Rob Pincus

Manual Safety on a Self-Defense Handgun

Rob Pincus
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Using a Springfield Armory XD and a Beretta 92 as examples, Rob Pincus defines appropriate manually operated safeties for defensive pistols. When we talk about choosing a self-defense handgun at this point in the evolution of defensive firearms, we recommend that you have a firearm that does not have any manually operated external safeties that require actions that are not already inherent in the process of defending yourself with the firearm.

What Does That Mean?

It’s easy to understand that cumbersome language when looking at a self-defense handgun like the Springfield XD, on which there are two manually operated safeties. One is the grip safety and the other is the trigger disconnect safety on the front of the trigger. Both are parts that you must engage to fire the XD. You are not doing anything extra—not taking any extra steps that are not part of firing the gun. The XD has appropriate manually operated safeties.

Older Models

The Beretta 92 has a manual safety that you must disengage by making an extra movement that has nothing to do with firing the gun to defend yourself. You must use your thumb to push the safety lever forward and make it so that the trigger and the hammer are actually connected. Making any extra movements with a self-defense handgun is not a good idea when you are under stress in a worst-case scenario and when every fraction of a second counts. The Beretta 92 does not have appropriate manually operated safeties.

Safer and Better

The XD’s controls are not only more efficient for the defensive shooter, but also safer because both safeties must be disengaged before the weapon will fire. There is very little chance this will happen and cause a negligent discharge.

Compare the types of safeties when doing handgun training to appreciate the differences.

Share tips, start a discussion or ask one of our experts or other students a question.

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10 Responses to “Manual Safety on a Self-Defense Handgun”

  1. James

    My concern about having a manual safety is that I provide security where there are several children present. Have had issues with kids running into you,exposing my gun.

  2. Scott Benton

    I'm one of the fee who still prefers a manual safety on a defensive firearm, but for a completely different reason. Let me back up a moment and say that I used to avoid manual safeties for the same reason as stated in the extra step that could slow down response time. Well, several years back, I was holstering a Glock 23, while keeping my eyes forward towards possible threats, as trained. However, as I started to push my firearm down into the holster, something didn't feel right. As I pulled the gun out to take a look, I found that the draw string on the hoodie I was wearing had managed to slip inside the trigger guard without my noticing it. Had I continued to holster the pistol, the string looked as if it would have defeated the trigger safety and forced the trigger back, firing the weapon inadvertently. Now, I prefer a manual safety, but I only put it on while I holster the gun and once it is secure in the holster, I flip it OFF to make the weapon ready. I use the safety for that one purpose safely holster the gun while my eyes are elsewhere, scanning for threats. I never leave it on so I don't have to worry about that extra step when drawing, but after a potential negligent discharge while holstering, I feel much better about having a manual safety for the purpose of holstering the gun and ALWAYS flip it off once the firearm is secure.

  3. Michael

    In my opinion, the greatest threat of an accidental discharge from a pistol with only a trigger safety (Glock) or a trigger safety and grip safety (Springfield XD non-E) occurs when holstering. Trigger snag is in line with the holstering direction on the Trigger Safety models and with the holstering hand push on the grip safety if it has one. I do like to have a pistol ready for action with one hand and also like a SD/DA with decocker and safety (Springfield XD-E) to minimize an accidental discharge. It slows things down a little, but minimizes risk.

  4. Gary

    I came from the old school of Law Enforcement when we transitioned from revolvers to pistols. We were taught and trained to carry with the manual safety on. This was for two main reasons, 1) If your gun was taken away, the chances of the bad guy knowing to disengage the safety gave you the extra seconds to grab your BUG. 2) The hammer block was engaged, so if dropped, an AD was prevented. We trained that once we cleared leather, the safety was immediately disengaged. All of my EDCs have a manual safety, eventhough, I am no longer in uniform. Personal preference for me. . .I prefer the extra safety measure, as it is instinctual to take it off, once leather is cleared and to re-engage it when putting it back into the holster.

  5. NChen

    Of course some people get guns with external manual safeties for the wrong reasons. And of course some people who have external manual safeties do not train to use the safety, when you must train for that. And thirdly, of course even those who have handguns with manual safeties do not support any laws making them mandatory. That said some people saying they are never helpful are imagining their own usage is the same as everyone else's carry usage. In my combination of work and the carry laws in my jurisdiction, I have to not only remove gun in holster to store in my car once a day, I must also unload the firearm. This means removing the gun and holster from my belt, removing the gun from the holster in a semi public area (something other carriers may never do ), removing magazine, and unchambering the chambered round. I also have to reverse the procedure when leaving. Over the years this is thousands of manipulations of a loaded firearm in semi-public environment. On a light trigger weight ( say under say six or seven pounds) pull striker the risk starts to add up non-trivial levels for anyone. it is not about the simple minded "keep your finger of the trigger" answer people blurt, but about accumulated risk

  6. Kerry

    I am much more comfortable with the manual safety. I was brought up starting with the 1911, just what I'm use to. I have fallen in love with the XDe, in my case the perfect carry.

  7. Andy

    This article is pure opinion and preference. A manual safety is fine. Depending on the level of traininIng, high stress situations, the 1911 in Condition 1 (round chambered, hammer cocked, thumb safety applied ("On") -or any other auto with a manual safety that, when applied before or after firing, prevents the pistol from firing is inherently safer than any pistol without a manual safety. There have been many documented incidents where suspects have been shot by officers who Thought that their fingers were off the trigger but experienced "startle convulsive response" and touched a round off when ah, startled by an unexpected sound or action and convulsively clenched their gun hand when their support hand also clenched, irrespective of whether or not their support hand was on the gun. An applied manual safety would have prevented that. The XD is a nice gun. It is not my gun. The only Springers I own are 1911s (Professional and a Gunsite GSP). My other carry pistols are Colt, Wilson Combat and Nighthawk 1911s, SA/DA SIGs, Glocks, and a CZ75 PCR, depending on where I go, with whom, and when. The most important thing is for everyone to be intimately familiar with the operating characteristics of the weapon(s) they choose to carry, and train with it or them to the point that the chosen firearm's manual of arms is second nature/subconscious to them.BTW, the Beretta 92 safety can be modified to the M96's, which turns the safety to a decocker, like the SIG.

  8. Gary

    A very safe and appropriate option with DA/SA guns is not engage the safety and only use it as a decocker which many designs are already meant to do. When the Illinois State Police began to carry this type of pistol this is what they did. There is no reason to carry these pistols with the safety engaged.

  9. shooting north

    Rob, My issue weapon when I was in the US Army was a M1911A1. Training made a downward sweep of the safety second nature. I currently carry a striker fired pistol that also has a manual safety, again second nature to take the safety off when necessary. I just purchased a Taurus PT92 and again a downward sweep of the safety makes the firearm ready weather in single or double action. For me a manual safety is not a bad thing. Keeps me ready over a broad range of firearms, if it's not there I have lost nothing.

  10. Steve

    It seems that if we have a firearm without safety, let's take the grip and the trigger, the firearm is just as safe as with safety when we follow proper technique. How likely is it for a firearm without these two types of safeties to fire without being touched? Fairly impossible. So, are not the safety systems just there to appease gun ignorant group and then another mechanism that may fail and / or that must be maintained? With the safety at the slide with proper technique one does not need to engage this safety to holster the firearm correct?

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