Manual Safety For Pistols — Good Or Bad For Concealed Carry?

Manual Safety For Pistols -- Good Or Bad For Concealed Carry?

One pistol that almost all former military recognize is the Beretta 92, also known as the M-9. The Beretta 92 (M-9) is a single action/double action pistol that has four basic conditions (4, 3, 1, 0). At condition 1, considered a pistol that is ready to be used, the manual safety is the last thing to be switched off before engaging targets. While the civilian pistol market varies far greater than the few pistols employed for military and law enforcement use, the prevalence of manual safeties in pistols has remained. Whether it’s a Taurus G2 or a Smith and Wesson M&P Shield, concealed carriers are presented with a number of opportunities to employ the use of a manual safety that must be turned off prior to using the pistol.

As we normally promote a Condition 1/0 stance — a pistol ready at all times — a manual safety is often a sore subject for debate amongst gun owners. On one hand, a manual safety represents a last ditch effort to keep a pistol safe if it should be taken out of our control. On the other hand, it represents a potential pitfall for a person caught in a defensive gun use situation and reflexively employing it for his own survival.

So, we have to ask — is a manual safety worth it for an everyday concealed carry pistol?

I would make the argument that it isn’t effective. While the military and some branches of law enforcement undoubtedly employ pistols that use them, for the average concealed carrier it proves to be just one more thing that may end up being an inadvertant risk.

I say “risk” because unlike military and law enforcement, we don’t have backup. If we jam or choke in a life or death situation, we could invariably open ourselves to deadly force unnecessarily. We should already be proficient to the point where we understand the time and place where deadly force is an authorized choice for our safety and not until that point attempt to use that handgun.

The issue of negligent discharge has also come up.

In events where an otherwise concealed carrier has left a handgun behind in a bathroom or had a pistol drop out of its holster, the presence of a manual safety is a fool’s grace more than it is an actual boon.

Using a holster with high retention, maintaining situational awareness of both ourselves and our environment, and keeping our finger off the trigger until we’re ready to fire are all inherent traits of a successful life-long concealed carrier. The failure to assert control over any of these three basic prerequisites opens up the gun owner to the potential of very bad things happening — things which the gun owner must take extremely seriously because he will ultimately be held to account for them.

And for the vast majority, none of us are truly mentally equipped to deal with the realities of a protracted conflict. We’re here to save our own lives and that of our family and property should the need arise. If a concealed carrier pulls his pistol, he needs to be ready to use it. The idea of pulling the trigger and nothing happening, while an innocent enough problem at a gun range, can be the difference between finishing a fight before it starts and being plunged into a protracted fight for survival.

In conclusion, a manual safety on a concealed carry handgun is unnecessary so long as the gun owner is willing to assert and maintain control over his own firearm at all times.

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  • StoutCortez

    With a single-action semiauto, I like having some sort of safety when I’m carrying. If my pistol has a grip safety (e.g., Springfield XDm or EMP 1911), I don’t feel the need for a safety switch, though I do keep it on with a cocked 1911 (condition 1). I don’t view a safety—grip or switch—as an impediment to an immediate response.

    I admit I would feel a bit uncomfortable with a Glock, or with a Beretta 92FS with the hammer cocked and the safety/decocker (naturally) off, even though those guns are theoretically 100 percent safe in a proper holster.

  • ddd22

    What is irrelevant in deciding factor is How likely an individual, how frequently an individual is going to likely have to use a gun for self-defense . law enforcement carry hot for the both of us do well in the course of our life rarely if ever have to use a gun for self-defense, carrying hot especially without a safety common leaves one in the situation where an accidental discharge is much more likely than an accidental discharge….. Practice and it will become second nature and you won’t have to worry about shooting yourself in the foot. complication due to failing to turn off the safety can easily be mastered with Practice practice practice. One other thought which pocket carry you never really know which way the muzzle is pointing half the time, do you really not want a mechanical safety under that condition. I just talked to gun instructor who is 65 years and never had to put his CCW. No safety is for Cowboys, cops or the FBI. For the both of those of us who carry under normal circumstances a safety is a must

  • Anvil6

    The gun is part of what I put on when I dress in the morning. I assume a 100% probability that I will have to use the gun that day AND that either hand is equally likely to be running the gun. No, I am not a fan of extra manual safety switches on my EDC pistol (which is why – with MUCH gnashing of teeth – it’s not a single-action 1911 auto). Draw, aim at bad guy, shoot. Proper holster, keep booger hook(s) off bang stick until time to shoot, re-holster with care (keep EVERYTHING away from the trigger). Practice with “other-side” holsters for those times when I’ve done something embarrassing and disabling to my “preferred-side” hand/arm before I left the house that morning. Just my $0.02 worth.

  • Bob

    I don’t like manual safeties, but I want a handgun that has a manual safety.

    Sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it. Actually it makes perfect sense, when you realize the kind of pistols that come with manual safeties. I’ll explain.

    There are basically four types of triggers (and associated safeties) on almost all of the semi-auto pistols in the world. You all know what they are :
    Striker-fired (like Glocks and Springfields use),
    DAO (often used in sub-compacts made by companies like Kahr),
    DA/SA (used in Sigs, Berrettas, H&Ks, etc.), and
    SAO (used in 1911s and in competition “race guns” from several manufacturers).

    Striker-fired guns are relatively low cost and relatively easy to learn, but the trigger pulls are usually heavier than optimum (5 to 8 lbs). Their safeties generally consist of grip safety, trigger safety, and drop safety.
    DAO (Double Action Only) pistols are often chosen by police departments, because they are less prone to have a negligent discharge. Their trigger pulls are usually very heavy (8 up to 12 lbs.), which makes them very difficult to shoot accurately. Their safeties generally consist of trigger safety, drop safety, and a heavy trigger pull (hard to accidentally pull the trigger without noticing it).
    DA/SA (Double Action/Single Action) are the most common type of pistols. To properly use them, one needs to learn how to operate a trigger with a very firm trigger pull for the first shot (10 to 12 lbs.) and light subsequent trigger pulls (4 to 6 lbs.). This can be very difficult, especially when one doesn’t practice live fire very often. Their safeties generally consist of trigger safety, drop safety, and a heavy DA trigger pull. However, one needs to develop the habit of engaging the decocker (putting the gun back into DA mode) before re-holstering.
    SAO (Single Action Only) triggers are used on some of the best pistols, because they have light trigger pulls (3 to 5 lbs.), which makes it much easier to fire them accurately. There was a time when all semi-auto pistols were SAO. The other trigger-types were developed later in the 20th century. SAO pistols are usually carried “cocked and locked”, with their trigger cocked and the manual safety engaged. Their other safeties include grip safety, trigger safety, and drop safety.

    So why do I prefer a gun with a manual safety? Because I prefer a gun with a light, easy to learn, SAO trigger. And I would never feel safe sliding a gun with a light trigger into my holster, unless it had a manual safety.

    Your choice (and opinions) may vary…

    • Nancy McPherson

      My Glock 19 is DAO with a 4.5 lb. pull.

  • Lui

    I carried a sw 5906 for 20 years. I always carried hot with the safety off. The de-cocking lever and double action was the reason why. There is a lot to be said about the first trigger pull being a 6 to 7 pound trigger pull over the single action 3 pound trigger pull. That is the reason since I retired and am now working private security carrying a glock 17, I carry cold. I wish it had a safety on it. It’s a lot easier to turn the safety off with a flick of a finger then charge it by racking the slide. During my police career, I have seen many an accidental shooting, and the aftermath effects of civil litigation, prosecutoral scrutiny and the impact on your family is just too nightmarish to consider not taking the extra safety precaution. The PD I retired from switched to glock 17’s after I retired and before the 1st year was up, accidental shootings were up by over a 100%. The entire department had to be recalled for intensive additional safety training on the gun.

  • Randmo

    Sorry, there’s no friggin’ way I’m going to carry every day, a pistol without a safety AND one in the pipe. The thought of doing so gives me the willies. I pocket carry and so I need a small gun. A .380. When I was shopping for it I only found one with a safety. I bought it (S&W M&P BG380 semi) and feel good with it. There’s no way anyone could talk me into carrying a safeless gun. Nope.

  • NewerHCE

    I am always amazed that people who worry that they may have a brain cramp and not flick the lever at a critical time believe that there is no way they could unintentionally let their finger drift towards the trigger at a non-critical time.

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    • Gordon Waite

      You are correct. It is all about training, repetition and muscle memory.

  • majorrod

    I would never decree the right answer to safety or not. It depends on so many things.

    While the users failure to take the safety off is often mentioned by those who contest the utility of a safety the downside of pulling the trigger too soon is rarely discussed.

    Yes, in the heat of the moment one may forget to take the safety off. Just as likely is pulling the trigger too quickly. Sure we are supposed to train not to put our finger on the trigger until we are ready to fire but can’t we also train to remove that safety?

    Citing one fault while avoiding the other seems a self serving tactic when trying to prevent an objective analysis of various courses of action.

    Is not having a safety “easier” so there’s one less thing to worry or train to. I think so but I don’t think “easy” or “less training” are always sound approaches to handling firearms.

    I believe it always comes back to the individual. What one’s likes/dislikes, training level/commitment and specific situations/adversary one is preparing for should dictate the pistol one selects.

    • Bigearsbarry

      I believe, in a nut shell, you are correct. Personal choice of what they feel comfortable to carry and the controls on said piece, plus training with that system. That is how you have success if ever needed to be called upon.

