The Truth about Grip Safeties

Earlier today, I encoutered an article written about the new XDm-45 by Springfield Armory. The article was written by Jeff over at Gunblog.com. As a new “scribe” to TTAG, I like to look around and see how others rate guns and products. I’m always interested in reading other writing styles. Having just acquired a new XDm-45, the gun review titled “SpringField XD-M .45 ACP Review” caught my eye, if only because “SpringField” was misspelled.

Jeff begins by describing basic features of Springfield’s newest XDm. He talks about the fully supported match-grade barrel; how it’s capable of shooting a wide range of ammunition. Jeff mentions the “freebies” included with the purchase of a XD/XDm. Jeff writes that he doesn’t use the plastic bristled cleaning brush that came with the XDm. He feels it will ruin the accuracy of the pistols match-grade barrel. So no 1000-yard bull’s-eye handgun competitions then.

And then there it is. The big, ugly dent in the door of my new sports car! About halfway down the review Jeff talks about the back-strap safety (a.k.a. grip safety) common to all Springfield XD/XDm pistols. I know that the grip safety is a touchy subject, especially among Glock-heads. Some love it, some hate it, and most don’t care because the XD/XDm brings so much else to the table.

Jeff reckons the grip safety renders the XDm impotent whilst in a “compromised firing position.” Absolutely true. In some crazy ninja-infested world when self-defense shots are taken while spinning through the air and behind your back, there is the ever-so-slight possibility that you may not be able to fire the XD with only three fingers.

Of course, I just tried this with my XD9, XDM40, and XDM45 and was able to make the striker fire in almost every out-of-this-world grip position. However, I was not able to fire the weapon with my pinkie, index finger, and thumb. Looks like the terrorist’s found my weakness! We’re doomed!!!

Can we turn off Call of Duty for a few minutes? Great! Thankfully, even though we take training courses, familiarize ourselves with self-defense techniques, practice real-world marksmanship and take extra precautions when feasible, the likelihood that any of us will ever shoot a firearm in a self-defense situation is pretty small (LEO/Military doesn’t count).

The likelihood that you’ll actually have to use an off-centered, three-finger hold to fire the pistol is even smaller. I’m willing to bet that there’s a better chance of having a dud-round or FTF/FTE than encountering an issue with your grip. Speaking of which, if you were to shoot this pistol, or ANY pistol, with the three-finger, ninja-killing “Grip of Death,” you’ll almost certainly lose the pistol from your hands as it recoils. This will likely cause a FTF/FTE or worse, rendering the pistol useless.

As far as the XD’s grip safety and its potential drawback, c’est la vie. Chacun à son goût. I don’t mind grip safeties. I’m not worried about whether or not I’ll be able to defend myself because of my inability to depress the grip safety during a terrorist attack. Heck, I barely notice them. I have yet to have any issue with my XD/XDm’s, let alone any issues caused by the grip safety.

The only time I notice the grip safety: when I’m holstering my weapon. Instead of using my thumb to act as a backstop for the slide, I simply move my hand away from the grip safety and insert the pistol into its place in the holster. There is no worry about the pistol coming out of battery as the grip safety prevents the slide from opening unless depressed.

Of course there are others, including our own Mr. Farago, who doesn’t like his XD’s grip safety due to difficulty locking back the slide without changing his grip and “unnecessary complexity.” Note: RF traded in a Glock for an XDm. The XD’s safety couldn’t have been that big of an issue. Meanwhile, Jeff’s main complaint:

I know one of the main goals of this safety feature is to attempt to prevent children from discharging the weapon–the theory behind it is so that children cannot grip the pistol and pull the trigger.

What safety—grip-mounted, frame-mounted or slide-mounted—is designed to prevent children from firing an unattended and loaded firearm? Jeff couldn’t seriously think that any safety is child-proof, or somehow adds a level of resiliency to a firearm? To make sure, I read that paragraph over once more.

