Where Is The Safety On A Gun? Mechanical Safety Features, Explained
Where Is The Safety On A Gun? Depends On The Gun!
Where is the safety on a gun? It depends on the gun as each has a unique design of safety mechanism.
The most important one is between your ears.
While mechanical safety features do prevent accidental discharges and other potential disasters from occurring, the operator makes far more difference.
A person who handles guns safely, shoots them safely, carries them safely, and stores them safely is less susceptible to accidents. Rarely will a mechanical safety feature save you. Therefore, the most important safety is therefore gun safety, which starts with you.
Long guns are rather simple. The safety lever is almost always on the receiver of semi-autos, the rear of the bolt or on the tang of most rifles, and on the trigger guard of most shotguns except for the tang-mounted safety of Mossbergs.
With that said, where the safety feature on a gun is located is heavily dependent on what kind of gun you have. We'll go over some popular models of handgun to show you.
Where Is The Safety On A 1911?
The safety features on a 1911 are located at the rear of the frame, as this is the location of the thumb safety and the grip safety.
However, Colt updated the 1911 design in 1983 with the creation of the Series 80 pistol, which added a firing pin block to make the pistol more drop-safe. Other manufacturers of 1911 pistols have likewise added this feature.
The thumb safety of a 1911 mechanically blocks the sear, which is the mechanical device that allows the hammer to fall onto the firing pin, discharging a cartridge. While engaged, the gun cannot be fired.
The grip safety acts as a lever. When at rest, the grip safety bar is resting against the sear, which blocks the trigger from traveling far enough to trip the sear and discharge a cartridge. By gripping the pistol, the grip safety pivots the trigger safety bar up and out of the way.
1911 pistols with a firing pin block - after all, it's only a Series 80 if it's made by Colt - also add a firing pin block, a metal cylinder with a cutout in the center that sits in the hole in the firing pin channel. This is under the hammer block in the slide.
The firing pin, therefore, is effectively blocked until the trigger is depressed. The trigger bar actuates a tilting link that pushes the firing pin up and allows the firing pin to travel forward, striking the primer of a cartridge.
That is where the safety features of a 1911 is located.
Where Is The Safety On A Glock And Other Striker-Fired Pistols?
The safety on a Glock, as well as other striker-fired pistols of similar design, is the trigger mechanism itself. While all of them have some minor mechanical differences, all of them operate in the same way.
The trigger bar itself connects to a connector hook that actuates the striker. Typically, the firing pin/striker assembly is almost fully cocked by the cycling of the slide. What the trigger does is bring it fully to the rear and release it.
When at rest, the trigger itself is blocked from the trigger bar. Pressure must be applied to the trigger tab, or the slack in the trigger taken up by the trigger finger to connect the trigger to the trigger bar itself.
At rest, the trigger bar is not aligned with the firing mechanism, preventing the striker/firing pin from being released and discharging a cartridge. By depressing the trigger, the trigger bar is brought into alignment so the gun may be fired.
Striker-fired pistols also include a firing pin block, essentially the same as the Series 80 1911 design discussed above and in the same location. Similarly, the firing pin block is lifted out of the way via a tilting link that's connected to the trigger mechanism.
Again, all striker pistols have minor mechanical differences. Some don't have a tabbed trigger, such as Sig Sauer's striker-fired pistol, but all of them work the same way. The firing mechanism is disconnected until the trigger starts to be pulled.
By whomever...or whatever...is pulling it.
Where's The Safety On A Revolver?
Modern revolvers, meaning modern double-action revolvers, have two safety features. First is a transfer bar safety.
Modern revolvers have a tiny firing pin in the frame between the hammer and the cylinder. The transfer bar blocks the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled.
A transfer bar is literally a small bar of metal connected to the trigger. As the trigger rotates, the transfer bar is moved up and down in the aperture window between the cylinder and the hammer, or inside the frame in case of a sealed DAO like one of the S&W Model 42 series.
The transfer bar travels on a slight eccentric, almost like a piston in an engine. At rest, the transfer bar is at the top of travel, and as the trigger travels back, the transfer bar lowers out of the way and the hammer can strike the firing pin.
The other safety on a revolver is not so much an actual safety device as it is a de facto one, namely the double-action trigger, which is much harder to pull inadvertently; a double-action trigger, on a revolver or semi-auto, often requires the shooter to mean it.
