In Defense of: Grip Safeties

I know it’s been a few months since TTAG explored the issue of grip safeties, but I wanted to comment on something that the author mentioned at the end of his writing – gun safety and kids. My brother in law received a Glock as a Father’s Day gift earlier this year and he’s been incredibly happy with it. I’m a newbie to the world of firearms (so is he). He’s taken me to the range and a few gun stores, and I’m hooked. Poking holes in paper targets at high speeds is a lot of fun, and I like the added safety it would provide in the event of a home invasion.

However, since I have young kids at home, I absolutely, 100% refuse to bring a handgun into my house that does not have multiple, redundant safeties. My brother-in-law loves his Glock. But that’s not “safe” enough for me. I’ve read a ton of message boards with people saying that thumb safeties and grip safeties are pointless on a striker-fired of pistol. My favorite is the “my brain is my safety” argument.

Am I the only one who thinks that multiple, redundant safeties on a pistol are a good thing? “Oh, but you’ll forget or won’t have time to flip the safety off in a life-or-death situation.” Well if that’s your argument, then why carry a gun in a holster at all? It takes too long to draw a gun from a holster, the bad guy will get you first. Why not just keep it pointed in front of you at all times. Maximum readiness.

Here’s the thing… if I was single, without kids, on my own, a simple draw-and-shoot gun would be fine. But with kids at home the risk is just too great. It’s worth it to me to take the extra time to practice operating a handgun with multiple safeties. That gives me the peace of mind that (God forbid) if a child somehow gets their hands on a gun in my house, it will be as hard as possible for them to operate correctly in order to make it fire.

That means as many safety checks as possible – trigger safety, grip safety, manual safety. Will the gun be locked up? YES. Will it be out of reach? YES. But we live in a world where Murphy’s Law rules. Why chance it with an instrument of such potential harm?

So to the author who stated that just because a gun has a grip safety doesn’t make it safe in the hands of a child – I completely agree. But if it adds even a small extra level of complexity for them to fire it, then I say it’s worth it. Oh, it’s hard for me to rack the slide because of that pesky grip safety… GOOD! That means it will be even harder for my kids to rack the slide.

When you add up ALL of the safety features (locked gun case, thumb safety on, multiple passive safeties in place, etc.) then the probability of accidental discharge goes down. I completely agree with you that no gun is safe. But I also believe that a grip safety might help make it a tiny bit safer.

So while I prefer the look and feel of some other guns much better (Sigs are sexy!) I think I’m going to go with a Springfield XD45 with the optional thumb safety (if I can find one). For me that’s the best of all worlds – striker-fired pistol with a grip safety, trigger safety, and a manual thumb safety. I haven’t found anything else yet that covers all those bases (1911′s come close, but no trigger safety). I’m sure most of you will think I’m nuts, but so be it…

comments

  1. avatar John says:

    For a gun like a Glock with an internal safety and a trigger safety I can’t see the need for a grip safety.

    1. avatar Jared Forts says:

      On it’s own, yes I agree. But when used in conjunction with the internal safety and trigger safety, wouldn’t you agree that it adds one extra layer of safety? The internal safety and trigger safety already prevent the gun from discharging if dropped, kicked, thrown against a wall, etc. On the surface it seems like the grip safety would do essentially the same thing, and therefore it would be redundant. But the grip safety on a handgun like the Springfield XD and XDm series also prevents the slide from moving. The Glock safety features don’t do that. That means a round can only be chambered if the grip safety is properly depressed. To me that qualifies as a valid layer of safety between an uneducated handler of the weapon and harm. On a Glock there is literally nothing preventing someone from chambering a round and firing the weapon – kids, bad guys, anyone.

      I might think differently if I were a police officer with a Glock strapped to my waist all day. First of all, in that line of work I would want the fastest draw-and-shoot option possible. Second, I could trust it’s safety features because it would be in my possession the entire time. But a gun in my house will not be in my direct line of sight 24-hours a day. Can I really leave it to chance that no one other than me will ever put their hands on that gun?

