Striker Fired: What’s a Striker-Fired Pistol, You Ask?

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March 27, 2024  
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Categories: Learnin'

When gun owners think about the striker-fired pistol, they usually connect it to Glocks. After all, Glocks were the first striker-fired guns, right? Actually, they weren’t.

Striker-fired technology came along before Gaston Glock got into the gun market, and now that the tech is here to stay, there are quite a few other firearms with the action, too. If you’d like to learn more about striker-fired gun history, you’ve come to the right place.

striker and striker spring for striker-fired pistol

A striker kit for a Glock, disassembled to show the parts of the striker assembly.

What Is a Striker Fired Pistol?

First, let’s consider what a striker-fired gun is and how it works. When someone refers to a gun as “hammer-fired” or “striker-fired” they’re talking about the action by which the gun fires once the trigger is pulled. For a gun to be fired, the firing pin has to impact the primer of a loaded cartridge. Most, but not all, modern handguns are centerfire which means they’re designed to shoot cartridges that have a primer located in the center of the base of the case. How the firing pin reaches that primer is where the action comes in.

Let’s use Glock as an example. In a Glock, tension is placed on the firing pin spring when the slide is racked. Other handguns, like the Springfield XD, fully tension that spring when a round is chambered; on a Glock, only partial tension takes place when racking the slide. When the trigger is pulled on a Glock, the internal safety mechanisms are disengaged. This frees the striker, which moves rearward, putting more tension on the firing pin spring. Next up is the trigger bar, which releases the firing pin lug so that the firing pin spring does its thing by sending the striker forward to impact the primer. Striker-fired actions literally “strike” the primer by first pulling back and then bounding forward.

Borchardt C-93 striker fired pistol. It came with a shoulder stock.

The first striker fired handgun on record, historically, was the Borchardt C-93, which was invented in 1893. (Photo credit: Invaluable.com)

Who Invented Striker-Fired Pistols?

There are a few schools of thought among firearms historians and gun geeks when it comes to the first striker-fired gun. If you trace history back far enough, you find out the first striker-fired handgun was the Borchardt C-93.

The C-93 was invented in 1883 by Hugo Borchardt and was definitely a clunkier version of today’s guns, but it worked. The C-93 was chambered in 7.65x25mm Borchardt and tested by such firearms history greats as Georg Luger, who would go on to invent the 9x19mm Parabellum/Luger.

Interestingly enough, that was just the first striker-fired handgun we know about. In 1878, an inventor named Daniel LeFever designed a striker-fired shotgun. It was a hammerless design and the predecessor of modern semi-automatic shotguns.

Next in the story is the Savage Model 1907, a handgun invented in 1905 by a man named Elbert Searle. Taking a look at the external appearance of the gun might lead you to believe it’s a hammer-fired gun, but it doesn’t actually have a hammer, it has a cocking indicator. The action itself has a striker, albeit a slightly different setup than what’s found on modern firearms.

Ortgies auto pistol

The Ortgies 7.65 was a striker-fired pistol invented in 1919. (Photo credit: Invaluable.com)

In 1919, the design had improved somewhat with the invention of the Ortgies 7.65mm, a handgun that a man named Heinrich Ortgies created. The Ortgies pistol was a semi-automatic, hammerless handgun and was eventually offered in three calibers: 7.65mm, 6.35mm, and 9mm Kurz. You might recognize that last one better as 380 ACP.

Now we come to the gun many people point to when asked what the first striker-fired handgun was (and as you can see, they’d be wrong). The Heckler and Koch VP70 was a polymer double-stack handgun launched by that renowned gun maker in 1970. It had a double-action trigger and external thumb safety and was only manufactured for a brief period of time.

glock 48 striker fired pistol

A field-stripped Glock 48. (Photo credit: Kat Ainsworth Stevens)

Glocks Hit the Market

It was 1983 before Gaston Glock brought the Glock 17 to the gun world. His company had been founded decades earlier, but up to that point, it hadn’t been in the gun-making business. The Glock 17 was the first of what is currently a list of five generations of various models of polymer, striker fired pistols.

At first, they were all double-stacks, but that changed with the introduction of some single-stacks known as Slimline models. There aren’t many in that line, but it’s seen a fair amount of growth in a short timeframe.

Here’s how the striker-fired timeline works:

  • Borchardt C-93 in 1883
  • Savage Model 1907 designed in 1905
  • Ortgies 7.65mm in 1919
  • Heckler and Kocj VP70 in 1970
  • Glock 17 in 1983

Modern Striker-Fired Handguns

Today there are a lot of striker-fired handguns to choose from; Glock isn’t the only option. Various manufacturers produce this type of handgun, including:

  • Walther
  • Smith and Wesson
  • CZ USA
  • SIG Sauer
  • Springfield
  • Mossberg
  • FN
  • Taurus
  • Heckler and Koch
  • Remington
  • Ruger
  • Glock (of course)

Striker fired handguns are popular for good reason. Guns like Glocks are reliable, durable, and reasonably priced. They are super simple, and can even be made from 80 percent lowers. Guns with these actions aren’t always polymer, but a lot of them are, so they’re lighter weight than their steel counterparts. These types of pistols are a good option for concealed carry, home defense, and plinking at the range. You can even hunt with the larger caliber models in states where it’s legal.

If you’ve never fired a striker-fired pistol, it’s time to try one out.

Ruger American striker-fired pistol

The Ruger American is a striker-fired pistol. (Photo credit: Ruger)

FAQs

Are Striker-Fired Pistols Better?

Whether these pistols are “better” than other actions is a matter of personal preference. There are pros to the design such as the fact that the important parts are internal, not exposed like a hammer is, but to some people that isn’t a good thing. Spend time shooting multiple types of handguns to find out which ones works best for you.

Are Striker-Fired Pistols Safe?

Striker-fired pistols are as safe as any firearm. As long as you follow the four rules of gun safety, your firearms experience will be positive:

  • Treat all guns as though they are loaded
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re on target
  • Don’t aim your gun at anything you aren’t willing to destroy
  • Know your target and what is beyond it

How To Safely Carry a Striker-Fired Pistol?

As with carrying any handgun, you should have a good quality holster to carry your pistol. Among other things, this means it should provide some level of retention, fully cover the trigger guard, and have a mouth that remains open even when the holster is empty. Learn and stick to the four rules of gun safety listed above.

Do Striker-Fired Pistols Have Safeties?

All of these pistols have safeties. Some models are made with external thumb safeties and others, such as Glocks, are designed with multiple internal safety mechanisms. Just because you can’t see an obvious thumb safety on a gun doesn’t mean it has no safety.

When Were Striker-Fired Pistols Invented?

The first handgun firearms historians are aware of was the Borchardt C-93, which was invented in 1893.

For some of our reviews on different striker fired handguns, see:

Travis Pike

Travis Pike

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