Granted, negligent discharges happen with revolvers too. While the double-action firing system may seem to make revolvers inherently "safer" - a common refrain for fans of double/single action semi-autos as well - there's still potential for disaster to occur.
After all, all it takes for the gun to discharge is for the trigger to be pulled...regardless of by whom or what.
DA/SA Wonder Nines: Where's The Safety?
If you look at all the guns covered above, what you might notice is that we've basically covered the most popular pistols...pretty much in existence.
However, there is also the old DA/SA Wonder Nine pistols, which - while arguably behind the times - are still an excellent choice of fightin' iron. That said, the most popular are the following three pistols or their derivatives:
The Sig Sauer P226/P220 family, the Beretta 92/M9 family, and the CZ 75/75 family and their clones. Yes, there are more, but these are the most popular.
The Sig Sauer P226 has no external safety features, but has a number of internal safety features. First is a firing pin block, in the same manner and location as the other pistols previously mentioned.
Secondly, the hammer rests on a safety notch in the sear instead of laying flat in the slide recess against the firing pin. Therefore, the hammer cannot contact the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled or - and this would take some doing! - hit hard enough to slam forward.
The Sig Sauer P220/P226/SP2022 system also has a trigger bar disconnector, ensuring the trigger mechanism cannot engage the rest of the firing mechanism unless the trigger is pulled.
Sig Sauer touts 4 safety features, but one of them is the decocker. Whether you think that counts is up to you.
The standard configuration of CZ 75 has two safety features: a firing pin block in the slide, just like everyone else, and a manual safety, located at the rear of the frame just above the grips.
The CZ 75 can be manually decocked for a double-action first shot...but that's for rookies. The '75 and clones with a manual safety are supposed to be carried cocked and locked; the double-action trigger is more of a second-strike feature in case of poor primer strikes.
This is also true of CZ clones, such as those by Tanfoglio, Canik, SAR and the IWI Jericho.
The decocking models, such as the CZ 75D, 97BD, 75D PCR, P-01, P-09 and P-07 have a decocker with a trigger safety notch, much like Sig Sauer's design, and located in the same area as the standard model's safety lever.
The Beretta 92, however, has a slightly more unique design. The safety levers, located at the rear of the slide, disconnect the trigger from the sear (trigger pull but no pew) as well as rotating the safety lever bar itself to block the hammer, and decock the pistol safely.
The 92 differs from the Sig Sauer and CZ decocking pistol in that the hammer is dropped completely forward. The safety notch is not there, as the barrel of the of the safety lever bar blocks the firing pin as it is rotated, allowing for the hammer to safely drop all the way.
The 92 series also has a firing pin block in the slide ahead of the rear sights, which - like everyone else's - lifts up when the trigger is pulled, allowing the cartridge to be fired. Beretta's is unique, though, as it is rectangular and protrudes out of the slide as the trigger is pulled.
The PX4 series actually functions the same way. While the gun is internally quite different than the 92, it actually works the same way just with some differently-shaped parts.
There are some other DA/SA designs out there, but delving into them becomes an exercise in esoterica.
Where Is Most Important The Safety On A Gun? In The Head And Hands Of The Shooter
The most important safety on a gun, however, is in the mind and in the hands of the shooter. While we can - and are happy to talk about - the safety features of popular guns on the market, the reality is that safe operation depends on you.
The most important safety device is knowing and following the tenets and practices of gun safety.
Some people argue that no mechanical safety is necessary if the operator is safe and competent with firearms, except for a single-action pistol like a 1911 or Browning Hi Power
There's something to that. A mechanical safety is something of a fallback, a redundancy, in case something goes wrong while carrying a gun. Mechanical systems fail all the time, after all.
Others argue having one is only an issue if you don't train, and that they're also good to have in case of a gun grab.
Both are true;1911s are hugely popular in shooting sports and a number of police officers are alive because a suspect couldn't figure out the safety device on a 92 or a S&W 59...and a number of officers are dead because revolvers and Glocks don't have them.
Negligent discharges rarely happen because of a mechanical defect unknown to the shooter. Most of them happen because someone was taking chances they shouldn't have been taking.
If you handle guns safely, shoot them in a safe manner, and store them safely in your home, that goes a very long way to ensuring you won't suffer a negligent discharge or other accident. A manual safety won't necessarily save you.
However, knowing how they work, and therefore how best to operate the gun you own...is key in understanding how to handle, shoot and store YOUR gun safely.