      1. avatar John says:

        Well if you have kids and guns in the house the kids better know something about gun safety. Like NOT to touch a gun without an adult present. I’m not sure a grip safety would even stop a kid from using the gun if they really wanted to.

        The trigger safety and the internal safety of a Glock is plenty of safeties for me. I love that simplicity. With a Glock you stick a mag in, rack the slide and you are good to go. As long as you pull that trigger it WILL fire. That is the simplicity and reliability I trust with my life.

    2. avatar xd9fanboy says:

      If you try to re-holster a glock and your jacket draw string catches onto a glock trigger, the firearm will go off.

      If you re-holster xd by having your thumb against the rear cock indicator, the grip safety remains active. If the grip safety is active, then the firearm arm will not discharge even if your jack draw string or anything happens to get caught in the trigger guard.

      all the internal safeties make it drop safe, and trigger safety. the grip safety makes is safer to re-holster.

      when you draw your xd from holster, you don’t need to think about any switches (manual safety). All you need to do is have a positive grip of firearm, draw, point and shoot.

      grip safety is the best safety design on a firearm.

  2. avatar Martin Albright says:

    …And yet, back in the 80’s/90’s, when cops switched from Double Action revolvers (which have no external safety whatsoever) to semi auto pistols, I recall hearing that negligent discharges skyrocketed…it’s actually pretty hard to ‘accidentally’ fire a good DA revolver – there has to be some real effort involved.

  3. avatar Ralph says:

    Jared, if your childrens’ lives depend on a safety, its already too late. The purpose of a safety is to prevent an accidental discharge caused by dumb gun handling. 1911-pattern pistols have the safeties because it was thought that soldiers were too stupid to handle semiautomatics without shooting themselves or their friends. A safety will not prevent an intentional discharge — as opposed to an accidental discharge — by a child or anyone else. It is not the extra level of protection that you think it is. A good gun safe and solid education for the kids is what what will keep them safe. Anything else is an illusion of safety.

  4. avatar TennGoodBoy says:

    All you have to do to fire a glock is: PULL THE TRIGGER. I know. I know. Striker fired. Internal safety. Multiple safety systems. Still, and I say it again. All you have to do to fire a glock is: PULL THE TRIGGER. It doesnt have to be a trigger finger doing the pulling. It can be a chap stick, a holster strap, a car key, or anyone, a kid, a home invader, a mugger, can just grab it and shoot you by simply pulling the trigger. The safest type of gun to carry is the double action semi auto, hammer down, safety on. If you want to feel absolutely safe (kids, etc) but still keep the gun loaded and available, get one with the internal key lock, keep it locked, and the key on a string around your neck. Guns arent this mysterious, dangerous thing nobody understands. Just read up on it and know the diferent types of actions. Its ok to get the clerk at the gun store to show you how they work, but make up your own mind and practice, practice, practice. Good luck and be careful.

    1. avatar TennGoodBoy says:

      All that is IMHO in my honest opinion, of course. Forgot to say that. I like the other comments, too. They all make good points, IMHO…TGB.

      1. It’s really a nice and helpful piece of info. I am glad that you simply shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

      2. Very interesting points you have remarked, thanks for posting . “It’s the soul’s duty to be loyal to its own desires. It must abandon itself to its master passion.” by Rebecca West.

  5. avatar DevsAdvocate says:

    Sorry guys, the only safety you need is a drop safety. Anything else is a hindrance to the user and mechanics of firing a gun. 1911s have grip safeties because the firearm is a single-action, and typically carried cocked in condition one (cocked with a round in the chamber). Modern safeties remove the need for much of that.

    Anyways, if you can’t handle a Glock right, you probably shouldn’t be handling any other gun either.

    1. avatar Jared Forts says:

      Since when does wanting safety features on your gun equate to not handling a gun properly? Do you wear your seatbelt in the car? Using that logic you shouldn’t need to as long as you “drive safe”.

