DAO Self-Defense Guns: Are They Still Relevant?

posted on April 8, 2019

The Problem:
While the current vogue leans to striker-fired pistols, I’m still carrying a double-action-only (DAO) semi-automatic pistol as my primary carry piece and a J-frame hammerless revolver as a backup, which is also DAO. My contemporaries call me old school and suggest that I get with the times. They are constantly telling me my carry guns are passé, and suggest I buy something more in line with the current trends like their striker-fired plastic fantastics. My response is it ain’t broke, and it doesn’t need fixing. Can you add to that or should I give serious consideration to changing my current armament?

The Solution:
I guess I’m old school as well, because I couldn’t agree with you more. I carry a SIG Sauer P250 as my primary and a Kahr Arms PM9 as my secondary most of the time when I’m out and about. I sometimes supplant those with a Ruger Security-Six and a Ruger LCR when I am out on my property. All are DAO and are close enough in shooting, with similar  trigger pull weights and lengths, to make my practice sessions simple but effective from one gun to the other.

All these guns have smooth, consistent trigger pulls, which is all I require for a defensive personal-protection pistol. Although I shoot each of these handguns at a level of which I am proud, they are not target pistols. Nor should they be.

The extra weight and length of a DAO trigger pull is of no consequence or disadvantage in a high-stress defensive or combat confrontation. In fact, a light, single-action trigger found on many of the modern striker-fired pistols, may not be as much of an advantage in a fight as they are on the range shooting practice drills where there is minimal stress. Fingers inadvertently find their way to triggers at the most inopportune times in dynamic situations. In fact, the additional resistance, and in particular, the length of stroke of the DAO trigger could be the difference between firing a shot prior to what was intended and not in a high-stress confrontation. Many of my contemporaries think that guns with short, light trigger pulls are too easy to fire in some defensive scenarios, where conditions exist that don’t always require shots to be fired or where stress is high and motor skills are likely to be impaired. Having been in a state of sensory overload once or twice, I can’t disagree with that
line of thinking.

Another equally important consideration is reholstering the handgun once it’s no longer needed. Adrenalin in the bloodstream with the mind racing as to what just happened and what’s about to happen next has the potential of causing a person to secure the gun, in the holster, or otherwise in a manner a little less clean than if they were on the range without the stress. It is likely that only one hand will be available to reholster or secure the gun meaning the cover garments, security straps or other potential obstructions have to be negotiated without contacting the trigger while returning the gun to the carry location. There have been numerous cases where drawstrings on jackets, straps on holsters and items of everyday clothing have come in contact with triggers during reholstering in relatively relaxed environments, causing the gun to discharge as it was being seated back into its carry location. This is exacerbated in high stress and hurried circumstances increasing the chances of disaster. While this could happen with a DAO handgun, it is less likely due to the weight and distance of the trigger pull giving a bit of a buffer as opposed to the shorter, lighter trigger pulls of many of the popular carry pistols on the market today.

Another consideration is accuracy in placing shots on target as opposed to split times indicating how many shots a person can get out of the gun in a given time frame. Hits count, and misses have the potential of collateral damage, which can complicate matters in a defensive shooting. With a properly fitted gun and a competent shooter, accuracy doesn’t take a backseat to anything whether the gun is DAO or otherwise. “You should shoot only as fast as you can hit” is a good rule to live by. Stick with what you know and are comfortable with as long as you can use those tools with safety, acceptable efficiency and combat accuracy.


Black Collar Arms APS
Black Collar Arms APS

First Look: Black Collar Arms APS

A new way to support your large-format pistol.

NRA School Shield Grant Program Now Accepting School Security Project Applications

The NRA School Shield Grant Program provides funds to increase school security, helping provide a secure future for our children. 

Review: Tisas PX-9 GEN3 Duty

It’s said that in life, one never gets a second chance to create a first impression. SDS Imports, the company that imports the Tisas firearms manufactured in Turkey, appears to have embraced that piece of wisdom, because I was extremely impressed from the moment I opened the box containing its new PX-9 GEN3 Duty 9 mm semi-automatic pistol. Except for some ammo, the box contained everything you need to defend yourself and your loved ones.

Review: Smith & Wesson Shield Plus In 30 Super Carry

Before we dive headfirst into the morass that is the 30 Super Carry debate, let’s start with something (slightly) less controversial: Smith & Wesson’s Shield Plus is a supremely good pistol. Building on the success of the standard Shield and updated M2.0 versions, the Shield Plus kept critical dimensions similar to allow most gear designed for the Shield to work for the Shield Plus.

2022 New Optics Guide: Thermal and Night-Vision

New advances in electronics and updated manufacturing processes have made thermal and night vision optics more affordable than ever before.

First Look: Wilson Combat 45th Anniversary SE 1911

A special edition pistol to celebrate the legacy of a legendary gun manufacturer.


Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.