Where Have All the Hammers Gone?
No, I was not suggesting a title for a new folk song when I wrote that line. In a recent phone conversation with American Rifleman editor Mark Keefe, we were both perplexed about the absence of hammers on new automatic pistols. Almost everything in the way of new designs is a striker-fired pistol. Sure, hammers persist on still-produced classics like the 1911 and Browning Hi Power, as well as several veterans of the Wondernine Wars like the Beretta and SIG Sauer. But look at the basic 9 mm service pistols of Glock, S&W, Springfield, Ruger, Taurus, Caracel and possibly others. They all use some form of spring-loaded, in-line striker that moves straight forward to smack the primer, rather than a floating firing pin that is struck by a pivoting hammer. Why?
I believe it is a matter of efficient use of space. Since most of these pistols are double wides, it is tough to fit them and their polymer receivers to the human hand. A pivoting hammer requires space for the pivot and more space to mount a hammer spring on a strut. By using a striker, there is no need for these parts and the designer is free to shape the butt of his pistol in an ergonomically sound fashion. It does make sense to do it this way, although something is lost in the process. The hammer can be cocked and the status of the gun is instantly discernible with a touch or a glance. How many times have you seen a movie actor with his 1911 entering a room hammer down? They don’t work that way, my boy. And you have to learn a different drill when the prop master gives you a Glock.
Indeed, where have all those hammers gone? They’ve gone to progress, every, single one.