    2. avatar Patrick Carrube says:

      XD/XDM’s are also single-action… just an FYI. See my original article for more info…

    3. avatar Spc Boone says:

      That is the dumbest comment ive seen so far. So because I want extra safeties on my gun i don’t know how to use it? So because i have 6 airbags in my car i don’t know how to fng drive? Stupid. I wouldn’t want an internal lock because that is to much time to get my weapon to fire, but ill take all the other safeties. Why not? Guess you haven’t been to Iraq where you have tons of gear pulling on you, and jumping out your Humvee and banging your pistol all around have you? I feel just a little tiny bit better having the other safety features.

      1. avatar Grip safety future CA law says:

        You are correct sir. Guns are meant for extreme conditions called combat. It isnt a stroll on a trail it is a football game and hiking gear combined. Professionals have snagged and shot themselves with these under designed Glocks. It isnt theoretical it has actually happened. Thanks for bringing up actual use conditions. Most people only handle a gun out of a plastic box on a table and shoot it real slowly at the range. No its not realistic. Whats real is being just woken up and running outside in your underwear barefoot. Fatigue will prevent proper manipulation. One might just put that handgun in the pocket quickly. And there you go. The stuff in your pocket sets it off shooting yourself or someone else. This is ridiculous.

  6. avatar Brad Kozak says:

    Jared, I agree with you 100%. I’ve seen too many stupid things that happen/are caused by too many smart people (myself included) to dismiss the added security of a grip safety. Turn their arguments around: how many malfunctions or failure-to-fires can be attributed to a grip safety? I’d wager the statistical figure would be down there in the (statistically insignificant) .001%. (If anybody has any data on that, I’d love to see it.) Grip safeties are time-tested, proven designs. And they work. That being the case, what’s the harm? Far better to rely on that and a thumb safety, than a trigger lock or something equally as stupid.

    1. avatar DonWorsham says:

      The gun should be locked away if it is not on your person. Children need to be educated about firearms.

    2. avatar Grip safety future CA law says:

      Absolutely right. It is a time tested design that should become law.
      Its the Glocks mostly we hear about just going off. A draw string setting off a gun in a holster is completely unacceptable. That should never happen. Guns are to be used in combat where things dont go according to controlled plan. There is ones state of mind, level of alertness and health. What if you were shot? The calm thinking of safely opperating a gun might not work so well as it does on the range. Fatigue from fighting running and dehydration take away from your control. I would welcome a little bit of auto pilot to prevent accidents in a stressful situation. A grip safety is a non thinking extra level of control that is automatic. Your hand is gonna grab there anyway. This is like saying trigger guards arent neccessary. All you Glock nuts out there dont be offended. Its the rest of us that want Glock to design it to our request so we too can have the most reliable, durrable handgun in the world.

  7. avatar Chris Dumm says:

    I like the grip safety on a 1911, because it gives one more level of safety to cocked-and-locked carry. Unlike stupid little keys that jam up a gun’s lockworks (before you lose them in your desk drawer) grip safeties are perfectly ergonomic and don’t add even a millisecond to the time required to fire the gun intentionally.

    I also like that they make drop-discharges even more unlikely, and that they can prevent ADs if a foreign object somehow enters the trigger guard.

    But I would not depend on them, even as a last resort, to prevent youngsters from shooting themselves with an unsecured firearm. In carefully-supervised tests, youngsters presented with a heavy (inert) pistol are frequently observed to grip it backwards. They wrap their fingers around the backstrap and often put their thumbs through the trigger guard. This fully depresses any grip safety AND pulls the trigger, while aiming the muzzle squarely at their head or chest.

    So perhaps I agree with you in that I like grip safeties, but for different reasons unrelated to children.

  8. avatar Euphrates says:

    To the author:

    I currently own an XD45 with the thumb safety. It is for the reasons you mention that I purchased it but more about me than about wife or kids ( I don’t have either). Since I was new to guns at the time (handguns; I have shot several rifles, automatics, etc in the military), after a lot of research, I decided on the XD45. This was the one without the thumb safety. When the one with the manual thumb safety came out, I sold my XD45 to get the model with the thumb safety just for the additional protection. Even if it was only a small amount of protection, I decided it was worth the loss I would take.

