Use of the Manual Safety on the 1911(Long)

Use of the Manual Safety on the 1911(Long)

This is a discussion on Use of the Manual Safety on the 1911(Long) within the Carry & Defensive Scenarios forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; There seems to be a bit of a debate surrounding when exactly to disengage the manual safety on the 1911 and when to re-engage it ...

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Thread: Use of the Manual Safety on the 1911(Long)

  1. #1
    Member Array Blackhawk6's Avatar
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    Exclamation Use of the Manual Safety on the 1911(Long)

    There seems to be a bit of a debate surrounding when exactly to disengage the manual safety on the 1911 and when to re-engage it that started in the "Do You Cock?" thread. While information is being offered with the best of intentions, I am concerned that assumptions or incorrect conclusions are being proffered as fact and/or doctrine. Rather than further side-tracking the discussion in the "Do You Cock?" thread, I would like address my concerns in this thread. I am doing my best not to rant and I hope what I have to say will not be perceived that way.

    Let me preface this by saying, that when it comes right down to it, how and when you choose to use the manual safety on the 1911 is really of no importance to me unless your use or lack thereof poses a risk to me or my loved ones. At the end of the day how and when you choose to use the manual safety on the 1911 is your decision. I would prefer that decision be an informed one.

    I do not consider myself an expert. I reserve that title for men whose real-world experience is measured in years not days and whose training is measured in years and monthes not hours. It is not my intent to compare my resume' to yours. I recognize there are a number of experienced and well-trained members here. I have been fortunate to train at a number of schools, a few which are not available to the general public. I have also been fortunate to train with many of the better-known, and some less well-known but equally-qualified, instructors. I have a fair amount of experience myself, more perhaps than many here. What follows is my opinion based on my training, personal observation and experience. That said, I hope you will listen to what I have to say and formulate your own opinion.

    Proper Use of the Safety
    The proper use of any weapon-mounted safety, regardless of the platform, is to disengage the safety while moving the weapon to address a threat and to re-engage the safety once you are satisfied that the threat has been adequately addressed and there are no further immediate threats. Therefore, the safety should be engaged anytime the weapon is in the ready position or holster. A possible exception would be if you return to a ready position to scan for additional threats after already having engaged one or more threats.

    Example
    You and your significant other are out for a bite to eat. As you are waiting to order you here what are undoubtedly gunshots, followed by a number of people fleeing in all directions. You determine the best course of action is for you to depart the location. As you are fairly certain that shots have been fired, you draw your weapon and come to a ready position. As you move toward the parking lot, you encounter a masked individual holding what appears to be a sawed-off shotgun. He notices you and acts in a manner that leads you to believe he is about to shoot you. You advance your pistol from the ready position toward the threat. It is during this movement that the manual safety is disengaged. You shoot him and he collapses. You then either A) return to the ready position, scan for additional threats, and, finding none, re-engage the safety OR B) return to the ready position simultaneously re-engaging the safety and scan for additional threats.

    Reasons People Do Not Use the Safety

    1. It's Faster. Umm...no. This is a training issue. If your safety slows you down, you are not familiar enough with your weapon. From the ready, with the safety engaged I can deliver an A-zone hit at 10 yards in a little less than 3/4 of a second. Not world class but definitely fast enough. On a whim I conducted an experiment. I fired one shot from the ready with the safety engaged and one shot from the ready without the safety engaged. I repeated each drill ten times and averaged the results. The result? I was .02 seconds faster with the safety engaged. I consider the result statistically insignificant, but it certainly demonstrates there is no loss of speed using the manual safety.