Heads up: safeties don’t make guns safe. They may make them safer, but it’s still a relative term. If you cut the leg off of an elephant, you may make it 800lbs lighter, but not necessarily “light.”

NEVER ASSUME A GUN IS SAFE BECAUSE IT HAS A SAFETY.

The safest gun is the one that never gets into the hands of a child or an adult who isn’t familiar with its operation. There are literally hundreds of options when it comes to securing a firearm for home-defense or personal carry. Options include simple lock-&-key pistol boxes, to safes with a biometric scanner that will let you slide your fingerprint across a reader for instant access to your pistol. For the sake of the sport and for the sake of an innocent life, please be responsible and realize that no gun is safe in the hands of a child.

Grip safety distaste is one thing. If you don’t like them, you have two options. Either get an XD/XDm/1911 and get used to them, or don’t buy a gun with a grip safety. It’s as simple as that, although many Couch Commandos will say otherwise. There are many quality firearms out there that don’t have grip safeties.

15 Responses to The Truth about Grip Safeties

  1. avatarPatrick Carrube says:

    The link to the "offending" article is here –> http://www.gunblog.com/review-springfield-xdm-45/

  2. avatarCharles Murray says:

    I think you meant "lose" the gun, not "loose" the gun. Just saying because you criticized the spelling of "SpringField" in your (well put) rant. Fair is fair.

  3. avatarMartin Albright says:

    I think you misstate the objection to grip safeties. Sure, some people might say it's because of the "compromised firing position" issue (as "Jeff" apparently did) but to me (and many others) it's a lot simpler: The grip safety is unnecessary, and unnecessary complexity (in an instrument that has to function flawlessly under stressful conditions) is not a good thing.

    Grip safeties are almost always present not because the gun designer wanted them there, but because some bureaucrat who knows nothing about guns wanted it there. Best example of this is the M1911 pistol, the grip safety of which was added because of US military requirements, not because John Moses Browning (Peace Be Unto Him) wanted it there. Had Browning been a fan of grip safeties we would undoubtedly have seen it on the Hi Power A/K/A P-35, his last design.

    In fact, I'd go so far as to say that grip safeties are there for the same reason that the flying public has to go through the silly charade of TSA "security": Not to give actual safety, but to give merely the appearance of safety. And one reason the Springfield XD has always struck me as an oddball is that it adopted the grip safety more than half a century after the rest of the shooting world abandoned it. So you either have to think that from roughly 1930 to 2000 people were using "unsafe" guns (because they were missing that oh-so-important grip safety), or, that the grip safety doesn't really add anything to make the gun more safe and was disregarded because it wasn't needed.

    Since I don't believe that features are generally dropped from firearm design without good reason, I tend towards the latter view.

    • avatartom swift says:

      No so. John Browning thought the grip safety was adequate for the gun which became the Model of 1911. The thumb safety was an afterthought. Browning's personal "1911," made in 1910, has no thumb safety. Most earlier Browning designs, made by Colt and FN, have grip safeties.

      We can't learn much about Browning's ideas about handguns from the HP. The HP appeared in 1935. Browning died in 1926. Despite popular legend, there's probably a lot more Dieudonne Saive than John Browning in the final product.

      The safety question was obfuscated by the GCA '68, which required a manual safety on autos, whether such a mechanism made sense on a particular gun design or not.

  4. avatarrhill says:

    Grip safeties are cool.

    No grip safeties are cool, too.

    I own several 1911's and a Browning Hi-power.

    Peace be upon John Moses freaking Browning, indeed!

    I carry a couple of my 1911's, and when I do, I appreciate that grip safety even more.

    But I've also owned a Glock. And I appreciate that trigger safety, too.

    And I also carry a couple of double-action revolvers, depending on the situation and my dress for that situation.

    When it comes to guns, I appreciate diversity, dang it.

  5. avatarRobert Farago says:

    Charles Murray: My bad, not Patrick's. Text amended.

