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In rifles, using a striker rather than a hammer is a substantial improvement because the time from trigger pull to firing can be less. This makes the rifle more accurate, because the rifleman's muscular tremors have less time to move the rifle off-aim.
One of the disadvantages of an exposed hammer spur is the tendency to get caught on items such as clothing; covering (shrouding, bobbing) the hammer by removing the spur reduces this tendency.
Early hammerless designs
Early caplock firearms, patterned after their flintlock ancestors, had exposed hammers. The conversion was done by replacing the flash pan with a nipple for a percussion cap, and the flintlock's cock with a hammer to crush the cap and ignite the powder. The hammer was on the side of the firearm, easily reached for priming and cocking.
The earliest cartridge firearms simply copied the older style of action; the .45-70 "Trapdoor" rifle and most early cartridge double-barreled shotguns are good examples of this. In these designs, the loading of the cartridge(s) and the cocking of the hammer(s) were separate operations. While rifles evolved away quickly away from these early breech loading designs, the double-barrelled shotgun retained its popularity, and, for some time, its exposed hammers.
American inventor Daniel Myron LeFever was the first to develop a "hammerless" shotgun in 1878. It used internal strikers that were cocked manually, but in 1883, he developed a version that cocked the strikers automatically as the action was closed. This type of hammerless action, or the similar cock-on-open variation, is nearly universal in modern double-barrelled shotguns.
Early pump-action shotguns, like the lever-action rifles that preceded them, had exposed hammers. Most famous of these is probably the Winchester Model 1897. Like the double-barrelled shotguns, soon the early pump shotguns were replaced by models that enclosed the hammer completely in the action. Modern pump shotguns, with the exception of replicas of older exposed-hammer designs required in Cowboy action shooting, are all hammerless.
While shotguns have gone almost entirely hammerless (inexpensive single-shot models being the main exception), handguns are available in significant numbers in many different forms, with or without exposed hammers. Striker-fired guns, which are becoming more common, have no hammer, while many guns that do have hammers, such as revolvers, are available with the hammer shrouded or with the spur bobbed off. To be able to conceal or bob the hammer of a revolver, it must be a double-action design, and most semi-automatic pistols with bobbed or concealed hammers are also double-action.
Description of hammerless technology
A hammerless weapon is a modification of the original firing mechanism of firearms. Hammerless firearms do not feature an exposed firing hammer or firing “spur”. This feature is easily identifiable in the rear of the weapon's stock and requires the operator to manually “cock” it to arm the weapon. Rifles with an exposed firing hammer were frequently subjected to accidental discharges due to the exposed firing pin. With a hammerless weapon an internal firing pin reduced the risk of accidental discharge to the operator, because of the safety features of the internal firing pin. The rifle subsequently became capable of having a more rapid Firing Rate as well, because the operator no longer had to manually “cock” the weapon prior to each time the weapon was discharged. The exposed firing hammer was also frequently caught on clothing and interfered with the operator’s ability to aim accurately. The introduction of hammerless technology in rifles and later on in modern times, pistols greatly improved the safety, firing rate, and accuracy of firearms.
Hammerless rifle technology
The hammerless repeating rifle is a firearm that operates without any external hammer or firing pin. Hammerless firearms do not use a firing pin. This device was first introduced in 1879 with the Climax Safety Hammerless Gun, which was developed in order to prevent accidents from occurring while firing a weapon with a worn hammer/ firing pin. The hammerless rifle was further developed and Arthur Savage of the Savage Arms Company introduced a more perfected model in 1895. This rifle may be referred to as a six shooter repeating rifle, due to its capability to carry five rounds within the internal magazine as well as one round in the rifle's barrel. This modification to firearms reduces risk of injury to the operator, because of the enclosed firing pin. Older versions of the rifle had external hammers, which did not always remain cocked until the trigger was pulled. The Hammerless Rifle encloses this firing mechanism utilizes a “locking bar”, which secures not only the triggers, but also secures the “firing blocks” while the barrel is opened to discharge shells.
Prior to this hammerless technology, rifles were fixed with an exposed firing hammer and at times would be dangerous to the operator. Rifles without this hammerless technology could be cocked and accidentally discharge while the breech was opened. The fear from gun owners of these accidental discharges were well deserved, and even applied to the earliest models of hammerless weapons. Hammerless weapons were initially accepted with some hesitation, because the hammerless guns were manufactured with a locking bar, which secures the trigger only and not the firing hammer. Hammerless weapons, such as the Climax Safety Hammerless Gun, was manufactured with a locking mechanism that locked the trigger and featured a strong block that would move in front of the weapon’s firing hammer while being reloaded. The hammerless Repeating Rifle produced by Savage Arms in 1895 was coined the “Model 1895 Rifle” and drastically improved the standard lever-action rifle of the time period. This weapon was similar to the Climax Hammerless Gun in design, but was manufactured in mass quantities for commercialization.
History of the inventor of hammerless technology in rifles
Arthur W. Savage was born on May 19, 1857, Kingston, Jamaica of the British West Indies. In the year 1892 Savage moved to Utica, NY where he founded the Savage Arms Company. Savage began developing rifles and designing weapons for sport. It was in 1895 that the Savage Arms Company developed a hammerless repeating rifle, which utilized a new technology into a mass-produced recreational rifle ideal for sporting and hunting firearms. In 1901, Arthur Savage moved to San Diego, California, and founded the Savage Tire Company. After developing several types of car tires and inner tubes for the remainder of his life, Arthur Savage took his own life at the age of 81.
Hammerless technology in modern times
Firearms in today’s modern times generally use hammerless technology. Savage Arms Company pioneered the use of this technology in repeating rifles during the late nineteenth century, but this technology has carried on today in the majority of firearms today. Compared to pistols and handguns of the nineteenth century, which had exposed firing hammers, weapons such as the Glock series have enclosed firing mechanisms enclosing the weapons hammer. This photograph (courtesy of Glock’s website) illustrates the weapons design and displays the absence of an exposed hammer. Hammerless technology has increased the safety of firearms by reducing risk of injury to the operator and by increasing the technological capabilities of a firearms mechanics.
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