    2. I Have Good Trigger Finger Discipline. Yep, me too. Consider this article written by Bert DuVernay:
    http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/w...ectionId=10503

    Here is a particularly pertinent portion(my emphasis added)

    Lt. Dave Spaulding, Montgomery County OH Sheriff's Office, believes that under stress the shooter subconsciously confirms the position of the trigger. Out of 674 officers that he observed during FATS training, 632 of them periodically placed their fingers in the trigger guard. This number includes many highly skilled and motivated officers, including graduates of S&W Academy, Gunsite and LFI. The officers that he has observed doing these "trigger searches" had no memory of doing so. If an officer was startled or bumped during a "trigger search" the results would be predictable.
    Here is another article written by Paul Howe. I posted during the discussion on this subject in the "Do You Cock?" thread:

    http://www.combatshootingandtactics....pon_Safety.PDF

    In his article Paul Howe makes a number of valid points, two of which I have extracted:

    It is my belief that the safety requires you to do one more critical thought out act before taking a human life. It is one final thought process or “buffer” if you will, to ensure you have discriminated thoroughly and effectively and the target you are going to destroy absolutely bad and not an innocent civilian or your buddy coming in from a different angle.
    (Call me crazy, but I fail to see this as a bad thing...)

    Someone put a lot of thought and time in designing safeties for a reason.
    Some people will choose to dismiss these articles and others because the observations were of military and/or law enforcement personnel. The simple fact is that the only people who routinely train to employ weapons in dynamic, stressful situation are the military and law enforcement. What is pertinent is that regardless of the level of training, large numbers of people are placing the finger on the trigger during stressful events. Highly experienced and well-trained people are having negligent discharges depite all of their training to keep their finger off the trigger. It would be pure arrogance to assume you could do any better.

    3. This Is What I Was Taught In My "Advanced Handgun" Class. There are really two dynamics at work here. Let me begin by saying I am not sure what constitutes an "advanced" class. Louis Awerbuck once made the comment that he has never been to an "advanced" gunfight. I think that is a pretty good observation.

    If, in your "advanced" class you were required you to draw, engage a target, return to the ready, scan for additional threats and re-holster then the statement:"I was trained to disengage my safety when my weapon leaves the holster and re-engage it prior to re-holstering," is true and valid. However, one should not then make the faulty assumption that every time the pistol is withdrawn from the holster the safety is disengaged and remains disengaged for the duration of its time out of the holster regardless of the activity. The aforementioned drill is a valid one and the manner in which the drill requires the safety to be used is equally valid. However, this would not be the case if the weapon was being withdrawn from the holster for such activities as a building search or the weapon was in hand when moving from one position to another (without shooting) or while evacuating a vehicle or several other situations. I obviously can not speak for every instructor, but I know of no reputable instructor who advocates having the safety off of your weapon during these type of activities. If your instructor had you performing these type of activities with your safety disengaged, that would bring us to our second point.

    There are a number of gifted instructors providing instruction. Frequently these are people with years, if not decades, of experience using firearms in dynamic, high stress situations who are fortunate enough to be able to transfer their experience to others. (Just because some one can do something does not necessarily mean he can teach you how to do it.) The problem lies in the fact that there are a larger number of less-than-qualified individuals looking to make a buck. Anyone with a bit more knowledge than his fellow man or an impressive job history can declare himself an instructor and to those who do not know any better, they can succeed in passing themselves off as one. What they say is often taken as "gospel" and people frequently have difficulty putting departing from the "gospel" when provided contradictory information, common sense notwithstanding.

    Sometimes it is not the instructor at all, but the student. Is it possible that you misinterpretted what the instructor was saying? Sure it is, especially if the subject matter is unfamiliar. In many of the shooting classes I have attended, students are reluctant to challenge an instructor on a point that does not make sense or seems unsafe. If something does not make sense or seems unsafe, ask the question. if you are not satisfied with the answer, nothing says you have to perform the action or include in your personal doctrine. (Note: I am not advocating challenging every minute aspect of the instruction, which is also a trend.)

    What's So Bad About Not Using The Safety?

