Firearms safety and regulations have come a long way these days as both the manufacturers and the Government have started taking this issue seriously. Nowadays, you will rarely find a weapon, whether it is a handgun or a rifle, without a built-in safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge.
This is great news for self-defense buffs, as this means you can expect a primary level of safety with any handgun you buy from the market. But not many people understand how a gun safety switch works. There are, in fact, a decent number of safety designs that you can find on a handgun.
The safety design used in a certain weapon depends on the manufacturer and the type of the gun. But as a gun owner, you must know about the different designs that are available so that you can take full advantage of these elements.
In this article, we will give you a quick rundown of everything you need to know to about the gun safety switch so that you can better ensure the safety of yourself and others around you.
Types of Handgun Safeties
Since most civilians who choose to own a firearm go for handguns, we will focus solely on the safety mechanisms that you find on this type of weapon. In a handgun, you can typically find any of the five different safety mechanisms.
Here is a thorough discussion of each of these safety switches.
- Manual Safety
When speaking of gun safety switch, the element that most people refer to is manual safety. This is the most common form of gun safety mechanism, and these days, almost all modern pistols come with manual safety switches. This comes in the form of a lever that rests at the end of the gun chamber near your thumb when you grip the gun.
The switch can be set on or off, and sometimes, there are markings on the side of the lever to indicate the on or off positions. However, if your weapon does not come with any indicator, you need to look at the lever itself. If the lever is parallel to the gun chamber, it means the safety is engaged, and the gun will not fire.
Inversely, if the lever rests along the side perpendicular to the gun chamber, the gun is hot and ready to fire. Although this is true for most guns, there are a few that opt to go the other way. So it is important to know your gun before you start messing around with it.
This type of safety mechanism is known as active safety which means you need to actively control the state of your gun. The engaging or disengaging of the lock relies on the user’s hand
- Grip Safety
The grip safety is a passive form of safety that engages automatically when you are not gripping the gun. It comes in the form of a dip switch that goes along the grip of the gun. When you hold the gun naturally, the switch gets pressed, and your pistol safety gets disengaged, allowing you to fire a shot when you want.
This is also a manual safety trigger, and some claim that it is the best of the bunch since you do not need to worry about the position of the lever with this design. When you let go of your gun, the safety engages automatically, and the gun cannot be fired anymore.
1911-type handguns popularly use this type of safety design. The P7 series by Heckler & Koch is another example of firearms that use grip safety designs.
- Drop Safety
Drop safety is a passive form of the gun safety switch. With this type of safety mechanism, usually, the trigger removes an obstacle that is otherwise placed to obstruct the gun from firing. This design ensures that the gun will not fire if you accidentally drop it.
Some states like California take drop safety very seriously. As a result, all the firearms sold and distributed in the state must have drop safeties enabled. Since it is a passive safety, it is always engaged, and you cannot disengage it unless you are firing the gun.
Even if your state allows guns without drop safety, it might be a good idea to always check for this design. Guns that have the risk of discharging accidentally when dropped are always a safety hazard.
- Firing Pin Block
This type of safety switch is not much of a switch but rather a mechanical block. Typically, you find this system only in semi-automatic handguns, but these days some revolvers are also using it.
With this safety system, the path of the firing pin is obstructed with a block that clears as you press down on the trigger. This prevents accidental discharge drastically as you cannot fire the shot unless you manually pull the trigger yourself. Similar to drop safety, this is a passive safety switch.
- Hammer Block
The final safety mechanism that you will find in a handgun is the hammer block. In principle, it is almost the same as a firing pin block, meaning that there is an obstruction that prevents the travel path of the firing pin. However, this is more common on revolvers instead of semi-automatic pistols.
This is also a passive safety system, and when you press the trigger, it disengages automatically. The entire process is automated.
As you can see, firearm safety has come a long way. Most handguns for domestic purchase usually come with a few safety measures built-in to protect the user from accidental discharge.
However, it is not a good idea to rely solely on the safety mechanism of the weapon when it comes to keeping your guns secure. As a responsible gun owner, you should always think about investing in a gun safe.