Gaston Glock introduced the Glock 17 in 1982 and it has since become one of the most popular pistols ever made. The Glock 17 lacks a manual safety which the shooter disengages with their thumb. This has greatly added to their acceptance in the shooting world and for good reason.
A loaded Glock pistol is designed to shoot every time the trigger is pulled. It has no mechanical safety device. An armed person in harm’s way is safest when they can deploy their weapon quickly and effectively. The lack of a manually disengaged safety doesn’t make a Glock less safe.
To be clear, Glocks do have safety features built into them. But, every single one of them is disengaged when the trigger is pulled. Glock pistols were smartly designed to be ready to shoot with only one action from the shooter.
What is a Traditional Safety?
First and foremost, the best safety is between the shooter’s ears. There are obvious reasons why individuals new to firearms are taught basic rules such as only putting their finger on the trigger when they intend to shoot, or keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction.
But, life is not perfect and mechanical aids that promote gun safety are a welcome addition.
Semi-automatic pistols have, over the years, employed a number of devices that assist the shooter in avoiding a negligent discharge. The most popular is a 1911-style safety which is traditionally mounted on the left side of the pistol’s frame and is operated with a right-handed shooter’s thumb.
When engaged, the slide cannot move and the hammer cannot be released.
Another less common feature is the 1911 grip safety. Found on the back of the grip, this safety prevents the hammer from being released unless it is depressed into the frame of the pistol.
Double-action / single-action pistols, such as the Beretta 92, employ the trigger weight added by cocking the hammer as a safety, but only on the first shot. This form of safety does not factor into any shot taken while the hammer is cocked.
A de-cocker, which is common on DA/SA handguns, will drop the hammer to the down position without firing the weapon, even if the chamber is loaded. Some de-cockers will remain in the down position and function as a safety, while others return to their original position and will not.
Glocks are Designed without these Safeties
For one reason or another, Glock handguns do not feature the above safeties, with one possible exception. The reason for some of these safeties not being present is clear, others being excluded is a design choice.
The most obvious exclusion, that of a de-cocker, is because it would render the pistol inoperable without at least partially racking the slide. This is because Glock handguns, and almost all striker-fired guns, do not have a second-strike capability.
If that makes you dislike them, I’ll remind you that virtually all rifles and shotguns lack this ability as well.
Grip safeties have almost always remained on 1911-style pistols, and only one product line of striker-fired handguns features them. The grip safety did exist when Glocks were first designed, but it the standard for non-1911 pistols to forego their use.
Glocks do, to an extent, use trigger pull weight as a safety. A Glock pistol can be modified to have a very light trigger with minimal take-up. They are sometimes modified in this manner by competitive shooters. But the modifications are not recommended for concealment or service pistols.
The biggest exclusion is that of the frame or slide-mounted safety. On a Glock, if the gun is loaded, the trigger is ready to be pulled.
Addition Through Subtraction
The advantage of having no devices which keep the shooter from pulling the trigger is that the pistol is ready to shoot with minimal manipulation. There is nothing for the shooter to forget to push down, or up. There is also nothing for the shooter to accidentally activate while handling the slide during a reload.
After the first shot is fired, there is no difference in trigger pull for subsequent shots, and every safety feature a Glock uses will automatically reset. In a stressful situation, having a pistol that manages many of the fine details itself is a blessing.
A life situation that almost all of us are familiar with is having a motor vehicle not respond to input. Be it sliding on ice, hydroplaning, or an uncontrolled skid, it’s a terrible feeling. The feeling of having a gun not fire when you expect it to fire is much the same.
By omitting some of the traditional safeties, and replacing them with others, Glock has significantly reduced the chance of this happening. This is especially important for people who do not regularly practice but still choose to arm themselves.
Glocks Don’t Have Mechanical Safeties, But The Trigger Acts As One
The most iconic safety that Glock pistols feature is the one on the trigger. The trigger has an insert that keeps the pistol from firing unless it is depressed by pulling the trigger directly backward and with pressure across the middle portion.
If the shooter pulls the trigger directly back, the insert slides into the trigger and the gun will fire. If pressure is applied to the side or edge of the trigger but does not depress the insert, the gun will not fire. The insert automatically resets when the finger is taken off the trigger.
This style of trigger safety has become so popular it is nearly universally featured on striker-fired pistols and is even used on some hammer-fire ones as well.
Glock pistols incorporate two internal safeties which also prevent the gun from firing unless the trigger is pulled. These are the firing pin safety and the drop safety. These internal safeties protect against a negligent discharge should the gun be dropped or if it receives some kind of physical shock.
When the trigger is pulled, these safeties will disengage, and when the trigger is released, they will automatically re-engage.
Are Glocks Safe?
Yes, they are absolutely safe. I have met shooters who view them as otherwise, for one reason or another, but I respectfully disagree with them. Generally, people who view Glock pistols as unsafe are either lacking confidence or familiarity with firearms.
Sometimes, they are just “lost in the weeds” and obsess over freak occurrences or circumstances. Thankfully for them, there are other styles of handguns to choose from. It doesn’t change my opinion though.