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Old February 13, 2014, 03:00 AM   #1
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Thoughts on Safeties...

We all know what they are for, but how do you feel about them? What are your thoughts on what they ought to be. Where they ought to be? how they should work, etc.

I'm putting this in general, so the discussion can include all the different kinds found on different guns throughout history.

For the sake of this discussion, lets leave out the safety features that keep a gun from firing when it is mechanically unsafe to do so (out of battery, etc), and focus on those kinds of safeties that actively or passively engaged or disengaged by the shooter, and who's primary purpose is to prevent the gun from firing when the trigger is pulled.

I've recently read some people saying they won't buy a gun without a safety, and others saying they won't carry a gun with a safety. So I got to wondering what is it about a safety that makes people feel so strongly one way or the other? And please, don't focus just on "this is good, everything else will get you killed" kind of arguments.


here's a starter subtopic: most of us feel the safety should be where it can be operated with the shooting hand, but many designs put their safeties elsewhere. Is there ever any merit to this ?
Thoughts?
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Old February 13, 2014, 03:32 AM   #2
JimmyR
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With a semiauto, I prefer SA/DA with decockers, especially if they are safety-less. I prefer a long DA pull for my first shot, and would rather not have to think about whether or not the safety is engaged. If I am carrying a SAO, I think a manual safety is a necessity, to accomodate the light trigger. My only exception that I have found is my CZ-82, with a SA/DA action where the safety can only activate while in single action, allowing either SA cocked and locked or DA with the hammer down.
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Old February 13, 2014, 04:53 AM   #3
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My experience has not been great enough to have formed a firm opinion. My first semi was a Glock and we all know where they stand.

My second was a Ruger MkIII and I have occassionally engaged the safety if I wanted to put down the gun whilst chambered to pick something up, get ear muffs from my bag or the like. Otherwise it would have been unloaded.

My third semi, replacing the Glock, is my CZ SP-01. That has a safety and a hammer. Having not formed the habit of using a safety, I now don't use the one provided, but I feel I want to start putting that into my training regime: if I have it I may as well know. Still it is not an overly useful tool here as for carry we are restricted to condition 3. The only time I have the gun holstered and chambered it is for IPSC.

So, how do I feel about them. I admit that I am happier having the option even if I don't yet use it as intended for the time being.

As it happens I carry a DA/SA revolver.
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Old February 13, 2014, 07:42 AM   #4
Don P
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Never have given this much thought. Never crossed my mind when looking/purchasing a firearm. I do believe the true safety is the one between our ears. Just my opinion, folks who refuse to purchase a firearm that does NOT have a safety are looking for that false security. Sort of like the thought that a M/C helmet will miraculously save your life in a 100 mph crash. My .02 worth.
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Old February 13, 2014, 07:51 AM   #5
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just me,
but if it has a safety, I prefer it to be intuitive..easy to access, up for safe, down for fire..

like don said, the primary saftey is between the shooters ears..
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Old February 13, 2014, 09:40 AM   #6
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Speed vs security....

I think for most semi-auto pistols, it's a issue of speed vs security(retention).
If you want a fast, swift draw & do not want or need manual safety controls then that might work for you.
If you open carry a lot or work as a armed professional where you might be in direct contact with dangerous felons, a pistol with a frame mounted safety might be ideal.
Some armed citizens or license holders who conceal guns do not feel a safety is required. Youtube.com gun channel host; The Yankee Marshal says in many videos how he dislikes manual safety levers on carry guns.
Is he right? Maybe. But I would leave that choice up to the owner.
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Old February 13, 2014, 09:46 AM   #7
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For my carry gun, I do not have an external safety and probably never will. I understand that with enough training it becomes a reflex to disengage it and get the firearm ready to fire, but I would prefer to not even have that step to worry about when my life is decided by reaction times measured in the milliseconds. I am comfortable with having the long, heavy DAO pull being my only "safety." This also applies to passive safeties such as magazine disconnects.

