Some gun owners claim manual safeties are a bad, bad thing, a dangerous hindrance. Others consider manual safeties a necessary for responsible carry. It’s an old argument and these days, some anti-gun journalists (yes, that’s redundant) criticize gun makers for making pistols without external safeties. It’s time for everyone to accept a few facts about safeties on handguns.
First, it’s mostly the owners of GLOCKs, SIGs and other polymer striker-fired guns, as well as those who still carry wheel guns who say that a manual safety is pointless/unsafe/potentially dangerous. Those who who argue the opposite side love pointing out the accidental and negligent discharges they say are endemic to striker-fired guns. They mostly carry a 1911 or a DA semi-auto.
Each side claims that what they like is better than what someone else prefers. And it’s a pointless argument. Striker-fired guns without external safeties have been shown to be perfectly safe. Millions of people — including most cops — carry them every single day without incident. If you feel better toting a gun with a manual safety, there are plenty of models out there for you, too.
Ever listen to truck fanboys argue Ford vs. Chevy? It’s the same thing. Both brands of truck get terrible gas mileage, few people who own them actually need a half-ton vehicle and both brands are just as liable to break down. Heck, people in Australia have literally rioted over “Ford vs GM” arguments; beer sales at the Bathurst 1000 race had to be limited to 24 per person per day to cut down on the fighting and yes, you read that right.
One of the knocks against manual safeties is they slow you down when you need your gun. Here’s an experiment: take your dominant hand and hold it out in front of you like you’re about to shake someone’s hand. Now wiggle your thumb a bit. That wasn’t so difficult, was it? That’s all it takes to disengage a manual safety.
At this point, the commenters will say, “Well it’s a totally different story under stress!” Or something like that. Prima facie, they’re right and there’s something to be said for that. But the thing is that you’re supposed to train and practice regularly, regardless of what gun you carry.
If you carry a handgun with an engaged manual safety, part of your training must include deactivating the manual safety. That isn’t hard to do at all. It fits into your draw very well, as a matter of fact.
What about real-world incidents where a concealed carrier or officer got themselves killed by not deactivating a manual safety? Back in 2009, Massad Ayoob wrote (in Tactical Life but article is now here) that he was only able to find one actual example of a manual safety failure, resulting in injury (not death). It was a private citizen who was wounded after failing to disengage the safety of his Walther .380.
Said citizen also admitted that he’d never practiced with his pistol.
Ayoob recounted several incidents in which officers were killed when a suspect got their gun away from them and shot them due to their duty pistol lacking a manual safety. He also found instances in which suspects grabbed guns, but weren’t able to shoot the disarmed officer because the safety was engaged.
He also tested the speed of drawing a gun and firing with the safety on and the safety off, finding only a 1/100th of a second difference. Granted, Mas is far better trained than most shooters and indeed most police officers. But the point remains: with regular practice — and you do need to practice — there’s little speed advantage to be gained by going sans safety.
Ultimately, the fundamentals of concealed carry are largely the same for everyone, regardless of the gun you choose to carry. You need a good holster that covers the trigger. You have to follow the four rules of gun safety. And you need to train enough to be proficient with your personal defense gun of choice. It’s that simple.
So instead of the pointless bickering, let’s just enjoy the guns we’ve chosen. Let the GLOCK people enjoy their GLOCKs and the 1911 guys pay too much enjoy their 1911s. Let the SIG people love their SIGs and let the CZ people praise their CZs. And let’s even let those snubbie fans relax in the retirement home enjoy their J frames, LCRs and K6Ss.
There’s a gun out there for everyone, whatever their preferences may be. Just be sure you train with yours for when you really need it.