So I was having my semi-daily chin wag with Fearless Leader today, and talk turned to handgun safeties. RF mentioned he’d seen the Kimber Solo up close and personal, and mentioned that it’s safety was a lot easier to operate (in both directions) than that of the new Ruger. I opined that, IMHO, the Springfield XD has the ideal combination of a grip safety and trigger safety. Why that configuration? Well, that leads me to an admission: despite my ability to put shots on target down range, I have one Achilles Heel: I frequently forget to flip off the friggin’ safety.
If you’ve read any of my work here on TTAG, you know I’m a big fan(boy) of the 1911. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate other makes and models. I just like 1911s, and I dare say I understand them. To me, a 1911 is like a favorite uncle – a little older and maybe just over the high-side of his youth, a little quirky, and you have to ‘get’ his temperament to get along with him. But if you can handle the quirks, he’s a great guy to know, and there’s nobody better to have your back in an emergency. That is not to say that some of those quirks can’t come back to bite you on occasion, and I’m not talking about the need for a beaver-tail grip safety.
I’ve heard the safety on the 1911 compared (elsewhere here on TTAG) to a boat paddle or a propeller blade. Guilty as charged. The ambi safety on my Springfield loaded is big enough to cause it to fail a wind tunnel test. And the safety on the Kimber Pro Crimson Carry II I’ve been shooting is large enough to double as a flipper for a frogman in need. But size (contrary to what you may have heard) is not everything.
In many ways, a large safety that sticks out from here to tomorrow is a mixed blessing. Sure it’s easy to flip it. And that’s good. But it’s also easy to flip it. And that can be bad, if you didn’t mean to take the pistol off safety. Even worse, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the range readied my pistol, put my finger on the trigger and…nothing. No click. No bang. Because I’d forgotten to take it off safety.
Now what my conversation with RF got me to thinking about was one of my favorite aphorisms of my dear, departed Dad, namely Don’t bother trying to make anything foolproof, because fools are so ingenious. And they are. You see, I don’t think it would make a bit of difference if I was shooting a 1911, a Ruger, a Sig, or any other make or model. If you forget to take off the safety, it ain’t gonna fire. Do that in a shootout or self-defense situation, and you are gonna die. And imagine how stupid I’m gonna look ending up as the “Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day,” or even worse – a statistic.
Nope, I don’t think that the design of the safety is Problem #1 here. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that as long as the safety works, you can eliminate that as the problem. No, my problem is that I need to spend hours at the range, doing nothing but practicing taking the gun off safety as Standard Operating Procedure when shooting.
I realize that, for many of you, this is a “No…DUH!” moment. But I suspect I’m not alone in this. I’d bet you a box of Winchester White Box that more than one of you have brought your pistol to the ready, pulled the trigger and realized “Oh, crap…I forgot to take it off safety.” Let’s see a show of hands, shall we? Um huh. Just as I thought. And those that DON’T have this problem? I’m betting there’s a leitmotif that runs through your training routines, that being you practice taking the gun off safety as a part of your range time. Am I right?
Now let’s assume for the nonce that we have the practice part down. (I’m not saying to overlook it – far from it – but let’s look at the other side of the equation.) Revolvers, as a class, have no safety. SA or DA, most guys I know that carry revolvers leave the hammer down on an empty chamber in the cylinder. But if you’re gonna use a semi-auto for self-defense, carrying without one in the pipe will get you killed. I don’t want to have to depend on having enough time to rack the slide, when my life is on the line. So “cocked and locked” is the name of the game. A safety mechanism becomes a much bigger deal in that context.
So…how many safeties are too many? Many 1911 fans insist that the grip safety is an unnecessary addition, and defiles an otherwise elegant design. They point to Browning’s last pistol as evidence that the grip safety was an unneeded addition, added more to squelch the prattlings of a couple of influencers in the U.S. Army, than something driven by need. (I’m unconvinced.) I think that if it doesn’t malfunction or cause the gun not to run, where’s the harm? And I’ve yet to see a 1911 where the grip safety was the reason it wouldn’t run.
The thumb safety is, I suppose, a necessary evil on a 1911. But I can tell you, I have more than once looked longingly at the trigger safety on the Springfield XD, and wished they made that as a street mod for my 1911.
I’m of the school that the original XD design (which does not feature a thumb safety) is the best of all possible designs. You have to both grip the pistol and pull the trigger to get it to fire. An additional safety on an XD just isn’t needed. If you secure your pistol and keep it away from those that would misuse it (that would be kids and bad guys) then an additional safety will just get in the way. Like just when you need it, and forget to take that safety off.
I’m a big believer in Occam’s Razor. Or to put it another way, the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. In a situation where adrenalin rules, I don’t want anything that will keep me from saving my own sorry tookus. I realize and freely admit that there is no design that will ever be “Brad-proof.” That’s what training is for. But I’m coming around to the idea that the best design for a pistol may be the one that acknowledges that attempting to make something extra-safe can trigger that bitch of a task-mistress, The Law of Unintended Consequences. And that never ends well.