Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Old man gun safety

Talk guns with an obsessive gunnie for a little while, and you'll become aware of a conflict in the gun world: casual gun owners and gun manufacturers are in love with a multiplicity of safety mechanisms, while more devoted gun aficionados don't like all the superfluous mechanical devices complicating their serious tools. Smith and Wesson has generated plenty of grumbling by including an internal trigger lock in all their revolvers, for example, and gunnies will go on and on about the new "lawyered-up" versions of the Ruger MkII pistol, which have added a magazine safety and a loaded chamber indicator. The only real safety, they say, is between your ears. All the doodads just create opportunities for malfunction and teach you bad habits.

It turns out this is nothing new. British firearms enthusiasts were arguing about the value of "safety" features in guns at least a century and a half ago:

In this respect Mr. Adams's pistol excels all others that have hitherto been made. It shoots with one action. That, in fact, is the first requisite of a good military pistol--namely, that it can be seized with one hend, right or left, and fired in a moment with a single draw of the trigger finger. To pull up the hammer, as in Colt's, is a superfluous and most disadvantageous drawback; while a double action, as in Tranter's [which used a second trigger to cock the hammer], is a similar error, as one cannot be expected to play the fiddle on a pistol when in action. But it is said that a pistol is more dangerous when it can be fired by a draw of the finger. Exactly; and that is the very reason that it is the best. The sharpest razor is the most dangerous for children or persons who do not know how to use it. But the sharpest razor is the best because it is the sharpest. And so it is with Adams's pistol. The very quality which makes it preeminently good for service is the quality that makes it dangerous in the hands of boys or bunglers. A pistol that requires two actions to fire is more safe in a house than one that requires only a single action; one that required three would be still more safe; and one that would not go off at all, as sometimes happens with those that have complex and fanciful notions attached to them, would be perfectly safe. Adams's pistol is not constructed for what is absurdly termed safety (which is procured by blunting the razor), but for action--for the most rapid action that can be executed with the simplest effort. It is the elementary pistol, and the best for military service because it is elementary.


  1. One of the reasons I like my Glock. I pull the trigger, the striker goes forward. Every. Time.

    In comparison to my wife's P22, where I have to (potentially) turn a key, insert a magazine, flip a switch, and pull the trigger. Were that my only gun I would leave the frame unlocked and the safety off all the time.

  2. Fair enough. I'm honestly not troubled by the 1911's manual safety, but it _is_ comforting to know that the LCP or the S&W Model 10 is just a trigger-pull from firing.

    Magazine safeties are from the devil. I hate--I hate--having to fill the magwell to drop a striker. Learning to strip Danielle's Ruger MKIII, I lost count of how many times the manual said "VERIFY THAT THE GUN IS UNLOADED. Insert an EMPTY magazine, and pull the trigger." I know I'm verifying that it's empty, but that's just nerve-wracking, right there.

  3. Well, I'm not all that thrilled to pull the trigger on the Glock to strip the slide off. At least I don't have to have a magazine in to do that, though!

    Again, the Glock is a one-step operation to strip, though - the P22 I essentially DON'T strip to clean, just give it a couple of runthroughs with a bore snake each time. (That's the fault of the barrel extension on the P22, though)

    There's a reason I have a Homer Bucket full of sand next to my workbench in the basement.

  4. A clear example of the UNDENIABLE SUPERIORITY of exposed-hammer semiautos. [sniff!]

  5. I'm not thrilled about having to drop the hammer when decocking either. In general, anything that has the chance of putting a firing pin into a primer makes me uptight.