A defense of thumb safeties.

Discussion in 'Gadgets & Gear' started by powernoodle, Sep 7, 2020.

  1. powernoodle

    powernoodle Power Member

    Jul 21, 2004
    I've owned, hoarded and shot guns for 35 years or so, and for the great majority of that time have not favored thumb safeties on firearms. The general consensus among seasoned gun guys is to avoid thumb safeties where possible - unless you were talking about a 1911. The reasoning, of course, is that the last thing you want to think about when someone is trying to kill you is that little thumb safety. I get it. It makes sense.

    But with the passage of time, my view of the lowly thumb safety has pivoted just a little <pun>. When I input the data into the Powernoodle Food Processor and Statistical Analyzer, it tells me that I am much more likely to shoot myself in the leg on reholstering than I am to die because I forgot the thumb safety during a shootout. I reholster my EDC gun from a few times to several times a day. Lets say 5 times a day. Over the course of the year, that's 1500 reholsterings, and 1500 opportunities to shoot myself in the leg. All it takes is one shirt tail, one thread, one whatever that gets in the trigger guard and grabs the trigger. Heck, I've hit my head getting into the car. Bit my tongue countless times, even though I know full well where my tongue lives. Poked myself in the eye, or tripped over my own shoe. Stuff happens. And despite my extreme paranoia about gun safety, and believe me I am super careful, I have dropped a loaded Glock on 3 occasions in the last 20 years. And I could just as easily make the gun go bang accidentally when I stick it back in the holster.

    So, I'm sorta migrating toward mechanical devices that can prevent that from happening. The striker indicator on a Walther PPS M2 does that. The Striker Control Device from Tau Development Group does that. Those things are awesome. The grip safety on a Shield 9 EZ does it. There are plenty of ways to make yourself more safe upon reholstering. And sure, a thumb safety gives you a much greater margin of error. A 12 lb revolver trigger does that too.

    Yes, the best mechanical device is between your ears. But I'm willing to supplement what God gave me. Especially as my brain tube slowly atrophies with the passage of time.

    I'm not trying to convince anyone. But I am saying that an aging dog (I'm 58) can learn new tricks. And one of those tricks, for me at least, is how not to crank off a Golden Saber into my thigh while I'm home alone with just a Golden Doodle to call 911 for me. Having carried for a long, long time, and reholstered thousands of times while never having shot a bad person, my current risk analysis leans toward mitigating the greatest risk. And the greatest risk is me. And if your response is, "well, just don't carry", this is about balancing risks, and the risk of a dangerous world is still out there irrespective of whether I have a thumb safety. Its a matter of assessing relative risks, and coming to some kind of proper balance. That's going to be different for everyone.

    Thanks for listening.

    Thumb safety.

    LMT66, John F., Scoop65 and 4 others like this.
  2. Pomsbz


    Jul 31, 2015
    I've never got the 'glock' trigger for precisely the reasons you mention. Murphy, mistakes, external factors and yeah, mistakes again. Schmidt happens and Murphy laughs. I'm not American though and I understand that simply saying what you have above is often a 'trigger' for online ridicule. I won't even mention condition 3 after being attacked simply for mentioning it on another forum by someone who is a popular member here but has far worse manners elsewhere.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2020
    John F. likes this.
  3. Jordan@DLT

    [email protected] Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Jul 22, 2014
    Out of curiosity, why are you re-holstering that often?
    neo71665, BBW and 3fifty7 like this.
  4. JB in SC

    JB in SC Basic Member Basic Member

    May 19, 2001
    The issue I have with thumb safeties are the ambidextrous versions, far too easy to sweep off when carrying. HK had a good idea with the USP as did Randall with the Portsider for lefties.

    But nothing protects a person from forgetting to sweep the safety back on when holstering after firing.
  5. ndmiller

    ndmiller Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Nov 30, 2015
    One of the reason most trainers mention draw smooth and quick, re-holster slow and deliberate. Never a race to reholster, I put my thumb on the slide of my glock when I do and its 100% muscle memory. Something feels weird, stop and look, watching it into the holster.

    As for safeties, I don't carry a gun with one, but my 1911 has one, so I don't have a holster for it until I'm comfortable I can incorporate the safety operation into my draw and reholster while carrying it. Had it for years, no holster yet, never carried it.
    000Robert and TheChunk91 like this.
  6. Knives&Lint

    Knives&Lint Doin' alright for country trash Platinum Member

    May 10, 2013
    I favor thumb safeties as well. Growing up, I was taught to shoot on guns that had safeties. When I got old enough to purchase a pistol and had enough money to finally buy the HK USP I had been drooling over throughout my teens, it had a safety/decocker. That's what I learned with and that's what's comfortable to me. I'm certainly no expert and I see no need to argue with the experts about it, just personal preference.
    John F. and powernoodle like this.
  7. 3fifty7

    3fifty7 Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 24, 2016

    Mostly this, OP ????
    neo71665 likes this.
  8. DocJD


    Jan 29, 2016
    :) I'm ~70 yo . Started on wheel guns , then semi-autos with mostly 1911 type thumb and grip safeties . Progressed to Glock type trigger safety .

