA, meaning the first shot will be different than the second as described above.

There are exceptions to both. The Walther P99 AS trigger is a DA/SA striker design. But Glock, M&P, XD, etc all have consistent striker-fired trigger pulls. Again you can search the subject of striker vs. hammer, but the consistent trigger pull of a striker-fired gun, without them being long and heavy, is one of the biggest selling points IMO.
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Old January 25, 2013, 10:28 AM   #16
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Nice write up Bongo Boy!

I like both hammer and striker fired.

The self defense in me calls to striker.

The gun enthusiast in me calls to hammer.

Both are great.
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Old January 25, 2013, 11:34 AM   #17
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Quote:
I actually think I have an internal hammer gun. I have a smith and wesson escort model 61.
That is correct; the M61 along with the related and now-discontinued x22- and 22xx-series pistols (e.g. the Models 422 and 2213) had internal hammers.
Quote:
Internal hammers are pretty common on small frame revolvers, but less common in semi-autos.
That's true about revolvers; if there's such a thing as a striker-fired small-frame revolver, I don't know about it.

OTOH with semi-auto pistols, there's an important caveat. Internal-hammer centerfire pistols are relatively few, but internal-hammer rimfire pistols are downright ubiquitous. Almost all common .22LR target pistols have internal hammers, including the Ruger Mk-series, Buckmark, Colt Woodsman, S&W M22A & M41, etc. In fact, AFAIK the only relatively common true striker-fired .22LR pistol is the High Standard Duramatic.
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Old January 25, 2013, 11:53 AM   #18
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One other thing...

Quote:
...the striker block has to be moved up and out of the way of the striker, and the only way this is possible is through pressing the trigger... in all striker-fired weapons I'm aware of, the guns cannot fire under any circumstances unless the trigger is pressed.
Perhaps it would have been better to say MODERN striker-fired weapons.

Striker blocks are a recent innovation. Early 20th-century striker-fired pistols generally lacked them. AFAIK this includes the FN Browning Model 1900 and Model 1910/1922 series, Luger P.08, Nambu Type 14, and the Savage Models 1907, 1910, and 1917. (FWIW the piece on the Savage M1907 & M1917 that appears to be a hammer actually works by cocking the striker.)
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Old January 25, 2013, 12:28 PM   #19
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thanks, Bongo. It answered some questions I had, too. All I've ever used has been semi auto pistols with hammers (1911, BHP, CZ75, etc) so I have to agree with Hawgg Haggen's post, but other systems may work better for someone else.
Shot a new S&W M&P 9m recently and didn't care for the feel of the trigger.
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Old January 25, 2013, 02:00 PM   #20
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I will add to this part

Quote:
Trained and/or informed shooters rely first and foremost and always on the fundamental rule that the trigger finger is NEVER on the trigger until you're ready to fire. 'Ready to fire' means your weapon is aimed at a target, or at least pointed at whatever it is you intend to shoot. The external safety is an additional measure that can be taken, but it isn't as reliable as a deeply ingrained habit--the trigger ISN'T where your finger goes when you hold a gun, it's where it goes when you're shooting one.
While its true that finger on the trigger is the beginning of the last stage, once glock owners began to experience an epidemic of negligent discharges (ND) by whatever reason, they began to "patent the phrase trigger discipline " in lawsuits as it shifted the onus from the gun mfg to the gun owner.

The reality is that with a DA be it revolver or Semi auto, you can have your finger on the trigger and indeed for an accurate shot you need to have it there.

Snapping your finger from outside the guard to the trigger lends itself to bad shooting as you are changing your shooting posture.

glock would prefer that than to own up to the fact that a striker is far less safe and requires far greater care than a DA semi auto (in the safety world its called less latitude for error and closer to an incident).

So now its in the lexicon of trigger discipline being the issue and not the design.

At some point, to shoot accurate, your finger has to be inside the trigger guard and you indeed may be pressing it as you start to shoot and the situation changes.

I prefer my DA as there is a lot more latitude safety wise and I am in the correct position to execute a trigger pull if need be.

And in some confirmation, the NYP had glock configure their guns to have a heavy striker pull so it emulated the DA action of the revolvers they were previously equipped. In other words a striker does not HAVE to be a 5 lb pull by inherent design. Its a choice that was intended originally for a military contract, not civilian use.
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Old January 25, 2013, 03:42 PM   #21
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Lighten up (see what I did there?)

Other than some guy being the only one in the room qualified to handle a Glock .40, is it really an epidemic? Smart handling is the same with a striker-fired.
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Old January 25, 2013, 05:28 PM   #22
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Quote:
In fact, AFAIK the only relatively common true striker-fired .22LR pistol is the High Standard Duramatic.
You might want to add the Beretta Neos to the short list.
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Old January 26, 2013, 05:08 PM   #23
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A couple of observations. Kel tec P32 and Taurus TCP are both internal hammer. There are others which are not 22s. Also there are single action, as well as double action striker fired pistols. My 1914 Mauser was essentially a SA striker because the striker was cocked when the slide returnwed to battery. There is also at least one Beretta which is, too. It would seem that the Glock would be essentially DA striker fired, that is, the striker is cocked by the trigger.

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Old January 26, 2013, 05:30 PM   #24
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I've tweaked by comment above a bit.

Maybe my comments were too literal or taken too literally..no shooter would pop his finger onto the trigger to take a shot. I hope folks can interpret my comment in the spirit of finger outside the trigger guard unless the gun is pointed in a safe direction--downrange for example. By 'shooting a gun' I mean actively taking shots in an intended direction, I guess. Shooting includes those moments when the gun isn't actually discharging. Placing the gun on the table, recovering it to the holster, lowering it down to see if you hit anything, etc., are examples of 'not shooting'. Clearly your finger has to be on the trigger before and after the gun discharges.

I also didn't mean to even remotely suggest that because a gun can't discharge without a trigger press, and because good trigger management means your finger isn't on the trigger until it should be, that all other safeties are in some way a bad idea or unnecessary. If I implied that, it isn't what I intended at all. I feel that's the most reliable safety because it's fairly easy and rapid to accumulate a habit where having the trigger finger elsewhere feels unnatural, and if you're shooting with other shooters who are trained (competition, training classes) you'll be fairly well scolded if observed. So it get's wired-in rather quickly.

My opinion is that, even if excellent gun handling is practiced and there's no reason to think there would ever be any issue, this doesn't mean there's any downside to an external thumb safety. I don't see any. I don't for a second feel that a thumb safety slows me down in drawing, presenting and firing the weapon--it simply is not a factor.

I hope I didn't express my views as though they were doctrine--I do tend to run on with careful language so as not to offend anyone, but sometimes I just make statements of viewpoint as though they were fact.

We all okay now?
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Old January 26, 2013, 06:05 PM   #25
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Excellent posts Bongo - and I think everybody would agree to that. Dern near professional writing even. (Wait, I can think of a lot of 'professional' writing that is not this good.)

Thing is most of us are REALLY into firearms and picking nits is like the national pasttime here.

Once again IMhO you posted some great information and I look forward to seeing more posts from you.
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