For all other guns (plinking, hunting, target shooting, just for fun guns), all I ask is that they be intuitive and accessible without removing my hand from shooting position. I generally prefer the safety to not be located on the tang and would rather have it near the trigger guard or bolt handle (think Remington 870 inside the trigger guard as opposed to Mossberg 500).
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Old February 13, 2014, 09:57 AM   #8
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The long pull of a DA decocker handgun increases the risk of missing the target on the first and critical round, especially when the adrenaline is pumping and it is especially hard to hold the gun steady on target for the length of time to fire DA. A manual safety is a nice protection against AD with a light trigger, but in the heat of a self defense situation, is there a risk one will forget to thumb off the safety and be standing there with a gun that won't fire? Personally, I think it is easier to practice thumbing the safety down as the gun is drawn than it is to fire accurately in DA mode. I am not totally comfortable carrying a round in the chamber, with a light SA pull on the trigger all that is needed to fire the gun, without any other safety. I think that despite the amount we might train, if and when we are reaching for our gun to save our life, a light trigger pull could easily result in an early and undesired discharge of the weapon.
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Old February 13, 2014, 10:30 AM   #9
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Well, im biased but here goes

The 1911 thumb safety is about perfect. Positioned at the right spot. Short throw. Doesnt slow down getting into action at all. Even from a ready position that safety is taken off as the gun drives to the tgt. No delay....ZERO

Ive never had a problem with a PROPERLY shaped and installed grip safety on a 1911 either. Even with a crappy grip. If my hand was on the gun enough for me to consider firing it... The grip safety was disengaged. Never an issue

I was "forced" to carry a Beretta 92f in the Marine Corp for a while and HATED that safety location and movement. Additionally in my time as a trainer ive seen countless people engage that safety while racking the slide. Example.. Your in a gunfight, run the gun to slidelock, out with the old mag..in with the new, come over the top to "powerstroke" the slide and you have inadvertently turned ON the safety. Punch back out to tgt, press the trigger and NOTHING happens. In fact the trigger just feels limp.

So haveing been properly trained in reflexive malfunction clearing, you tap and rack.... Still NOTHING. All because your dingus is down

Now... There are Beretta/Smith & Wesson specific ways of dealing with this issue but i think our training should not be GUN specified. What if i have to use my buddies gun. What if its my BUG that im forced to use. My technique should not have to change based on the platform used

My current carry gun (for about 10years now) is a Glock. Either a 19 working overseas or a 23 when off at home

No external safetys per say. 3 mechanical safeties that are sequentially disengaged as i fire the pistol. Plenty safe from going off unless the trigger is pulled

The arguement that a manual safety will prevent a bad guy from using your gun if he takes it has SOME merit. Less so with design of good retention holsters and techniques.
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Old February 13, 2014, 10:32 AM   #10
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I personally like DA/SA handguns in this regard and will go out of my way to find models with decockers instead of safeties. That being said, I do have several handguns with safeties, and all of my rifles have safeties, and it doesn't really bother me too much.

As for the sub topic, I think safeties that are out of reach for the shooting hand are more administrative safeties than anything else. I have a couple guns with stuff like that, and I just keep the safety on when it is in the safe.

This may seem strange, but despite my feelings against safeties for handguns, I wholeheartedly approve of them for rifles. I have no real logic for this, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it is because of the guns I was first exposed to. I'd imagine much of our opinions for or against safeties stems from that.
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Old February 13, 2014, 10:34 AM   #11
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The core issues are:

1. Trigger pull

Semis have lighter pulls than the DA pull on a revolver. Since the latter usually has no safety, folks think that the heavier pull with reduce NDs.

2. The cause of such is usually finger on the trigger and human testing shows that startles, movement generated clenches and sympathetic hand movements will activate even DA semi pulls and revolvers.

Thus, I conclude that with the normal range of single action or striker semis - finger control is crucial and the safety doesn't substitute for training.

3. Having a safety that must be removed has a chance of a mistake in a crisis draw. You can practice intensively but under extreme stress that can still go awry. Every once in awhile I will see a skilled competitor forget to remove the safety on a 1911. Stress increases such.