  6. avatarPatrick Carrube says:

    @Martin – I didn't miss the objection of the masses to the grip safety. I fully understand that some people consider them to be a PITA and unnecessary. I left out any strong-worded statements about the necessity of such a safety for good reason. The definition of “necessity” is not one that can be defined by one person, one opinion, in one situation. What is necessary for you in a firearm isn’t necessarily a necessity (say that 5 times fast!) for me. For example, some people consider a bead sight a necessity for a shotgun. I have successfully bagged many pheasants and clay pigeons with shotguns without any sights or beads. While I prefer some sort of sight on my howitzers, I wouldn’t consider them a necessity.

    But since you brought it up, I guess I will comment on the “necessity” of a grip safety on my XD/XDm’s. I do think they are a necessity on the XD/XDm (not so much on the 1911, but that’s a whole different topic) and they do serve a very significant purpose. Unlike a Glock, the Springfield is considered more of a “single action” pistol than a striker-fired pistol. The trigger does nothing more than release the sear which releases the spring-loaded striker. Glocks use a slightly more complex system that actually has to finish “cocking” the striker just before releasing. This, by some standards, could be considered an increase in complexity since it would be more logical to have the recoil fully cock the pistol.

    To have no grip safety on an XD/XDm would be similar to carrying a 1911 cocked-and-locked without a grip or frame mounted safety. Some people would state that the trigger safety of an XD serves the same purpose as the frame safety of the 1911. However, when you look at their design, this isn’t the case. The trigger safety of an XD only prevents the trigger from being pulled. The grip safety actually prevent the trigger from being pulled back (even with the trigger safety depressed), but more importantly, it blocks the sear from releasing. If the gun were to drop or being seriously struck, the block on the grip safety would prevent the striker from being released.

    • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

      You refer to it as adding “complexity”, but truth be told, the XD grip safety is a fairly simple device. When depressed, the grip safety simply cams out of the way, allowing the trigger to be depressed or the slide worked back. They are no more or less complex than a standard frame mounted safety. Of course, I take this stance from an engineering standpoint. If you can provide evidence to the contrary – that a grip safety causes statistically more malfunctions than on an identical pistol sans grip safety, I would consider changing my opinion.

      Some would (and do) say that the fact that you can possibly grip the pistol without depressing the grip safety makes it less reliable or more vulnerable to a malfunction (gun or user related). The depressing of the grip safety isn’t any different than manipulating a frame or slide mounted safety. I would say it is actually easier and more reliable to pick up an XDm and shoot it, than it is to pick up a weapon with a frame mounted safety, have to manipulate it to “fire”, and shoot.

      You’re correct – Springfield (well, Hrvatski Samokres ) did take a step back when they designed the XD. Instead of using a modern DA/SA setup, they incorporated and improved upon what Gaston Glock started. The XDm takes it a step further and incorporates interchangeable back straps (a Walther design), and better controls for a truly custom gun. Don’t think this to be true? Go to any gun range and look at what everyone is shooting. Go to any shooting competition and see what the big guys are bringing. Even some of my local sheriff’s are making the switch from Glock to XD.

      • avatarHickok45 says:

        I can live with the grip safety; the biggest irritant is that I'm not accustomed to have the slide be locked up and not able to move rearward unless my right hand is depressing the grip. Usually, it's not a problem, but when it does happen, I'm surprised and reminded that I don't like it much.

  7. avatarmickafter8 says:

    Simple procedure. Pick up gun. Pull trigger.

  8. avatarOba Doba Boba says:

    Patrick, thank you so much for the most helpful elaboration you provide in your comments regarding the XD/XDm’s design features and function. I hope the readers of your article will find and read your comments too.

