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On Manual Safety

August 19th, 2021

Having an external/manual safety on a pistol is a matter of personal preference. It’s also a matter of intended purpose. The focus of this discussion is the safety in context of everyday carry (EDC).

In my opinion, manual safety is not needed on a double-action-only (DAO), or a double action/single action (DA/SA) hammer-fired pistol. Just as in the case of double-action revolvers, the safety of these weapons is in their long, tight trigger pull. Will it hurt still having a manual/thumb safety? The argument against it revolves around the risk of forgetting to disengage it in the most critical moment unless one had undergone extensive training and incorporated the manual safety disengagement technique into their nervous system. The argument for it: the situation in which a fraction of a second counts is statistically unlikely, but on the other hand, the manual safety does provide an ongoing extra layer of protection.

Again, in my opinion, a manual safety on a DA pistol serves no useful purpose other than making up for the user’s lack of proficiency and good practices - in general or within the DA/SA paradigm.

Striker-fired pistols, however, are a different story. Their trigger press is significantly lighter than DA. They are pretty much in-between the DA and the SA. And since hardly anyone would carry an SA pistol without a manual safety present and engaged, carrying a striker-fired pistol in that manner looks like a luck-pressing, boundary-pushing thing to do. And to whoever gives me a cliché argument, such as “safety is in your head”, “guns don’t go off by themselves”, “good holster provides the safety” etc., I say, OK, why don’t you then carry a 1911 cocked and safety-off, in a very good holster? Rhetorical question, of course. The truth is, no matter how trained you are, you are not a machine. Errors and glitches of different sorts sometimes happen (even in case of highly trained people), and for the situations when the allowable room for error is small-to-none, you put a cushion in place. The DA with its long, tight trigger press serves as that cushion. Don’t be thinning it!

A logical question that comes to mind: wouldn’t a manual safety on a DA pistol, too, make that extra cushion? Perhaps, but the DA revolvers have proved over many decades (approximately over a century and a quarter) that a DA trigger with no manual safety is perfectly safe provided the user is proficient. A test of time is the most credible evidence!

Maybe the strikers will earn themselves similar evidence, but in the meantime, I don’t consider them a safe EDC without at least some kind of an external safety, be it thumb, grip or trigger (listed in the order of my preference). Internal safeties, such as firing pin blockers, are good and important, but if you think they are sufficient, please consider my earlier 1911 argument.

Finally, it’s important to emphasize that no safety mechanism, internal or external, should ever be viewed as a substitute for user proficiency, training, and discipline.

Thank you for reading! Be safe and responsible!


Author: Edward Meyman

CEO, Kind Sniper LLC

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