(Article originally published on Tactical Life by Massad Ayoob)

In a world of single-action 1911s and polymer-framed, striker-fired pistols, it’s easy to overlook traditional double-action/single-action (DA-SA) semi-autos.

To fit in this category, the gun in question must fire only its first shot with a long, heavy DA pull that both raises and then drops the hammer. The cycling of the pistol from that shot and subsequent shots cocks the hammer automatically for a lighter, easier SA pull, and will do so until the gun has either run out of ammunition or been decocked. Most DA-SA pistols will have a decocking lever to facilitate this.

There was a time not too very long ago when this type of pistol, usually chambered for the 9mm cartridge, was the dominant law enforcement handgun in the United States. It was the FBI standard for a decade or so, and FBI approved for longer than that. These guns are still in fairly wide use. Consider U.S. Navy SEALs, who have been using the 9mm Sig Sauer P226, a traditional DA-SA, for several years.

The Beretta M9, a classic DA-SA, also remains the primary handgun of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. As for law enforcement, the California Highway Patrol issues the Smith & Wesson 4006 and West Virginia troopers are issued the S&W 4566. Both are DA/SA .40 S&Ws and .45 ACPs, respectively. Troopers in Conecticut, Indiana and Pennsylvania are issued DA-SA Sig Sauer .45s.

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