    Also, if I decided on marriage and children, I plan on teaching them about guns and gun safety it it would be nice to have guns that you can just pull the trigger on and it will shoot. Another reason is that, with the added safety, I feel more confident carrying with “one in the pipe” then I every would with a Glock. I’m not a Glock hater or anything, I’m just being honest about it.

  9. avatar Don Curton says:

    Gosh, do I feel old. Instead of safeties, I taught my kids to shoot, showed them which guns were theirs and which weren’t, and let them know we could go to the range anytime. But … IF I EVER CAUGHT THEM MESSING WITH THE GUNS WHEN I WASN’T THERE …

    Never had an issue. Yes, kept the guns in a locker (not quite a safe). But still had the home defense gun out. A revolver. No safeties. And they knew not to touch it.

  10. avatar James says:

    I’ve never had an issue with a grip safety. I found it to be a practical and non-hindering solution to any potential accidental discharges.

    Trigger safeties, on the other hand, while practical, are a hindrance. I’ve never owned a pistol with a trigger safety that I’ve kept for more than a few months, which should be long enough to adjust. I’ve found that the added trigger travel and the weight needed to fire that gets added to the pull of the trigger made for lots of inaccurate shots.

  11. avatar Jared Forts says:

    Hey everybody, thanks for the great comments so far! I know this is one of those hot-button issues where everyone seems to have a firm opinion one way or the other. Believe it or not I do understand the other side of the fence. If a firearm is handled correctly then additional, redundant safety systems should be unnecessary. In addition, everyone in the house should be trained on how to use and respect the weapons stored there. I would certainly want my wife and/or kids to be able to defend themselves if a home invasion occurred and I was not there.

    However, first let me address the issue of “training”. All of the kids in our family are young. And when I say young, I mean under three years old. I can’t get my daughter to finish a waffle without some catastrophe, so the firearm safety course is a few years away. So to those who say kids should be educated – yes I agree 100%, but that’s not an option for me right now.

    Second, I’d like to thank those who pointed out that a safety will not prevent harm. That’s absolutely true. The gun should never be in the hands of a child to begin with, or anyone not trained on how to properly use the gun for that matter. But I still stand by my point that we do not live in a perfect world. Sure, safeties can be disengaged as easily as they are flipped on, even by accident. But we’re talking about risk management – about lowering the probability of an accident. If there is nothing blocking the trigger from moving then there is nothing stopping the gun from firing. That’s a real consideration that should be taking into account.

    I look at it the same way I look at motorcycling (I’m a motorcycle enthusiast as well). The debate over helmets goes back and forth, and probably will until the end of time. I’m a supporter of personal freedom so I disagree with mandated laws, but I do feel that helmets are a necessary part of motorcycle safety. Will they prevent death in the event of a crash? Not necessarily. Do they prevent the crash from happening in the first place? Absolutely not. It’s up to the rider to use his or her brain and instincts to avoid situations that lead to a crash, and although the helmet might not prevent death, it lessens the probability.

    Firearm safety is the same way. It starts with the gun owner. Proper gun knowledge, maintenance, use and storage are essential. But then the safety features are there for the “what if” in life. They’re the helmet on the rider, in other words. They can’t 100% prevent accidental harm, but they can lessen the probability of it.

    I will concede that lots of people have shot, stored and carried handguns without a grip safety, trigger safety, or thumb safety, and they haven’t had any issue at all. Lots of people ride motorcycles without helmets too. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t.

  12. avatar rudman says:

    How about training? I know that is too simple, huh. I’m a retired weapons instructor. Have instructed thousands on safe & effective handgun use. The operator will behave as he has been trained. Train them on a gun with no grip or manual safety and they will keep their ever-loving finger off the trigger until ready to fire. Train them to use a grip or manual safety and they will use that safety effectively. It is all in the training. I know that is too simple, huh.

  13. avatar Ed says:

    If he is that worried about his kids getting a hold of the gun, maybe he would feel better with the magna-trigger for revolvers as mentioned in Combat Handgunnery by Massad Ayoob.
    http://www.tarnhelm.com/magna-trigger/gun/safety/magna1.html

    There is another company doing this kind of modification for 1911s, but I doubt that it was ever used by any police department like the magna-trigger was.
    http://www.smartlock.com/smartgun_detail.htm

  14. avatar Southerner says:

    Remember the one major pitfall of the MagnaTrigger: The ring magnets will erase the magnetic media on your bank card(s) if passed to close.