4. Perhaps if you loose the gun in a struggle, silly BG won't know how to activate it and gives you a chance to use your kung-fu. Probably has happened but what are the differential risk rates from other screw ups.

5. Grip safeties - rare but I've read of folks who have had their hand injured in the critical incident and then had trouble with grip and firing. Is it needed?

I conclude - Dah, dah! - that with a semi with a 4-5 pound trigger, I don't like manual safeties as trigger control is more important. If I can't remember that - I probably have the same chance of not activating the safety under stress.

I carry revolvers with a heavier pull and similar trigger control practices.
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Old February 13, 2014, 10:37 AM   #12
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I was raised with 1911s. I like the concept of an active safety and a grip passive safety.

I would be ok with a good DA/SA as well, if the DA portion is not too long or difficult a pull (7-8 lbs for me). My wife’s Storm is perfect for me in this area, but our Beretta 92’s DA trigger pull is too long for me to actually hit anything.
I am not a great fan of DAO. Ion circumstances of switching holsters or similar I’d like an active safety to activate and then deactivate when complete.

BUT:
I actually carry an unmodified DAO. In some early competitions two competitors who were seasoned had difficulties with their active safeties-disengaging them on the draw. I’m not superman, and figured if that happened in a competition, then the risk is higher for a hack shooter like myself. As I needed a new pistol at the time anyway I went ahead and switched from the 1911 I was carrying and haven’t looked back. I’d still like the active feature for moments noted above, but otherwise I’d never have mine on safety.

EDIT:
Quote:
3. Having a safety that must be removed has a chance of a mistake in a crisis draw. You can practice intensively but under extreme stress that can still go awry. Every once in awhile I will see a skilled competitor forget to remove the safety on a 1911. Stress increases such
Exactly. Again this is me, and others may be more capable. But when I saw that it really disturbed me as I figured I would be freaking out in such a circumstance and anything like that could fatally delay me as I wouldn't be able to instantly address (or even understand) the issue under stress.
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Old February 13, 2014, 10:38 AM   #13
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The only safety you need is the one between your ears
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Old February 13, 2014, 12:47 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 44 AMP
most of us feel the safety should be where it can be operated with the shooting hand, but many designs put their safeties elsewhere. Is there ever any merit to this?
Manual safeties tend to try to address two different functions: they provide mechanical protection against unintentionally firing a gun either through accident or negligence (i.e. - snagging a trigger on a foreign object) and they also often try to act as a substitute for good trigger control.

One of my favorite safety systems involves the cocking lever on an HK P7. It only performs the first safety function, but it does so superbly and allows an essentially automatic transition between "not ready to fire" and "ready to fire." However, as long as the gun is held in a firing hold (cocking lever depressed), there is no manual deterrent to firing - everything depends on trigger control.

The thumb safety on a 1911 performs both safety functions. It prevents the gun from firing while not in your hand, as well as providing positive control over the gun's ability to fire, even with your finger on the trigger. The upside of such a system is that the manual safety can be a good backstop to a lapse in trigger control. The downside is that it can shift your focus from trigger control to primarily relying on safety control.

Back to the question of where a manual safety should be located and how it should operate. A safety that cannot be operated while your finger is on the trigger (i.e. - for me, most slide-mounted safeties) forces an early and conscious shift in focus from manual control to trigger control. A safety that can be operated while your finger is on the trigger, such as a tang safety on a rifle or the thumb safety on a 1911, can be disengaged early in the firing process to place more reliance on trigger control, or it can be disengaged only an instant before firing, which nearly eliminates trigger control from the process.

A system that I find intriguing involves manipulating a manual safety with the trigger finger. Whether the system involves a button on the trigger guard as many .22 rifles have, or a lever extending into the trigger guard like the Garand and the original Steyr M9 pistols, the trigger finger has to move in two different directions to release the safety and pull the trigger. Regardless of the action being performed, the shooter's focus is on the trigger finger.
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Old February 13, 2014, 12:55 PM   #15
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Quote:
This may seem strange, but despite my feelings against safeties for handguns, I wholeheartedly approve of them for rifles.
This is one of the attitudes I wanted to discuss. WHY is it that some feel that a safety on a handgun is a danger, but a safety on a rifle or shotgun is a necessary (and good) thing?