    They will all do the job , if you do yours .

    Learn the proper manual of arms / safety procedures and then ....train , train , train and then practice some more and repeat . :cool::thumbsup::thumbsup:

    Once you have thoroughly ingrained the proper habits / reflexes that operates automatically , without thought and even under stress and panic you will NOT FU .

    The number of repetitions / frequency is meaningless as far as errors . You can do it right 10,000 or 100,000 times just as easy as 10 . Maybe easier because practice makes perfect .

    Your finger should never be inside the trigger guard of a loaded gun unless you're shooting . Glock type safety guns should never be carried chambered without a holster that covers the trigger . Simple , invariable , reflexive rules and habits .

    The part of the brain (cerebellum) that controls this type of reflex behavior is like a recording devise and not prone to mistakes . It evolved to allow rapid /reflexive complex learned responses to survival challenges where there was zero tolerance for error under maximally stressful conditions .
    jkwithawave likes this.
  9. TheChunk91

    TheChunk91 Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 15, 2013
    The 1911 is great for very safe holstering because you can physically hold the hammer in place. You could also hold up on the thumb safety instead. Either one you can keep your hand off the grip safety as well. I appreciate that the 1911 has good positive safety features that can be checked visually very easily.

    On the 1911 is also very intuitive to ride the thumb safety when firing, so by practicing that firing grip you automatically take the safety off. Most other pistols with thumb safeties are not quite as good as the 1911 for this.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2020
    John F. and jkwithawave like this.
  10. Charlie_K


    Jul 16, 2012
    Presently the thumb safety is the only thing preventing me from buying an H&K USP. If it were even reversed, it wouldn't be so much of an issue. Flip it up, ready to fire. Flip it down, deactivated. That way your thumb can't accidentally deactivate it.
  11. oldmanwilly

    oldmanwilly Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    I tend to shy away from pistols with large thumb safeties. For example, I tried out several S&W M&P models but learned to hate the safety as the recoil consistently caused my thumb to inadvertently engage the safety after every shot. I found that unacceptable in a potential carry gun. Despite this I ended up with the Shield 9 with the discreet thumb safety. It's small enough and out of the way so that I hardly notice it's there, but as my first carry gun I liked having the option to use it or not.

    I am not opposed to well-executed thumb safeties like those on a 1911 or Hi-Power, however I have learned not to rely on any safety mechanism and feel comfortable carrying striker fired pistols without safeties. Admittedly I am now extra cautious when re-holstering.
  12. mabrowns


    Apr 18, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2020
  13. powernoodle

    powernoodle Power Member

    Jul 21, 2004
    I have to draw down on squirrels who get too close to the bird feeder. You know how it is. Throw in going to the bathroom, and laying down to watch Netflix in the middle of the day, and it adds up. But that aside, even one re-holster per day adds up to hundreds and thousands over the years.

    Every LEO who shot himself was thinking exactly the same thing right before he shot himself.


    Again, I'm not trying to persuade anyone. But, for me, the risk of a negligent holstering (having holstered at least 18,000 times in the last 25 years, and prolly much more than that) far outweighs a theoretical "risk" posed by a thumb safety in a self-defense scenario (having shot zero bad people in the last 25 years). Its not a character issue, or a training or mindset issue. Its just numbers. And granted, the risk of a negligent discharge is pretty darn low irrespective of a safety or no safety. I'm just want to lower it even further. But I'm also the guy who had 3 cases of N95 masks and 400 rolls of toilet paper in my basement before the Chinese virus hit. Seriously. #hopeforthebestpreparefortheworst
    Pomsbz and jkwithawave like this.
  14. mabrowns


    Apr 18, 2012
    They weren't thinking that's why they shot themselves but too each his own
  15. Charlie_K


    Jul 16, 2012
    I'd be curious about what type of holster was department standard and used at the time of the incident. My go-to holster for service size pistols is the Blackhawk Sportster. Less retention than the Serpa line as it only has a tension spring pressing against the frame to keep it in place, lacking the finger release on the side. But what it lacks in retention it makes up for in having one less thing to go wrong. Serpas and Glocks just don't mix and a bad draw makes a negligent discharge far more likely to happen.
  16. jaseman


    Jul 28, 2016
    I’ve gone the opposite direction in the last few years. I grew up with manual safeties, always carried one, and am a big fan of 1911s. But I’ve switched to all striker fired pistols with no external safety for my edc purposes. For me, personally, it’s a matter of keeping the same manual of arms. Not all thumb safeties are disengaged the same, so if you go from a 1911 one day, to a Highpower or Sig the next, you’ll need different muscle memory to operate them. Since I carry multiple different guns depending on the situation, I’d rather them all function as close to identical as possible.