  15. avatar Grip safety future CA law says:

    Glocks would be safer with a grip safety. Perhaps heavier though.

    In the news we all read and hear about accidental discharge due to a snag on the trigger. This might not happen if there was a grip safety.

    It isn’t theoretical it has actually happened several times by trained professionals shooting themselves in the leg.

    In the future there will be a law passed for all new handguns to be required to have a grip safety in the design.

    Its like safety belts and child car seats. They were fought against but the consumer won. The consumer would like Glock to make their guns safer.

    Current Glock owners take offense that they are a threat to other people who might get accidently shot. Well it has happened so be more careful with your clothing and holstering. You know in a combat situation, which by the way is what weapons are designed for not sitting in a chair shooting calmly, there is gonna be chaos and you will be tired and it is this fatigue and pain that will prevent you from being extra careful with your weapon and other equipment. You might make a mistake and have an accident. I can see a real danger in these triggers getting snagged on a branch or cord. Glock is gonna fix it though. They have improved before.

    We shall see, meanwhile more news reports will be broadcast of yet another Glock wounding another owner while holstered.

    Mercy!

    1. avatar Dano says:

      This does nothing to make a gun safer. I’ve watched someone ND with a XD while going back into the holster – this is not a Glock specific problem. The mechanics of a re holster ND are the same with or without a grip safety. Your hand is always on the backstrap when you holster and the grip safety is depressed. Glock don’t just go off. If you understood the internals of a modern striker fired pistol, you’d see just how foolish and inaccurate your statement is.

      1. avatar Grip safety future CA law says:

        Yes it certainly could go off as you are holstering it while a twig or string is in the trigger guard. But the news reports were of it already holstered and only going off when the persons jacket was tightened at the bottom with the draw string. If these people had a Glock with a grip safety then they wouldnt have been shot in the leg.

  16. avatar Steve Wilson says:

    This article makes a great point. Thanks for sharing! Like you, I too prefer a number of other compact pistols (M&P Shield, glock 26, etc.) over a gund like the Springfield XDS or others in that series. However, with a 2 yr old and 5 yr old, I have decided to go with an XD series pistol. Why? Because for most individuals with young children you run the risk of an accident occuring with your pistol (kid fishing it out of a woman’s purse, glove compartment, bumping or grabbing (accidentially or purposely) while in holster, etc. In fact, the chances that such an accident will occur for those with young children are much greater for most individuals than actually needing the pistol for self defense. (What percentage of average citizen conceal carry gun owners have actually needed their pistol for self-defense in situations where multiple external safeties would cost them their life…. 1% 5%?). The exception may be if you live / work in a very high crime city / area (downtown Detroit, etc.). I have a small pocket pistol (DB380) with no external safety I recently got. I have considered NOT racking the slide to chamber a bullet most of the time when carrying it…. and only doing so when I am without children, in a high crime area, or anticipate a greater possibility of danger. (I’m sure many people will object to that). So, why would I do that? For the reasons listed above. I believe in owning / carrying a pistol for the average person, we need to consider balance. Most of us are NOT police officers on duty, active military at war, in a high crime area the majority of time, etc. Consider the risk and consider balance. If your a Dad with small children living in the suburbs, ask yourself: “Does it really make sense to over-prepare for self defense and while under-prepare as a parent of young kids”….. especially considering which one you need to be more prepared for on avearge. (And on a positive note, as your children grow and become more responsible, you now have a reason to go out a purchase another pistol with less safeties? Who doesn’t want a reason to buy another firearm?!?)

  17. avatar Arturo Bandini says:

    It’s hard to understand how there can be debate about personal preference. If someone says their favorite color is blue, do you respond by saying, “no, it isn’t?” It’s not a question of wanting to debate it or not – it’s not possible to debate it. For some multiple safeties is important and appropriate and for others isn’t not. You can only say what’s good for you.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email