    Having determined that there is no advantage to having the safety on, let's discuss the potential disadvantage...the negligent discharge.
    In the middle of your first (and probably only) deadly force encounter, the adrenaline gets pumping and your trigger finger discipline fails you and...BANG...you shoot yourself. We have a saying at work:"If you are dumb, you have got to be tough." Worse yet...BANG...you shoot your spouse/child/best friend. Now there is going to be some pretty heavy emotional baggage not to mention some potential legal issues. How about...BANG...you shoot an innocent bystander. Worse yet, they are of a different ethnicity. We are firmly in legal territory now.

    This is the point where that whole "be careful who you select as an instructor" thing becomes an issue again. The Prosecutor/Plaintiff's attorney is going to allege negligence. You are going to want Instructor A to come testify how he instructed you to disengage the manual safety on your 1911 upon withdrawing it from the holster and not to re-engage it until you re-holster. The Prosecutor/Plaintiff's attorney is going to have Instructors B thru Z standing by to testify that having the manual safety on your 1911 disengaged regardless of the activity is wrong and is negligent. What would be bad is to find out that Instructor A padded his resume' and he really isn't all that high-speed. What would be worse is to find out that you misinterpreted what he was teaching and he thinks you were negligent too.

    For what it is worth, I asked my wife, a woman with virtually no firearms background, what she thought of taking the safety off when the weapon came out of the holster and leaving it off until the weapon was re-holstered. Her reply:"Isn't that kind of like taking your seat belt off when you put the car in Drive and putting it back on when you put it in Park?" Not a perfect analogy, I know, but one that illustrates she understands the danger associated with having the safety off. Do you think you can expect more or less from a jury?

    Conclusion

    The Key points discussed:
    1. The safety does not slow us down.
    2. Our trigger finger discpline may not be as good as we think it is once we are placed in a stressful situation.
    3. Experienced and well-trained people have had negligent discharges when they failed to use the safety.
    4. There are some potentially catastrophic repercussions if we have a negligent discharge.

    In short, we have nothing to gain and plenty to lose by not using the safety.

    Stay safe.

    BH6
    Last edited by Blackhawk6; June 22nd, 2006 at 09:01 PM.


  2. #2
    Member Array kansas_shooter's Avatar
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    BH6 this is K_S, roger that !!!
    One shot. One kill.

    Primary Carry - Taurus PT-111 Mil Pro 9mm DAO with 12 + 1 in the pipe. Holstered in a Brigade OWB M2.

    Secondary Weapon - Taurus PT1911 5" 45acp SA with 8+1. Holstered in a Kydex paddle.

  3. #3
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    Spot on - the whole lot.

    Good food for thought if anyone was in doubt!
    Chris - P95
    NRA Certified Instructor & NRA Life Member.

    "To own a gun and assume that you are armed
    is like owning a piano and assuming that you are a musician!."


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  4. #4
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    It seems to me that in the 1911 the most appropriate time to have the safety on is when the pistol is out of the holster. If it is accidently left off while the pistol is in the holster there is an almost insignificant possibility of a discharge. If it is out of the holster with the safety off there is a very significant possibility of a discharge.
    George

    Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe. Albert Einstein

  5. #5
    Member Array Blackhawk6's Avatar
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    Doc,

    I concur.

  6. #6
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    BH6, funny you brought this up. I noticed during training occasionally I was searching for the trigger during draw drills. This brought me to the same conclusion, the safety stays on until the gun is to be fired.
    I never noticed this until I started training w/ a 1911. VERY good point made.
    "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." Thomas Jefferson


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  7. #7
    VIP Member Array Janq's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dr_cmg
    It seems to me that in the 1911 the most appropriate time to have the safety on is when the pistol is out of the holster. If it is accidently left off while the pistol is in the holster there is an almost insignificant possibility of a discharge. If it is out of the holster with the safety off there is a very significant possibility of a discharge.
    This just seems like so much of a no brainer it almost shouldn't even be said.
    But as per that other thread it's shown that as much of a statement is sage.

    Excellent and timely post B6.