Some go into spasms at seeing a cocked and locked auto pistol, but have absolutely no qualms with a "cocked and locked" rifle or shotgun. Is it just because they can't see the hammer?

As an additional thought, overall, there seems to be more European guns with safeties that are difficult or impossible to reach with the shooting hand, while maintaining a firing grip. Particularly in long guns. I think this reflects an underlying philosophy that the safety ought to be operated with the non shooting hand. Is this just tradition? Or their way of looking at it is different from ours? Or am I seeing a plan in mere coincidence?
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Old February 13, 2014, 01:02 PM   #16
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I feel that any gun that will be carried around with the trigger exposed should always have a safety. Example would be hunting rifles. The trigger is exposed and you can not possibly maintain control of that trigger when you're walking through brush, the gun is slung up, etc. A safety is a must have.

I see no particular, generic reason that a defensive carry gun should REQUIRE a safety. It is holstered and completely safe unless it's needed and then it's SUPPOSED to go bang. I also see no particular reason to NOT have a safety on a carry gun either. I would have bought my Glock if it had a 1911 style thumb safety. It doesn't concern me in the least. Some guns and particularly the way they're meant to be carried (ie 1911 Condition 1) should also have safeties, IMO.

On rifles, I personally slightly prefer the push button safety located on the trigger guard, particularly on a "walking around " gun. However, I've also spent plenty of time using guns with sliding and tang safeties. I'm not bothered by any of them.
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Old February 13, 2014, 01:20 PM   #17
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Quote:
This is one of the attitudes I wanted to discuss. WHY is it that some feel that a safety on a handgun is a danger, but a safety on a rifle or shotgun is a necessary (and good) thing?
I believe that a pistol is more likely to be used in a SD situation where milliseconds may be crucial. Long guns are not used in this way and you need 2 hands to easily use one. The needs are totally different.
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Old February 13, 2014, 01:31 PM   #18
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Quote:
I feel that any gun that will be carried around with the trigger exposed should always have a safety. Example would be hunting rifles. The trigger is exposed and you can not possibly maintain control of that trigger when you're walking through brush, the gun is slung up, etc. A safety is a must have.
I think this, along with the influence from the guns I grew up with, is the biggest reason why my thoughts on safeties between long guns and handguns differ. All of my holsters cover the trigger entirely for carry, so I never worry about it with handguns.
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Old February 14, 2014, 02:22 PM   #19
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I think, feel, and believe these things about safeties on handguns, but I don't even pretend to think for other people. But this is how I see it:

--Have always thought it was WAY overblown when a safety turns "the other way" from what many consider 'proper', the most obvious example being the 3rd Gen S&W pistols. For me and my needs, I have very little trouble "adapting" to the gun I'm holding and the fact that the safety doesn't sweep down like the 1911 is not going to confuse, befuddle or upset me. The safety is in the way of my proper hold when it's "on safe" so it seems entirely natural to me to sweep it up & 'off safe' without crying and gnashing of teeth.

--seems only fair to mention that while I do have a raging love affair for the same S&W 3rd Gen pistols, I absolutely find that safety lever to be in the way of grabbing and manipulating the slide. Better when it's "ON SAFE", but annoying all the way around. Still love the pistols, but I don't like it in my face when I'm trying to grab the slide. Same thing with the classic Beretta 92 and it's safety right there in my way.

--a handgun that is not a 1911 but does have a grip safety can be advantageous, IMO, even though I'm not a big fan of it on the 1911 itself. I don't mind the grip safety as a safety device, but I certainly have found that some 1911 pistols give me fits with actually activating the very slender grip safety. Most obvious is a 1911 with an arched MSH. So when Springfield debuted the XD series and elected to use the grip safety, I found that it was a decent idea and the design is such that it's easily defeated with any proper grip. It's awful looking, but then... the whole pistol is that already. But I think there is a place for a grip safety and I'm somewhat surprised that we don't see it more often in handguns.

