Video: Handgun Safeties
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There’s only one way to ensure any firearm cannot fire. That’s to make certain it is unloaded and the action is open. On handguns, that means the slide is locked back, the cylinder is out, or the gun is broken open. Some handguns offer additional safety systems called—ta-da—safeties. Problem is, safeties come in many forms, and some handguns don’t offer a mechanical safety at all. So the best advice when it comes to safety is, never trust a safety. And the second-best advice is, work with a qualified, experienced instructor to learn your handgun. To give you a head start, let’s look at some of the safeties you’ll find on handguns.
On semi-autos, particularly single-actions and double-actions, there’s usually a thumb safety located conveniently for the strong-side thumb to operate. To fire the gun, you must disengage the safety. Additionally, many modern semi-auto designs also include a grip safety. The gun can’t be fired until this bar is compressed when you grip the gun. Some have both thumb and grip safeties, and others offer additional safety mechanisms. Remember, single-action, semi-auto pistols require the hammer be cocked prior to the first shot. Because these guns are often selected for defense purposes, they are frequently carried cocked and locked. In the holster, the hammer is cocked behind a live round in the chamber. This permits a faster, more accurate first shot. To fire, all that needs to be done is draw, flip off the safety, and shoot. This would be a dangerous way to carry, if not for the additional safety mechanisms.
Some double-action-only semi-autos and revolvers technically have no safety at all. These rely on that long, stout trigger pull as the safety system. This is especially true of small pistols designed for carry in a purse or pocket. The best safety mechanism for these is to carry in a pouch or holster, covering the trigger and trigger guard, so nothing can catch on the trigger when you extract it from your purse or pocket. Finally, on handguns with large, exposed hammers, like revolvers and single-shots, the hammer is a safety itself. On single-action guns, the hammer must be manually cocked before each shot can be fired. On double-action guns, you can cock the hammer if you want, but the safety and double-action is, again, that long, stout trigger pull. On double-action guns, use a holster that encloses the trigger completely. Now, this might all be a bit confusing, especially if you’re totally new to handguns. So hey, watch this segment as many times as you’d like.