    Just my opinion, but you are still taking your pistol out of the holster way too often. It should never leave the holster for anything other than cleaning, storage, or when firing. Laying down for a nap? Take the whole rig off your hip. Going to the bathroom? Same thing. Every time it leaves that holster is another exposure to the trigger. Every exposer to the trigger is one more possibility of an AD/ND.

    My edc pistols all live in their holsters, often for weeks at a time. I’ll take the whole rig and put it in the safe that way. Any time I move it, it stays in its rig. Just one more safeguard (this goes for manual safety’s and revolvers as well). I only pull them out of the rig once or twice a month for cleaning and range time. Only time they’re out of the holster for more than that, they’re unloaded and in the safe for long term storage.

    There’s nothing wrong with you moving to manual safeties if that’s your choice. You just may want to reevaluate your other practices.
    HopalongCassidy and JB in SC like this.
  17. JB in SC

    JB in SC Basic Member Basic Member

    May 19, 2001
    There are 8 variants of the HK USP lever, might check them out. Some act as a decocker only some don’t have the lever at all (DAO).
  18. OogieBoogie

    OogieBoogie Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 29, 2014
    The problem is that, like any gun, you need to practice and use until the draw and sweep safety off becomes muscle memory. I carry a 1911 daily and have practiced enough that I don't even think about flicking off the safety. I was shooting a draw drill and was using a revolver and found myself sweeping for the thumb safety out of habit.

    Put that 1911 in a holster (unloaded) for a few minutes and practice drawing and sweeping the safety off. It won't take long for it to become muscle memory. Practice is key. Speaking of which I need to make time to get to the range!!
    TheChunk91 and jaseman like this.
  19. John F.

    John F. Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 9, 2005
    DocJD, I'm not far behind you, with extensive experience in competitive shooting, marksmanship instructing, and hunting.
    What you say is true -- IN A PERFECT WORLD, barring any extraneous factors that happen at random. If you think enough
    planning and training will enable you to successfully negotiate every factor in your environment, to include disruptions such
    as physical assault or getting shot by aggressors, that's a very pleasant, reassuring delusion. Enjoy. See example below.

    While I understand the well trained, thoughtful, and careful use of Glocks and similar pistols, and own such, I'm still
    a believer that an added margin of safety is a good thing, *within reason*. A local incident from a few years ago illustrates.

    A Physician's Assistant went to the local Forest Service range to practice. Being in a wooded area, without other people around,
    he brought his dog along to get some much-needed stimulation and exercise. While walking forward and re-holstering (or otherwise
    manipulating?) his Glock, his dog was joyfully frisking and gamboling beside him, delighted to be out with his master. Life happened,
    and the dog got tangled up in his feet somehow...
    He tripped and shot himself... through the liver.

    He drove himself to the local ER, where he managed to live for a few minutes, but couldn't be saved.

    You can offer every theory in the world as to how one "would" (should) never be in such a situation due to superior
    training, technique and 100% awareness at all times, but the fact is, we are all human and we DON'T have control
    of every single factor in our environment at all times -- or at any time. Sure, there are plenty of areas that 20-20
    hindsight lets us see how this could easily have been prevented, but this is just one example. There are only about
    a billion other factors out there...

    Having over 50 years' experience shooting the 1911, plus a great variety of other arms, I believe that if he'd
    been well schooled with a 1911, Browning HP or similar, the safety's presence/use very likely would have prevented this.
    As I was taught, the safety goes back ON automatically when firing is complete -- just as it comes off during the safest part
    of the draw. Add in that one factor, and he'd likely be living happily ever after with his family, instead of being a sad memory.

    [Aside: I've always wondered if the dog made it into the car for the ride to the hospital. I sure hope so. I love dogs!]

    As far as they go, "muscle memory"/the subconscious mind are wonderful things. Example: I grew up shooting a side-by-side
    (double barrel) shotgun from age 10 or so. Every time the lever is opened, it pushes the safety back to the "on" position.
    Thus, after loading, in order to fire one must again take off the safety. After entering the Army and serving away from
    home for a few years, I took my Dad out for a couple of rounds of skeet. Naturally, we brought our only shotguns -- a pair of
    family heirloom SxS's. At this time, I'd say it had been maybe 6-7 years since I'd handled a shotgun. As I was shooting skeet
    with it, I became aware that there was a "problem" with the mechanism. The lever didn't seem to be activating the safety
    as it should. I was just raising the shotgun and firing, without having to activate the safety -- or so I thought. In examining
    it further, I found that the safety was working perfectly -- I just was automatically taking it off when shouldering the gun to fire,
    purely subconsciously.

    "And that's all I have to say about that." :)
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2020
  20. skyhorse

    skyhorse Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 30, 2010
    Whether I’m drawing or holstering ,
    my trigger finger remains extended until ready to fire .
    000Robert, BBW, OogieBoogie and 2 others like this.

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