    - Janq
    "Killers who are not deterred by laws against murder are not going to be deterred by laws against guns. " - Robert A. Levy

    "A license to carry a concealed weapon does not make you a free-lance policeman." - Florida Div. of Licensing

  8. #8
    Member Array elance's Avatar
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    bh6
    thanks for moving this discussion first of all.
    secondly for my self and not to be construed as advocating for others.

    i disagree

    i'd like to start with seperating teaching from training ; to be taught one way then train another way. which way will prevail? to attend hours of film and book lessons and written quizs and verbal instruction . you can now say you were taught , however to be trained takes the practical aspect, and one hour through their simulated course isn't going to train you . repeated firing and handling of your firearm under differing conditions will. however to think certain number of hours and now i'm trained ,maybe ,but this needs to be reinforced . someone here mentioned monthly cycling of their carry ammo excelent idea .

    your right i dismiss the military articules , but having been in the military can say they need safeties . however in this month's american rifleman there is an articule page 36 that says how SOCOM announced intent to purchase more than half a million 45's. 50,000 without safeties these being issued to special ops guys . and gals sorry , which would seem to suggest that with the appropriate level of training one doesn't require safeties .

    target identification in most of my admittedly low level limited training was utmostly stressed . and i would not fire on shadows even if there was 4 in my living room . but would not fault the man who did .

    you made a good point with your wife and the jury , however with no disrepect what so ever , i would equate the gun to more of luggage or the errant box of tissues on the rear deck . or unmounted spare tire in a 4by4 . not to myself . so as while my attention was directed toward the act of traveling not in security of items in my vehicle. ( please people do not use bungees to hold coolers , spares or whatever in your 4by! use nylon locking straps . sorry tangent)i am secure in the knowledge that a nd due to the safety engaged is nil .

    at this moment my pistol is sitting unholstered on the comp desk beside the monitor cocked and LOCKED . if i felt that i needed to check on a noise i would ready it . point it forward with the safety off .

    as to your conclusions they in my opinion seem to be fair statements of fact.
    i do think you left out that under stress such as with the dark shadows , that one doesn't pull on the trigger until they figure out that they still have the safety on . and have the where-with-all to figure that out and time to remedy it .

    my conclusions are that the Lord help us ,guide us , protect us , and give us peace when needed . we have embarked on a harrowing journey, with responsibility that if dwelled on might sway us from the path . strength will be needed i am sure no matter the outcome .

    anyway i do like how well you expressed your views and mind . i didn't feel the least bit attacked instead felt you were genuinely concerned with this issue . i do feel that this is one of those times there are two rights though .

    be safe keep safe
    elance

  9. #9
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    Conclusion

    The Key points discussed:
    1. The safety does not slow us down.
    2. Our trigger finger discpline may not be as good as we think it is once we are placed in a stressful situation.
    3. Experienced and well-trained people have had negligent discharges when they failed to use the safety.
    4. There are some potentially catastrophic repercussions if we have a negligent discharge.

    In short, we have nothing to gain and plenty to lose by not using the safety.


    There there are the tens of thousands of Glocks, Sigs, etc that don't have safeties at all and which are used by a whole lot more people in the real world than 1911's. LE's, lets see, whats the figure nationwide that depts are using Glocks?

    Though you make some valid points, I'd still bring to the readers attentions that those guns without any manual safety are used as safely by more people in the US than ones with safeties.

    It's the shooter, not the gun that is safe. Accidents/unintentionals happen, they happen with 1911's and those weapons without safeties.

    There are a whole lot of high/speed competitors who use a glock with no difficulties while moving and shooting, holstering, unholstering and everything in between as well.

    It's the user thats safe, not the gun in the final analysis. If we were to take the above observations as absolutes, the liberals got ahold of this and worked their magic, we'd then all be forced to carry some form of firearm with a manual safety.

    And lets not forget the revolvers of the world which have decades of use without safeties, used by LE for 50 some odd years or more in all manner of work, high stress, low stress and holding BG's at gunpoint for generations.

