I was among the first to review the brand-new SIG SAUER P365 Manual Safety model here at TTAG. The pistol was so damn good that I put 2,000 rounds through it with zero issues and promptly dismissed all my other carry guns. For me at least, it’s P365 or bust, kids.
That article had some strong opinions in the comment section and I decided to look at the larger question here in its own post: are manual safeties still relevant today?
First, this article is primarily addressed to newbies and beginners to carrying a gun. But safe gun handling has no age limit or experience level and any gun should always be treated with caution and respect. That said, new shooters must know that there are some dangerously stupid ideas being pushed as a result of what I call the “Tactical Polo Bro” culture.
For the beginner, a Tactical Polo Bro (TPB) is essentially a gatekeeper of certain angles of the shooting community. Most of us in the real world see them in a negative light, much in the way that fedora-wearing ‘nice guys’ are viewed in the dating scene. TTAG reader ‘pwrserge’ made this comment and I believe it’s a great example of the TPB mindset:
“Tactical polo bros” aka people smart enough to keep their booger hook off of the bang switch.
It should be noted for the newbie that proper trigger control has everything to do with personal responsibility, not intelligence as you will soon find. Regardless of whether you have a manual safety or not, you should keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire. It’s one of four cardinal rules of gun safety that every gun owner should live, learn and love.
There’s a particularly foolish and idiotic meme that resulted from a scene in the film Black Hawk Down where a main character is chastised for not having his rifle on safe and calls his trigger finger his ‘safety’ while being too cool to follow orders. I literally hear this at every gathering of TPBs I stumble into.
This isn’t safe and the people who do this are foolish. As a beginner, you shouldn’t take instruction from these people if you can identify them before you put money down for a class.
Reader ‘WhiteDevil’ had this to say about manual safeties:
Unnecessary. If you have to rely on an external safety to actually be safe, then you should re-examine your safety routine.
This is false. A manual safety is a safeguard against accidental (negligent) discharge which, despite what the TPBs have to say, is more likely to happen with a gun without a safety just as a matter of design. There is also the idea that the gun is physically locked in some way, which brings peace of mind to many people who carry them.
When I was writing the P365 MS article, I began conducting a survey of both gun owners and prospective gun owners. My initial survey results were limited to about 50 people, but I have since expanded it to 300 of all ages, both genders, and social/family status since I was initially criticized that my group was too small.
Needless to say, the results of the survey didn’t actually change that much. I asked the following questions in this survey:
- Do you own or carry a gun?
- Does your gun have a safety?
- If you don’t have a gun would you consider buying a gun without a safety?
- Would you feel safe carrying that gun without a safety?
- Why do you/don’t you want a safety on your gun?
Out of 300 respondents randomly selected, 105 admitted to owning and carrying a gun. That was higher than I expected, but I was in and around sporting goods stores for the majority of questioning.
Out of the group with guns, there were 29 who carried revolvers and none had safeties, but all considered the guns to be safe from accidental discharge due to the weight of the trigger pull. The revolver carriers did say that they were comfortable with buying a(nother) gun without a safety, but would not carry it, as they had, in general, chosen revolvers for the various advantages a revolver has over a small automatic.
The group that regularly carried automatics had a surprisingly low rate of carry without a safety. The most popular small automatics in my sample group were .380 ACP or 9mm micro pistols like the SIG P238 and P938. Both of those models have safeties. Most people who had a carry gun with a safety also owned a gun without one, but didn’t necessarily carry it for size and weight reasons.
The more interesting part of the survey came from the non-gun owners or prospective gun owners, a group of almost 200 people. The group without guns vastly supported safeties. A total of 173 respondents, or roughly 90% of that group said they would prefer a gun with a safety on it if they were to carry one.
The reasons varied, but most agreed that they would feel unsafe with no manual safety on the gun. They didn’t feel that a gun with no manual safety was safe around their families or on their person due to the perceived risk of accidental discharge.
