When folks choose a double-action first-shot pistol, the majority of the handguns available have a decocker option for lowering the hammer.
A few, primarily CZ types, have a manual safety or a decocker, but not both.
The CZ Omega offers the option of changing out the levers for a manual safety or decocker. So, what is a decocker?
This is a lever that lowers the hammer to the hammer-down position without firing the pistol or manually lowering the hammer.
The hammer need not be touched during the operation.
A properly-designed decocker lowers the hammer just a notch before contact with the firing pin.
The SIG design is located on the frame in front of the trigger guard, the Beretta on the slide, the CZ high on the rear of the frame.
There are two variants. One operates as a decocker only. This is the SIG type and the type used by CZ 75 D type pistols.
The Beretta and the Walther PPK operate as a decocker and safety. The Beretta 92G is a decocker-only version.
The original type was designed for use on the Walther PPK. It was later used in the Walther P38.
A very few single-action pistols, including the Radom Vis 35, have a decocker. The Beretta type may be actuated as you load the pistol.
With the safety lever on, insert a magazine and rack the slide. The hammer rides down safely. The safety must be disengaged before firing.
It is reasonable to carry the Beretta or any other double-action pistol with the safety off, as the long double-action first-shot trigger is a good safety feature on its own.
Some folks have trouble quickly operating the slide-mounted safety.
Due to the design of the Beretta decocker, it would be nearly impossible for the pistol to fire as it is decocked. The same goes for the SIG.
Not so for some designs — many years ago I decocked a European pistol and it fired.
I thought I had made a mistake, but the decocked pistol fired again on the second try!
I use muzzle discipline and keep the pistol pointed in a safe direction so the only problem was a round in the dirt at the range.
The firing-pin block kept the firing pin locked as the pistol was decocked, in theory.
In this case, a small piece of brass had gotten under the firing-pin block and deactivated it, so the pistol fired.
The SIG hammer stops short of the firing when decocked. The Beretta has a block over the firing pin as the safety is rotated.
So, this could never occur with these pistols. With the pistol I was testing, it happened.
Another concern — never, never lower the hammer manually on a decocker-type pistol.
If you do, you may not allow the firing-pin block to engage! Use the decocker as designed.
Using a Decocker
When the Beretta 92 was introduced, it featured a slide-lock safety. These types and the original CZ 75 are termed selective double-action.
They may be used as a double-action first-shot pistol or carried with the hammer to the rear and safety on.
The true purpose of this safety, I believe, was to allow safely moving in tactical movement after the first double-action shot was fired.
You have the advantage of never having to decock on the move in a battle, but you can make the pistol safe with the application of the safety.
If needed, flick the safety off and you are ready for an accurate single-action shot. Italian police and military asked for a decocker version.
The older type Beretta design survives in the Taurus 92.
This pistol has a combination slide-lock safety which in modern versions combines the decocker function.
Many years ago, I used a Taurus 92 as a trainer for students, as I could teach double-action first-shot, decocking and on-safe carry all in one pistol.
I found some students, used to the 1911, decocked the pistol during a firing string not meaning to, as this decocker fell under the thumb too easily.
The SIG and Beretta 92G type do not exhibit this problem.
Students tend to ride the thumb on the SIG slide lock, often causing it to fail to lock open on the last shot.
To each is own and thoroughly learn the pistol!
The striker-fired pistol is simpler and so is the double-action-only hammer-fired pistol.
Perhaps the single-action is as well. But the double-action first-shot pistol is favored by many.
Handling and a perceived advantage in safety is appreciated by these shooters.
The double-action first-shot offers a degree of safety when the pistol is carried or at home ready.
A quality example with a smooth double-action first shot is useful for personal defense at close range.
The single-action trigger makes for accurate fire at longer range.
For most of us, considering the training time we really have compared to what we want, the decocker version of the pistol is best.
The problem with the DA first-shot pistol with a safety and no decocker — the CZ 75 B — is that the pistol’s hammer must be lowered manually.
This requires extreme care to avoid an accidental discharge. The manual of arms is different and must be learned for each pistol.
When lowering the hammer in this case, be certain you have a firm grip on the hammer with the thumb.
Some like to have the opposing thumb under the hammer.
Press the trigger to allow the hammer to begin moving down and then release the trigger, allowing the hammer to come to rest.
Whether you choose a decocker-type pistol or a pistol with a manual safety only, learn the manual of arms of each thoroughly.
Safety and smart gunhandling demand it.
What type on pistol do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below!