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American Handgunner May/June 2012 Digital Edition - Page 22
PISTOLSMITHING theinsidescooponpistolsmithingtechniQues aleXhamilton SafeTy SenSibiliTy T Many of today’s polymer pistols use a “passive” safety in the form of a lever in the center of the trigger pad, yet many shooters still want an external safety of some sort. he crusty Master Sergeant stood at the front of the room slapping his crippled leg with a whip-thin swagger stick he had removed from a dead enemy on Guadalcanal. His OD green army dress uniform was a perfect background for the seven or so lines of colored ribbons, especially for the one at the top with white stars on a field of blue. Most represented a violent moment in time in this man’s military combat life. He seemed to be 9' tall when he spoke, but he was really a stretched 5'8" with his shoes and hat on, all cased in a sinewy 145-pound body. I could only imagine the physical scars that old body held as he lifted the beat up US Property GI .45 to eye level and said, “This, gentleman, is the greatest pistol ever created by man, and the safest pistol on the face of this scorched earth.” He continued, as we new recruits, awed in the presence of everything we teenage pups assumed a man should be in the late 1950s. “Today, men, we will talk about the safety of the Model 1911-A1, and how you can keep from killing yourself with it. First, the trigger is nothing more than a piece of metal until you put your finger on it. That, you pieces of #&*@%, is your first lesson. “Second, the grip safety keeps the trigger from being pulled unless the pistol is gripped with a firm, manly hand. The thumb safety, when clicked to the up position, blocks the rear of the sear to stop it from disengaging from the hammer hook. When you click it to the down position, the pistol is hot, ready for bloody business. Then there is the hammer with a half-cock notch designed to catch the hammer before it hits the firing pin if the pistol ever falls to the ground with the hammer cocked. If I catch any one of you pukes dropping your pistol, you better be dead or dying.” Other modern safety inventions include the unnerving “hammer drop” safeties where you push a slidemounted lever down so the hammer hopefully falls on a block in front of the firing pin. Hammer drop safeties are very unsettling to me and probably to most shooters. Dropping the hammer on a loaded chamber makes most shooters grit their teeth. Please don’t tell me about all your police training — we don’t have it out here. I like safeties that block the sear, and lock the hammer in place. alexdisagrees his is where I depart from the Sergeant and enter the modern world of sharks and lawyers. Colt designed and added the Series 80 safety to the 1911 model, probably in response to lawsuits from shooters without sense enough to understand basic firearms safety. In doing so Colt did away with the half-cock notch on the hammer, which would have been a perfect backup to their multi-part new design, by the way. Shooters now have to deal t with this modestly complex system, brought upon themselves. An option for Colt, would have been to pull a page from “their own history” and use the beautifully designed Schwartz safety that is worked by the grip safety, and disconnects the firing pin simply. Food for thought. Kimber uses that simple, successful Schwartz design today on all of its 1911 variations. Kimber also leaves the halfcock notch on the hammer, as do most all modern 1911 pistol manufacturers, with the exception of Para USA. hen there is the newer generation of auto pistol with no “active” safety, they generally favor a “passive” safety mounted on the trigger. This passive system is common on many polymer models today. Firearms instructors teach the novice soldier or police officer and feel an officer should be able to pull the pistol out of the holster and not have to think about taking a safety off under duress. I guess that works just fine for soldiers and law enforcement, but I respectfully submit that unless you get training with the system, it can be challenging for the unwashed masses. Indeed, S&W (on the M&P) and Springfield Armory (on the XD series) offer some models with an optional external safety. Interestingly enough, gunsmith Joe Cominolli 22 Passive Or Active? the Schwartz safety in “fired” position. See if you can figure it out. It’s actually very simple. T and I have retrofitted hundreds of Glocks with thumb safeties for shooters who want an active safety. There are options to the “no external safety” if it’s a concern for you. There are button safeties lever safeties, cross-bolt safeties, sliding safeties and many other designs, but — as you already know — the only safety is you and your ability to stay focused on what you’re doing when you are holding a loaded pistol, revolver, shotgun or rifle. If you only remember one thing about firearm safety, please remember to “always keep firearms pointed in a safe direction.” Clint Smith recently wrote the two loudest sounds are a click when you are expecting a bang, and a bang when you’re expecting a click. If your gun is pointed safely, the click won’t matter — and the bang will only be embarrassing. * WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • MAY/JUNE2012