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Yes, the pistols you mentioned are DA for the first shot (unless cocked) and then SA for the following shots.  Also on the AS, the first shot, regardless of whether cocked or not the trigger remains in a forward position.  The following shots have a travel of .314 inches whereas the first shot has a travel of .551 inches.  It's a feature that is supposed to reduce the odds of an accidental discharge or reflex firing.  I do not recall if the original standard model had this "travel" feature.

Some, like me, prefer the older style for aesthetic reasons.  The main functional advantage in the design of the newer model is that it has a Weaver (universal) accessory rail.  The older style had a proprietary rail system that was limiting for those who intended to use it.  The newer model also has a more aggressive slide serration pattern for a more "positive grip and improved slide racking."  (I didn't have a problem with the previous version's slide serration, but everyone is different.)  Lastly, the newer model has removed the hump inside the trigger guard that was supposed to aid the shooter, but wasn't really useful and annoyed some.  

The guide rod is plastic.  I haven't had any trouble or heard of any trouble with that.  I know there are some metal ones floating around here and there if it is a concern for you.

Good luck on your purchase...
 
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