--it certainly was a period of transition for me when I got my first pistol without any manner of a manual thumb safety. I'm entirely on board these days but it pains me when long-time gun cranks simply cannot see how some folks (especially those new to guns or just new to DAO-style hammerless guns with no thumb safety) have trouble getting comfortable with a "loaded, cocked" handgun with no manual safety. For many of us who were shooting handguns before tupperware became the rage, it seems unnatural to not have a safety. And please spare me the "well, revolvers don't have 'em!" argument.

--ambi-safety levers on 1911s annoy me because they can't be (properly) simply yanked out if you don't want them. I was born (and continue to be! ) left handed, but I shoot right handed and the thumb safety on a 1911 is not a drop-in part. So if I'm looking at a 1911 and it has the ambi lever on it, that's an annoyance to me. I don't like the way it looks, I really don't want it there where it has ANY chance of being swept off inadvertently because I'm carrying it in a RH holster... but yet, I can't simply yank it out. I know the lefties appreciate it greatly, but it's an "upgrade" that I don't like at all.
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Old February 14, 2014, 02:49 PM   #20
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Quote:
So if I'm looking at a 1911 and it has the ambi lever on it, that's an annoyance to me. I don't like the way it looks, I really don't want it there where it has ANY chance of being swept off inadvertently because I'm carrying it in a RH holster... but yet, I can't simply yank it out. I know the lefties appreciate it greatly, but it's an "upgrade" that I don't like at all.
You can convert an ambi-safety in a 1911 to the standard safety easily or have it done cheaply if you have a 1911 you love otherwise. It's not a big deal, to the right person, to do it.
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Old February 14, 2014, 03:04 PM   #21
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There's a lot of stuff that would fit that description, I'm sure.
However, that description does not follow "DROP IN", which is what I like... and all that I pointed out.
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Old February 14, 2014, 03:34 PM   #22
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Other than revolvers and lever-action rifles, I've never owned guns that didn't have a manually operated safety.
I prefer those that fall readily under the strong-hand thumb, but as a lefty I've had to adapt to other styles.
I prefer the frame-mounted safety that is swept downward to disengage, a la 1911, Hi-Power, CZ75, etc. I do not like slide-mounted safeties that have to be pushed up to disengage - Beretta 92, S&W metal frames - as it's un-ergonomic, and can compromise loading and malfunction clearing.
For long guns, I prefer a tang safety, as it's handy to either hand. Cross-bolt safeties are a hassle, unless they're reversible.
AR safeties I can work with my trigger finger, and it's not really much more difficult than using the thumb.
Due to all the different types of safeties on the market, having any manual safety makes the gun somewhat proprietary to the user, so in a self-defense situation involving a gun-grab - is there a safety? Where is the safety? How is the safety operated? It can buy you some time to take action.
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Old February 14, 2014, 04:23 PM   #23
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"Never trust a safety."
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Old February 14, 2014, 07:15 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 44 AMP
We all know what they are for, but how do you feel about them? What are your thoughts on what they ought to be. Where they ought to be? how they should work, etc.
my preference is a frame mounted safety (vs. a slide mounted safety) that is easily engaged up and disengaged down. IMO, A pistol without an external safety is only good for a carry/duty gun in a proper holster. Outside of a holster it either needs to be on target or unloaded... I wont use it as a nightstand gun. Not mandatory but I also really like a grip safety because I like the idea that if the pistol is dropped it wont discharge if something snags inside the trigger guard.


Quote:
Originally Posted by 44 AMP
So I got to wondering what is it about a safety that makes people feel so strongly one way or the other?
having the option to, or not to use it....
is any pistol less safe when carried in a proper holster with the external safety off?
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Old February 15, 2014, 08:45 PM   #25
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Watched a guy with a new 1911 fumble the safety on the draw. He's an experienced shooter but new to that gun. He will quickly learn it.

Wonder about the novice in a SD situation who bought one because one shot will turn you inside out, etc.
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