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  • Nancy McPherson

    A Glock has 3 built-in safeties, but none of them have to be manually released. The most obvious one is in the trigger, the middle piece that automatically releases when the trigger is pulled. I like the point and shoot of the Glock because it is so simple, and carry with a round in the chamber. If I have to use my weapon I don’t need the delay of racking the slide or remembering to click off a safety.

  • Saltporkdoc

    As a police officer in the ’70’s I was trained well in the use of revolvers which, of course, have no safeties other than those of motor skills and mental acuity of the handler. Needing and wanting more firepower without reloads, I carried a semi automatic with a safety off duty and on-duty as a back-up. I never had difficulty transitioning back and forth, but can see the average CCW carrier having difficulty doing so since they typically rarely, if ever, PRACTICE.
    After retirement, I carried semi-autos exclusively. All had safeties ( Beretta 92, Springfield Armory 1911, Bersa .380, Beretta Jet-fire .25 auto, Sig .40 S&W). I engaged or disengaged the safety based upon threat assessment. after the same amount of time carrying semi-autos as I had been in law enforcement, an injury caused physical incapacitation such that I would not be able to clear a stovepipe jam or even recycle the slide, I returned to revolvers ( Ruger LCR, Ruger SP101, Colt Magnum Carry). Admittedly, I was a bit nervous at first, but a couple of trips to the range with subsequent handling to clean the firearms and all the old habits kicked back in.

    Long answer to say, it all depends on the operator and the circumstances, not the firearm per se!

  • Richard Dryden

    I switch from my trigger safety S&W to a Taurus PT92 manual safety/decocker. I figured if it has a hammer I wanted that extra precaution. The nice thing about that model is that safety is on the frame and sticks out enough that as I’m sliding my hand onto the grip my thumb almost naturally hit the safety down, and I’m ready in DA mode. I feel safe carrying either gun type because I know with the safety if it falls its not going to go off and even though I’m not stupid enough to shoot myself in the foot the gun slipping out of my hand, off the table, or something similar can happen even to the safest person.

  • kevin

    I CARRY a ruger 9mm revolver, takes all the thinking out of it……

  • Ipabrew

    Curious if there is any factual data to support this argument that a manual safety is bad idea for CC . Or is this an opinion of one? Not criticizing the opinion btw., just curious about what facts about cases that back it up ……

    • yikesarama

      It’s his opinion, with a large number of dissenting views. The article is way too general… depends on the gun as much as the user.

  • enword

    If you are concerned like I was that a thumb safety would slow you down, I recommend a firearm like Springfield’s XD that has a combination grip safety and trigger safety. Completely negates the need to “flick a switch” during a moment of crisis.

  • yikesarama

    My SIG and my S&W J-frame? No problem. My striker fired SR9C (my EDC gun)? Definitely want a safety. Has nothing to do with leaving it in a bathroom.

  • Gordon Waite

    I find this article to be a prejudiced and narrow minded view of a person who thinks he knows more about weapons safety than everyone else. If a person chooses a manual safety for their off duty, or if a civilian their EDC, (open or concealed) that is based on their knowledge, their training, their abilities, and their life experiences, I say that they know better than the author of this article. I have carried for over 40 years, on and off based on jurisdictional laws after my military and law enforcement years. I have carried weapons with and without external safeties and i can say that it takes no more time to disengage a weapons thumb safety as you bring it to bear on target than a weapon without an external thumb safety. Like most concealed carriers I have a couple different pistols that I carry depending on a variety of circumstances and I have a few types of holsters for each. A couple are retention holsters, but most are not. I have never in my mind found the Glock type trigger (the tiny trigger inside the trigger) a saftey feature other than a drop saftey. I have seen these triggers snag on clothing and heard of them snagging on foliage or other small, firm, projecting items causing a negligent discharge.
    So in conclusion I believe the whole opinionated expounding of a so-called expert telling people they do not need an external thumb safety is a dangerous and possibly a libelous mistake. The best thing I can add at this point is, “Better safe than sorry” for me, but maybe not for you!

  • larryjrmarlyn

    I won’t holster a striker-fired pistol unless it has a manual safety. Currently my lawful concealed carry pistol is the Beretta Px4 Storm subcompact. It has a safety/decocker, identical to my Beretta 92FS. Both pistols are traditional DA/SA. Why change?

  • MDS

    I like active safeties, and a hammer with a de-cocker and a half cocked safety position—especially if you keep a round in the chamber. It’s a no-brainer to remove the safety, if you aren’t panicking, and if you are panicking I like a safety all the more, because a panicking person probably won’t shoot accurately.

    Another key reason to have a manual safety is if you keep a gun within reach while sleeping. Reaching for the firearm while half asleep may result in a pulled trigger, and a manual safety WILL NOT ALLOW the FIREARM to SHOOT.

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