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.