External Safeties on Pistols – An essential feature or a vestige from the past?

Published by the LearnAboutGuns.com Author on July 11, 2008 at 12:30 am
LearnAboutGuns.com > How-To Guides and Other Info > External Safeties on Pistols – An essential feature or a vestige from the past?

I’ve seen that some people dislike handguns such as Glocks and some of the Springfield XD pistols because they lack an external safety, such as can be found on the Springfield 1911. This article addresses my thoughts on the matter:

I disagree with the idea that Glocks and similar pistols are “defective” because they lack an external safety.

I’ve fired Glocks and other guns such as the Springfield XD that do not have an external safety, and I do not see the absence of the safety as a “defect.” Rather, I see it as a desirable feature, and the external safety as a vestige from the days when the internal workings of firearms just weren’t as reliable as they are today.

First, I see the lack of an external safety as desirable because it makes the firearm simpler to operate, especially under stress. Without an external safety, the user knows the gun will fire when the trigger is pulled, and need not worry about fumbling with a safety during an emergency. Also, the lack of an external safety will prevent some less careful users from relying the safety (and being lulled into a false sense of security) instead of following the rules of gun safety.
Furthermore, if a gun owner is in a situation where they need to fire the gun in a split second, then they safety should be off already, since disengaging the safety would take precious time. If the user is not in a situation where they would have to fire the gun in a split second, then they can keep the chamber empty and just rack the slide when they need to chamber a round — in other words, I can’t really think of a situation where one would need to rely upon the external safety.

Secondly, an external safety is simply not needed nowadays. This is because modern firearms such as Glocks and the Springfield XD have numerous internal safety features that ensure the gun will only fire when the trigger is pulled. The XD even has a grip safety that will prevent the pistol from firing unless it is being held properly. A final note is that one should not rely upon any mechanical safety features of the gun, but should instead follow the rules of gun safety. A mechanical safety, whether internal or external to the gun, is no replacement for common sense.

I’m certain that some of this site’s reader will disagree wholeheartedly with me on this issue, and thats OK. To each their own – and safe and happy shooting.

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  • http://leftcoastconservative.blogspot.com LeftCoastConservativ

    I sort of do disagree with you, but more on a personal preference issue. I chose a 1911 model pistol for my defense weapon because I shot it more accurately than the Glock and Browning High Power pistols, and S&W revolvers pistol I tried. I did not have an XD available to shoot at that time, but I would like to try it.

    You are absolutely correct that safeties will not keep you safe around guns, only the four rules, applied zealously, will ensure that.

    The external safety on the 1911 is now something I have to train to sweep off as part of presenting the weapon on target from my holster. This is not hard, and with practice I think it will become an automatic gesture. It is a tribute the the design genius of John Browning that the safety is in the correct spot that the shooter's thumb simply sweeps over the safety almost naturally.

    I would like to add that carrying a pistol without a round chambered is fatal foolishness. The manual of arms to chamber a round as part of weapon presentation is much more complex than sweeping off the safety. A 1911 pistol is meant to be carried loaded, cocked, and locked.

  • Kosraedan

    A Glock without an external safety is only safe if “nothing” depresses the trigger. Ask the police chief in Indiana whose Glock shot him in the leg when he tugged at a string on his coat that had come to be across his trigger when he holstered the gun. There a number of other such incidents on the internet. I’m not saying everyone who owns a pistol needs an external safety. Neither is everyone who insists on one a fool. As a matter of fact several police departments required Glock to be retrofitted with an external safety.