The dangers of an external safety:
Dangers of an External Safety: Don’t let your jaw hit the floor here. Yes, external safeties can be dangerous! Let’s go through the methodology here and you can decide for yourself. First, let me start by saying that my hubby and I have 30 years of experience combined in instructing and saving lives. We’ve had that real world experience of how dangerous they are and we’ve seen others who have been hurt by these.
I know this sounds counter-intuitive. It’s called ‘safety’ after all right? Doesn’t that mean that it makes the gun safer? Sure, it makes it not go bang. But what happens when you need to use your firearm with your support hand. Let’s assume for this post that you have a neutral opinion on these. Keep an open mind on this issue.
First, external pistol safeties are perceived as and used for another level preventing a negligent discharge, or accidental discharge. However, if the 4 firearm safety rules are followed there should never be a negligent discharge.
Second, if one is proper and responsible in the handling and carrying of a pistol, i.e. the use of a good holster, proper firearms manipulations, proper handling of the pistol during draw and re-holster; there will not be a negligent discharge. That is not to say that accidents don’t happen. An accident is something that is not avoidable, such as the breaking of equipment or the breaking of metal in said firearm. With that being said when that hypothetical accident does occur if the proper firearms manipulation is being implemented (the 4 firearm safety rules) there will be no negligence in that discharge. This means there is no loss of life or any irreparable damage.
By definition, following the 4 firearm safety rules, which means implementing the 4 firearm safety rules, the gun will not go “bang” with negligence of the shooter. Thus, if an accident does occur (if something breaks) and a discharge of a round does happen, it will not be done in a negligent direction; meaning no one will get hurt.
Here are some intrinsic reasons why external safeties need to be thoroughly thought about:
- In a critical stress event (like self-defense), we lose fine motor skills. This is why we use the “lobster claw” method of racking the slide. You need to train with those gross motor skills because that’s what your body will be capable of during a critical stress event. Unless you have thousands of hours of practice of repetition to develop that muscle memory of deactivating the safety, you might not have the mental capacity to do so in a critical stress event. This has been observed on all students, shooters, of all levels, on all weapons; while on a one-way, low-stress range, where the only thing they are competing against is their previous shot group. They are NOT competing against someone who is trying to take their life.
- If your hands are sweaty, muddy, bloody, or gloved you may not be able to deactivate the safety or even have the physical ability to do so!
- If the firearm is not properly carried by way of a good holster or good position on the body the safety can be activated or deactivated while in carry or draw. This would change the status of the firearm without you knowing.
Then it comes to the possibility of having to use your firearm with your support hand (non-dominate hand). If the firearm has a safety on the left side of the gun (for a right handed shooter) how can the shooter deactivate the safety if it’s on “wrong side” of the firearms. A majority of the self-defense guns we see come through our courses have been smaller framed firearms and the safeties are only on the left side of the gun and are very low-profile. Which means if you are shooting with your left hand it will be extremely difficult to deactivate that safety, because your palm will be covering it.
On some pistols, when the safety is on, the slide cannot be operated. This can cause severe problems if you’re trying to clear any malfunctions. There are times during training that we have observed students use improper firearms manipulation while attempting to fix a malfunction. Due to this improper firearms manipulation they are inadvertently activating the safety and cannot go through with their immediate action. The immediate action being “tap, rack, bang” to fix the malfunction of the firearm. So, not only is their firearm not working due to said malfunction, but they also cannot use immediate action because their slide is now locked because the safety was accidently engaged. Again, this is all observed on all shooters who train on pistols with safeties.
Most modern pistols come with other external safeties as well as internal safeties. This is to prevent accidental discharges, NOT negligent discharges. Most modern firearms, in order to be competitive on the market, come with internal safeties to prevent an accidental discharge if the firearm is dropped. This is called a drop safety. So you can take your loaded firearm, with a round in the chamber, safety off, chuck it into a field and it will not go bang. Because that’s not what the firearm is designed to do. We’ve tested this 😉
What this all boils down to is having the proper firearms handling, selection, and training, along with the proper equipment. With these 4 concepts used correctly, while following the 4 firearm safety rules, an external safety is a danger to your ability to defend yourself.