  9. avatarJim Mapes says:

    You nor the other guy mentioned the real downside to a grip safety. Retention situation. If you have someone trying to take the gun from you, chances are your grip will be compromised to a degree. It might arise from them trying to grab your holstered weapon (in the case of them firing it while in your holster the grip safety is a bonus) but once its cleared becomes a liability. Someone may grab your gun to take it away when you have it drawn (ie multi-assailant, or a bystander turned assailant). Then you have someone pulling the gun away from you, making your engagement of the grip safety tenuous.

    A gun without a grip safety, you fire, they let go because an operating slide isn’t something to hang onto. 1911, XD etc, you may be screwed, unable to fire the weapon and locked up while someone else bashes your skull in against the sidewalk.

    I also don’t care for the slide lock while the safety is not engaged by your hand. Unnecessary feature for me to be sure, in fact it makes it cumbersome to load/unload in a non-shooting situation where I would not even have my hand on the grip to to load and set the firearm on aside (store, holster, shelf at range before drawing on target). I don’t load my other weapons with a firing grip either when not in a shooting situation, its safer to have it gripped away from the trigger where your finger isn’t even able to get on the trigger, let alone be there by accident. So with that grip safety, they are forcing the person to grip in firing position, meaning the careless will put their finger in the trigger guard.

    Boom! Oopps.

  10. I am a gunsmith. I build custom guns. I have a 1911, a Hi-Power made in Belgium, several Glocks, Beretta PX4′s, but my personal carry gun is a XDm 3.8. I install the Comonolli thumb safeties on Glocks just to piss off the purist. That being said, I neither like nor dislike the grip safety. One never thinks about whether or not the grip safety is depressed. Your natural grip does the job quite well.

    To me, those little trigger safety bars are nearly a joke. There have been a fairly large number of AD’s with Glocks and leather holsters. The fault lies with the holster design and the owner that does not maintain their equipment. If the lever on a Beretta thumb safety did not work backwards it would be a really good idea since it de-cocks the pistol and renders the trigger inoperative until pushed up again. I just think that moving a thumb safety UP to fire is counter intuitive.

    Customers ask me all the time what is the best carry gun. My answer starts with “There is not one”. Not withstanding the fact that more people have died from 22 rimfire wounds than any other caliber, I go on to advise that the minimum round should be the 9 mm. When shopping for a carry gun, pick up as many as possible. Whatever feels best in the hand is a good starting point. Buy the most gun that you can afford. It is foolish to stake your life on a cheaply made gun that does not fit the hand. Small guns always have more felt recoil than do larger heaver guns, so recoil is a consideration. The ultimate self defense gun is a Desert Eagle in 50 AE, but it is not practical.

    Whatever type of safety that gives you the warm and fuzzy feeling that you will be relatively safe to draw, fire, and holster the gun with no after thoughts is the best design for you. The perfect carry gun would weigh 8 oz., shoot a 50 S&W with no recoil, hold 25 rounds in a package no more than 6″ long and 5″ high, and be no more than 1″ thick. It ain’t gonna happen. Good day.

  11. avatarMT Forrester says:

    so the author is criticizing Jeff at Gunblast.com over a typographical error but the author himself fails to put forth any useful information other than proving to us that he went to college.

    we all know that grip safeties are simply trying to make up for other lack of safe design. and as Jeff has pointed out in his reviews, why in the world would you want a gun that requires a typical hand position? that is an obvious disadvantage.

    this author is clueless and anyone who picks on Jeff at Gunblast has little business providing opinions on firearms.

  12. avatarMarques Jones says:

    I own a Glock 27, and 30 for concealed carry but found neither fit the hand test as I have rather large hands. I researched and shot several weapons including the Kimber Master Carry Custom 45 ACP, Glock 17, and 41 but I decided to purchase the XDM 45ACP Comp Series. It felt good and shoots accurate. I find the argument over safeties ridiculous it is all about preference and training. Ultimately AD’s occur because of negligence on behalf of the owner. I enjoyed all the different commentary and appreciate the different views because I learned a few things about the difference in SA, DAO, and DA/SA.

Leave a Reply

Please use your real name instead of you company name or keyword spam.