Hammer or Striker? The Gun Store Cowboy Debate
April 28, 2013
Which is better? It is my stand that, as with most things in life, there will probably never be a definitive answer; only the never-ending debate over preference. Both design architectures have their individual merits and assorted attractions. Let’s take a look at some of these:
- Simple Linear Movement: the striker holds this ground firmly in that the tip that depresses the primer (or rim) of the ammunition cartridge moves parallel and (desirably) centric to the axis of the primer itself. The momentum of the recently released firing implement is transferred directly to the primer or rim. A hammer rotating about its fixed axis would have to be perfectly tangential to the following object (separate linear firing pin, transfer bar, etc.) at the critical moment to obtain an equivalent momentum transfer. In most firing mechanism design there is more than enough momentum to start with; most of us, though, have seen a round before that needed to be hit just a little bit harder to cook off. Also, it must be stated that the extra energy that is needed to cock the hammer or striker back has to come from somewhere. In a double action firearm that would have at least a small effect on trigger pull.
- Small Bearing Footprint/Ease of Precision Manufacture: the hammer takes the lead on manufacture and maintenance here. Whereas the hammer profile is generally much more complex to cut than a striker design on basic machinery, the overall simplicity of how the finished product can make partial pivot maneuvers – especially bronze bushing on hardened pin – and keep its tight precision is well known in mechanism design. Modern machining equipment takes much of the sting out of the initial complex shape fabrication. Most striker designs travel somewhat loosely in a channel. At the point that the cocked striker is released, the force from the cocking spring at its rear produces acceleration characteristics that make it want to roll, pitch and/or yaw, producing movement that seems linear because it is actually captured in a channel. The nature of the loose channel is great for short term functionality but can become detrimental to long term reliability of the straight in-line advantage mentioned earlier. Of course shoddy design or manufacture can also produce some sloppy hammers!
- Fire Control Parts Necessity: I can see it both ways here. There still remains the task of transferring a trigger position into a sear displacement adequate enough to reliably hold back the cocking force as well as controllably release it. Generally the two movements required to do this are roughly perpendicular. Depending upon the nature of the firearm there is a great deal more to discuss here that dilutes this hammer vs. striker discussion.
- It can be said that this whole issue boils down to the old school/new way or semi auto/wheel gun or Glock vs. 1911 conversation fence. I don’t feel that way. I own and use variations of both designs; each for their own merits. Firearms are basically tools – only ever having one type tends to promote the age old premise: If the only tool you have is a hammer; most problems in life will tend to look like a nail…