    Are we to think we need to throw out any of those types of weapons as they don't have manual safeties based on the conclusions above? I'm not sure, but I can tell you this much----

    I presently carry a glock of one form or another exclusively, after 30 years of carrying 1911's. I'm no less safe with the Glock than I was with the 1911s all those years due to no manual safety. To think otherwise might be suggesting that the manual safety was the only thing that prevented me from a negilgent discharge--I don't believe it.

    edited to add: I'd like to also mention that the original point of when to engage and disengage the manual safety is all a moot point with those guns that don't have one. One less thing to have to worry about I guess. Maybe it is the other way around and it's one more thing to have to worry about when using a weapon with a manual safety.

    Brownie
    Last edited by AzQkr; June 23rd, 2006 at 04:40 AM.
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  10. #10
    Member Array ber950's Avatar
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    The only problem with this assesment is that a 1911 with safety off is in the same condition as any Glock or XD. These guns do not have double action trigger pulls.
    This whole issue of when to disengage the safety is why so many dept. went to Glocks. No safety no issue.

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    Hmm... Guess I'll jump in. First I will qualify that I speak from a position of learning. I carry a 1911 cocked and locked. When shooting/training I use the thumb safety as a thumb rest (this may or may not be correct but anyway...) It has always been my thought that when I draw my weapon or get it from it's hiding place in my bedroom that the safety stays on until the threat is assesed/identified and then is only disengaged if a shot is required. Reason being, if I were to be surprised or the weapon were to be taken away(I know weapon retention training is in order) The BG would have to figure out which switch made the durn thing work thus giving me time to flee or fight to get it back. I am a bigtime saftey guy so the idea of training to keep the safety engaged until a shot is necessary makes sense to me. That is why I don't like point and click guns like many of the "DAO" safetyless(word?) guns on the market. Please don't missunderstand I am not a 1911 only guy I have used glocks and the like and they are fine weapons. Anyone see a flaw in my thinking?
    In God we trust, everyone else keep your hands where I can see them.

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  12. #12
    Member Array ber950's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bline
    When shooting/training I use the thumb safety as a thumb rest (this may or may not be correct but anyway...) see a flaw in my thinking?
    Some well known instructors teach that method and others advise against it. I am not well known or a certified instructor but I agree with Ayoob don't do it.

    The thumb should be bent on the grip giving a rest for the thumb of the weak hand and more recoil control.

    Holding the safety down lifts the palm off the grip safety. This is why they make grip safeties with "Speed Bumps"

    Safeties are a training issue. They complicate the training. This is why dept. went to Glocks. When that didn't stop the problem they went to real DAO pistols.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by ber950
    The thumb should be bent on the grip giving a rest for the thumb of the weak hand and more recoil control.
    Hmmm... that's interesting. I'll try that and see how it works.
    In God we trust, everyone else keep your hands where I can see them.

    Rights are like muscles: If you don't excersise them they slowly disappear.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ber950
    Some well known instructors teach that method and others advise against it. I am not well known or a certified instructor but I agree with Ayoob don't do it.

    The thumb should be bent on the grip giving a rest for the thumb of the weak hand and more recoil control.

    Holding the safety down lifts the palm off the grip safety. This is why they make grip safeties with "Speed Bumps"

    Safeties are a training issue. They complicate the training. This is why dept. went to Glocks. When that didn't stop the problem they went to real DAO pistols.
    Thumb on the safety or below it depends on the shooter's hand size and personal preference.

    I have big paws, so thumb on the safety works well for me. When I put the thumb below the safety, I inadvertently actuate it sometimes.

    I suggest picking the method that works well for you, and doing it that way.

    Matt

  15. #15
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    Safety, especially with a 1911, boils down to the gray matter between your ears. Excellent points made by all. My opinion on this is the when the weapon is drawn, it stays drawn and on target, off safety until the threat no longer exists. Then it gets the safety applied and goes back in the holster, cocked and locked.

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