I have heard that this is a non-issue if you carry in a holster, but a lot of people who carry regularly carry in pockets or off-body. This has led some of the TPB persuasion to look down on those who they consider novices or poorly trained. It’s rare to carry a full size 9mm with three backup mags despite what you see in the gun magazines or ads. Most normal people just don’t do that.
It must be noted here that there’s nothing wrong with you if you want a gun with a manual safety. All three guns I carry regularly have one: a 1911, SIG M17, and SIG P365. I find that the manual safety is a good thing and I have great peace of mind when holstering and unloading my various pistols.
I also sometimes carry in bags and other off-body methods. It should be noted that the M17 and P365 can be loaded and unloaded with the safety on, where my 1911 can only be loaded and unloaded with the safety off, although it does have a grip safety.
If you as a beginner are confronted with people who are dead-set on gatekeeping self-defense methods, keep in mind that it’s your life and your gun. If you feel safer with a manual safety, you should get a gun with one. If you feel uncomfortable with a gun with just a trigger safety or no safety at all, don’t buy one.
The TPB types should be ignored because, as reader ‘WhiteDevil’ demonstrates with this classy comment, you essentially have no business carrying a gun unless you are educated to think like he/she does.
Those 90% often are quite ignorant of safety practices and have been led to equate “manual safety” with “actual safety.” If 90% of people believe the world is flat, does that make it so?
It would be more appropriate to teach people, no drill in their heads, the rules of gun safety, something which a manual safety doesn’t satisfy. (It) provides a false sense of security to these people.
Instead of your pissy, passive-aggressive response, understand that I understand the wants of these people in the gun world.
One guy I know wanted a manual safety on his f**king Glock. I thought that was weird as hell, but I didn’t chide him for it. I knew him to be quite ignorant of firearm terminology, firearms themselves, and the culture surrounding it. Education is key.
The reason SIG, Ruger, Smith & Wesson and other companies make guns with manual safeties is because a large number of people prefer them. These people aren’t the demographic who tend to comment on TTAG, as they see guns as tools of self-defense and not topics of debate.
It should be noted that virtually every rifle and shotgun has a manual safety in some form. AR, AK, M1 Garand, Remington 700, and hundreds of others are all guns with manual safeties and yet there is no debate about their presence on those firearms.
The number of total models without a manual safety are fewer than you might think. Most revolvers lack a manual safety due to their action type and heavy trigger pull, sometimes as much as 20 lbs. Many automatics have triggers in the 5-10 lb range, which makes them much easier to pull if grabbed in a hurry or when tangled in a shirt or pants.
This brings us to the final point here, which is a reoccurring argument that I have heard time and again when listening to this manual safety argument. The major element we have to look at is how GLOCK pistols shaped the idea of what constitutes a safe gun.
A GLOCK cannot uses a trigger safety only and relies on a striker fire mechanism that has elements of a double-action pull to maintain safe carry. The gun will fire upon pulling the trigger…or accidentally getting it caught in clothing. In my opinion, a GLOCK is not as safe a gun as a 1911.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that I am throwing shade at GLOCK because of my view of their design. I just don’t believe that a small tab on the trigger should be the only means of preventing a discharge when you take it out of the holster at night or put it in the nightstand in the dark. Yet millions of people own, carry and use GLOCKs safely every single day.
But you are not ignorant if you happen to want a thumb safety on your GLOCK. You just won’t find that they make a model that has one. There are many other guns that do and you’re not uneducated for wanting one.
I like manual safeties, but I understand that there are some liabilities associated with them. You had better practice taking it on and off from a draw or else you might just find that it prevents you from firing in a tense, defensive situation.
There is this idea out there that you will never have time to disengage it during a DGU. That simply isn’t true. Training and practice can allow you to present and fire a gun with a thumb safety just as fast as a gun without one.
At the end of the day, I believe that the whole safety/no-safety thing is question a personal choice. That said, guns without manual safeties are in the overall minority.
If you find that you’re comfortable with a gun that has no means of being put “on safe,” that choice is up to you to make. There is no shame in carrying a gun that has the ability to be put on safe despite the negative feedback you may come across from some dude-bro with a polo shirt and edgy facial hair.